Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When Men Throw Baby Showers

 My days are punctuated by finding our spinning attic vent in our courtyard after a day of wind, teaching my students how to third an egg for a recipe, watching 4-year old cheerleaders march in the Whittier Christmas parade, snapping a shot of the agaves blooming at Laguna beach, creating a paper wreath from Phil’s old landscaping plans, finding yet another roadblock for the placement of the light on the bathroom wall, getting my next baby-bump picture taken by Mom, and reading about Communism in Wild Swans by Jung Chang.

Sometimes the extra-ordinary happens: like having a group of men throw me a baby shower at my last trustees meeting. If only all baby showers could be like this one: two gifts, lemon cake, tea, and lots of discussion about church politics and the stage configuration. No games. No ogling at me or feeling my belly. Kurt Plubell discussed his bouts of morning sickness when he was pregnant, and Bob Deklotz was interested to know if he gained any weight. As was only fitting they gave Phil and I a Fisher-Price Drillin’ Action Tool Set. They said they weren’t losing a trustee, but making a new one. Afterwards I started to wonder, but what if the baby is a girl… no… I guess it doesn’t matter. The trustees have seen how a female worker can do some Drillin’ Action too. Hurrah to them!
I will miss our meetings on Monday nights in the church workroom. They start with Kurt Plubell’s questions, “Well, shall we start the meeting?” “Tim White can you pray?” “Should we review the financials?” “Shall we take a look at the minutes?” Kurt says his job is easy because Tom Calderwood types up the minutes, Tim White leads the meetings, and Phil and Abby do all the work. However, he’s leaving out Bob Miller’s reports and Richard Tucker’s comic relief. We bicker sometimes and get real loud, watch You Tube videos and go off on tangents, but I never have to worry that after the meeting the guys are going to go home to their wives and gripe about so and so. No drama. Well… no drama outside the meetings.
However, I know I’ve made the right decision to go off the trustees. When I left I felt a pressure release. I don’t have to fix the garden fountain. I don’t have to cover the old gutter holes. I don’t have to retrench the bendy-board holes. I don’t have to baby-sit the watering schedules. That’s their job now. I doubt I’ll be able to go to GHFC without continuing to inspect the buildings though.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Climbing and Kicking

Middle of Greenleaf on the Uptown 5k day

          I felt it last night. It was like when your eye twitches involuntarily or when you see your pulse beating in the flesh of your hand. A kick. Maybe a punch. Phil felt it too. How are you able to do that? You’re just a little one. Most of my co-workers and friends can’t even see the evidence of you. I see them giving me the belly glance, and I’m so glad that I’m hidden beneath a loose shirt.
         My male co-workers are already making their vows, “I just wanted to let you know that I will never touch your belly. I’m just not into that.” Female co-workers are bending over and saying in high-pitched voices, “Oh, oh, is that a little bump I see there? It’s about time.” And my students like to distract me from my Algebra lessons by ask questions like, “But Mrs. Stevens, what if your baby likes chocolate? You’re depriving him of nourishment.” One of my students has named it Bob, and as she leaves class everyday she says, “Goodbye Mrs. Stevens. Goodbye Bob.”
In as much as I wince at all the talk, I think it’s doing me some good. It’s like the temperature slowly changing in the pool, so I can get used to the water. My school knows that I’ll be gone in March. Grandma Taylor bought me pregnancy pants. Gretchen Stevens has offered to put together a pre-birth scrapbook. Terri looked into buying a full body harness for rock climbing. My co-workers ask how I’m feeling. Phil sometimes says goodnight to it… I mean… you know… the baby. Nope, that still doesn’t come easily. I thought after 19 weeks I’d be able to say that with more ease, but I can’t. Even while browsing through a baby magazine, I had to shut it on the pictures of childbirth. Ah! Too much information! I can’t believe this is going to happen to me!
I’d rather respond to all the attention with, “Nothing to see here. Carry on. Back to work. I’m just fine thank you very much. No I haven’t had odd food cravings. I’ve always loved pickled turnips and celery before bedtime. My feet have given me problems since I started teaching. And I have always had a bad memory and gas problems. Everything is absolutely normal; so carry on with your lives.”
I want to say that, but half my pants have gone into storage, and I often look at my belly button in the shower and think, “So this is what it’s like to have an outtie belly button.” I’m short of breath while singing in choir, I burp a lot, and certain parts of my anatomy have never been so big. And then… last night… a big strong whap to my stomach. Good grief?! Are you really that big?
The doctors said that I’d start feeling things around 20 weeks, but they also said that they’d measure my stomach every time I came in for a check up and they haven’t done that yet. So far they’ve just take my weight, blood pressure, potty, and then smeared jelly all over my stomach to listen to the heartbeat. As they rub their mini-iron looking device across my skin, I wonder if it’ll still be there. Then they find it, and Phil and I gaze at each other wide-eyed. Yep, it hasn’t gone away.
Phil has been taking off work to go with me to my appointments, and I’m comforted to have him there as each new doctor gives me their different health speech. This doctor says drink more milk and eat more meat. That one says don’t eat too much fruit. That guy said to take fish oil. The other one tells me all the abnormal things that are normal to feel: pain here, soreness there, pressure here, diarrhea, constipation… good grief, if I add that to all the troubles that others have told me can happen, I shouldn’t be surprised if my eyes turned blue and I grew a tail. I think the doctors would just nod and say, “Yes, that can happen sometimes.”
Unfortunately no one prepared me for a partially-torn rotator cuff. That’s not a symptom of pregnancy, but of rock climbing. Too much strain and now I’m grounded. I could try it again after the pain goes away, but then I’d either be risking falling from a sudden muscle spasm or ripping the cuff all the way. And I’d really rather not go through that pain again: four days on Ibuprofen and a week with no right arm movement. Phil helped me get dressed, and we switched cars so I didn’t have to drive stick shift. I discovered frozen food dinners at Trader Joe’s and learned which grocery stores will help me out to my car.
I’m disappointed. I felt smooth and capable rock climbing. Phil and I had worked our way up to bouldering level V3. Our fingers were strong and the calluses on our hands were thick. On one of our last visits we were sitting on the climbing pads with a group of guys who kept trying a particular tricky route. It started above a doorway with two smooth round handholds and no footholds. The next reach had to be done with all upper body strength. Phil and I watched the guys attempting it before we had a go. Phil’s big hands helped him grip the slippery holds, and he had plenty of upper body strength to launch himself to the next hold. Sticking the hold was the hard part. I tried a tamer method. I did the splits in the doorway and worked my feet up one by one until I could just reach the second hold. We grinned at each other afterwards. We love to climb. But now the dead yellow skin on my hands is coming off in shreds, and we take walks instead. Maybe one day we’ll go back.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Autumn's Songs

           Fall doesn’t seem so bad when I think that this is the last time I’ve got to go over classroom rules with my students; this is the last of the teacher’s meetings; this is the last time I have to put up scalloped borders and give integer quizzes at lunch. I only have to make it to March and then it’ll be over.
As much as this thought presses me to the finish line, I wonder if I’ll miss the long chats with Natalie Fikejs or the regimented bell schedule or the laughter in the teacher’s lounge or seeing Gretchen Stevens everyday. Will I transition into that odd state of parenthood where the adults actually look forward to the primary-colored “Back to School” signs? How backwards!
As of now the only autumn comfort is Grandma Taylor’s. She loves fall as much as I hate it, and I think her love dulls my hate. It’s hard to hate any season in Grandma Taylor’s house because each one comes with the change of the colors: the pillows, the dishes, the flowers, the candles, the tablecloths, and napkins. Last Thursday she ran the AC particularly cold, so a cup of hot tea with my pumpkin muffin was a cozy comfort.
Dear Autumn, if you look like this, you may come and replace the August heat with your crispy curled leaves on my Boston ivy and angled sun blinding me through my living room window, and… well… and shorter days, I suppose, but I’ll still hold those against you.
Everything seems to start back up in autumn, which is strange because the annuals are getting ready to die. The church choir is back in session. We had our first all-day practice a few Saturday’s ago, and afterwards I had a sore throat. Jack Shwarts rattled off his jokes without a hint of a smile. “We’re running a little late so I hope you’re all prepared to stay until 6pm.” “How many of you remember this piece? Then why aren’t you doing better?”
The roofers were up above us knock-knocking for several hours while we sang, but that didn’t stop us. Our voices rang louder against the competition. It felt good to be back in the loft with a stack of old music on my lap. The covers are a mixture of 70’s colors, pastoral scenes, and Christian symbols. The words jump into life more vividly because there’s a new believer sitting among us. I wonder what she thinks about this Lord Most High. Does she see that He is her salvation? Does she know that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength? Does she see that it is enough that Jesus died for me? Is it well with her soul.
For the sake of public decency I held back tears, which come too often these days. Nothing like people asking me what’s wrong when nothing’s wrong at all, but emotional tidal waves caused by chemical imbalances. Music triggers it.
We’re singing the words that I should’ve been saying last month. These are the words that preachers don’t say: the psalms to music, old hymns, truth put to the soul’s tune. I wonder if the… um… the…you know…the bean…can feel the vibrations of the words.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Before & After The Beans Spilled

Before the first call to the doctor's office, I didn't realize that they counted these things in weeks. Give me a break; nothing happens in a week! Tell me the months. But now that I'm taking deep breaths before each bite and tossing and turning every other night, I'm counting the weeks too. How much further until trimester one is over? Two more weeks to go before the fog MIGHT lift. Two more. Two more.

August has been a long month.

August 6: The worst part about being pregnant is suspecting everyone else suspecting that I'm pregnant.

August 8: There's no chance I am going to act like an adult in this situation, and there's no swallowing of pride in this decision. I want my MOMMY! I will NOT go to my first pre-natal exam alone. The nurse on the phone told me that I was seven and a half weeks along and the further along the better. At the first appointment I will be 9 weeks, which is perfect. The 2 hour visit will include an ultrasound and info about classes. By the time the lady told me this, my eyes started watering, and I wanted to drop the phone like a hot potato and yell, "MOMMY! They're talking to me about babies!"

August 9: I know I haven't eaten hardly anything all day, and I still feel nauseous, but I really want some Swedish fish.

August 9.5: I caught a glimpse of a new vacant space approaching. It's like those dreams that I have where I'm underwater and rapidly running out of air. My lunges are going to burst and eventually I have to give up and suck in water. But I don't drown. I find out that I can breath water just as well as air. That is the feeling I get. It's a little like when I was trying to breath while skydiving. There's a gasping sensation. It's like discovering an empty room in our house that we didn't know existed. Oh my! There's more!? My world is growing larger and I'm gasping.

August 10: Oh no! Don't leave little appetite. You were doing so well. Stay! Stay!...

August 12: "'How far along are you?" The CVS cashier asked. Ah! She knows! My face turned bright red, and I didn't need a sweater anymore even though I'd been cold all morning. Of course, she knows, you moron, you're buying prenatal vitamins. I tried to recall what the doctor's receptionist told me. "I think I'm 8 weeks. I haven't been to a doctor yet, so I don't actually know. It's all new to me." "I'm 18 weeks," she told me. So then of course I couldn't keep from peeking at her belly bulge, which could've easily been mistaken for fat. Outside I took off my sweater and thought about how strange the list of confidante's is becoming: a waiter at a fish restaurant at Monterey's Wharf, a doctor's receptionist, and a CVS cashier.

August 14: Elise Hamel is pregnant or so I hear. Shayleen, the baby detector told me yesterday as we watched the wood chips get sprayed into the new kids play place. That was exciting. That made me feel like a healthy person again. But I'm relieved to hear about Elise. Ya! The pressure is off. I was afraid of being the only Granadian...the only newbie. Now Teri Elfelt is pregnant too.

August 15: I'm actually counting down to Wednesday. What a relief it will be. Wednesday is the designated day to tell people. I dreamt last night that I burst. Not literally. I couldn't keep from telling Gretchen Stevens, and I just burst. Then I woke up with a start wondering what day it was and if I told too early.

August 16: One more day of keeping it in. Hallelujah! I wonder if after the fact I will wish for the days of secretive silence.

August 18: My highlight was seeing how each of my family members owned the information. Grandpa Stevens asked if he could tell all of his old lady friends who are always bragging about how many great-grands they have. Dad Stevens said he'd just congratulated Murry Alcorn on being a grandpa. And Mom Stevens wanted to know if she could tell a list of other people. Grandma Taylor was so funny. She showed me a knit dress that she said would look great on a pregnant lady. Jacob made me laugh. He texted back: "And WHO may I ask is the father?" Later he texted Phil saying, "You dirty old man." Mommy cried. Terri couldn't wait for a texted response; she had to call me. See, Lord, that's why I need twins: more love to go around.

August 20: When I lay down to go to sleep I feel my heart echoing off the big empty spaces in my bloated stomach. Then I feel it in my arms and legs. It feels like dozens of little men are doing jumping jacks in there. "Quiet down!" I want to tell them. "It's sleeping time!" The sensation keeps me up at night. I've also learned that when having a baby all your poop comes out too. EW! Becca Shaw told me that, and I think she enjoyed watching me react to the news. What a twisted sense of humor! Daddy has enjoyed some infrequently used terminology like: preggo and fertile myrtle—thank you Daddy for that. I try to get him back by calling him grandpa, but I think he takes it as a compliment. Mike Hamilton was the first one to send a congratulatory card, and Grandma Taylor made a baby hat in less than 24 hours. I told Phil it was a chalk bag, and it wasn't until later that he asked, "No really, what is that?" The crazy hat sits on our lamp top. It's the first piece of baby gear that we've had. Weird.

August 20.5: Marie helped me see something wonderful today. I told her I was rather depressed about school starting in a week and she said, "But isn't this the last time you're going back?" Oh my! Just think! I'll be in constant summer come March! No more teaching! I just have to make it to spring, then I'm done!

August 21: I'm tired of talking about babies.

August 23: I don't want to see anyone. I hate everything and I especially hate happy people, especially if they're happy about my Lima Bean. That's what it looks like. No, no twins, and I have nothing to say to God about that. The doctor didn't give me enough time to anticipate it. He just stuck the wand up, and there it was: Uno Lima Bean with a small vibration that was supposed to be the beating heart. I was rather emotionless. Sure wish I was now.

August 23.5: Going to Parkville, I need a sign that says, "Don't disturb, cranky pregnant lady."

August 24: Oh Joanne Clark, why can't more people be like you? At Parkville yesterday she scooted past my office and said, "I just wanted to say Congratulations, and I hope all this crap ends soon."

August 26: Crowds of little birds hang out by our trash cans in the morning. I hope they're eating our maggots. I've slept four nights in a row without tossing and turning. Hallellujah! I hope that's over. I can't wait for the nausea to be over too. So far I have normal sized breakfast and normal-sized lunch—although I eat it really slowly—, and then a pathetic dinner.

August 30: Today was the first day that I thanked God for being pregnant. There's a lady at my school who's been trying to get pregnant for years and nothing has worked. Phil and I didn't have to wait. This is what we wanted; we wanted kids sooner rather than later. I guess sooner it is.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Contemplating Manual Labor

The body can’t know rest, unless it has first known work. Real work. Work that stings your eyes with sunscreen and salty sweat, that sends rivulets of muddy water down your shower drain, that transforms bottled water into sweet life-giving nectar, and knocks you out less than five minutes after your head hits the pillow.

This is the drumbeat of my summers. Early Saturday mornings with my CRV back seats laid flat to make room for shovels, digging bar, and grade rake. Hot tea in one hand with my other on the wheel; Phil shifts for me. At Granada someone brings donuts, usually Tim White or Bob Miller, and I always try to eat one, never learning from all my past donut-eats that when I’m half-way through, I ask myself why did I take one of these horrible rings of sugary dough.

I lace up my old hiking boots, the ones that hiked 2/3 of the John Muir trail ten years ago. The toes are scuffed to a lighter shade of brown, and if I lace them too tight, I give myself a welt on the ankle. They are water proof, slip proof, bash-yourself-in-the-toe proof, but not fine-dust proof. Before noon I can feel the grit between my sweaty toes. But they are far better than converse, flip-flops, running shoes, and any other footwear that I’ve seen volunteers show up in—except Kurt Plubell’s steel-toed boots, but then again, who can outdo Kurt when it comes to equipment and gear?

Before anything in landscaping can be done, first there’s the digging. There’s always digging; there’s no way around it. Taking out plants, dig. Installing irrigation, dig. Switching out a valve, dig. Fixing a leak, dig. Planting, dig.

We come to a smooth plot of grass and tear it up until it looks like a gopher’s heaven and we’ve put piles of clay soil in the parking lot and tracked mud all across the sidewalk and cemented a crust of dirt onto our shovels. There’s no way around the digging and there’s no way to look at a finished project without feeling jabbed in the ribs by the memory of the digging. Maybe a year or two will make you forgot, but this isn’t like child labor. You remember the digging. You remember the mini-avalanches of fine earth backsliding into the perfect hole you just dug because you stepped too near the edge. You remember the inverted pendulum swing of the pick mattocks overhead, and the labyrinth of pipes that’s hiding underneath those healthy plants.

There’s dirt under my throbbing fingernails. They throb from gripping handles tightly. And I’ve bruises on my arms and legs, but I don’t know how or when I go those. General fatigue from the gut is the least I feel when sitting down, but as soon as I get up, the stiffness is like trying to walk with my legs taped straight.

Perhaps the worst part of it—unless I’m planting—is that at the end I can’t look back at what I’ve done and admire the beauty of my work. No. I’ve made the ground look like Swiss cheese. It looks worse now than it did when I started. It’s like organizing your dresser. First you take everything out and clean the bottoms of the drawers. But the day’s work ends there, and on Sunday’s the people file by and look confused. What is this supposed to be? What are all these holes?

I guess any average Joe would feel the same way if his house was raised and he saw all the under guts of ABS drains, Verizon cables, copper pipes, and support braces. I think that 75%—no 85% of redoing the landscape happens under the dirt where no man, woman, or child will ever say, “Oh my! What a fine PVC gluing that is!” or “Look at how deep you dug that hole! It’s amazing!”

I don’t want the praise, I want the beauty, but no, that doesn’t come until the plants go in, and when they do, the beauty grows and grows every week. The Crape Myrtle is blooming! A hummingbird drinks in our fountain. The Boston Ivy has taken hold! The Spider Plant is trying to spread again. Should we cut back the Kangaroo Plant?

Is it funny or cruel that God does the best part of it? And isn’t it exactly the opposite in our furrowed and torn up souls. God is laying the lines for new drainage and better irrigation. He digs the holes, he plants the plants, and then we take charge of the garden, trimming here and there, watching the plants grow, dropping chlorine tablets in the fountain, raking up the fallen leaves. All of it is useless without the pipes that are running beneath that dirt. But no, I don’t think that’s quite right, because just when I think my garden is right, there he goes with the demolition hammer, chiseling away what I thought looked lovely.

C.S. Lewis says it better than I, naturally.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Jungle Law

In the book The Giver the character Jonas must receive the world’s worst memories and thus protect all laymen from pain. As he takes on memories of war and starvation and loneliness, he sees his childhood fading and adulthood taking its place. He loses the spring in his step and the listlessness in his play.

I have had to be a disciplinarian today…this whole week actually, and I think I know why the world has so many bad parents. It’s easier to let things slide. It’s easier not to call home after I’ve threatened. It’s easier not to write a referral after the warning. It’s easier to talk than act.

My students are growing tired of the same old school routines. They know the rules, so now it’s time to break them and brag to friends about what you got away with in Bible class. A couple in love sneaks off for some privacy. Kids text in class. They see how many teachers won’t notice gum in their mouths. They squiggle and squirm and the greatest weapon we teachers have against them is the referral.

A referral covers a multitude of sins: a referral for being tardy, for an academic appointment no-show, for back talking, disobedience, chewing gum, and cheating. A tick mark on their record and off to a lunchtime detention for 20 minutes in an air-conditioned room where most of their friends are too. Oh yes, and they get first pick at the lunch line because they aren’t allowed to be late to detention. Tell me how this is punishment.

This past weekend when I discovered blatant signs of cheating among homework papers, I decided that I had to be firm. I had to be tougher now than I’d been at the beginning of the year. If my kids started testing the waters, I had to remind them that the deep end still existed.

God help me be firm. Help me to be level headed and unemotional.

I brought about justice for twelve offenses. I assigned sentences for forgotten school supplies. One kid was in twice. I guess the first time didn’t leave a big enough impression on him, so I had him fill both sides with sentences the second time around: “I will bring my composition book to class.” I called students in to fix the stapler they broke. I e-mailed home. I sent girls to the office for low shirts and high skirts. And yes I wrote referrals as well—school policy requires it.

Tomorrow is Friday and I feel weighed down, like Jonas with the world’s memories. The world looks different when I play the part of disciplinarian. Sometimes it feels like I’m trudging through mud. Maybe I see what my Dad meant when he said, “This hurts me more than it hurts you” right before he gave me a spanking. That made no sense when I lay awake in bed with tears in my eyes and a stinging bottom. But I know I didn’t think twice about the spanking the next day.

“One of the beauties of Jungle Law is that punishment settles all scores. There is no nagging afterward” (Rudyard Kipling in The Jungle Book). There is relief in the pain, as if the students want it. Please. Please. Please. Just punish me. Aunt Robin told me about how she and Uncle David once returned from a trip to their daughters. One of the daughters had been naughty and when her mother came in, she ran up and begged, “Spank me, Mommy. Spank me!”

The sins that haunt me the most are those that I’ve not been punished for, but I’ve never thought to ask God for punishment. Perhaps I should. If only my punishment could be a quick slap on the bottom.

My labors haven’t been without rewards. One student thanked me for having him write sentences. Another has grown more congenial with me. The cheating ones didn’t pout. They accepted their punishment and slipped right into their daily Math lessons, raising their hands to ask me questions and even volunteering to do work on the board.

The highlight of the week was when I told my students that they each had to complete one homework problem before the bell rung or else I’d make them late to their next class—automatic referral.

One student asked, “Would you really do that?”

“Oh ya. She’d do it,” another replied.

I think I’ve put the fear of the deep end back into them.

O Lord, keep me consistent.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Go to the Trees

Being married to a man who speaks latin when he's talking about trees has inspired me to make up my own names for trees: names for the ordinary folk, and names that I think are better than many species' common names. In fact when I use my made up tree names, Phil and my grandmother know exactly what I'm talking about. So... I give you The Trees, by Abigail Joy Stevens

Here we have the Butterfly Tree, easily recognized by the shape of its leaves. I can just imagine all its foliage taking flight. It's common name is the Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata). And yes it does get little orchid flowers on it. It also get long spiraling seed pods that make a delicious crunch in the fall.

A perfect seed pod makes four crunches when stepped on... or so Philip says.

I call this one the Tulip Tree. The blooms all look like Tulips. (Common name: Saucer Magnolia. BORING Latin: Magnolia soulangiana) You'd never notice it if it wasn't in bloom. They bloom right after the first cold spell of our Southern California winter. This year they started the show in January. As I drive through Whittier I look for them: bouquets of lovely flowers.

The Tulip Tree's blooms have a gentle purple tint.

Phil calls this tree the La Mirada Abomination. It's actually an Olive Tree at the mercy of the gardeners' hedge trimmers. When Phil and I see these insults to the landscape, we scheme about going to the residents' home in the middle of the night and uprooting the abomination.

This particular brand of Eucalyptus I call the Dr. Seuss Tree. If you've never read a Dr. Seuss book, this will make no sense to you. But if you have, you'll see the resemblance to those skinny trees with a puffs of foliage at the top. It's common name is the Lemon Scented Gum Tree. That's dumb.

Painter Avenue is lined with what I like to call the Broccoli Trees. Jacob and I used to pretend we were giants eating our broccoli at dinner, and that caused us to inspect our broccoli very well. If you ever closely examine your own broccoli, you will see the resemblance to the Ficus Tree.

These trees are actually Uptown Whittier's Bane. They cost hundreds to trim and hundreds in Trip and Fall lawsuits. They rip up the concrete and get into pipes. They drop berries that stain the asphalt and concrete. Their white bark scars terribly. Their wood is useless, it can't be burned or used to built anything. They are majestic looking, but that's about it.

Uptown Whittier has two main streets lined with these trees: Painter and Greenleaf Avenue. Greenleaf's trees are trimmed to look like gumdrops.

These are the blooms of the Snow Tree. Latin: Pyrus calleryana. Common Name: Evergreen Pear. Why Pear? I don't know. This tree doesn't produce pears. And why evergreen? It's not.

Phil's allergic to this tree so he doesn't particularly like it, and its susceptible to Fire Blight, which Phil tells me is a disease.

I love driving down La Mirada Blvd. on a breezy day when these things are in bloom. It looks like California snow.

The look of this tree gets my imagination going. It's the Paint Brush Tree. No it's the Paint Roller Tree. No it's the Fox's Tail Tree. How about the Pole Tree. It's common name is the Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), and I usually can remember this one's name when talking to Phil about it. When I can't I've got lots of word pictures to choose from.

This darn tree... I can never remember it's real name (Camphor) and I still haven't come up with a clever name for it. It can grow up to be a beast, but unlike the Broccoli Tree, this tree can be chopped up and burned. We planted one of these at Granada as a Specimen tree. (Cinnamomum camphora)

Uptown Whittier has a slew of these Camphors. This one is oozing over the curb.

Here is a tree whose real name I never forget. The Magnolia Tree (Magnolia grandiflora.) It's an evergreen and one of Phil's favorite fragrances. So every summer I climb it to reach its blossoms and then rub it all over myself.
Just kidding.
I do love it's great big blooms though. They're always out of reach until they fall on the ground.

You'd never notice them on the ground though because their dead petals look a lot like their fallen leaves.

Ah yes! The hall of Puzzle Trees. (Common Name: Chinese Elm. So uncreative. Ulmus parvifolia)

Look at the next picture to see why I call them Puzzle Trees.

This tree can do all sorts of tricks. It can grow up tall and gangly. It can grow parallel to the ground, and it can meld into itself.

This Puzzle Tree's branches hover over the lawn like a bench.

The Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba) can go by no other name in my book. I learned it early on from my Grandmother and the name stuck. It's fan shaped leaves are like magic in the fall. So golden. So glorious.

It's common name is Maiden Hair Tree, which I suppose is acceptable.

The Cactus Monstrosity: I can't even call this beast a tree. It's not a tree. It never should have grown into a tree. What were the people who let this thing grow in their front yard thinking. It has a trunk. It looks like an octopus from hell. Phil thinks it's cool. I couldn't photograph it properly because it's tucked back behind two tall trees in some crazy person's front yard.

Neither Phil nor I know what this thing actually is... aside from ugly.

Last of all the Beetle Bush: this thing looks like squashed cockroaches when it's in bloom. It's called Bear's Breech (Acanthus mollis) for who knows what reason.
The End