Rabble Rouser

I'm so darn proud of my mom! She called up the Lincoln Journal Star and gave them holy hell for refusing to print last Friday's Doonesbury strip. I wish I had been there in the dining room near the rotary dial phone for that moment. I would give her an atta-girl.

Department of Homeland Security

Just like the spooks, I am picking up increased chatter, and elevating the alert color to level coral to match my outfit. Once in awhile One Stat gives me a glimpse of how searchers wander into this Itty Bitty blog. I am intrigued to find that someone visited my blog due to a Dogpile search for "old ladies nuked". I'm sure they were disappointed not to find any recipes.


Wish List Revisited

You are blowing me away with your willingness to collect Primo Junk. I can't thank you enough. Your donations sustain my efforts, and often propel me in new directions.

Due to storage limitations it is time to update the recycling wish list. I'm imagining myself as some sort of public radio pledge drive moderator here. Thanks for your wonderful contributions of quilt batting and fiberfill. You will be receiving a pledge gift of an invisible travel coffee mug.

Donations of plastic Easter eggs have astounded me, and launched a project for constructing imaginary orchestra instruments. We are reading the new Manuelo the Playing Mantis , by Don Freeman ( though he's been dead for ages). Alas, I can't store any more eggs. This reminds me of a job long ago as an apartment building manager. Every week I had to vacuum the stairways. It took months to rid the carpet of Christmas pine needles and Easter plastic grass.

Prescription bottles are a component of every construction project. I don't know about you, but sometimes the labels are easy to peel off my Rx bottles, and other times impossible. The recycling fairies will understand if you discard the sticky-icky bottles. Save the lids, though. We love the lids!

I can always use the shoeboxes with a one-piece construction instead of a two-piece box and lid construction. We use them for creating inside/outside castles and haunted houses.

Buttons and sewing notions are always coveted. So are workbench and junk drawer hardware items. Keys. I want your keys!! The ones to the padlock from your junior high PE locker...The eyeglasses your broke when you were showing off about your unbreakable titanium frames? I want them! Buttons. Snaps. Zippers? You betcha.

Wire. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways....Different kinds and sizes of wire are used to develop fine motor twisting and threading skills.

NEW!! I can always use the styrofoam trays from grocery meats. I do need them to be the kind without creepy absorbing materials attached. Obviously, I need them to be washed.

I always, always, always need buttons, wine corks, and ugly neckties. With your support I may someday become a Primo Junk Diva!

Reptilian Pantyhose

I know it sounds kinky, slinky, scaly, and expensive. Just the wicked accent for that black dress and spiked heels. Add the wide, low-slung crocodilian belt, and rattlesnake skin chunky bracelet. Complete the look with platinum spiked hair, botox/blood-red pouting lips, the Perfect Purse, and protruding hipbones. And that is aspsolutely Collagemama's look!

Oops, got off the track there. I wanted to tell you about the lizards on the back fence and a successful terra cotta clay project.

Last fall some of my elementary and intermediate art students made clay masks decorated with different stripes, grooves, and other textures. I wanted the kids to think beyond a basic face, and way beyond Sponge Bob on this project, so my example was very over the top. Anne Rice and Dionysus on a Mardi Gras pub crawl with Akenaten, Ed Munch, Long John Silver, and several African antelopes. We made sure to poke holes along the rim of the mask.

After the clay was fired to its splendid earthy color, we painted the masks with black tempera paint all over. A few minutes later we took the masks to the sink and washed and rubbed the paint off the top surface, leaving the black in all the textured grooves. When the masks dried, we added long raffia hanging from the poked holes along the edge. Some kids added beads and feathers. We looked at examples of masks from many cultures.

My example was so weird I kept it, and hung it from a fence post out on the patio. Despite lots of rain the black paint still accents the textures. The raffia is bleaching. The mask has become the lizard molting hang-out. Lizards get naked behind Satan's visage? (I can't help it. I've been reading a collection of Bohemian folktales about poor-but-smart peasants outwitting devils.)

My fence hosts incredibly tiny baby anoles, anoles just ready for kindergarten, teen Double-Bubble anoles, and Big Daddy in his chartreuse suit and gold chains. They are all having growth spurts. Then they have to molt. It isn't optional. They all seem to migrate to the fence post with the mask, and their skin becomes white with dark brown underneath. Molting isn't the passive activity I had always imagined. The lizards rub against the wood, then contort themselves to bite the old skin away from their toes. Imagine if you had to do that! All this rubbing and peeling takes a long time. At the most exposed, vulnerable point the lizards climb behind the raffia and up behind the mask. Do they smoke native plants? Hold secret kiva ceremonies? Do they have black light posters of Jim Morrison back there? Or do they just finally rid themselves of their Texas summer pantyhose the way so many women do as soon as they get behind the steering wheel after a long day at work?


The Pink Aisle

Holy crap! CollageMama has lost touch with her inner Barbie during all these years in the Camo Aisle. She's been through GI Joe, Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Warhammer, Star Wars, and Snaptite models of WWII vehicles.

While my attention was thus distracted, the Pink Aisle situation has sunk to new lows. I am so old that my Barbie had white gloves to accessorize all her outfits. She wore cute pillbox hats. I admit, Barbie had trouble staying with any career for very long, but she never lied about her National Guard service. Her dental records show an impressive lack of cavities. She had leadership potential when she wore her flight suit with the actual teeny-tiny zipper. I would vote for her for president against Bushie the Wonder Gerbil any day, even if she is surgically augmented.

Good grief! What was Mattel(DUH?) thinking? To combat the threat posed by Bratz(TM) dolls in the Pink Aisle at Walmart, Mattel has launched postemptive Diva Starz (TM) dolls. Both sides of this marketing Armageddon are short-waisted plastic 3-D mixes of velvet paintings, claymation Cher, and jerky Japanese animation.

The whole usage of "diva" is becoming clearer. I have been so out of touch with mass marketing to girls that I imagined progress had been made in our culture's goals and models for young women. Find an AIDS cure? Go to Mars? Design hybrid vehicles? Solve the health care crisis? Shirley, you jest!

I am hereby launching my Opera Diva Barbie(TM) line of dolls. Barbie's figure is perfect for those armored bras anyway, and she's got the magenta satin gowns with velvet trim. Opera Diva Barbie(TM) will have an imbedded musical chip. Just push on her perfect diaphragm, and she will launch into a random Wagner aria.

New for You in Summer 2004: Opera Diva Barbie's Viking Helmet(TM).

Coming in Fall 2004: Water-logged Ophelia(TM)! Wear your Rue with a difference! And will'a not come again?


Definition Diva

Lately my female kindergarten and first grade students have been drawing pictures of themselves as lead singers in a band called "The Divas". Slightly older girls refer to themselves as "shopping divas". This seems like a really odd elementary school vocabulary word. The impression I get from these girls is that they identify with a personification of self-justified, self-centered mass-consumerism and instant celebrity. Is it just me, or is this a symptom of a culture rotting from the inside out?

What is a "diva"? When I told my opera friend that I liked the voice of Brunnhilde on the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of "Gotterdammerung" yesterday, he told me, "Jane Eaglen as Brünnhilde was superb. She is a grand diva. " His usage of the word is clearly positive, conveying respect for a lifetime of achievement and talent. That fits with my American Heritage Dictionary definition:

An operatic prima donna. [Italian, "goddess," from Latin, feminine of divus, god.]

So what is a prima donna? Again the dictionary:

1. The leading female soloist in an opera company. 2. A tempermental and conceited performer. [Italian, "first lady"]

The Online Etymology Dictionary (see link) defines diva as:

diva - "distinguished woman singer," 1883, from It. diva "goddess, fine lady," from L. diva "goddess," fem. of divus "divine (one)."

From online slang dictionaries:

diva n 1. goddess, queen; literally "first woman." ("She is such a diva.") Submitted by Brent Edwards, Pullman, WA, USA, 14-04-1998.



Absolutely any woman, regardless of talent, who establishes a singing career and appears on television.
"...to the contrary, Pete - over the past decade we've witnessed a veritable explosion in the population of divas, for instance. In fact, our research shows that the years between nineteen ninety and the present date saw the emergence of more divas than the previous one hundred years. Ultimately, I think that reports of the death of high culture simply don't square with the numbers."

Source: Joshua B. Wright, Apr 7, 2004

A female who is doing tha damn thang. She got her shit together and she doesn't need a male to know that she looks good.Mary J. Blige

a bitchy woman that must have her way exactly, or no way at all. often rude and belittles people, believes that everyone is beneath her and thinks that she is so much more loved than what she really is. selfish, spoiled, and overly dramatic.Source: charmain, Sep 11, 2003

When I polled my demographic group, that is Carole and Shawn at lunch today on the patio at the French restaurant, they were unanimous in voting "diva" as a negative term.

When I search Dogpile I find VenusDivas who are full-figured fashion models, and GreenDivas, who are golf women with attitude and discretionary income.

There's also a site welcoming me to the "World of Divadom" with this definition:

Half of the population of our planet are women and consequently, half of the famous faces seen on the screen and in concert halls throughout this century are women. Wonderful voices and superb acting techniques, not to mention beautiful faces, abound. But who are the tiny minority who can be considered as true divas in our Give Good Face and Sirens categories? What sets these women above all others in their particular fields? What has happened to these women to entitle them to the status of diva?
Obviously everyone has different criteria for bestowing the title of diva on their own chosen few. Our criteria (and it is that which counts as this is our site!) are simple – extraordinary glamour, mystery, a liberal sprinkling of tragedy and most of all endurance throughout the years. These are women who will never be forgotten and whose image can be conjured up immediately by the mere mention of a name, song or movie.
Qualification for the third category Movers & Shakers differs in that, sadly, women make up a tiny minority – probably less than 1% of people who could be considered as 'Movers and Shakers' – politicians and those occupying significant places within ruling houses. Nevertheless, there does exist a minority within a minority who stand out as a result of their achievements and of fulfilling the standard requirements of mystery, tragedy and glamour. Love them or hate them – you will never forget them!
Do you agree with us? Who else should be there in the upper echelons of divadom? Who should not be there? What qualities are we missing? Take a peek at our list of wannabees - aka the no-noes - and what we are not looking for will become abundantly obvious! You disagree? Then tell us by using your democratic vote!
When voting or proposing a candidate for divadom - remember - Oscars, Tonys, Grammys and the like are all fine and dandy but do not necessarily bestow the accolade of diva! Our divas are way above the mundane world of awards and prizes! Tell us now and let’s make this the number 1 site to which every woman should aspire to appear!

I am feeling lucky that I raised boys and only had to deal with Ninja Turtle nunchucks and melting plastic army men with magnifying glasses. A diva of any sort seems like a scary role model for young girls. Playing "divas" seems like acting out a dream of being self-centered, self-promoting, materialistic, conscienceless celebrities. Make sure the camera gets the pink feather boa, tattoos, and navel piercing.

My mom thought playing "Beatles' Stewardesses" was sick decadence due to watching scandalous images on "The Ed Sulllivan Show". Beatles' stewardesses had to be nice to people, anticipate their needs, and make their lives more pleasant.

I'm not saying girls should aspire to be selfless servants in high heels. There must be something between that and aspiring to be shopping divas!

Easy Bake Oven

I've never made it much beyond Easy Bake in culinary skills. No one has starved at my condo, but they have taken their lives in their hands sometimes. This morning I realized that the Rubbermaid spatula I used to stir the queso last evening is missing a large chunk. A fiesta dental disaster awaits anyone who doesn't look closely before biting the Dorito.

When I was a kid we had an annual spring torture in Phys. Ed. known as the President's Physical Fitness Test. Do they still do that? I used to believe that John F. Kennedy was watching me do sit-ups from heaven.

Maybe there should be a President's Kitchen Fitness Test...


Last Minute Shopping

Birthday Wish List:

1. Stomach muscles

2. Million dollars

3. Date with Lyle Lovett

4. Three book deal

5. Long weekend in the Monahans Sand Dunes

6. Archaeological trove of old-timey Barbie shoes, padlock keys, buttons, and bolts

7. Red & white 1961 Plymouth Sport Fury with rectangular steering wheel and push button transmission in mint condition

8. Self-cleaning carpet

9. Perfect purse

10. Perfect shoes

Redecorating Without Pain

Rather than pushing furniture around, dusting, and cleaning, I've been pushing the furniture of the blog around, freshening things up with some new colors. I am not nearly as irritable, sweaty, and exhausted as a traditional Spring Cleaning would leave me. I won't wake up sore in the morning, either.


Pedal-pushers and Knee-knockers

I'm trying to convince myself that my ankles and calves are among my most lovely features. This is not inconceivable, really. My maternal grandmother had shapely legs well into her seventies, and my mom has always had nice ankles. I'm giving myself this pep talk because I have surrendered to the invasion of capri pants. The last time I had a pair was in third grade, and we called them "pedal-pushers". They were gray with green and burgundy plaid. The new girl in our class called hers "knee-knockers" because she moved to town from England. I wonder where Margaret is these days, and whether she is also pondering the retail insistence that middle-aged women must wear cropped pants that make us look very short and wide in exchange for being cool in the summer. Did she grow up to become an English professor like both her parents? Was Margaret an excellent cook, gardener, musician, artist, writer, life-long learner, scout leader, and inspiration the way her mother was to me? Did she teach kids the funny song that went, "Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot, whatever the weather we'll see it together, whether we like it or not"?


When a Blue & Gold Banquet Goes Seriously Wrong

My Blogspot banner is now advertising "poison dart frog jello recipes"! Now there is a visual. Would that be green jello with frogs and miniature marshmallows, or yellow jello with frogs and pimentos? It can't be the red hospital jello cubes with whipped cream. That would be so very wrong.

Been to many Cub Scout Blue & Gold Banquets as a sister and a mom of scouts. These are terrifying potlucks, since tradition calls for the boys to go through the line first touching and breathing on everything.

I always preferred the Boy Scout pancake feeds of my youth. These were held on the coldest weekend of the year in the neighborhood Presbyterian Church basement. We KNEW it would be ten below if the scouts were having the pancake feed. Dads would cook the pancakes and link sausages, and they were creators of perfect comfort food. The actual Boy Scouts were clearing up, carrying plates, being nice to little kids, and looking like healthy citizens of the future. Absolutely everyone we knew went to the pancake feed, and then stood around "visiting" all evening. The church lobby and hallways would be lined with heavy coats and drippy galoshes. It was just about the safest feeling I've ever known; a warm, brightly-lit log cabin surrounded by crunchy snow and air so cold it drilled holes in your skull, all blessed and by God, Jesus, Family, Aunt Jemima, and the Boy Scouts of America.


Cool Frogs

I sure hope you saw “The Triplets of Belleville”! That is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’ve only seen it once so far. There were some very cool frogsicles, and other frog delicacies in it. But today, boys and squirrels, I’m not talking cinema. I’m talking papier mache with kindergarten and first grade students.

We have been working on our giant frogs for several weeks. Used cantaloupe-size balloons, plastic Easter egg halves, and corrugated box cardboard to start our frogs and lily pads. We slimed them with newspaper and Ross Art Paste while discussing the hoarding of toenail clippings (papier mache projects bring out the most primitive in all kids).

Added “fun foam” legs and eyes today. Each frog gained personality plus! Then we brewed up paints in every green imaginable:

Severe weather radar
Tornado sky
Blond swimmer chlorine hair
Mowed grass
Mallard duck
Tropical island
Picnic table
Out-dated cottage cheese
Tree moss
New leaves
Hansel & Gretel forest
Skunky aquarium
Leak under the car
Robin Hood

Hope you haven’t had a green OD. If you did, just put the lime in the coconut…


Arctic Anger Management

Welcome to IFU, the web's first online degree program to be endorsed by Jack London himself. Ice Floe University offers a multi-disciplinary, climate-based approach to anger management studies. Creative visualization is the guiding educational philosophy for the program. Situate yourself on comfy pillows, set your mental thermostat at 24 degrees, close your eyes, and imagine yourself as a walrus on the arctic ice. You are massive, intolerant, whiskered, and equipped with large, powerful flippers. Little seals bugging you with their yipping? Backhand them across the ice and into the frigid waters off the Ross Ice Shelf. Penguins wanting money to go to the mall? Flah-whoup them into the water. Lemmings? Just glare at them and twitch a whisker.

You, too, can achieve better office productivity without frostbite by following this simple study program. The IFU program requires no swimming or body-fat measurements. Every diploma comes with a coupon for a blue Slurpee. Operators are standing by now.......


URL Dot Argghh!

There's edu and org and com and biz, but I propose a special web designation for parents....

This week a friend told me about her conversation with the custodian at the elementary school. Apparently, the first thing the custodian has to do every morning is walk around the school building to pick up all the used condoms in the doorways. I am creeped out for the custodian, and horrified for all the moms of teenagers in this area.

I've tried to ignore all the stories of teens having oral sex in the high school restrooms during lunch break. I've given many gory lectures about seatbelts and automotive safety during "open campus" lunch period. I've explained in detail that while I may be collecting outstanding children's literature to read to my grandchildren IN THE VERY DISTANT FUTURE, I don't want to read them aloud for many years yet.

To augment my Argghh mood, the lizards on my patio fence are into the spring rape season. Sex in nature is rarely consentual. Drakes nearly drown lady ducks during acts of procreation. Lady lizards are nearly strangled in the grasp of Big Daddy to the music of the Doors. Lizards change color because of mood and health, not for camouflage. At the afternooner fence motel, Big Daddy wears a chartreuse suit with gold chains and cheap sunglasses. Little Brittany Lizard turns a darkly distressed brown and contracts to the skinniest form possible. After doing the deed, Big Daddy climbs to the top of the fence and does a Super Bowl end zone show & tell dance with push-ups and bright red throat displays. Little Brittany makes herself invisible and slinks off to hide in the garden shed while she wonders whether to marry the creep and what to name all the kids...


Expansion packs

Is it REAL Life, or is it The Sims?

I think when you purchase either TurboTax or The Sims you should be able to send in your receipt from Best Buy and the UPC code from the box to get a new, more realistic expansion pack called TurboTax Sims. All the action in your Sims game should be tallied up on a running TurboTax worksheet in a pulldown window. Sim families need to suffer the tax implications of their jobs, marriages, mortgages, and little dependents.

If you check the box on your income tax return to contribute to political campaigns, you should be allowed to download The Sims Oval Office for free. Instead of all the neighbors visiting and expecting to be fed pizza when you are still moving into your new house, they should arrive for a White House briefing and press conference with their little Sim microphones and big cameras. Can't you see the Sim kids running around berserk in the Rose Garden for the traditional Easter egg roll doing their little electronic giggles?

Met your health insurance deductible? Get your bonus Sims Health Care expansion pack for just the amount of one office visit copay. Your Sims can have sonograms, MRIs, and treadmill stress tests, go broke buying prescriptions, lose time away from jobs in doctors' waiting rooms, and spend hours stuck in insurance company phone menus.

And let's talk about the music options, and get the issue out in the open. The Sims need music transfer and downloading options (with corresponding wardrobes). My Sims would not be nearly as suicidal if they could play better music. Buddy Holly Sims, Allman Bros. Sims, Led Zep Sims, U2 Sims, Deadhead Sims....

Consider the possibilities of corporate merchandising tie-ins. Buy Calgon for you, get a free download "Take Me Away" for your Sim mommy. Martha Stewart decor and party choices..."This Old House" or "Queer Eye" visit your Sims...Jimmy Buffett parrot head downloads...each Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue includes a limited edition Simsuit cd....

How will we pay for all these Sim improvements, you may wonder. By creating Nascar Sims! Every surface of your Sims' home and wardrobe wil be plastered with brand names and corporate logos. Even the schoolbus will have Dr. Pepper advertising on the side. Be sure to go shopping for your Sims to get the John Madden turkey with thirteen legs every Thanksgiving.


Attention to detail

It's the little things that make all the difference. Having posted about North Texas cricket infestations, fire ants, and Dubya's cabinet, it is time to come clear. Entomology is the scientific study of insects. Etymology is the study of the origin and historical development of a word. Etymologists rarely need nets, and entomologists don't carry loaded dictionaries. Eighth graders are a fascinating species to one and pure torture to the other. My junior high English teacher got so disgusted with those of us sentenced to her honors class that she literally threw the book at us. It is mighty scary when a sixty-five year-old woman in black Wicked Witch of the West shoes starts spittle-ranting a roomful of kids who don't get "Beowulf". When she becomes imbued with the strength of an Olympic shotputter and throws Webster's Dictionaries around the room you are going to be scarred for life.

Despite Miss Madsen, still twitching her mustache and communicating her eternal disdain from the Big Junior High in the Sky, I am thankful for an outstanding education in English. I am grateful, too, for the climate of recognition of authority if not necessarily respect that still existed in the schools of the 1970's. Zeus and his lightning bolts could never have been as motivating as a well-heaved dictionary and the threat of Your Permanent Record.

Going north

I am going deaf. NPR had a segment that I thought was about Russians living in South America going north on vacation. Seems it was really about Swenson's thrushes on migration orienteering by watching the sun setting slowly in The West. You know, all those Nazis in Argentina? Makes Russians in the rain forest needing a cool vacation in Banff plausible.

I wrote Q-tips on the grocery list.

Thanks for all the shrimp

A 4-yr. old girl in the morning class asked me, "Are you a grown-up?"

Two other girls announced, "She said, 'Are you a grown-up?"

Two other kids said, "Teacher, he stepped on my hand."

One boy said, "Her name is Miss Nancy."

I said, "Do I act like a grown-up?"

"No," they all said, "You act like a flamingo ballerina!"

And now, do you like my tutu?


A good time was had by all

Mrs. G's Book Club discusses the works of Shel Silverstein
06:01 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 13, 2004

By JEAN NASH JOHNSON / The Dallas Morning News

No grown-ups

No grown-ups allowed

We're playin' a game,

And we don't need

"Be-carefuls" or "don'ts."

No grown-ups allowed

We're formin' a club,

And the secret oath

Must not be shown.

No grown-ups allowed.

We're goin' out for pizza –

No, no one but me and my crowd.

So just stay away.

Oh, now it's time to pay?

Grown-ups allowed.
– Shel Silverstein,

Falling Up
With Shel Silverstein poems to work with, the Mrs. G bunch had to figure that when they arrived where the sidewalk ends at Capers for Kids, fun was in store. With grown-ups gone, the eight panelists made Mrs. G and Capers owner Boo Capers honorary little people. (No, we didn't make up Boo Capers – it's her real name. Call her Boo.)

In the roomy theater at Capers, a North Dallas creative arts school for kids, they sat on the floor and discussed the man they were honoring in this National Poetry Month celebration. "I always used him in my class at poetry time. You can tell because my Shel Silverstein books are so worn, the pages fall out," Mrs. G said. All agreed hers was the perfect condition for a Shel Silverstein book.

The group couldn't wait to recite their favorites from his three popular books: Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up and A Light in the Attic (HarperCollins, $52.99 for boxed set, ages 9 to 12).

Vishal Gokani, 8, even came with a prop, a TV made from a cardboard box. He couldn't wait to perform "Jimmy Jet and His TV Set." Garland fourth-grader Sarah Israel had been waiting since second grade to interpret "Sick." (She had tried out at school but didn't get the part.)
"I cannot go to school today, said Little Peggy Ann McKay." The 9-year-old belted out the rest of the verse. Then, Mr. Silverstein's vigorous reading of the same piece on CD followed Sarah's. After the poet's outrageous "Sick" ending – "What's that, you say? You say today is ... Saturday? G'bye, I'm going out to play!" – the kids almost couldn't stop laughing.

"He's so good. He left us way too early," said Boo. Mr. Silverstein died of a heart attack in 1999 at age 66. Vishal Gokani: "He has a great sense of humor and his poems always teach a lesson."

Ben Thompson, 11, followed Sarah with his throaty "Captain Hook." Lizzy McClinchie, 11, ran delightfully through "The Garden." Luis Rangel, 8, giggled over "Lazy Jane." ("Reminds me of my dad when he sleeps in," he said.) Second-grader Mason Ponder of Carrollton stretched a bit for "One-Inch Tall," while Rebekah McAnalley, 10, paced herself reading "Melinda Mae" and Eden Williams, 8, deadpanned through "No Grown-ups."

Boo got the gang on stage, making them promise not to "fall up," and turned on the stage lights. "When you interpret or perform poetry strictly for the fun of it, no one is judging you. I like that you can strike a pose from Shel Silverstein's wonderful poems and drawings," Boo told the performers.

Then Mrs. G had them reach into a paper bag and pull out a Shel Silverstein title. They were to act out the selections without dialogue and let the group guess the poem. "That's called pantomime," said Boo.

Working in pairs and with Boo's input on costumes and props, they interpreted favorites, including Eden and Sarah's outstanding "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out."

Mrs. G stole the show with a blankie and stuffed animal, pretending to snuggle in bed sucking her thumb. As she pulled the blanket tightly to her, looking scared and squeezing her furry lamb, the audience blurted the title together: "Afraid of the Dark."

Shel Silverstein would have been proud.

E-mail http://jnjohnson@dallasnews.com.

Capers for Kids

In 1978, Sherry "Boo" Capers started Capers for Kids, a creative arts school and outreach program at 12306 Park Central Drive in Dallas.

During the school year, more than 2,500 students from 20 public and private schools in the Dallas area are enrolled in Creative Drama and Visual Art classes. A summer program also is available. For more information, call 972-661-2787, or visit www.capersforkids.com.

What is Mrs. G's Book Club?

Several times a year, counselor and former reading teacher Angela Glancy, a.k.a. Mrs. G, works with KidsDay and selects a book for the book club. We ask kids to read the book and write a letter about what they think about it, and from those letters we choose a panel to discuss the book with Mrs. G.

What's the next book?

Ella Enchanted (HarperTrophy, $6.50), now a movie, is about a spirited girl under a spell that forces her to follow orders – even stupid ones.

Write a letter telling Mrs. G why you should be part of a book discussion. Send it to Mrs. G's Book Club, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265. Or e-mail jnjohnson@dallasnews .com. Include your name, age, hometown and a phone number. Deadline: April 28. Mason Ponder (right): "My first-grade teacher read me his poems and I got Sidewalk for Christmas."

Luis Rangel: " 'Homework Machine' is one of the best poems I've read."

Lizzy McClinchie (left): "I love to laugh and his poems cheer me up."

Rebekah McAnalley: "I'm a No. 1 fan. Wish we could make him come back to Earth."Ben Thompson: "The Giving Tree is actually my favorite of his works."

Eden Williams (listening to Mrs. G): "When you read 'Grown-ups' you feel silly because you really do need them."

Sarah Israel: "I love him. His humor is dry just like mine."


Who are you???

Steven had a fine lesson in auto repairs yesterday. We went to the muffler place to get a new tailpipe, and they told him the muffler was rusted out, and so the whole adventure cost $158 instead of forty. We sat around at Quiznos pondering life's questions like, "How do I know if they're telling me the truth?", "Did that estimate include labor?", and "What if I don't have enough money?" I said, "Congratulations, welcome to the Wonderful World of Adults."

I can waste all sorts of time pondering the One Stat list of visitors to this blog. It never really tells me what I'd like to know. Who are you? You out there in Ghana or Horseheads, New York, how are you? Did you relate to anything here? What search led you to this blog? I understand if it was totally a mistake. You were hoping for the secrets of cricket eradication or teaching hamsters to dance, and you ended up at this blog. Happens to me all the time. Today I will have to search for pink paper bags so that my students can make superhero pigs. Searching "Pink Bags" will probably lead me to sites for naughty Czech housewives. When that happens I probably won't write a comment, but if you have a second, I would love for you to comment on how you hit this blog, and if you know a good place to get pink bags. Thanks. Y'all come back now, y'hear.


Pet Paradise

We were pet-impaired when I was a kid because my mom had an intense dislike of animals, and my sister had serious allergies. We finally got to have a canary. Although my dad wanted to name it Guiseppe Birdie, my mom leaned toward Conrad Birdie. And so, Conrad I, Conrad II, .... canaries lived at our house. We purchased each canary at Kresge's at the primitive version of a mall near our home.

Each canary did sing beautifully when the spirit moved it. They liked to sing when my mom vacuumed. The canary also sang during the CBS news bulletins after Robert Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan. I was home sick from school that day with strep throat. My mom was waxing the kitchen/dining floor, so all the dining chairs were lined up in front of the t.v. She must have been hosting her bridge club that night. It is a black and white memory, but very vivid. I can smell the floor wax.

My brother had an aquarium. We used to go to Pet Paradise on 48th St. north of Vine, to buy fish that would live shorter lives than your average matinee performance consumptive opera sopranos. Did you ever have an aquarium? I remember some sort of weird fluffy stuff called "Angel Hair" that had to be put in the bottom or the aquarium. What was that stuff? Asbestos? Fiberglass? Pet Paradise specialized in green parakeets, and baby turtles in those plastic bowls with the fake palm tree. Pet Paradise is a black-light day-glo memory, even though it predates the hippie era.

We saved the bones from our Sunday broiled steaks to take to the neighbor's springer spaniel, "Doc Doggy". This was my folks' attempt to get me over my fear of dogs. Doc Doggy was a nice dog, but had Houdini tendencies. Another neighbor's cat was less favored. My folks referred to it as "Clod-Ball", but I thought that it was "Claude-Ball", like Monet.

My youngest son had years of dog fears that I totally sympathized with. He encountered a huge dog that wandered into our garage in Edmond, OK, when itty-bitty Steven was climbing out of our Ford Aerostar. It took lots of crayon drawings about "Garage Doggie" to get him over that scare. It took far more drawings when his first "Fishie" leapt out of the fish bowl due to an aquatic jihad.

Bye, Bye, Birdie.


Kung-Pow!@#$%* Chicken

Wednesday evening Steven got to go to a free dinner at the Flaming Asian Grill. His bank branch won it somehow. The catch was they had to listen to a presentation about retirement and estate planning. I can't help but wonder about the combination of "flaming" Asians, sixteen-year-old bank tellers, retirement IRAs, tax planning, and all-you-can-eat-Chinese buffets.


Ninja Turtle Mom


Tea for the Tillerman

A dear teacher/friend gave me a darling pin to wear at Easter. It is an embroidered version of a sugar egg. Yellow and green lazy-daisy stitches and pearl beads on white felt capture the look of the icing flowers on a sugar egg. Blanket stitch holds the two pieces of felt together, with a tiny bit of stuffing in between, and looks perfect as the icing holding the two halves of a sugar egg together.

My friend didn't know that I had real life experience making hollow sugar eggs with little bunny scenes inside. It was thirty-two years ago, but still a special time in my life, and with lessons in patience and respecting others' surprising abilities.

As a high school student in the early Seventies, wearing white kneesocks with my Dr. Scholl sandals and mini-peasant dresses, I belonged to the First Plymouth Congregational UCC Church choir. That is a miracle in itself, because I can't sing worth diddly. Our choir was directed by a wonderful, positive organist and composer, C. Richard Morris, who personified acceptance and the word "enthusiasm", Greek--to be inspired by a god, or a god within. He managed to take us on two choir tours in the Aprils of 1971 and 1972. We traveled by bus around Nebraska to small town and country churches in Ainsworth, Thedford, Hyannis, Scottsbluff, Grant, Curtis, McCook, and Hastings, among others. These were educational trips for snobby kids from the Big City of Lincoln, Nebraska. We stayed in church family homes, or spread sleeping bags in Fellowship Halls. We met and flirted with farm kids, and took travelogue rides through the sandhills in rancher pickups and big family sedans. We ate cold fried chicken, hot tuna noodle casserole, and molded marshmallow jello in church basements. I was introduced to hot roast beef sandwiches with Wonder Bread, mashed potatoes, and gravy somewhere in the Halsey National Forest. We sang songs from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Jesus Christ Superstar", an anthem from a Walt Whitman poem, "A Jubilant Song", another called "Our God is a Rock", that Palm Sunday "Ride On in Majesty" hymn , and a song for children about a hat with three corners. Back on the bus, being teenagers, we told jokes, exclaimed about the plentiful cows, played cards, had imaginary races between sports cars and the bus, ate Salted Nut Rolls, and snuck out the cherry cigars. It was a primitive time without cd players or Gameboys, you understand. I celebrated my sixteenth birthday on one of these wonderful road trips.

The choir earned money for the trips with the usual assortment of high school fundraisers. We also got together many Saturdays to make sugar Easter eggs. One mom taught us this tricky process. We struggled with the timing to bake the sugar mix in the molds. We commiserated with each other when our hollowed egg shells collapsed. We brainstormed goofy scenes to put inside the sugar eggs, and tried to perfect our skill with fancy icing. I'll never forget watching seventeen-year old guys in motorcycle jackets, reeking of Irish Spring soap, and totally focused on creating frosting roses, accompanied by the songs of Cat Stevens!

Here is a webpage with instructions for making sugar eggs:



Exercise program derailment

So tired this evening I've paged through the Lands' End swimsuit catalog three times. Mental mixing and matching tankinis, but mostly just turning the pages and zoning out. Skipped my evening swim with some really excellent excuses for not going. The excuses were even true.

Worked on a texture mural of Mr. McGregor's garden with preschoolers this morning. They cut orange poster board to make carrots, crumpled tissue paper "lettuce", and made a bountiful bunch of tomato plants.

Growing real tomatoes is a frustrating business in Dallas. The mockingbirds watch the ripening of the tomatoes on the vines. They know within minutes when I will go outside to pick the tomatoes, and they swoop in to peck holes into the perfect beefsteaks to devour them just ahead of me. Mockingbird entertainment value is high, so I can't get too annoyed at the thiefs.

The elementary students used coil construction to make clay pots, and then added noses, ears, eyes, etc. to make "Picasso Jugheads". A rowdy time was had by all. Loaded the clay pieces and the mural-in-progress back into my car and went to my other school. Unloaded everything. Began wishing I had never bought these shoes.

Made pinch pots with more preschoolers. They barely have the hand strength to squeeze the clay. They are very afraid of getting clay on their hands and under their fingernails. At their age I had already learned to scoop the cat poop out of the sandbox before making foxholes for the plastic soldiers. "It's okay to get messy in art!" I read them The Piggy In the Puddle with its wonderful "squishy-squashy, mooshy-squooshy, oofy-poofy" mud puddle. I fantasize about sinking into a puddle of warm mud. Just sitting there. Squinting out toward the horizon through dark sunglasses. I think of the djinn in Kipling's "How the Camel Got It's Hump". The djinn just sitting in the salt pan, behind cheap sunglasses, waiting for the other animals to come bitch and moan about the "humphing" camel that wouldn't do any work with the world so new and all.

I remind the kids of little Jack Horner, and get them to stick their thumbs in smooth balls of clay. Then we discuss quacking like ducks, and practice the universal hand motion for quacking. We put our thumb back into the clay ball, and "quack" our clay balls into pinch pots.

What with all the humphing camels and quacking and carrots and clay, I'm thinking it should be time to go home. Wouldn't that be loverly? Instead, I gear up for creating papier mache dragonflies of Jurassic proportions with third grade girls. Gift wrap cardboard tube bodies, coat hanger wings, lightbulb eyes, egg carton thoraxes, packing tape to the rescue. Slimy papier mache paste transforms kids even more that oofy-poofy clay.

Canned Vienna sausages for toes after a day in these shoes, with the world so new and all.


Thinking of Ingmar

Strong storms are predicted this morning. I've been folding several loads in my cramped laundry room, peering out at the clouds beyond the patio fence. My laundry room makes me happy, despite the endless nature of the task. Above the door I have the red and blue pieces of hardware that spell out E I E I O, a housewarming gift from my dad. There's a Mexican tin can airplane suspended overhead, and the enameled metal railroad signs I've loved since childhood: B&O, Southern Serves the South, Katy, Lackawanna, Illinois Central, Wabash, Erie, Santa Fe, Reading, Rock Island. They transform the rumble of the dryer into railroad sounds and songs. I used to have a photo of a pioneer woman bent over her washboard, her shoulders fatigued, her bowed head in despair. It got to be too depressing, however true. Now I've got Ingmar's drawing instead.

A few years back I had the honor and delight to teach Ingmar. He didn't speak very much English when he first came to my art class, but he was very eager to please. He concentrated hard, and threw himself into any task he understood. He patiently observed my efforts at teaching by pantomine, and his smile was radiant any time we made a connection. Gradually I learned that Ingmar was a gifted pianist and tap-dancer who worshipped Shirley Temple. Although his smile seemed so blissful, I learned how hard he pushed himself at his studies and practice, and began to sense an existential sadness in him, too.

Ingmar's drawing is of an idyllic place. He used black ink to draw a French country house with a red tile roof, a weather vane, and a black checkerboard chimney straight out of Mary Poppins. Fluffy clouds float in the sky, and the single tree has both a round beehive and a bird's nest. The bird is standing on one leg like a stork. There's a small brown dog with it's own house. "Pilou" is printed neatly over the door. The upstairs windows have lovely pink curtains. Large stone blocks surround the lintel, and a brass bell hangs by the door ready to be rung. My favorite part is the rainbarrel. Although it is a sunny day in the drawing, a curving drain pipe goes across the house, then empties gallons of water into the rainbarrel. A single drop splashes out of the barrel, as it must be very full!

I wish you could see it. The rain has started. I will play Guy Clark's "Step Inside This House" on the way to work.


Palm Sunday

Lizards of several sizes and colors sun on my back fence. The tiny baby ones dark brown, the larger ones more orangish than usual. These anoles are my totem animal. Just before the divorce in '96 I went to work at the HP library. The lizards sunned all around the HP town hall, on the stone and stucco walls, amidst the beautiful azaleas, and sometimes right inside the library. They insisted I slow down and watch them, and soak up the sun myself. They demanded my full attention, and made me let go of fears and worries. In early '97 we moved into these condos, and the spring brought the lizards out on our window sills, brick walls, and back fence. That summer we watched them swim on the surface of the illuminated pool on summer nights. We had to marvel at a heart beating in such a tiny body. We were full of wonder of their Creator. Their inflatable rosy neck flaps, territorial stare-downs, and push-up routines reminded us not to take ourselves and our posturing so seriously. Lord, restore to me my capacity to wonder, to watch, to rest, and to laugh. Thank you for creating lizards.

"Ride On, Ride On, in Majesty"by Henry H. Milman, 1791-1868

1. Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry.
0 Savior meek, pursue Thy road,
With palms and scattered garments strowed.

2. Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
0 Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O'er captive death and conquered sin.

3. Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
The angel armies of the sky
Look down with sad and wondering eyes
To see the approaching Sacrifice.

4. Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on His sapphire throne
Expects His own anointed Son.

5. Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain.
Then take, 0 Christ, Thy power and reign.

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #162
Text: Matt.21:9
Author: Henry H. Milman, 1827, alt.
Tune: ÒWinchester NewÓ
1st Published in: _Musikalisches Handbuch_Ó
Town: Hamburg, 1690


Cosmetic Issues

We have just welcomed a 1990 Nissan 300ZX with rebuilt engine and significant cosmetic issues into our little family. It is white with a red interior. Steven is going to have to love it like the Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio so that it will turn into a "real" car. Right now he's sudsing and soaking it in a hot bath. Then maybe if we give it some chicken noodle soup, sugar cookies, and a bedtime story, it will look beautiful in the morning!

We also have a new coffee-maker. This time it was the on/off switch that died on Mr. Coffee. As Steven says each and every time when I bring home a new one, "Mom, you just don't have good luck with coffee-makers." I guess I ride'em hard and put 'em away wet. This time I got a "programmable" one so I can wake at 5:30 to the smell of coffee--if I can figure out the instructions. At least the coffee-maker doesn't require Armor-all.


Is this the Promised Zest?

Today I've gone forth to do battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. I have been formidable and crusty. Spent the morning composing a letter to my fellow condo complex residents against the dishonest power-grab of the rogue homeowner association board, and in support of the board-in-exile.

Dealt with the insurance paperwork mess from Steven's collision. My slimeball ex seems to have been an uninsured motorist, which should be interesting news to the insurance company where he is currently employed.

Then I confronted the recently self-proclaimed condo association emperor about his dishonest manipulations of our many elderly residents during his petition drive. Quite a rush. The ass got a restraining order against the real board, and is suing each board member personally. I have plans to be the cocklebur in that boy's saddle for weeks and months to come. The pen is mightier than the sword, and hell hath no fury like a woman whose condo dues are being wasted by strutting males with penile size insecurity issues.

In between my battles I read a wonderful book today, Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger. Tom Bodett with hints of Louise Erdrich, Homer, John Neihardt, Tom Mix, and 1962 blizzards I remember....


Hawaiian Barbie sticker

I didn't cry. I didn't squirm. I didn't have any cavities, either, so I hit up the dentist's receptionist for a magenta sticker Tuesday morning. Barbie was wearing a flowered top with spaghetti straps, and playing a pink guitar on the sticker. My female students were sooooooo envious. In my age group I would only get that kind of envious attention if I were dating Sting and could still walk in pointy-toed high heels without pain.

My female students prefer to sport two stickers after a doctor or dentist visit. They wear them like the Little Mermaid's seashells. They usually consider my fashion IQ as pink/ruffle-impaired. These are the young ladies who have inspired my alter-ego, Rainbow Sparkle. About once a year I don my rose-colored tie-dye shirt, my pink boa tiara with the cascade of opalescent ribbon curls, my lavendar eyeglasses, gather up my turquoise swirly magic wand and snowflake fairy dust glitter to dance my way through forests, meadows, and classrooms. The transformation to Rainbow Sparkle is so complete and astounding that my students are slack-jawed.

Across the gender aisle, I made a little guy's day when I found an "army green" paint shirt to coordinate with his camo pants....and then there was the kiddo who accessorized and personalized his wardrobe by putting blue Silly Putty in his pants pocket.

Dear Driver of Texas R90-ZNV,

I would like to send you a gift, so please contact me with your address. It is not the gift that you flipped me after you got my attention with that loud solo on your brass instrument at the intersection of Coit and Spring Valley at 2:55 p.m. today. I guess you were a tad peeved that I chose not to enter the intersection when the light was already changing from yellow to crimson. Your black Honda Accord with the cute little spoiler would have entered the intersection well into the red light. Back where I grew up polite ladies in their mid to late thirties like yourself would no more enter an intersection on red than wear white before Easter. Your hand gestures seemed to indicate your temper was hotter than the Starbucks you spilled in your lap. It is sad that you were two minutes late for your date with a head of lettuce in fresh produce at the Beltline Road Kroger's all because of me. It is sadder that you were following so close I could check out your retro Patti Duke flip hairstyle in my mirror. And so, I would really like to send you a cd. Just contact me, and a copy of WRR 101.1's "Road Rage Remedy" will be in the mail to you tomorrow.


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