Thursday, February 24, 2011

He's Alive!

Marty retired from CHEVRON in 1999.  Once a year he would attend a marketing retiree luncheon.  He would see people he had worked with over the years.  We did not really socialize with most of the people.  They were business friends and we saw them and their spouses mainly at company functions.  We would see them sometimes at some one's retirement party, Christmas party, or a child's wedding. We would hear about them through the grapevine.

Two or three years ago Marty didn't receive a notice about the annual luncheon.  And then the next year, again no notice.  The committee who ran the retirees' group are not fans of computers.  They always send newsletters and luncheon notices by snail mail.  Consequently Marty had no way to contact them.  He didn't have home addresses or phone number.  He knew they lived in Northern California, but not what cities. 

He started contacting other retirees asking if the group was still meeting and to pass on he wanted to attend the luncheon.  This year he received the notice for the luncheon.  He made his reservation and yesterday went to the luncheon.

Huge, huge surprise.  The committee had received word Marty had died and therefore taken his name off the list.  Some people came up to him and told him how glad they were to see him alive. Their wives had sent word they were thrilled to hear he was OK.  Isn't that just weird?

Marty has not been sick, has not had any accidents, we have not moved during the "deceased" time.  He has seen some of the retirees at least once a year. Where did the he's dead information come from? 

Now what I also find strange, I have met these people over the years we were with CHEVRON. I have been to all kinds of events, dinners, conventions with them.  But not one of them ever contacted me to confirm the death, to offer their sympathy, or sent a card, nothing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hey Kids, what time is it?

There are two things that are really hard for first graders to grasp, money and telling time.  Children either get it or they don't.  Today I worked one on one with the children who had trouble with worksheets on telling time.  Some of the problems they were given a time, eight thirty.  They had to draw hands on a clock and write what a digital clock would say.  Other problems they had to tell where the hands are at 1:30.  The hour hand is between  1 and 2,  the minute hand is on 6.  Then they had to tell me why the hour hand isn't on the 1.   Other problems they had to fill in the blanks on counting on a clock.  6:00 ______ 7:00 7:30____  ____. 

We had word problems that said some one took a walk at 3:00.  They walked for thirty minutes.  When did they get home?  Draw hands on the clock and put the numbers on the digital clock. That last one was really hard for many of the children.  They don't read well, so they didn't know what to do.  And most will guess before asking for help.  Once they read it with my help, most could do the word problems.  Tough day, but many of them understand time a little bit better.

I also read a book to them,  Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett.  This woman is an incredible author and illustrator.  The detail in the pictures is wonderful.  This is the best link I could find.  It doesn't show the pages just the cover.  If you have little ones, find this book and read it to them.  Make them find the hedgehog. Talk about all the little hidden pictures.  A fun book.  Her other books are great also.

Monday, February 21, 2011

After Valentine's Day a few weddings

I did not expect many weddings on Wednesday and I was right.  There were only four couples to marry. Two weddings really stand out, and two don't.

Couple one, no memory of at all.  By the time I came down stairs, I couldn't remember anything about them.  Another couple I remember because they were so young, only 20.  And they were a very young 20.  They had family there to witness the ceremony. I rode down in the elevator with one of the mothers.  She looked at me and said, "I hope this works.  They're too young to marry."

I called the next couple, who were from India (maybe an important point). I asked if everyone was there, yes. The bride then said, "We need more time." Then they walked away. WTH???  They were all there, what is going on?  They finally said they were ready and we went upstairs.  The whole time the groom is texting and standing as far from the bride as he can.  I found out later from the clerk he was texting while they were buying the license.  I had to tell him to turn off his phone so we could do the ceremony.  During the ceremony they didn't look at each other, they stood a foot apart, no one was happy to be there.  No kisses, no hugs, not even hand holding.  This looked like an arranged marriage neither wanted.  I was told later they had a huge fight before we went upstairs. Enough of an argument that all in the lobby knew about it. The bride was shaking her finger in his face and he would say something and then keep texting.  We decided he was texting his girlfriend.

The next wedding began so very well.  Beautiful bride in a long white satin sheath with a chiffon sash and wonderful wonderful gold heels.  "Is everyone here," I asked.  "YES"  And upstairs we went.   As I was getting information (I had already asked them to mute their phones) the bride's phone rings.  She answered it and I asked her to hang up.  She did.  Lovely ceremony, lots of happy guests taking pictures.  I called for the witnesses to sign.  The first one signs, I asked where is D?  Oh he left before we came upstairs.  "He called me but you wouldn't let me talk to him."  What part of is everyone here do they not understand?

The names of the witnesses were printed on the license.  Now we can't use the license.  We had to reprint, and have everyone sign again.  I guess from now on I will have to call the names of the bride and groom, and call the names of the witnesses.

Friday, February 18, 2011

School: George Washington, Doubles

Tuesday was my day to work with my first graders.  I read a story about George Washington from the Scholastic Educational Series. It was a little dry. Not much interest from the children.  When I read the page about why the colonies revolted against England I knew what to do.  The book listed three reasons why the colonies were upset. I took the one about troops being billeted in private homes for a hands on example.

Each child sits on a square on the carpet.  I had T stand up and made him an British officer, he then picked 3 boys as his troops.  I had T take a square from A and put his troops in her square.  Then he needed a place so he took a square from B and that became the officer's quarter.  He then made A and B go stand off the carpet.  They could only come back to cook and clean for the troops.  The class did not like that, it was not fair.  And I said correct.

I showed them how the battles of the war were fought.  The British stood in rigid straight lines in beautiful red uniforms, with guns and cannons.  The Americans had few uniforms, few guns or cannons.  I had two rows of children stand up and named them British troops.  They could not move.  Then I had the next row stand up, they were Americans.  And the last row were trees. The Americans were to squat down behind the trees.  I looked at my little battlefield and suddenly all the "trees" lifted their arms in a curve and became trees.  That made me laugh.  Plus it showed me they were getting into the act.

I asked the British if they could see the Americans.  They said no. I asked the Americans if they could see all the Redcoats, they peeked around the trees and said yes.  I asked which side would be the  easiest to take out. They all agreed the British were in trouble.

Now the hardest part of this exercise was to do it without having them act as if they shooting a gun.  To talk about war and not say kill, or to pretend to shoot a gun.  I had to stay PC. 

While I worked one on one, the rest of the class was working on math. They were adding doubles plus one. This is a way for them to add quickly and easily. An equation would look like this:  4+5=____   They were to write down the lowest number, double it, and add one more.  4+4=8    (think this part  8+1 =9)  
so 4+5= 9  The class has done a lot of work with doubles. They were to write out the extra steps for the first 5 problems and then just write the answer on the next 3 rows of problems.  They did practice examples together and then off to work alone.  Three rows had to be finished by lunch time.

I started working with reading:  I was working with A on sight words and she said she didn't feel good.  I felt her, no fever.  I asked what was wrong and she had a meltdown.  She hadn't done three rows of math and it was nearly time for lunch. Tears and sobs, she didn't know how to do it and she was going to be in trouble.  I told her to go get her paper and we would do it together. 

She could do the addition, she didn't understand writing down the doubles and adding one.  We did it over and over and finally I think she understood.  She literally had made herself sick because she wouldn't ask for extra help.  Asking for help is the most important thing a child can learn.  When stumped asking is the smart thing to do.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


As someone at the marriage factory said Monday, "Valentine's Day is our Super Bowl."  In the past doing weddings all day just wore me out.  No time to sit down, let alone have a bathroom break.  It was grueling in a wonderful way. I would have 8 or 9 licenses lined up on my desk. Part of the problem was other commissioners who took too long for a ceremony.  Appointments are booked every 15 minutes, plus we take walk ins. No time for the fluffy long version. We needed to be gracious, make it a serious occasion, and move them to the picture center outside the wedding room.

This year was a totally different experience.  We all arrived around 8:30 A.M.  There were 4 volunteers doing ceremonies:  me, J, M, C.  J and M also did Spanish ceremonies, so couples didn't have to wait for staff to be available.  J organized us, kept track of who was next to work, who hadn't had a break, who needed to vent.  Good job J.  These other three volunteers were wonderful.  They did their job, they moved the couples in and out of the three rooms, they made every couple feel special.  It went smooth as silk.  When I got home I was tired, but not exhausted.

Now to the weddings.  We had three rooms for ceremonies: our regular wedding room, a conference room, and another smaller meeting room.  All the rooms had red and white tulle (I know I should have taken pictures) with lots of hearts, there were silk rose petals on the lecterns and all over floors, and vases of roses in each room.  One room had a wedding arbor that was covered with little white lights, white tulle, and red hearts.  Every room was lovely.  Every desk in the two downstairs areas had decorations and roses.  We were ready for our super bowl.

J did a ceremony for a couple who were in a white tux and a long white dress.  The outstanding part was all of the guests wore black and red.  Stunning to see all them together.  There were gorgeous saris, men in red suits, huge men with earpieces that looked like the Secret Service, men in red shoes, a bride who had colored her hair Valentine red for the ceremony.  We had little girls in frilly dresses with tulle underskirts and little girl high heels.  We had little boys in suits.  We had brides and grooms in jeans and sweatshirts.  If you can think it, we probably saw it.

The fashion item that stood out the most was shoes.  I even saw a piece on the news that night about the gorgeous shoes at the weddings around the Bay Area.  I love shoes and had so much fun looking at all the killer shoes. Even if the brides were in jeans, they had great shoes.  We saw red snake skin 5 inch heels.  Red shoes so high the front had a platform.  Red shoes with rows of bows across the top of the foot.  Gold bootie heels, bejeweled flip flops, black heels with straps that went up to the ankle.  Even the men had great shoes.  There were cowboy boots, dress black with a military shine, sneakers with bright laces and racing stripes. 

Now with all this you know not everything went smoothly.  I came back from one ceremony and M asked why my ceremonies took longer.  Well, as J says I am the crazy  magnet.  If there was a problem it seemed to be one of my couples.  First wedding I did began really badly.  I called the names three times in the first lobby, nothing.  I went into the front lobby, called the names three times nothing.  Finally a man asked who I wanted, I repeated the name.  He said, "They went upstairs with some guy in a suit." Are you kidding me? I gather up the witnesses and go upstairs to find the couple.  I see them with the "suit".  I told the suit he had hijacked my couple.  He had taken them upstairs to let them pick a room.  NO, we take whatever room is empty. I start down the hall to the room and the bride says, where is my wallet.  The witness had left it down stairs.  So we waited while she went to find it.  Finally I have everyone together at the same time and did the ceremony.  Instead of 15 minutes, my first wedding took over 30 minutes.  And it went down hill from there.

I had a bride meltdown because the groom's grandmother was trying to organize things her way.  That took an extra 10 minutes.  One couple waited two hours for his mother to get there.  (traffic was gridlocked).  They had put her mother and father as the witness because the witness has to be there when the license is processed.  Mama arrived and was ticked she wasn't down as a witness.  Great hullabaloo.  I sweet talked lovely Clerk S into reprinting the license and Mama and the father signed. Couples didn't both speak English and I had to get a commissioner who spoke Spanish.  One couple we had to print the license three times.  They had filled out the personal information and misspelled his father's name and her mother's name.  I caught one error and the clerk then caught the next one.  People dont' read the license when we ask them to check it. 

The number one problem for all of us was groups were not ready when we called them.  Someone was still on the way.  They were feeding the meters, gone to take a walk, outside smoking.  J was in the wedding room ready to begin the ceremony and the couple told they had to wait for so and so to arrive.  Did they not hear J say, "Is everyone here?" 

In spite of the problems it was a fabulous day.  The staff did a wonderful job keeping things moving. They also brought in pizza for the staff and volunteers.  And when we were ready to go home we volunteers were given bouquets of roses.

Can't wait for next year.  As long as I will have the fabulous commissioners I worked with this year.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wine + Laptop =trouble

Last night my alcoholic laptop drank a full glass of wine.  We shook out the wine, used a hair dryer, and then put the Mr. Laptop in a bag with rice all around and on it.  Mr. Laptop had been drunk before and had gone to Dell rehab.  He is very old and really should not drink.  This morning we cleaned all the rice off and plugged him into life support.  Nothing. So off to the local rehab center.  They did a check up and said pull the plug.  He is too old to waste money on.  They will retrieve the information from the hard drive for me.

So now I need a new laptop.  This is not a purchase we want to make at this time. Marty and I don't share well.  We have to have two laptops.  We checked out Best Buy and Office Depot. Office Depot had a very small selection and they ignored us. We left. Best Buy had lots and lots of laptops and were very helpful.  We were very impressed with the information they gave us.  And it wasn't just talk either.  They pulled up PC magazine and showed us rankings of laptops.  So we bought me a lovely Valentine Day's present, a Samsung laptop.  We got a good deal, but damn it still is a lot of money.

I loaded all the stuff on my new laptop.  I did all the start up stuff.  I have it up and running all by myself.  If I had had Best Buy do all that for me, it would have cost only $99.  Aren't I a smart girl.

Marty and I decided from now on when we are drinking wine, pop, water, milk, whatever around our laptops we will not use a glass.  It is sippy cups from now on.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weddings Past and Future

Monday and Wednesday were slow at the County Clerk Recorder's Building.  Well, slow if we were performing weddings.  Not slow if selling licenses. 

Most couples were there to buy a license for Monday, Valentine's Day.  As of Wednesday we had 4 pages of appointments for ceremonies. This is the only day we take appointments, and we still do walk ins. We have 15 minutes to do a ceremony and exit the room.  I love Valentine's Day, the excitement, the dresses, the flowers, the love in the room.  I hate running couples in and out of the room.  More about Valentine's Day next week.

Monday I did 4 weddings and Wednesday only 2.  The theme for all of the weddings was black and white.  Even some of the witnesses wore black and white.  Monday I wore black and white.  One couple was very worried about family in Colorado getting here for their "wedding" on Saturday. (I explained this was the wedding, they were having a huge party.)  Anyway with all the snow and another storm due to hit on the day to  fly here, they were worried.  I suggested Amtrak.  The only way to travel.  They liked the idea.

One of the weddings was a confidential. (for new readers:  a confidential license does not require a witness; once it is recorded no one may see the license without a court order).  I am sure the groom was a policeman.  He just had that look.  I hate the state quit requiring the professions of the bride and groom.  A hundred years from now genealogists will be screaming about the lack of information on the marriage license. Anyway, the couple had the bride's mother with them.  They did not tell her they were getting married until they were filling out the license.  The mother was beside herself with joy.  She kept laughing and saying it was the best birthday present she had ever received.

Now to the wedding that really stands out, and not for a good reason.  This reflects my personal beliefs on cleanliness.  I defend myself from those who might think I am being a snob, that I have too high a benchmark on bathing by this:  I have married couples that were wet and sweaty from biking 20 miles to the building.  There were people with dirt/oil under their nails, clothes that were oil stained, greasy hair, a whiff of sweat, not real clean looking.  That was OK, it wasn't OLD dirt.

This couple, their daughter, and guests were just different.  The little girl had long hair that was dirty, not just greasy, dirty.  The creases in their skin had black rings.  When the bride's mother signed as a witness I nearly gagged smelling her dirty musty hair.  Their clothes were clean, the little girl had on a white dress that was spotless.  But their bodies had a dirty musty smell. 

Again every wedding brings something different.  The laughing bride, the groom who is crying so hard he can barely say his vows, the families that cheer when the ceremony is over, the adult children from each side who are thrilled for their parents to have found love.  Love is what it is all about.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So dark, so very very dark

Last night I woke up and it was pitch black in the house.  You have to understand right off  I DO NOT DO DARK.  I can't breathe in the dark. Marty says the house is lit up so the burglars won't trip and fall.  I say it is lit up so the closet monsters and under the bed monsters can't get me.  Any way, pitch black house, power failure.  I opened the shades and no street lights, but a weird blue light is bouncing off the house across the street.  I groped my way into the guest room and opened the shades.  There is power several houses down the street. Not fair.

I start looking for the flashlights and my camping lanterns for an emergency.  Before we put the house on the market, I had emergency lights in every room.  The stager didn't like that.  So where the hell are they????  I stood at the stairs and looked into the black hole in the foyer.  What kind of monsters and killers were hiding down there?   I walked around and went back to the stairs.  I had to find a flashlight.  I knew there was one in the foyer.  I started down the steps, inching my way.  A bright red light hit me!  WTH  It was the motion sensor for the alarm. I kept waving my arms and found the flashlight.  Then I found the lantern in the back of the hall closet.  Light, no monsters could get me.

I needed to call PG&E to report the outage/get info.  The house phones are portable they don't work with out electricity.  We had the other kind of phone that are wired in, except they weren't wired in.  I couldn't fix them right then.  Also, no phone book.  Thank goodness for my iPhone.  I googled and found the power outage number and called.  They were working on the problem and the power would be back on at 12:00 noon.  It was 4:20 and I later found out the power had been out since 2:30. 

The blue lights were from the work area on the street behind us.  We were having major winds and several lines had fallen.  Nothing I could do but go back to bed.  We woke up after 8:00 to the low battery chirp of the burglar alarm.  Our battery on the clock radio died and the alarm did not go off.  I was late to school.   I called Ms H and told her no power, no hair dryer, no coffee, no heat.  I wouldn't be there to help.

Do you know how important electricity is?  Electric toothbrushes (luckily ours are new and held the charge), curling irons, hairdryers, coffee pots, electric ignition on the gas stove, computers, phones, lights, garage doors, freezers (went from -1 to 22 degrees) the frig, furnace, Internet, and on and on. 

Every time I called for updates on the outage, the fixed time changed.  At 4:05 P.M. the power came on. How did I know the power was on, the freezer warning alarm was screaming.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reading, Writing, and Sand

Tuesday I worked with the first graders.  I again worked one on one with a select group.  These were the children who need more attention and practice in order to read confidently. To get them to a feel good about reading point, lots of things have to be done.

Tuesday each child was with me for an extended period of time.  We had sand to play with, more about that later.  We had the word family cards to go over.  We had a word list to practice and then they read the little book to me. This is a lot.  First graders have problems sitting still for very long.  They twitch, they squirm, they sit on their legs.  Sometimes they fall out of the chair. To get all this done without tiring them out or frustrating them is hard.  Sometimes I get it right, but sometimes I stop and send them back to their desks before tears happen.  Those tears could be the student, or maybe mine.  Teachers get frustrated too.

Tuesday it all seemed to work.  No tears and no frustrated children.  I think "playing" in the sand made things go better.  Ms H had a rimmed cookie sheet with bright green sand in it.  The children were to look at an index card that had a word from the Dolch sight word list. They were to say the word, spell the word, then write the word with their finger in the sand.  This was another way of helping them to remember the sight words. Say it, spell it, touch it.  And sand is way more fun than paper and pencil.

I was a little afraid we would have sand all over the table.  After each word we shook the cookie sheet to smooth the sand.  After I convinced each child not to pick up the tray, there was very little mess.  The children really liked this exercise.  And it helps.  They are working longer on a word using different senses to learn. With the sand tray no one was frustrated.  Make an error, who cares, more fun in the sand.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I didn't write about the weddings Monday or the Wednesday before that.  Yesterday I did not go in to do weddings.  So to the other two days. . .

Last Wednesday I did two weddings with Indian couples.  The first wedding the couple was very stiff, stand offish, just there to get the legal part done.  It was if they didn't want to be there.  The second couple from India were to the other extreme.  This was an Americanized couple.  They had done the cultural wedding and this wedding they were going to have fun.  They laughed, they were loose, instead of holding hands they looped their arms around the other's neck.  They were serious about the ceremony, yet having a very fun time.

The next couple had not been in the building 30 minutes (it was a very very slow day, so people were moved through the system quickly).  Yet when I called their names, the groom was out feeding the meter.  We had to wait 10 minutes until he came back.  What is wrong with people?  Why don't they put over 30 minutes in the meter?  They drive me crazy.

Monday was slow and only 3 weddings each spaced out by over an hour.  The first bride and groom were each 22 years old.  They have been together 7 years and had a 5 year old son.  So young and so much life already lived.  The bride, the groom, and their son were dressed for an occasion.  She was in black and white, he was in black and white, and the little boy had on black slacks, a lavender shirt and a deeper shade of lavender tie.  As I was talking to the couple I could not keep my eyes off the bride.  She was stunningly beautiful.  Long wavy black hair, huge black eyes, and a creamy Snow White complexion.  This young woman would have made Angelina Jolie look like a plain Jane.  The bride was a plus size, yet that only added to her beauty.

My last couple of the day were from China.  The bride wore a white tiny strapless dress covered with ruched roses.  She was very thin and small boned.  When she stood sideways I doubt if she cast a shadow. He wore a long black frock coat over a black shirt and black slacks.  When I asked if they had rings for the ceremony.  They had no idea what I said.  I pointed to my rings and they still didn't understand.  I kept talking, nothing was going in.  I thought great, we are at closing time and I have to find a Cantonese commissioner to do this ceremony.   No one will want to stay and we will have a mess on our hands.  And then they started talking, a little bit.  They were nervous and didn't understand everything.  But they wanted to marry, they understand some, they just didn't speak English well.  They never did understand the word rings.  But I decided they understood enough English for me to legally do the ceremony.  So I did.

Many couples from different backgrounds.  Different English skills, different cultures, different age groups, but one huge thing in common.  They are in love and they want to be married.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Once again we have a recipe to test, chocolate pudding.  The goal of the recipe is to create a pudding with a silky texture and a rich chocolate flavor.  As before this recipe was sent to us from Cook's Illustrated.  I took 56 pictures of Marty doing the majority of this recipe.   I did a little stirring and a whole lot of washing up.  I have selected less than 20 to show him hard at work. Remember to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

 This is a line up of most of the ingredients. Eggs and some of the chocolate aren't there yet.
 Marty melted the bittersweet chocolate in the microwave. Here he is stirring to even out the temperature. I took a picture of it in the microwave, didn't turn out so well.  So no picture to post.
 This is cornstarch, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt being sifted into the pan.
 Light cream being added to dry ingredients.
 Eggs being separated, only the yolks will be used.
 Yolks being added to the pan.  All of this is still cold, so no problem of it becoming chocolate scrambled eggs.
 Yolks being stirred in.
 Whole milk added.
 Melted chocolate added in.
 The heat is on and constant stirring required.  I did some and then went back to the camera and let Marty work.
 Checking temperature.  Look how glossy the chocolate is.

 No, I did not mess up and blur the picture.  That is steam coming off the pudding.  It is being poured into a strainer.  Little bits of chocolate and eggs need to be removed.
More steam as the pudding oozes out of the strainer.  The blurry yellow is the spatula Marty is hitting on the side of the strainer.

 Butter and vanilla are stirred into the pudding to finish it.
 Plastic wrap covers it to prevent a crust forming as it cools.
 Ready for the taste test.
And Marty takes his first bite.  Our judgement on the recipe:  It meets its goals.  It was silky, it had a rich chocolate flavor. It is good. Would we make it again, probably not as written. 

This did not ring our chimes on the chocolate flavor.  Even though Marty is totally a dark chocolate person, he wanted the sweeter flavor from his childhood. Or of the chocolate pie I make.  Me too.  Semi sweet chocolate would make us happier.  Also with the work involved in making this (not that hard, but takes some time and effort) I thought it should have something like Grand Marnier in it. It needed a little more elegance for the fancy expensive chocolate used.