There's a bright golden haze on the meadow

I've heard the saying that every smile is a prayer. I've smiled so many times this week remembering our Sunday morning soccer game.

The Crimson Tide Under-19 recreational soccer team had an 8:00 a.m. game. High school boys don't really relish seeing eight a.m. on Sundays. You know none of them curtailed their social life in order to be well-rested!

When we got out to the fields, some parents had set up a card table with tablecloth, and loaded it with kolaches, donuts, and orange juice. The parental cheering section got to munch and visit before the game. It was our first time wearing lightweight jackets! Hot air balloons were landing nearby. The breeze was lovely. Two fields over the cricket teams were playing their mysterious game wearing their perfectly white outfits, lending a tea-and-crumpets air of British colonial orderliness to the gorgeous morning.

The sweaty players had their turn devouring goodies after the game, very relaxed after their intense play, sharing jokes, compliments, and respectful post-game analyses. "Coach, could you get us some more eight o'clock games?" "You 'spose we could have brunch after our ten o'clocks?" Then with many thanks, they were off to do body work on their cars, talk about sub-woofers, take 45-minute showers, put off homework, and call girlfriends. Glistening, busy scarab beetles with cell phones!

Sometimes you think there could be nothing sweeter than first grade soccer guys running through the arch of parents' arms to get to the ice chest of juice boxes. Their shinpads and socks reach all the way up into their shorts. They've been swarming on the field, picking dandelions, and entangling themselves in the nets. Take lots of photos, but don't be sad. It just gets better and better.

And in glorious technicolor panivision Gordon McCrae is singing, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning".


Wardrobe issues

Broke out my denim shirt with the scarecrow embroidery and pumpkin appliques today. It's a comfy shirt, and not Halloweeny so much as autumnal, but it has a two month season. It requires ironing, so I can only squeeze in eight wearings per year. I feel totally schoolmarmish in it.

A few years back I went to a Jim Trelease workshop. In attendance were a few public library folks like me, three dedicated parents, and the rest of the auditorium full of elementary school teachers and media specialists. ONE HUNDRED PER CENT of the elem ladies were wearing holiday sweaters, vests, and embroidered shirts with holiday button covers with their plus-sized denim skirts. Ever since, I've had this internal argument going between my aging hippie non-conformist eternally skinny (obviously deluded) voice, and my seductive crossstitch reindeer/snowflakes too-many-cookies teacher lady voice.

Seems like this bickering has been going on for thirty-three years now. On one shoulder Paul Simon is singing, "I Am a Rock", and on the other shoulder cheerleaders with perfect long blond hair are chanting "S-P-A-R-T-A-N-S! Spartans are BEST!" Granola is going mano a mano with glazed donuts. Paper or plastic? Cloth or disposable? An environmentally concerned brain in an SUV body...

And you think the Crocodile Hunter has a dangerous life!


Say "Ah"

My intermediate students were so into building constructions out of tongue depressors and the colorful lids from Crayola markers that I had to force them to go home at the end of class. We save all the lids when we throw out dead markers, and they accumulate rapidly. The class explored ways to build the constructions for balance and sturdiness, and got into a friendly competition for the most levels/stories. The results are quite trippy! Viewed from the side, the tongue depressors disappear, and the bright marker lids seem to be standing in space. Next week we want to put the constructions on a lazy susan. I'm thinking about possibilities for related collages and crayon resists, and looking at Amish quilts.

Feeling flashed-back to my first visit to the Poster Joint in 1970 Lincoln, Nebraska. A failed gas station had been converted into a black light gallery near the campus. My dad took me on this junior high counter-culture expedition. I purchased a Clark Gable GWTW poster, and a glow-in-the-dark Tweety Bird with my babysitting money. From there it was a slippery slide to fringed purses and Peace Sign candles from Pier One.

The DMN Fashion section featured Twiggy/Jean Shrimpton looks last week. I'd be very scary in fishnet stockings and white lipstick from Yardley! I could go for a Marimekko paper dress, though.


Alexis Trebek

I didn't actually resemble Joan Collins during my volunteer stint at the senior high Whiz Quiz Invitational tournament. Okay, I admit I looked like a cross between Julia Child and Roseanne. My quiz show fantasy had major holes in its hot air balloon.

I had imagined myself reading the million dollar question, or at least those Helping-Mankind-While-Twirling-My-Baton questions for sequined beauty contestants. Everyone was relieved that the bathing suit competition was dropped.

No, I didn't get to be Alex Trebek at the tournament, which is a VGT. For some matches I was the judge, which meant I ran a back-up score sheet, timed six seconds for teams to hit the buzzer after the question was read, dreaded handling any protests to a question (which thankfully didn't happen), reminded everyone to turn off their cell phones, drank bottled water, and listened to interesting questions. I was supposed to be aware of situations where teams didn't have their captains give their official answer, and where team members did not wait for the question reader to recognize them before they blurted their answer. I wasn't very good at that, but we had an experienced reader, thank heavens. For other matches I got to be the timekeeper/scorekeeper. For those I set a sixty-second timer for the speed round, and did the official scoring. I got a box lunch from Jason's Deli, plus bagels from Dunkin Donuts (not as good as Einstein Bros.). I observed smart kids having fun and being polite, and heard some very funny questions. It was less stressful than judging at speech tournaments.


Bad Day At Black Rock

My dad used to report during supper that his day at work had been a "bad day at Black Rock". I think this line came from one of the I-Can-Read-It-All-By-Myself book club books we got in the mail. The book was about good guys and pirates. The good guys put on diving suits while they dropped a swarming beehive on the bad pirates. I am pondering whether the only way to defeat the political pirates is to put on old-fashioned diving suits and drop swarming beehives on them. Does Wesley Clark know how to smoke the bees?

My dad used to leave the house each morning to walk down the hill to the bus stop with his brown bag lunch. He would ask my mother, "If I quit before noon, should I bring my lunch home or leave it there?" This deep philosophical question resonates with me more than the tree falling in the forest.

Nowadays my mom asks the question. "Howard, would you rather take care of the dead possum on the north side of the house before or after your tea and cherry pie?" It's something to think about. I plan to ask the boys, "Would you rather unload the dishwasher before or after you take care of the dead possum on the north side of the house?" "Would you rather clean your bathroom before or after your tea and cherry pie?" "Would you rather eat the dead possum on the north side of the house or make yourself a sack lunch?"

In a simpler time, I used to ask the boys if they would like to take a Lunchable to school. They would answer that they would prefer to wear underpants on their heads than take a Lunchable to middle school. Boxers or briefs?


Freezer burn

I think it is cruel and unusual punishment that they postponed the California recall election. We will have to listen to that media circus for months and months. An observant co-worker, who shall remain nameless, says Gray Davis has "liver lips". He always looks to me like someone who was cryogenically frozen, then set out to thaw and forgotten when you got invited out to dinner.


Early Childhood Influences

Lately, whenever my youngest whines, "Well, what should I eat?????????", I want to belt out, "Have a yogurt, Mr. Goldstone. Is there any little thing that I can do?", in my best Ethel Merman voice. Yes, it's a Gypsy flashback. That's the first indoor movie I can remember seeing. I was four at the most. There I am at the movies with my Broadway musical-loving parents.

I haven't had this prolonged of a flashback since my youngest took up the trumpet for middle school band in the fall of 1998. I refrained from sharing that he should "bump it with a trumpet", but on the other hand, you do have to have a gimmick. And that stands for T, and it rhymes with P, and that stands for pool. And I know all you folks are the right kind of parents... It was probably a forgone conclusion that I would be a librarian if I wasn't a burlesque stripper.

Before Gypsy, I can remember seeing a double-feature at the drive-in. I was probably expected to be asleep in the backseat of the 1954 pea-green Chevy. The first movie must have been something about Sinbad. There were pirates running around in poofy pants, and someone hiding in a rattan chest. The pirates plunged their swords into the chest. I recently viewed a '50's movie of "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad". It had the feel of that early memory, but not the actual sword scene. I'll have to keep searching for my roots.

The second feature presentation was "Porgy and Bess". While I have golden brown, shadowy memories of that movie and the legless Porgy, I still have a deep fondness for Gershwin music and those scooter/dollies kids race on in Phys. Ed.

My parents were shocked when I let my sons, then aged 10-14, watch Steve Martin in "Roxanne". "Good grief," I muttered, while I secretly sang, "You gotta do it with finesse!"

Butter or Sour Cream?

Yippee! Baked potato weather has returned to Texas, if only for a day. All week I've been teaching kiddos that hippos have no corners. Hippos are shaped like baked potatoes, and everybody can draw a baked potato! Diving boards do have corners, but they are pretty easy to draw with straight lines. It's really easy to draw a hippo doing a flip off the diving board since they spin around so fast that it's almost like a scribble. You have to practice to do a flip. You have to practice to control the lines you draw, too. You should always make sure you won't land on anyone before you go off the diving board. You should always look out for crocodiles in the river, too. Crocodiles have lots of straight lines, and very sharp teeth. You can't see their feet if they are in the river. If you can see their feet, you should run away FAST. The good news is that crocodiles can't climb the diving board ladder or the trees by the riverbank. You will definitely need a hippo gray Crayola marker, a bright green marker, a jungle-ly lime green marker, and turquoise for the river. After all that diving you will need a mint green marker because everyone likes mint chocolate chip ice cream cones after swimming. And then you do have to ponder whether hippos wear bathing suits or goggles, use snorkles and flippers, drink Gatorade, or throw frisbees. From a health and color scheme standpoint, you have to worry that hippos will forget to use sunscreen. But back to the baked potato! Everyone knows that hippos have fat pear heads with little green grape ears and big cheerio nostrils. They have hamburger feet, but hot dog tails. None of this makes me crave a fresh spinach salad with celery and zucchini. I WANT the baked potato and the ice cream! I don't have to explain what happens when I teach pizza color wheels with complementary color pepperoni for a week at a time. This is why art teachers of a certain age tend to be built like papier-mache covered balloons.

Check your library's new book shelf for:

The new hippos / by Landström, Lena.
Stockholm; New York : R. & S. ; Andover : 2003.
Subjects Hippopotamus -- Juvenile fiction.

Neighbors -- Juvenile fiction

ISBN: 9129658233 :

Description: 32 p. : chiefly col. ill. ; 25 cm.

Summary: When a mother hippo and her little hippo arrive at the hippo village on the edge of the river, they do not receive a warm welcome. Accepting new neighbors is sometimes hard.

Genre: Children's stories -- Pictorial works.


Diets for Pets

Overweight American couch potato pets have been much in the news this week. As with people diets, there are always conflicting opinions. Alas, I am sad to report that the Petsmart on the east side of town has opposing views to our westside Petsmart's zucchini diet for aquarium fish. There's going to be a rumble between the Jets and the Sharks over this, and my fishies are going to be terribly disappointed if I cut them off from zucchini cold turkey. They have been sooo happy with their veggie. Perhaps TOO happy! Maybe zucchini should be a controlled substance.

The soccer monsoons have begun. The first game was set for 8:30 tonight, but it's been pouring since noon. It's also the height of ragweed and cedar elm pollen season, and our ozone level is dangerous, no thanks to the previous governor of the Lone Star state. The sunrises are an intense red due to all the particulate matter in the air. It's a scene right out of Don DeLillo's "White Noise".

Struggling with national economic employment issues. Is it cruel to pizza delivery guys to expect them to drive here in this weather? Is it more cruel to deprive them of the tips that make it possible for them to put oil in their leaky old cars, buy a six-pack, and go to the laundromat?

Steven's car has a blown engine, and now has a salvage value of forty bucks. He used it to get to his job. His job helped him buy the '91 Geo and insure it so he could get to his job... Since I have that extra zucchini the fish can't have, maybe I should let Steven have it!


Addendum to the codicle

The U.N. Purse Emissary has announced a clarification to Part One, Draft One. She wishes to indicate that a legal size envelope should fit in the purse - you know so all types of bills can be carried around in your purse until due date.

North Korea has already ratified this addendum. Refreshments were served.

This post addresses a hot-button issue for many Americans

Specifications for the Perfect Purse for the Middle-aged Woman, Part One, Draft One.

Background: The U.S. retail industry has largely ignored the wishes and needs of a huge segment of the consumer population, thus forcing millions of shoppers to spend hundreds of hours every year in an absolutely futile search. The cost to the economy is not limited to the volume of lost sales, but has trickle-down effects in worker productivity, employer costs for mental health insurance coverage, and use of personal leave days. The only beneficiaries of the status quo are the makers of newsprint paper, and of those strange little packets of something you should not ingest found in purses for sale across this great country of ours.

How, then, must a purse be designed to maximize aesthetics and efficiency for the pre- and post-menopausal members of our society? What, then, must be our rallying call to action? Before this decade is out we must find the cure for Traumatic Purse Shopping Stress Disorder, henceforth TPSSD.

I offer these thoughts with the hope that this effort can be an international unifying and stabilizing force. I am willing to arrive on the deck of an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit IF I only had the Perfect Purse. I am also threatening to host a pledge drive AND run for governor of California.

1. The perfect purse would not be deep enough that (a)you have to dig down to find the mysterious items in the bottom, or (b)large enough that things you never use move in and take up residence for years.

2. Disposable diapers should not fit because WE ARE DONE WITH THAT!!!

3. The shoulder strap should be that medium length so the bag rides between elbow and waist.

4. The surface should never be scratchy or itchy.

5. It should have those little straps with velcro for holding a key ring. [For instance, my old purse had one I used for the mailbox key. Then I didn't have to turn off the car to get the mail, and I could locate the key even in the dark since it wasn't floating around.]

6. The perfect purse would have zippered compartments for excess credit cards, feminine supplies, and pills. [We wouldn't need those antidepressants if our purse was perfect].

7. The purse must have a cellphone holster that allows us to actually hear the phone ringing when our ex-husbands call to say the child support check will be late.

8. It should also have compartments to hold pens, business cards, and the card for recording our blood pressure readings at the grocery store pharmacy.

9. You should be able to tell the front from the back (or maybe it's the left from the right) by touch alone so everything can be located in the dark, especially gum and Dramamine.

10. The lining of the perfect purse should be guaranteed against tears for twenty-five years.

11. The contents of the outside pockets should not fall down under the passenger seat when you swerve because your coffee spilled in your lap.

12. Country western embroidery and rhinestones are prohibited.

13. After years of study, U.N. Purse Emissary, Shawn, has determined that the Perfect Purse must be the size of legal paper. (a)If that isn't big enough, you need a briefcase, day-timer or a tote bag anyway. (b)My current purse is the size of letter paper, but my glasses case barely fits. (c)Purses must be brought into compliance with international treaties.

14. A 24-hr. waiting period and an ID check should be required before a consumer can purchase a purse with (a)bamboo handles, (b)fringe, (c)sharp corners, (d)poodles, (e)plush fabric, (f)macrame, (g)see-through plastic, (h)the Eiffel Tower, (i)the international symbol for a martini glass, or (j)anything that looks like it was made from the pelt of a Hells Angel or (k)his jacket.

15. All purses should be full of money instead of crumpled up paper.


Imelda Marcos Day

I've already written about this being Blue Shoes week in my classes. Had another packed preschool class today with three sets of twins and many other sibling combos. Add Keano to the list of student names, with Kobe and Gwyneth. It is another big year for preschoolers named Jack, but I also have a Frank. The wave of Sams has passed.

Anyway, back to blue shoes. Met my allegedly intermediate art class. Right now it is just five girls, with an age span 8-13. We did drawings of our own shoes in all the blue media I could round up, and brainstormed different fashion styles and practical considerations of shoes. Then we made very blue mixed media drawings of shoes lined up on closet shelves--Cinderella's glass slipper, roller skates, curly-toed elf shoes, retro groovy boots, glittery fashion shoes, tennis shoes, bunny slippers... Two of the girls very conscientiously drew pairs of shoes neatly lined up on the shelves. Some drew mateless exotic shoes. One girl drew pairs of shoes, but jumbled up like the bottom of my closet, with wonderful multiple sketches that made the shoes seem to wiggle and dance. I should probably clarify that the single exotic shoes were not dancing on tables! After that we made clay prototypes of flowered flip-flops, ladybug high heels, kitty cat slippers and caterpillar slippers...Earlier in the day 7-year old boys made shoes with computer chips, cobra snakes, spiders, and cell phones. Maxwell Smart meets Johnny Quest.

With all the design energy out there, why can't someone create the Perfect Purse for women my age???


Sweater weather

It's confusing when North Texas suddenly changes from 100+ degrees to dark, rainy, and 80 degrees. We want to wear sweaters, eat baked potatoes, chili, and oatmeal. Not that we want to turn off the a/c set at meat locker, but we stiill expect snow flurries.

My Tuesday classes are packed. We're reading a cute new book, Two Shoes, Blue Shoes, New Shoes. It's funny watching the lights click on when I ask if anyone has blue shoes today? What about new shoes? What about two shoes??! I do! I do! I do! We're using all sorts of blue mediums, and when we're finished my good helpers each collect all the blue markers, crayons, colored pencils, rubbing crayons, and texture plates. The three year olds learn about sorting and categories, the four year olds love being the collector/enforcers. The five year olds get bogged down writing their names on their paper. The six year olds ponder why we say we are "blue" to mean sad, but a whole painting of blues makes us feel like jumping in a swimming pool. Seven year olds draw baboon astronauts zipping through space in crazy shoe shaped rockets with the shoelaces trailing behind.

Take your blue suede shoe out for a flight around the galaxy! Be sure to wear your crown and fairy wings. Make that shift into warp speed.


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