Friday, March 8, 2019

Pondering Poodles

She's just received a very close haircut and actually looks like a poodle now! 
Everyone we met, before this dramatic change, 
thought she was some sort of mix: a "doodle" of some sort.
I LOVE the shaggy dog look, but, surprisingly, I like this close-clipped version of her too. I like poodles. Who'd have thought it?
Why is that so surprising? To quote my son's recent text: "Ha ha you always hated poodles! Karma's a bitch. Pun VERY much intended." That's been true for as long as he can recollect,  because most poodles I've encountered have been spoiled jokes instead of dogs.
My last dog was a gorgeous, long haired, 123 lb. german shepherd.
Gideon was massive, noble, gentle beyond belief. The sweetest dog ever to grace this planet.  
Until Lizzy.  A smaller, exquisite specimen of a dog, too.
Equally noble, sweet, gentle and even more intelligent, I'm certain that she
and Gideon will be pals in the here-after.
SO, what led me to get a big, standard POODLE? Besides the influence of Karli's Mom (my son's mother-in-law raises sweet, gorgeous mid-sized poodles: and the simple fact that my cousin in AZ had too many puppies.  
I mean, huskies, shepherds and collies had always been my idea of perfect dogs.   
But then... a very young girl, I'd thought of poodles as surreal, lovely, feminine creatures, 
based on cartoon illustrations, that is. 
By the time I met any real poodles, they were unfortunately 
horrid creatures, with watery eyes, weird grooming and nasty tempers. 
This looks like the black standard poodle that regularly tried to attack my huge german shepherd.

Poodles, I decided, are a bad joke born of inbreeding and distortion of the natural dog.
As darling border collie, Lizzy, enjoyed playing with every golden doodle, labradoodle, or poodle that crossed our path, my perceptions began to change. Remarkably, everyone kept commenting on how smart and fun poodles are and, as I mentioned earlier, the family my son married into, 
absolutely charming people, raises them.
SO, when I got serious about finding a roommate for Lizzy, the universe decided that my cousin should happen to have a surplus of 14 week old standard poodle pups. 
I only fell for one.  Look at this little doll.
So, my feelings toward poodles have been transformed, back to the admiration I felt as a child, 
plus an appreciation of the poodle personality, 
Lucy is funny, bossy, smart...we'll try to overlook her tendency to eat stuff that can kill her... 
I can't imagine our household without both her and Lizzy now.  
Two more different dogs rarely end up together.  
Lizzy is elegant, classy and a little wild.
 Lucy's a rumpled comedian, when her hair's grown out, content to cuddle all day every day,  
pawing me if I stop petting her,
and she wilfully brings the puppy out in Lizzy with her 
"no such thing as too close" attitude.
It's true: "every dog should have a poodle around." (Michelle Hall, you're right!)
So, it seems, should I.

Monday, February 25, 2019

New Location for a New Year

Let's see if I can make this simple:
In April of 2018, I came home from working FT in Beijing, China.
It was an incredible experience: I learned SO MUCH, made a lot of good connections...but brought home a cough that I'm still fighting. Have had it checked out and, apparently it's a nasty allergy.  SO many things trigger it--dust and pollution being high on the list.  After returning, I continued to work PT on line for some Chinese companies, creating phonics songs, recruiting, proof-reading, etc. But, the work was dwindling and I wanted something steady.  Even though my dream to publish and market in Asia is coming closer to a reality, because of what I learned abroad, it's not solid--not yet.

 So, next, while chatting with an online teacher for the last company I worked with as a supervisor, she told me about the charter schools she subbed for in AZ.  I went and interviewed for a position and accepted a job teaching HS in Apache Junction, AZ, near 3 of my brothers!
I had forgotten how gorgeous the sunsets are and was ready to call Arizona HOME again, after decades away. Enjoyed getting together with my AZ brothers & friends, and was excited for a new teaching challenge.  However, Guess what? The dust in AZ is worse than in Beijing and the cough got worse, MUCH worse, so, by the end of August, I was back in Utah.  Tired.  Exhausted, actually, and sick of being sick.  I kind of called for a time out from life.  The thing about anything that consistently interrupts your lifestyle is that mortality becomes real. All those years of painting 12-16 hours a day on ladders and scaffolding, 5-6 days a week have taken a toll on my back and knees; many teaching positions expect miracles without the means to pull them off plus 200% of your time... working myself into an early grave isn't something I want to accomplish.

Shortly after getting back to Utah and adjusting to unemployed life with TWO dogs (Lucy came home with us from AZ)... online cite I've followed for years, "," sent a link with a photo for a super cool deal on an 1880 house in Richmond, IN.  The price was such that I was drooling...AND it's green there. Dust? Covered up by foliage. Pollution? Minimal bc it's not really close to anything that pumps it out and the population is small.  Smaller than Logan, Utah's.
Before going, I did some research. Richmond, Indiana has super low crime rates, it's just 3 miles from Ohio, AND it's within driving distance to FOUR airports, making it perfect for frequent trips to see my son's growing family (instead of driving 11-12 hours through snowy canyons).  Also, it's right off of I-70 & only 7 hours from my home city, Frederick, MD.

So, I decided to take a road trip with my 2 dogs.  The wonderful realtor in Indiana, Rhonda (, who'd listed the house which caught my attention, set up a bedroom for me, Lizzy and Lucy to stay in in that gorgeous old brick home.

 We LOVED it.
But, that particular neighborhood, not so much. Too many renters and too many vacant houses.  So, I explored a couple of others, on the south side of Hwy 40, and felt at home in this one (which my awesome big brother, Tom, had found on line before I left):
Built in 1927, on a .12 acre lot, it's got a yard for the dogs and is set on a tree and flower-lined street. This house is a perfect fit for me, the dogs and visiting family, friends and summer art classes.  I signed a contract, contingent upon the sale of my Logan, UT home.

Went back to Utah and wondered if I'd lost my mind. I mean, I'd LOVE to live close to my son and his family, but neither they nor I know where that'll end up being in the long run and, pray as I might, God's not granting me a crystal ball for the future.
So, again, why am I doing THIS? I've wondered...but, the pros just outweigh the cons by a landslide. Improved air quality (which is becoming a must for me) and getting out of debt rank highest on the list.  I've been self-employed for most of my life and have NO retirement plan. This location will allow me to live in a paid-for-in-full home, which equals the closest thing to freedom a person in my position can ask for.  It's close enough to my Maryland, PA, DC roots to drive back and visit, paint for a few faithful clients, etc.  I can work on publishing goals, fly out to visit family & friends regularly (& fly my son's family out once a year--at least),  raise puppies AND Indiana has an on line certification program for prospective teachers.  All this, plus living in a paid for house in a neighborhood that is lovely, safe, and friendly.

That's about as retired as I ever want to be. I can put money aside regularly to spend as many days as possible with my beloved son and grandkids.  Maybe, I can always hope, God will grant that we end up physically closer together, but again, I don't know where the heck they'll settle and neither do they.
Having felt torn between the east and the west most of my life, this solution is an unexpected, but good one! It's been difficult to decide.  I'm sick of moving! But...there you have it.

Provided nothing arises to topple the plan, the dogs and I are headed to Indiana before Easter!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2019: China's Year of the Pig

"Pigs have a beautiful personality and 
are blessed with good fortune in life."

2019 is the year of the PIG in Asia. Over there, it's a beautiful thing.
However, let me pause a moment to express my gratitude for being born under LAST YEAR'S sign? 
Let's face it, DOGS (mine, especially) are so much cooler than pigs.
 I've just never been big on pigs. 
The only mural I've ever accepted, which featured this animal, was for a BBQ place. 
This image is what I painted on the men's room. 
(There were more, including a flying pig and a burlesque sow for the ladies' room). 
The t-shirts sold by the place had this on the back:
"PETA: people who enjoy tasting animals."
That's what pigs are: food that I love but shouldn't eat too often.
Born to be food.
But China, or at least, the emperor who started all this, didn't see it that way.
While, according to that link I posted earlier, pigs showed up late to the emperor's party,
and so became the 12th zodiac symbol, they remain symbols of wealth.

Born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, or 2007?
Have a chubby little piglet due to be born in 2019?

According to the pig zodiac sign, you're born to be rich and enjoy the good things in life!
Each year has a slightly different fortune associated with it, so have fun and check it out.
As 2018 ends, and 2019 begins, it seems like a good idea
to leave behind what we don't want in our lives and reach for what we want.
Most Asian countries celebrate the new year based on the lunar calendar,
but Japan celebrates it when we do. Also like Europeans and Americans,
it's customary, through out all of Asia, to drink--A LOT. Not just on New Year's Eve,
but during the week leading up to the new year.
There are other customs, which make a lot of sense, however,
which I kind of wish EVERYONE would adopt.
After gathering for a customary feast in the home of their birth with family,
people close their doors for up to a week. Why?
The dawn of the new year should be greeted with a clean face.
Businesses, schools and homes get thoroughly CLEANED and repaired: おそじ。
This seems to be a particularly honored tradition in Japan,
which is why I'm posting the following image and typed
the Japanese word for "to clean" as "osoji" in hiragana.

How cool would it be, in the year of the pig, if we each start our new year by doing something like that?
CLEANING, organizing and so forth, to give 2019 a fresh new face, and make way for good fortune!
Here's wishing you a prosperous, healthy and happy 2019:
The Year of the Pig!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Punkin Patch in North Logan

Autumn is in the air, here in Logan, UT.  This is the time of year that lots of people carve pumpkins, cook and can veggies and fruit. Want a good place to find fresh pumpkins and squash at a GREAT price? This is it.  Take 2200 N to 800 E right after you've crossed into N. Logan, and go left.  You'll see a huge variety off to your left, piled up on the sidewalk, in front of a cute little white house.  Picked locally, everything's fresh.  
I keep finding so many reasons why!
To get there, drive East on 2200 N. in N. Logan and turn North on 800 East. 
The place is surrounded by trees and fields...this is why Logan still feels rural, 
despite our dramatic population increase in the past 2-3 years.

This cute little white house has offered this Punkin Patch for at least 10 years, 
because that's when I first found it.
Linus would love this place:
Such a big variety of pumpkins and squash!
Did you know there's such a thing as a "flat" white pumpkin? 
...or what's called "pink" and "blue" pumpkins, too?
These are huge "blue" pumpkins.
Prettiest varieties of acorn squash, sweet pumpkins for baking, spaghetti squash...
Now that I remember where this place is, I'll get more produce there.
There aren't very many places anymore where payments are made using the honor system. 
 There's a red metal box to drop cash or a check in. 
Recently, they've made Venmo an option, too.   
This isn't actually unusual in Logan.  
Despite it's recent dramatic growth spurt, 
Logan maintains a small town atmosphere of trust and friendliness.  
I liked Cache Valley when I visited 15 years ago, and as time goes by, 
the reasons why just multiply!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Editing, Mind Mapping, Wedding, Work...

About what I do here, I haven't written a whole heck of a lot, have I?  The past 2 months have been filled with 12 hour days and major changes. While foreign teachers seem to come and go quickly, the curriculum team members are the ones I spend most of my time with and they're amazing. I prefer teaching just a couple classes online a day, because there's so much to do in curriculum.  I need the teaching to keep my mind in what it's like for those who are teaching, but it's not my "thing."  Not this kind of teaching anyway, which has filled my head with ideas of how to improve...

This blog (sorry--I've mostly been posting on Google and Facebook) is dedicated to work and those I work with.  Where would any of us be w/o underpaid, overworked Amy and "Money?"  Teacher Trainers, by title, go-to people who continually put out fires and rescue hapless helpless types like me, in practice.
Images of the stacks of lessons I proof read wouldn't be interesting or appropriate to post. Have discovered I enjoy doing it, tho.  They're like puzzles (that I LIKE, since I don't care for puzzles) to figure out what is supposed to be communicated and what's actually in the lesson.  What matters and what doesn't.  It's not easy and I rely heavily on the internet to double check my thinking on terminology and spelling, especially since TAL uses curriculum based on the U.K.'s version of English.  Words like "lorry" and "lift," can stump an American like me.  I have friends here from the U.K., though, and Google has that gap covered, too.

Creating Mind Maps is really fun! It's an attempt to help the kids to catagorize words into sections--to see, at a glance, how they fit under a collective theme.  I'm used to seeing mind maps that look like kind of overwhelming spiderwebs of color and words.  To create something, using 20+ years of sign painting experience, that's more visually appealing, less dizzyingly complex, is the goal.
It's exciting to begin to understand what possibilities exist in
merging what I draw (but mostly find--not enough time to draw at the moment, 
always deadlines and I'm learning more useful stuff than I ever learned in college)
 with computer generated text and imagery. 
Google access is officially banned by China, but, 
coworkers have helped me bypass that.  
Can't do my job w/o it. Can't stay sane w/o it.   
The whole country is run on pirated software anyway.  True story.  
The creation of cultural lessons for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are on my to-do list.  Here's a page from Halloween:
When I finish the Mind Maps (there'll be around 30-40 pages of them, in total) and this round of cultural lessons, I've been asked to (insert drum roll here) 
create 10 story lessons, based on MY STORIES!
SO, life is VERY, VERY full and there's never enough time...I bring work home with me sometimes and will continue to do so.  This job is like an internship--I'm discovering and learning something new all of the time and, just as it was necessary to put in 16 hour days to complete a painting project on time and at the quality I'd feel good about, or write a paper for BYU, long hours aren't a burden when they're part of something you really want to do.

There won't be as many travelogues from here as I had time for in Sacheon, South Korea. But, that's ok, because I came here to work and that's what I'm doing. 

When you think of the hard-working, polite, and understated qualities you normally associate with people from Asia, they all work on curriculum developing.  It's an honor to work with them! I'm making a list of stuff I love here.  Someone said I could do the same for what I don't love.  Nope.  Too easy to see that stuff since by and large the people have been programmed to distrust foreigners.  Being glared at and cheated is more common than a smile.  I can't get my nails done in the colors I prefer or w/o being charged double unless I bring tall, strong-willed, Chinese co-worker "Hannah," who won't allow it.  Here's Hannah (who'd getting married this weekend!), "Cheng," & my nails:
China is DIVERSE. It bares very little resemblance to what people think of when they think of Asia. Many of the people here are as tall or taller than I am.  The geography is reflected in the people.  They'll yell, chastise, laugh, spit, and cut in line.  Others are more demure and keep their thoughts to themselves until they really trust you.  They're all "traditional" Chinese, just as there's no "typical" American. I realize that now.  Pearl S. Buck novels are an excellent insight into that fact, since Chinese was her first written language, I believe, and she wrote from a lifetime of experience, not hearsay. So, here are some more of the people who make stuff happen here:
Nancy, in the middle, the boss and head of festivities for TAL's 14th Birthday party a week ago.
Pamela is heading up our new Junior High lessons.  I'm a huge admirer of hers.  Brilliant lady.
Ran Wang, got me this job and I need another blog to write about her.  
But, let's end with images from her wedding yesterday, 
to her sweetheart and best friend since Junior High.
Me with my favorite Teacher Trainer, just before heading home!
Ran with new hubby and buddies from work, after the ceremony.
Queen for a day, Ran the bride, who was drop-dead gorgeous, despite herself! 
She hated all the fuss and did not want a big wedding, but BIG is what she got and 
she pulled it off like a royal.  Love her so much, I cried.
A romantic at heart, I love happy endings and have every confidence that the
ending of the crazy wedding day is the beginning
of happiness for Ran and Nan!