I'd like to thank the Academy...

...for having jeans in my size on sale for $6.88 and $9.99. Okay, it's not an Oscar, but Academy Sporting Goods has been one of my top ten discoveries of 2003.

The new year is a time for lists, either looking back or forward. I am going to offer ten visions I'd like to see. To have them in my imagination is a sugarplum gift.

1. A friend has just moved back to Nebraska from Idaho. Her mention of seeing grain elevators again set off a terrible ache of geographic homesickness. I would love to see the flat, straight highway in the reduced speed zone, with the grain elevators, railroad tracks, and telephone wires off to the left. A light coating of snow on dark brown stubble neatly combed into rows under a slate gray sky would bring me to tears.

2. Sunrise over the South Dakota Badlands. I can smell the chalk, dust, and sage, see the snake and the magpie. Tall sunflowers grow along every fence. The late night short cut to the Badlands is a profound memory. We so rarely visit a place without artificial lights. The Milky Way seemed to swirl and wrap about us in ribbons.

3. Mexican freetail bats exiting Carlsbad Caverns. This sight is still one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.

4. Hot-air balloons lifting off at the Plano Balloon Festival and skimming over the pink lake in the early dawn light.

5. The Monahans Sand Dunes of West Texas with their cleansing winds and shifting forms. Sandpaper for mental anxiety. Alternate candidate: The white lizards of White Sands, N. M.

6. A lapful of rapt little boys listening to stories about wolves and dogs.

7. The frozen purple midnight solitude at the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon following a March blizzard, and better yet, the last of the snow on the red rock formations the next morning.

8. Buzzards soaring over Dinosaur Valley State Park viewed while sitting on the river bottom and flying a kite. Lift! Soar! Tug!

9. The inside of an old-timey hardware store with three aisles, squeaky-dark wooden floor, tiny drawers built into the wall, a loft over the main floor, dust motes and light from the tall windows facing Main, and the smell of galvanized buckets.

10. A sandbar on the Platte River, preferably with the smells of oatmeal cookies, driftwood, and bonfire, and the sound of Bob Devaney's Cornhuskers beating the Oklahoma Sooners on an early transistor radio.

Few milestones in my life have been as satisfying as learning to zip a red plaid autumn jacket. The zipper pull is still a train engine, and the zipper is the train track. Matching the two sides of the jacket and coupling the parts of the zipper pull, to zip my jacket without derailment is still scented with dry pin oak, maple, sycamore leaves, and accomplishment.

The very best in 2004,



The Big Wash

Doing the manic Big Wash today--all the sheets, blankets, towels, comforters... The Empress threw a hissy fit this morning about her subjects' squalid living conditions, of which they seem quite fond.

Of the Big Three, the Big Wash is probably the least dangerous. The Big Clean usually involves ranting, raving, moving furniture, hauling black trash bags to the dumpster, and staying up half the night until there is a place for everything, and everything in its place.

The Big Cook rarely involves ranting, just making way too much food, and the results are never guaranteed. There's never enough Tupperware with matching lids and bottoms, either.

The Big Wash just makes it very tough to open the refrigerator or get out to the patio. We have one of the teeny tunnel laundry rooms obviously designed by a man. You can't walk through it if the dryer is open, let alone if there are heaps of dirty blankets and towels piled on the floor. After an episode of the Big Wash, no one ever wants to carry the clean, folded laundry back upstairs. No one can even imagine the concept of putting it away in a linen closet or the bathroom cabinet. So it just sits there adding to laundry room congestion. If you are a maternal sort you begin to wonder if the guys ever did put clean sheets on the beds, or if they are just sleeping on the mattress.

In the middle of the Big Wash my mind drifted to soft and puffy t-shirts all ready to be tie-dyed during summer art camps. I started running through my mental catalog of tie-dye techniques. It must be a memory year-end review to avoid forgetting something that I won't need for another six months due to lack of thought time. When I quit reviewing how to sew a lining into a vest, I quickly forgot the tricky technique. That worries me even though I haven't needed to line a vest for fifteen years. I always worry when I realize I've forgotten who sang "Ode to Billy Joe", because I'm sure some radio station will call me to ask that trivia question. If you need to win a million dollars and the keys to a brand new Corvette as much as I do, you can't afford to forget.

When the boys were much younger we used to have impromptu backyard tie-dye celebrations in the heat of the summer. All their buddies would ride over on bikes with their dads' white undershirts. We would tie-dye and spray-dye shirts on the driveway, and hang the shirts on hangers from tree branches. We would have rubber band fights, too. If you are feelin' groovy, I put a link to the Rit Dye site on the sidebar. It has cool variations on tie-dye shirts.

One thing about using Rit in the middle of the winter: If you are using the stovetop method with powder Rit, don't turn on your exhaust fan. The powder gets sucked up, and you wind up with a groovy, stained range hood.

As long as I'm in helpful hint mode, I don't recommend melting crayon shavings inside egg cartons in the microwave. It is quite scary when the microwave bursts into flames. Plus, you end up getting a new microwave for Christmas instead of something fun.

Some day I'll tell you how NOT to melt the Rubbermaid spatula into the Rice Krispy treats. Then you will understand about the Big Cook!

P.S. Bobbie Gentry.


Who buys all that STUFF?

Had a splendid outing today in lieu of exchanging gifts with a dear friend. We drove up to the cutesy, nostalgic county courthouse square to browse and walk. We loved that the old buildings weren't being torn down, but kept wondering how the shop owners made enough money to pay the rent. I'm allergic to antiques, and don't have funds for designer jackets and handmade soaps. Who is buying all this merchandise?

Had lunch at McKinney's famous Pantry. Loved ordering at the counter, then finding a table in the old building. Wood chairs declined to scootch out of well-worn grooves. Loved being hollered at when our orders were ready. Snarfed the chocolate cream pie! Good food, honest prices, and entertaining people-watching made for a glow of customer satisfaction, unlike any of our other browsings.

Stopped at the outlet mall on the way home. Again, so many stores, and so much merch. This is the "discounted" stuff, and there's tons of it. In theory, there's a clientele for the full-price merchandise in megaquantities. Then there are the outlet customers. Then there must be the off-price vendors. Then there must be big tax write-offs and overflowing landfills. How many collanders does the average homemaker need to purchase in one life? How many antique vanities? How many UT tailgate cookbooks? Is everyone over the age of 21 burning three scented candles per day?


Rodent obits

On Christmas Day there was an obituary in the DMN with a photo of a woman wearing Mouseketeer ears. I loved the woman, even though she had been an Avon representative. It seemed to me she had anticipated the many formalities after her death as a whole lot of Mickey Mouse. She would be in Cosmic Disney World, and the rest of us would still be reading the local newspaper before lining the bottom of the birdcage!

I won't be running an obit for my computer mouse. It decided to visit the neon exercise wheel in the sky today at an inconvenient moment while I was working on my year-end inventory. My tech support sons were unable to revive the mouse with CPR or artificial respiration. We bargained for its soul with edam, gouda, jalapena jack, brie, havarti dill, swiss, and NY cheddar. Spells and incantations to the Device Manager and Installation Wizard were also unsuccessful. Right now I'm borrowing a cordless mouse (thanks to the Farmer's Wife Who Never Saw Such a Sight In Her Life).

This year I suffered from delusions of spreadsheet grandeur after learning to make rows and columns, and enter data (sort of). Still can't make the data do any tricks. The data is obviously not as smart as my aquarium fish. The fish at least know that they are likely to be fed when their light is turned on. The data refuses to do arithmetic gymnastics even though I have established the range in the field that needs to be added. =SUM(bad:headache). Bringing in a descendant consultant didn't help. Sending a history major to help an artist is the proverbial blind leading the blind. At least Jeff could supply colorful oaths from several epochs to the battle. I could only add dreamland welding equipment.

And now I am wondering about a commemorative Rosie the Riveter hamster collector's edition...


Revenge of the Sugar Plum Fairy

When I was little I was terrified of the Rat King in the Nutcracker. Every year the black and white t.v. ballet special would be aired, probably brought to us by Kraft or Chevrolet. Every year I would watch through squinted eyes while asking, "Is this where the mice come in?" It was nearly as bad as the Oz flying monkeys.

Dreamt last night I was teaching my preschoolers in one of those morphing settings, part parlor and part warehouse. Very realistic mice were scurrying out from behind furniture, crates, and plaster molding. [Who ya gonna call?] There I was in my nightgown fighting off rodents with a blow torch. I felt like Carrie Fisher in the "Blues Brothers" stuck in a mousy early Tetris version. Clara needs those nice young men in their clean white coats...

I will have to abandon my hamster designer fashion collection due to Post Rodent Stress Disorder and Mousehole Tunnel Syndrome. Can I claim the loss as a medical expense?

If any creatures are stirring, nuke 'em.


Exercise wheel

What is it going to take to change my blog advertising banner from "Dancing Hamsters"?

What if I were to type
Teeny Tiny Toe Shoes
Moose on Ice
Moosepath League
Moose mobile
Moose fashions
Top Ten Moose
Dean Moose?

Would that be enough to instigate a blog ad change?

I'm just ever so pleased

Yippedy-skippedy, yee-haw! My links have been restored to their former glorious functionality.

Did my Christmas baking today:
Got a baker's dozen Einstein Bagels.
Mike seized the moment to slice a hydroponic tomato and mash an avocado (still two for a dollar) with cream cheese to create a breakfast masterpiece. Carpe Bagel.

While many's the time Mike has transported me to the gates of Anxious Maternal Fury, the boy does a wonderful job detailing my Buick. I may never need hand lotion again with all that Armour-All on the steering wheel!

Since Jeff is applying to grad school in Ft. Collins, I had to determine if I imagined the whole CSU library flood year before last. The flood really did occur, but way back in 1997. Ack! The years go by so fast. I imagine the book mold has really aged by now, becoming a noxious chemical agent. Haven't mentioned it to my buddy, Tom Ridge, but I worked on the cataloging of both the Emil Kopak gift collection and the Uruguayan literature collection during my formative years at UNL. Both batches of books were thick with domestic and imported primo book mildew and mold. Plus, I only weighed 107 pounds.

Imagine, if you will, the professional wine taster visiting the academic library:
"This volume has a Great Depression-era storm cellar body, with a bouquet of soggy Farmer's Almanac, an aroma of Patagonian papyrus, and a hint of leaky gutter."

Some other day I will write about the Mari Sandoz collection. Congratulations to Mary B. as she returns triumphant to that whole arena!



This is the blog of CollageMama, not TechnoCyberSavvyMama. That is why my blog links no longer connect to anything. Maybe elves will help me figure it out. Kids still say the darndest things, but this blog is ArtLetter Linkless.

Sad rope swing

Went for a long walk to cure antsiness, and to procrastinate cleaning house and folding laundry. Only three days before Christmas, and it is seventy-seven degrees! Returning to our complex, I decided to walk along the creek. "Our" creek is two blocks long, and the city calls this tiny wilderness "Rustic Park". Thought I would walk along to the place where a rope swing hangs from a tall tree over the creek.

We moved to this condo complex nearly seven years ago now. We moved out of the house where we had lived as an alleged two-parent family for seven years--the only house Steven remembered. When the boys discovered the rope swing, that spot along the creek became Steven's emotional tether to our new place. Snakes and a horrible bout with poison ivy did not dissuade him. Swinging on the rope helped all of us reconstruct our ideas of what made a family and a home.

With all the fall leaves gone, the creek looked sad today, especially around the roots of the rope tree. The most obvious eyesores were the plastic bags--EVERYWHERE. Styrofoam, bottles, cans, ropes, wires, a smashed grocery cart, motor oil jugs, small rugs and a garden hose for crying out loud... I found a large Sunkist produce box and decided it was a sign to fill it up before heading home. That amount of effort did not make the rope swing inviting for any new family making a stressful transition! Next time I'll wear gloves, take clippers, and bigger boxes. I'll listen for the woodpeckers I know are there. I'll celebrate how far we've come as a family, and honor a place that helped us along. I'll probably get a bit teary next time, too.


The Accidental Avocado

It is always a holiday when avocados are two for a dollar! Forget Christmas, Festivas, and the BCS. It is time for Guacamolefest, when all the Roos down in Rooderville consume all they can of that perfect food of the gods. Especially yours truly, Cindy Lou Roo.

Last evening Cindy Lou kept adding more avocados to the guac almost as fast as it was being consumed by the celebrants. Carols were playing (okay, if you count Led Zep). Bite-size Tostitos were falling, dusting Plano with a picturesque holiday glow.

When it was Cindy Lou's turn to ingest that magical, euphoria-inducing dish, she sat down in her favorite kitchen chair (the one looking out over the rooftops of Rooderville). She had consumed just enough guacamole to see the landing lights on the approach to Nirvana, when totally without warning, the chair snapped off a leg. Cindy Lou was thrown backwards into the kitchen onto her bazuzzi, whamming her head into the cabinet, and bashing up both elbows, wrists, and thumbs somehow.

Can you say, "ejection seat"? Can you picture demon-possessed home furnishings? Can you pull me up off the floor and get me some Tylenol? Fortunately, Jeff could, and he also lassoed the evil chair and took it to the dumpster. Fortunately, he didn't laugh, and was very concerned! I scraped the guac off my face and clothes feeling very sad. I think it was Dan Quayle who said, "An avocado is a guaful thing to waste."

Today I've been out spending my bonus on some new kitchen chairs. I hope they haven't gone over to the Dark Side, but there is no clear test available without posterior risk. I did buy seat cushions for the chairs since I'm going to need them for a few days. Cindy Lou Roo is thinking about getting air bags, too.

Whatever your holiday, practice moderation, and happy landings!



I am stunned. My preschool students are still mimicking my scissor voices after three weeks. [See 11/25] What do you suppose the percentages are for auditory, visual, and kinetic (?) memories retained at the age of three? What percentage of them still actively flavor our actions 45 years later?

House arrest

Have spent a lovely day marooned at home with no car. It is so freeing to not have the option of running errands. I finished reading "Cordelia Underwood; or the Beginnings of the Moosepath League", which I greatly enjoyed. I look forward to reading more in that series.

Making Chex Mix in the oven (the way God, in her infinite wisdom, intended), so that the boys will know I love them and it is really Christmas. It was a pretty day, so I also cleaned the patio and walked. Got rid of all the canna and elephant ears that went all gooey after the real freeze early in the week. If you aren't familiar with these plants, imagine that bunch of celery you forgot about in the vegetable crisper for a month, but on "designer" growth hormones.

Mike brought home a duffel of dirty laundry the size of a body bag. I don't know where the duffel came from, or the nature of its intended purpose. Ran the washer and dryer all day, and folded nice warm laundry till I zoned out. Is there a 12-Step program for hot lint junkies? And wouldn't Hot Link Junkies be a good name for a hamster rock band?

This week was good for improving my work attitude. All our classes did short story/improv dramas on the stage for their parents. I was astounded at the talents of the drama teachers. We team teach, but I rarely get to see them in action. Had lots of chances to tell coworkers, friends, and students that I like and respect them, and to receive similar comments.

Have been on a pet shop theme with art projects for the last month. This week we made teeny tiny hermit crabs out of paper muffin cups. While the project was really a disguise to get kids to work on scissor and folding skills, they squealed with delight over their little hermit crabs. Some classes also got to make pet carrier/habitats with sand, shells, gobs'o'glue...

On a walk earlier in the week I discovered a new approach to outdoor Christmas decorating. At one house the whole Halloween display of pumpkins and hay bales had been spray-painted gold, then adorned with tacky fake poinsettias. Reminded me of the Camp Fire Girl sewing "baskets" made with cigar boxes glued with macaroni, bow, and shell pasta. If you are my age you remember those Readers Digest angels with styrofoam heads and pipe cleaner halos. My personal favorite is still the LP heated in the oven until it rippled, topped with a styrofoam half sphere poked with dried weeds. Most of Steven's AP sculptures so far have had to be spray-painted black, white, or silver, causing me to have these flashbacks. Why didn't the Surgeon General ever warn us that Camp Fire Girls might cause hallucinations for the rest of our lives? [In one of my inspired teacher moments my assistant and I once taught at-risk kids from the Boys and Girls Club proper spray-paint techniques. So if you see any really classy graffiti...]

Modesty has prevented me from celebrating my stellar stage debut earlier in this post. I am still reeling from the accolades and movie offers. My 1st grade art/drama class had created a play about the case of the missing Santa. After a variety of plot twists, Mrs. Claus was supposed to realize Santa might be taking a hot shower. She would pull the curtains open a bit, and say, "My goodness, he was in the shower all along!" Santa was always an imaginary figment. My merry prankster team teacher who will remain unnamed, i.e. Loree, thought it would be fun to have a real showering Santa at the actual performance, and I won the job from a host of applicants. Mrs. Claus, completely unsuspecting, opened the curtain to find yours truly in Santa hat and white wig towelling off with much booty-shaking. Mrs. Claus was not the only stunned cast member, but since she was paralyzed she couldn't close the curtain. My terry cloth spotlight moment went on much longer than anticipated. Probably used up my whole fifteen minutes of fame.

May you all be snowed-in or under house arrest one day this holiday week!



On the hamster wheel to riches

Hamster fantasy fashions! I love it. Dog owners buy outfits. Why wouldn't hamster owners? We could make millions$$$$$ I always wanted to be the costume designer for Wishbone... I would love to see a hamster in Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and coat. Then a Sam Spade hamster. Then a Swan Lake hamster... I've been thinking about Lola, the Hamster Vamp, with bustier and fishnet stockings. Damn Yankees!

On a more practical level, I did all my holiday shopping in three hours this weekend. Spent another three hours wrapping and getting ready to mail. I am woman, hear me roar.

Now, what about a deep sea diving hamster? Itty-bitty goggles and spear? Moon walk hamster with helmet, flag, and golf club? Young Elvis and old Elvis outfits? Kung fu hamster with black belt? Julia Child hamster? No, too lifelike... Same thing with the Janis Joplin hamster outfit. Speedtrap hamster with helmet and motorcycle? Endorsed by Ponch & John... Star Trek hamster with snap-on Spock ears? Braveheart hamster with no undies... Reenact historic moments with your 1st President Bush parachute jump and 2nd President Bush flightsuit commemoratives.

No wardrobe would be complete without Prom Night hamster! Comes with its own little hotel room... Halo hamster with wings, harp, and poofy cloud? Little Mermaid hamster... Jetson hamsters with remote control flying cars. Superhero hamster capes...

Now I'm seeing hamster penthouses with tiny martini glasses and skyline views. Your hamster needs a new habitat for each outfit! Be the first on your block to own the hamster Star Wars cantina! For classier hamsters, visit the Globe Theater. Roll in cedar shavings in your own hamster Oval Office!


La Boheme

This week Steven and I had the great good fortune to attend the Dallas Opera's dress rehearsal of Puccini's "La Boheme". We went as guests of Steven's soccer coach who was performing in the opera chorus crowd scene. If I could figure out how to insert a photo at this point, I would. Instead you must just imagine the scene. Starving artists and poets are celebrating Christmas Eve in a cafe in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Love is in the air. Band members march through the square in bright red poofy clown pants, blue jackets with gold braid, and red Turkish fez hats, pretending to play flutes as they wind through the crowd of cartwheeling urchins. Perfect snowflakes fall while the tuberculine heroine sings her lungs out. It is just like my life, except for the singing part. When I had pleurisy in '95, I could barely inhale, let alone sing arias about embroidering flowers. To clarify, I could embroider flowers, but not sing about it, and couldn't do either while taking codeine. All in all, I sympathize with our heroine, Mimi. If you are going to embroider flowers, I really suggest being ten years old and sitting in a shady treehouse.

"La Boheme" did lead me to memories of my cold and starving artist days. I have written before about my art student experiences while oil painting in the converted brewery warehouse. We couldn't burn poetry or scripts in a furnace like Marcello and Rudolfo. If we had used a space heater the whole building would have erupted in flames from the turp fumes and rolls of canvas, not to mention all the dead bugs. We painted while wearing many layers of socks and sweaters, long johns, stocking caps, and sawed-off gloves. We drank tea heated with those electric coils, and adjorned often to the nearest warm tavern.

My favorite student watering hole was a bar in the backstage area of the former ornate gilded theatre turned into a doomed single-screen movie theater. The bar allowed one to enjoy a gimlet while staring up into catwalks, drops, and hanging weights. The entrance was down an icy alley to the old stage door. What a space that would have been for an artist studio/home!

Steven had to pick me up from work to drive to the opera hall. As we were going down the highway of death he asked me if I had ever heard a rustling in the glove compartment. Naturally I remarked that he should let the hamster out more often. Perhaps we have rodents eating the turn signal wiring (see entries about Cletus and Goober!). After the opera ,when we found ourselves lost in a seedy part of downtown Dallas, we were particularly concerned about big-fanged small mammal invaders blasting out of the glove box.

Coach wanted us to meet him at intermission for a quick backstage tour. Here is my true confession! My worst nightmare is when the beautician hands me the mirror to hold while she turns me around to view the back of my neck. I can no more look in the mirror to use a curling iron than I can play professional hockey. Something just shorts out in my brain, so when Coach asked us to meet him at the stage right door I conferred with my drama teacher associates for clarification. Actor's right is viewer's left, but we still missed our chance for a backstage tour.

After I switched from being a poor, cold art student to being a poor, cold library employee, I quit singing about embroidery and got married. Alas, I walked home through the snow to our apartment one freezing night to find that my law student spouse had sold our waterbed, beanbag chairs, concrete block & board bookshelves, and macrame plant-hangers to a foreign graduate student for $200.

Many thanks to Coach and the Dallas Opera for this musical trip down memory lane!


You know when it's time to go!

Watched a little boy about 2 1/2 years old drag his mom toward the exit at the craft fair Saturday. He was saying, "I'm ready when you are. I'm ready when you are. I'm ready when you are..." Each time he said it as one long word. He had my complete sympathy.


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