Thursday, June 26, 2008

One Little First Grade Girl

I only taught elementary school, full-time, for one year. I taught first grade, during the 1971-72 school year, at Glacier Valley Elementary School. Then along came our sons, who took center-stage in my life for the next 20-some years.

I remember the names and personalities of quite a few, though not all, of those little six- and seven-year-olds. One little girl, with a long braid down her back, I remember clearly. She had an unusual first name (I'll just call her G for this blog), and was the brightest star in my class. G was so far ahead of the rest of the students that I had my hands full keeping her challenged and engaged. Not only was she bright, but she was also respectful, sweet natured and kind to her classmates -- a teacher's dream!

In 2002, 30 years later, I was working as the supervisor for Teacher Certification in Alaska. I answered the phone, one day, to hear a pleasant voice at the other end asking some typical questions about renewing a certificate. She was calling from somewhere in the Anchorage area. I answered her questions, and offered to send her a renewal packet. To do so, I needed her name and address. When she told me her name, which was G (and a last name I didn't recognize), I thought back to the little girl, G, from my first grade class. I'd never known anyone else with that name. I finished taking down her address, and then couldn't resist. "Did you used to live here in Juneau?" She said she had, and, in fact, had gone to elementary, junior high, and high school there. I couldn't stop there! "Did you go to Glacier Valley Elementary School?" She had! "I think I might know you," I said. "I used to teach first grade there, and I had a student named G (and I added the last name). It was in 1971-72. Would that have been you?"

She let out a scream, "Mrs. Judd?!!! You were my favorite teacher!" She was 37 years old by now, and she began telling me all about her life - college graduate, wife, mother, teacher, a good life. It was such a rewarding conversation. She kept saying how wonderful it was to talk to me again, and how glad she was that I remembered her.

That conversation more than made up for being forgotten by Mr. E.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Little Scar

I have a little scar, on the palm-side of my left hand, just below the "V" formed by my index and my middle finger. I don't usually even think about it, but occasionally, if the weather is cold, or if I bump my hand just wrong, I feel a quick, sharp pain there. The injury that caused this little scar happened my junior year in high school.

In some ways, I must be, both, left-brained and right-brained, since in school I loved math and science but was equally passionate about the language arts. (I don't know whether it's left or right, but I did NOT have the brain for history or geography!)

In my junior year, I took chemistry. I couldn't get enough of that subject; it fascinated me. I was so wrapped up in it that I talked my dad into building me a lab table, in my bedroom. He even set me up with a working Bunsen burner. After school I often repeated the experiments we'd done in lab, or ran some new ones that I'd read about.

One day, at home after school, I was using some glass tubing in an experiment. As I was inserting it into a rubber stopper, the tubing broke and the sharp end stabbed into the palm-side of my hand. It went in quite deep, and I was bleeding profusely. I knew I needed to stop the bleeding, but I was becoming light-headed and thought I might pass out. I sat down on the stairs which led from my bedroom to the main part of the house, and lowered my head between my knees in an effort to stay conscious. "Keep a bleeding wound positioned higher than the heart," I remembered learning in health class. So I sat on the stairs, head between my knees and arm, with blood streaming down it, raised high over-head. That's where and how my parents found me when they got home from work a half-hour or so later. And that's how that little scar came to be.

I tell this story to illustrate how crazy I was about chemistry. Likewise, I adored my chemistry teacher, Mr. E. I didn't have a crush on him (like I had had on my young, single, 7th grade math teacher), because Mr. E was married and older than my parents. But I admired him because he was so knowledgeable about the subject; and adored him because of the fascinating tales he told us about his first career as a North Dakota coal miner. So, you can imagine how honored I was, at the end of my junior year, to have him ask me if I would be his lab assistant the next year. To me, it was evidence of a mutual respect between scientists. (I was a little naive at 17!)

So, my senior year, while I was taking physics for credit, I was also setting up for chemistry lab demonstrations and assisting students during Mr. E's lab sessions. Mr. E and I were a team! He relied on me and I made sure never to let him down.

After graduation, I didn't see Mr. E. again for over 30 years! Soon after Dan and I moved back to Juneau, in 1998, I saw him in the grocery store. Although he was showing his age, he hadn't changed so much that I didn't recognize him immediately. My heart nearly skipped a beat. He had played such an important role in my high school years. I walked up to him, expecting him to be as overjoyed as I was. Our encounter went like this:

Me: Hello, aren't you Mr. E?

Mr. E: Yes, that's right.

Me: I'm Linda Clark. (I used my maiden name, since he wouldn't have known me by 'Judd.') Do you remember me? (I pause, but no response from Mr. E) I graduated from J-D High in 1967. (I pause, but only a blank look from Mr. E) My parents owned Clark's Bakery. (Everyone remembered Clark's Bakery!)

Mr. E: Oh, yes. Weren't you a friend of "the girls"? (To learn about "the girls" read HERE.)

Me: Yes, that's right. (I flashed a big smile at him, encouraging him to dig a little deeper and remember more.)

Mr. E: But I don't think you were in any of my classes, were you?

It was as if someone had just delivered a knock-out blow, from out of nowhere! He didn't remember me as his star pupil! He didn't remember the two years I sat at his feet! He didn't remember my faithful and loyal work as his lab assistant! I felt a little light headed, like the time the glass tubing stabbed into my hand! And I came away from that encounter a little more humble.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Things People Ask Me About Alaska

Considering how far away New Mexico is from Alaska, it's probably to be expected that people, finding out we are from Alaska, have lots of questions. It turns out, though, that the same questions are asked over and over. Here are a few of them, and the answers we commonly give.

Do you miss living in Alaska?

Yes. And no. I spent 25 years there, 12 of which were my growing-up years. I lived there before it was a state. I have friends there who are like family. I was married there. My children were both born there. I had my first teaching job there. There's nowhere more beautiful that my hometown, Juneau, on a sunny day. The call of the wild is strong. I still call Alaska my home, and of course I do miss it.
On the other hand, our last five years in Juneau were hard on us. Dan struggled with the dark, cold, wet winters, more than I did. The cold caused his body to ache, and he got very tired of shoveling wet, heavy snow. Our family (with the exception of Tim) were all living in either Texas or New Mexico, which made being with them on holidays or special occasions difficult. Tim moved up to Juneau while we were there, but found the isolation and the weather depressing.

Yes, I miss Alaska, and hope to visit again. But we have no plans of returning there to live.

How cold is it, really, in Alaska?
I have a hard time answering this one. I don't think people realize how BIG Alaska is, and how different it can be from one part to another. We lived in Southeast Alaska (in the Panhandle, that runs alongside Canada). Southeast Alaska is composed of glaciers, fjords and islands covered with dense rainforest. Because we lived in the southern part of the state, and because of the warm ocean currents, we did not experience extremely low temperatures. I've seen winters that dipped to 20 below zero (usually out in the Mendenhall Valley, not in town), and other winters that hardly got below freezing. But, if you are talking about Alaska's interior, such as Fairbanks, the average winter temperature is about 12 below zero, and the record is 66 below. I'd call that cold!

Is it really dark all winter and light all summer in Alaska?
In Juneau, no. At the winter solstice, the sun rises in Juneau at 9:46 a.m. and sets at 4:07 p.m. But the sun never rises much above the horizon, making even the noontime sky seem like evening, like in this mid-day photo. At the summer solstice, the sun rises at 3:51 a.m. and sets at 10:09 p.m., but, again, even between sunset and sunrise, it's not very dark -- just a dim twilight -- because the sun does not dip far below the horizon.

To experience TRUE midnight sun (or no sun, in the winter) you must be at or above the Arctic Circle. About 1/3 of Alaska is above the Circle. Depending on how far above the Circle you are, the continuous day or night can range from one day, at the Circle; to six months at the North Pole. In Barrow, for example, the winter darkness is continuous, for 67 days.

Is it true that there are no roads into Alaska's capital?
Yes. Juneau is the capital, and it can only be accessed by water or air. In fact, most of Southeast Alaska is isolated in this same way. That is why the Alaska Marine Highway system is so important to the residents. These vessels are their road system. To get from Juneau to Haines or Skagway, for example, is a 6 to 7 hour trip. Here's a picture of one of the ferries, the Kennicott, which we took across the Gulf of Alaska to get onto the road leading to Fairbanks. (If I remember correctly, that was about a 48 hour trip.)

Those are the questions most people ask. I'm happy to answer them, and I encourage anyone thinking of visiting Alaska to do so. It's one of God's most amazing creations.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Doing Our Part

We got our tax rebate in the mail about a week ago. According to congress the purpose of the economic stimulus rebate is to help Americans jumpstart the economy, and Dan and I are certainly doing our part.

Today was the day! We drove to the Apple Store and upgraded both of our computers. I've been working on a laptop (iBookG4) for almost four years, and have edited thousands of photos on that little screen. It's been a wonderful, problem-free computer, and has traveled with me everywhere I've gone. But with my vision getting poorer with each passing year, it felt like the time was right to go to a larger screen.

And larger screens are definitely what we brought home today! Our new iMacs have 24" screens. I can't wait to polish a few pixels on a screen like that! For now, the new Macs are still in their boxes. I want to tidy up my desk before setting mine up, so it has a good first impression of its new home.

Along with the computer, I also used my educational discount to purchase Photoshop CS3. All of my previous photo editing has been done using Photoshop Elements, which, I might say, is an awesome program. But the educational discount in combination with the purchase of a new computer made the price on the full-blown Photoshop too good to pass up, so I'll be launching into another steep learning curve ... one I'm looking forward to.

So watch for news of an upswing in the economy ... and know that it's because Dan and I did our part.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

12 of 12 - A New Photo Challenge Coming Soon!

I have decided to take on a second photo challenge (my first being the 366 Photos for 2008 challenge). In this new challenge, I plan to join a group of people around the world who are doing "12 of 12" posts, as originated by Chad Darnell.

The idea of this photo challenge is to take, on the 12th of every month, twelve pictures throughout the day; and to post them with time, location and a small comment attached to each picture. I have really enjoyed looking at some of these posts, and seeing what a routine day is like in other countries. In fact, here are links to just a few of the many 12 of 12 posts:

Lisa (Shropshire, England)
Eden (Off the coast of Belize)
Cecilie (Copenhagen Denmark)

Although I don't live in a place as exotic as "off the coast of Belize," please do watch here for my twelve photos on the 12th day of every month, beginning in July.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


What can happen in the course of 39 years?

Careers can be built and drawn to a close.

Sons and daughters can be born, reared, and launched to a life of their own.

Moves can be planned and accomplished; houses bought and sold.

Friends can be made and kept; others lost and, sometimes, found again.

Storms can be weathered; times of peace enjoyed.

Tears can be cried; laughter shared.

Risks can be taken; adventures accomplished.

Friends and relatives can depart this earth; new babies are born and celebrated.

Health can wane, and the spirit grow stronger.

Lessons can be learned, and lessons can be taught.

Prayers can be offered, and thanks can be given.

Grandchildren can delight and rejuvenate our later years.

Memories can be made and, later, savored.

This is how life is meant to be. And this is how life has been for Dan and me. Today we celebrate our 39th anniversary. Thirty-nine years of sharing every facet of a life, blessed beyond measure. Thirty-nine years of two becoming one. Thirty-nine rewarding years of living and loving and growing.

Thank you, Dan, for being my loving partner in life!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Quint and Lady

Here's a picture of Tim's two parakeets. Quint, the male, is on the right; Lady, the female and the new bird, is on the left. Based on Quint's starry-eyed look, Tim had better start reading up on how to take care of a nesting female and newly-hatched budgies!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Introducing Our Superhero, Trashman!

Up until about five years ago, on the evening before every garbage collection day, either Dan or I had to empty all the trash cans in the house and then drag the big garbage can to the curb. Dan really hated that chore. It was, indeed, a tedious job, but someone had to do it. However, not long after we moved to Albuquerque, a real-life superhero, named Trashman, began showing up every Thursday afternoon to do that job for us!

He arrives around 4:00, with a flourish, wearing a black cape, made of a large trash bag; and two small, white trash bags, flowing from each of his pockets. "Here I am to get your trash!" he sings, reminiscent of the 1950s Mighty Mouse theme song. (Some of you younger readers probably don't remember that famous song.) And then he proclaims, in his strong baritone voice, "Who knows what trash lurks in the halls of home? Trashman does! Good afternoon, Ma'am."

Trashman is a member of the Superhero's Union, which imposes stringent rules upon its members and holds them to high standards, ethics and morals. If I offer to help him on Thursday afternoon, he reminds me, "Oh, Ma'am, the Superhero's Union would not like it at all if I didn't do my entire job!"

You might be thinking that I'm telling you a tall tale, here, but I have witnesses! As you know, Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday; and even when we have friends here to celebrate the holiday with us, Trashman makes his appearance. And last week, when my friend, Gloria, was here, Trashman didn't disappoint us. In fact, Gloria managed to snap a few quick pictures as he swept through the house.

Yesterday, when Trashman arrived at our house, I asked him if I could post his picture on my blog. He was hesitant, fearing that his "secret private identity" might be disclosed. But, in the end, he agreed to let me post the pictures. Out of respect to him, and to ensure that I keep his identity secret, I have hidden some of his facial features.

Thank you, Trashman, for coming to our aid! Dan and I both appreciate it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Persian Flaws, Spirit Beads, Humility Squares and Thorns

I was watching a TV program the other day and heard the phrase, "Persian flaw." I had to look it up. The story behind the phrase is that, long ago, religious Persian rug-makers deliberately wove, into each rug, a flawed stitch. This "Persian flaw" was a means of silently, but assuredly, proclaiming the rug-maker's belief that only God's creations are perfect.

Hearing about the Persian flaw reminded me of another story I was told, when I was taking beading lessons in Alaska. When one of the other students opened a new container of tiny seed beads, she discovered a red one, mixed in among all the yellow. Our teacher told her that it was a "spirit bead," and that she should weave it intothe design just as if it were a yellow bead. According to Native American culture, she told us, God's spirit would not enter into anything that was flawless, so a spirit bead was sewn in among the others, providing a flaw through which God's spirit could enter and flow through the bead work.

I became curious; were there other crafts with intentional-flaw traditions? It didn't take me long to find, on the Internet, information about the quilter's humility square. This purposely mis-pieced square was a reminder to the quilter, and others, that only God is perfect, and only God can create something that is perfect.

This concept of the intentional flaw fascinated me. I felt like there had to be some personal application there that I was missing. And then I remembered what the apostle Paul said, when he was speaking of his "thorn in the flesh." No one knows what this "thorn" was, but it was certainly some kind of weakness in Paul's life ... a flaw ... his humility square! He wrote about it in II Corinthians 12:7-10:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I think I found my personal application!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back Home

The drive home from Carlsbad, today, went smoothly. Maybe it was because of that $4.09/gallon gas I filled up with in Roswell!
I was happy to see, when I got back to Albuquerque, that most of the stations were running $3.88 or $3.89. (Now, wait just a minute. Did I really just say that I'm happy about $3.88/gallon gas?!)

Tomorrow I'll be heading back to work. I should take my boss a bouquet of flowers for being so understanding and accommodating about the time off I've taken over the past couple months. Yes ... I may just do that!

And, one final note about my visit with Mom. Considering what she's been through over the past nine weeks, her attitude is surprisingly optimistic. She anticipates tossing aside that walker very soon. What a trooper!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy Birthday to Mom

On Wednesday, June 11, Mom will turn 82. Since I will be going home tomorrow morning, I thought it would be fun to have a few of her friends over, this evening, to celebrate with her. Here she is, blowing out her candles, while her friend, Gloria, holds the cake.

I feel like Mom is doing extremely well. She is walking, with a walker, quite easily and without any pain. She feels like she could probably walk a little without it, but until the therapist works with her on that, he doesn't want her trying.

She is doing well at getting around the house, and doing most of the essential things, although she has to take it a little at a time; she tires easily. Home-health caretakers will be coming in several times a week, and can help with the things she can't manage on her own. And, of course, her good friends, including Pat and Gloria, are just a phone call away, and available when she needs a ride to doctor appointments.

After staying with her for her first three nights at home, I feel confident that she's going to be fine as she continues her recuperation, at home.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Home Sweet Home - Update on Mom

The plan is for Mom to go home tomorrow morning, a little more than two months after taking the fall that landed her in the hospital and, later, the Lakeview care facility. It's the day she's been yearning for, and I'm so happy for her.

I will travel down to Carlsbad tomorrow morning, probably arriving around 2:00 in the afternoon. That way I can be there for her first two or three nights at home. I'll either come home on Monday or Tuesday, depending on how she is doing.

She tells me she is pretty mobile, with the help of a walker, now. Home health care will be coming to visit her on a regular basis, and the physical therapist from Lakeview will also be coming to her house, to continue working with her.

Thanks to all of you who have sent your love and encouragement her way. It meant a lot to her.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Judd-Rucker Reunion

For five days my friend, Gloria Rucker, and I have been celebrating our friendship of 25 years. Gloria flew into Albuquerque on the evening of Wednesday, May 28. She had generously made arrangements for both of us to stay in a 2-bedroom suite at a local hotel. She wanted me to be as free of cooking, house cleaning, and hosting responsibilities as she was!

Once she arrived she began pulling gifts from her bag, not unlike Santa at Christmas time! Out came a beautiful basket of Seattle treats (most of them chocolate in nature); some Belgian chocolate, direct from Belgium, where her husband had just been on a business trip; a lavender and flax seed filled body warmer, that can be heated in the microwave and wrapped around shoulders, neck, or other aching or tired body parts; and an assortment of little treasures for Sweetpea!

Also in Gloria's bag - the one she carried with her on the airplane - was an Elmo book, a color book and crayons, and some other child-friendly items. "I always carry things like this," she told me, "just in case I run into some little child who needs cheering up or needs something to keep him (or her) entertained." She also came with pictures of Bible class bulletin boards she has designed, since we both teach two-and-three-year-olds. She came into my Sunday morning class with me, helped the children get settled in, and shared with us some new songs and activities.

Our time together flew by, as we took in some Albuquerque, Turquoise Trail and Santa Fe sights; snapped photo after photo, to memorialize our experiences; ate complimentary breakfasts, at the hotel, and other meals at an assortment of restaurants; recalled memories of our years together in Oregon; and shared dozens of snippets from the past 10 years of our lives, when we've been separated by many, many miles. She brought photos and slide-shows of her children and grandchildren to share with me, as we relaxed in our hotel suite in the evenings. And her mind was always concocting the next fun (and funny) thing we should attempt.

Gloria left yesterday evening, and, although saying "good-bye" was difficult for both of us, she was already talking about "next time," which, she insisted (and I agreed) must come much sooner than the ten years it took for this one to materialize.

I can't close this post without mentioning our husbands, who were both so supportive of this girls' get-away, even though they were left, fending for themselves, for five days; and Gloria's children, who, I'm sure, were inconvenienced by our adventure, since Gloria normally cares for her grandchildren during the work week. Thank you Dan, Ken, Lindsay, James, Nick and Stacie.

Here are a few pictures from our five days together:

The patio/garden in back of the Church Street Cafe (Old Town), where we ate lunch on Thursday.

The silver door handle on the old church, in Old Town.

A window and tree in the courtyard of the old church.

Strings of beads in an Old Town bead shop.

Gloria fell in love with this little gem of a property -- thought it would make a great coffee shop, in Seattle. Can you read the name on the top of the gate?!

Madrid, New Mexico.

Cerillos, New Mexico. Although the sign is a bit difficult to read, one of the things it was featuring for sale was "Old Rocks." Gloria and I decided not to go in and buy any old rocks; we prefer new rocks.

One of the little alleys in Santa Fe.

One of the Acoma Pueblo children who were performing at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC).

This artist was demonstrating metal-working at the IPCC.

Gloria tried on a couple little pieces of jewelry made by the artist above.

Gloria came perilously close to falling out of a hot air balloon, at the Balloon Museum ;-)

Burgers and malts at the 66 Diner on Saturday night.

This big potato was inside the children's section of the botanic gardens. We titled this one "Spudrucker."

We finished up our tour of the botanic gardens with the Japanese Garden. It was very pretty.