Operatic moment

Arriving home at eight last night after a very relaxing swim, I was tromping about unloading soggy towels in the laundry room, mail on the dining table, dirty lunch Tupperware in the kitchen, swimsuit in the lavatory, art files and purse in the bedroom, and finally, coat in the closet. Big sigh of relief. I was officially done for the day.

"Mom, look what happened," I hear from upstairs as Steven begins his descent. "Huh?" Then he turns the corner and I gasp. He has a bright red, shiny stain the size of a dinner plate on the lap of his favorite jeans. It's all I can do to keep from grasping the string of pearls at the neck of my brocaded silk gown, perform a tragic aria, "O, God! My baby boy's been stabbed in the groin!," and go into a final swoon, falling onto the stage in an elegantly draped heap. The invisible chorus is ready to take up the strains of, "He is stabbed, he's stabbed, the groin, O, God!, The groin, the groin, he is stabbed! Her baby boy, he's stabbed, O, God! Her baby boy is OOOOOO, groin! He is, her baby boy, O, God! [he's gone, oh, yes, he's gone, his groin, O, God...]Her baby boy is stabbed in the GROIN!" (Dramatic lighting here).

"You ever use iron oxide to stain clay, Mom?" "Huh?," I whisper shakily. "You know, like rust? I spilled some. The art teacher said to wash these separately," he explains. The chorus fades away singing, "Well, duh. Well, duh...." very softly.

"Okay," I say with my wrist at my forehead. "You'll need to take them off and bring them down to the laundry room, BUT FIRST you need to take that trash bag to the dumpster." Dramatic sigh.


Leprechaun traps

Had a phone call today from a parent who needed help building a leprechaun trap. This is not an abnormal event since I am the Guy Noir of kids' art, still searching for the answers to life's mysterious questions from the eleventh floor of the Acme Building---and armed with a hot glue gun.

I favor green plastic strawberry baskets for trapping most magical beings. Pipe cleaners are good, too. There are always questions about the proper bait for the trap. How big is a leprechaun? The size of a garden gnome, or of a troll doll? Are they "not turtle animals"? How do the rainbow and the pot of gold fit into the big picture? How can we make a humane trap? I am troubled by old-timey black&white cartoon bear traps, falling anvils, and Curt Goudy's breathy narrations of big game hunts on "The American Sportsman" in 1966.

Steven brought all his empty clothes hangers down to the laundry room this morning before breakfast. Please visualize hangers over your arm from elbow to thumb. He plonked them down on the dryer, which was already running (the early bird gets the lint). Of course, the vibrating dryer wiggled most of the wire hangers onto the floor in a big tangle. No elves unsnarled them during the day. Elves are notorious "not turtle animals". I don't know how to trap leprechauns, but I do know about laundry room mommy traps!

Skyline with Vinny

Looked at "Starry Night" one last time with a group of 6-7 year-olds. We transported the curly, swirly stars to the night sky over downtown Dallas with local landmarks. Dallas has a observation tower/restaurant/landmark like lots of big cities. Our Reunion Tower looks like a sparkling dandelion fluff. I am surprised Vince didn't paint it into his picture, since it obviously belongs there!

This week we're investigating Vince's sunflower paintings, and Eve Bunting's Sunflower House. I was surprised to find the kids excited to be called Carly Van Gogh, Luke Van Gogh, Meghan Van Gogh, Alex Van Gogh...They liked it almost as much as having their names turned into dinosaurs like Carlydactyl, or Carlysaurus Rex, or Brontocarly...


Afternoon downpour

Some very aerobic teaching was required during the big thunderstorm this afternoon. The preschoolers were freaking and sobbing. I had to be the clown, the stand-up comedian, and the NFL dancer, while doing the usual waitress/storytime lady/art teacher routine. Got the kids to yell, "Good one!", and do a fist pump/disco bump for loud thunder, and an endzone celebration dance for the really impressive ones. Then they started yelling, "Wimpy one!", and "Pretty good, but try harder!" We played air guitar to Buddy Holly, and danced a Mexican hat dance to Putomayo World Music. Thank heaven I didn't have to sing, "My hat, it has three corners; three corners has my hat." That is scarier than thunder.


Our National Pastime

This week Our Texas Rangers traded expensive superstar Alex Rodriguez to the NY Yankees. As always, there has been much pondering in the Dallas Morning News about how to dig the Rangers out of the cellar. As a preschool art teacher, I suggest that everyone involved in the conversation reread "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" to learn how to turn Mary Ann into the furnace in the new town hall instead of getting her out of the cellar.

As a woman of a certain age, I think the problem with professional baseball goes deeper. Has a menopausal woman ever managed a major league team? Of course not! Is the sport ignoring the most logical solution to its problems? Certainly!

Every woman I know has spent years training to become a team manager. Every Saturday morning of our adult lives we have played the "Imagine You Are a Baseball Manager" game. I've heard of Monday morning quarterbacks. I give you Saturday morning managers.

My walking buddy and I are in Spring Training here in the Grapefruit League. That means we've been working very hard to lose weight since New Year's. On Saturday mornings we review our progress, and assess the roster. We try on and send some pants that have become too saggy/baggy down to the closet minors. We audition skinny minor league candidates for the closet big league. Will they fit into the current line-up? If I send two pairs to the minors, and only bring up one, how long will they last in a four pants rotation? Should this pair be placed on the DL until the popped button is resewn?

Major league baseball also faces many problems with sportsmanship, character, and player use of chemical enhancers. It is time for the female manager to be promoted to league commissioner. My friends all know that you must never trash talk the competition. If you call attention to the weight of someone else, you will be slapped upside your thighs with bad, bad, evil karmic cellulite. If you grandstand after a home run, your seams will surely burst. Slim Fast will never substitute for a conscious change in diet and exercise habits. We won't even get into the subject of corking bats! It has been many years since we wadded Kleenex in our training bras, but we know all the tricks.

Why stop at commissioner? Fantasy Baseball offers women the chance to go for the Big Time. We lust after the NY Yankee's superstar talent, depth, budget, and George Steinbrenner's office. Can you imagine that major league closet???

Something is rotten

Alas and alack! I've goofed up the blog template. It's not in Denmark, but it has definitely gone flopbot and crackerdog. As I venture forth into this dark abyss, I'm glad to have the Bard on one shoulder, and James Herriot on the other.

Llama Mama's Big Adventure

When I was writing about the baby lambs at the farm, I forgot to mention that a llama has been living there this winter. This sight always makes me smile, and is less unsettling than an emu farm.

But, anyway, after catching up at work for several hours on this absolutely beautiful spring (yes, spring!) day, I stopped at Starbucks, then decided to drive down to Fair Park to visit the African American Art Museum. Eleven Dallas metroplex organizations have collaborated on a celebration of quilts this year. The African American Art Museum's contribution to the effort includes slave and Reconstruction era quilts, all the way up to contemporary story quilts. My favorite quilt was made of well-worn work clothes including striped overalls, denim, and tan workshirts. A quilt is, after all, a collage. It is a saving, sorting, choosing, combining, composing endeavor. It may be a group effort or individual. It may be intended as utilitarian or decorative. It may teach a lesson, or just soothe its viewer/user. It is above all wonderful expression of feminine creative energy. Some other women visiting the museum asked if I was a quilter. I answered, "I wish!" Still, I hope my art is related to the quilting tradition.

I always enjoy visiting the Museum, with its fantastic wood plank dome and curving staircase in the rotunda. This visit I again felt the lighting did not show off the exhibit pieces at their best. It was a dandy outing, though. I am inspired to visit more of the Quilt Mania venues. Next time I will skip the Starbucks. I have a dreadful headache in my eyebrows that makes me feel like Frankenstein's monster, but not the least bit like "Putting on the Ritz". Aaaargh.


Meals on Wheels

Been digging out black and white photos of childhood in the GI Bill suburban tract housing of the late Fifties and early Sixties. I've gotten myself into a project writing neighborhood history items for the neighborhood association newsletter where I grew up. What a blast from the past it's been so far. I'm so busy driving up and down Memory Lane that I'm barely functioning in the here and now!

I'm still stunned to live in a culture that dines out so often. As a family we ate out about once or twice a month back in the Sixties. My dad sometimes ate at lunch counters near his office. Family birthdays were celebrated at a restaurant where the waitress delivered a cake with a burning sparkler, and Dorothy, the organist, played a medley of "Happy Birthday", and "How Much is That Doggy in the Window?" That was also the site for celebrating passing Red Cross Beginners swimming lessons.

Recovering from strep throat was celebrated at a drive-in where orders were sent from the counter to the kitchen by pneumatic tube. I thought that was soooo high tech! Forty years later I still need mustard and pickles to bring closure to a headcold.

Rare, spontaneous meals out were at the A&W Root Beer Drive-In with the roller-skating carhops. I have to tell you that anyone who can roller-skate with a tray of burgers and full, frosty mugs of root beer, and then give correct change with a chucka-chinka coin machine belt, is my epitome of skilled labor. The spectacle was a poor kid's version of Ice Capades.

Do you remember hamburger restaurants with a telephone in each vinyl-upholstered "space-age" booth so you could call in your order? Sometimes the booth also had juke-box playlist capability! Our town had a Kings restaurant hang-out for each of the local high schools. Visiting another school's Kings could lead to fights in the parking lot. Kings would be above-capacity after every high school football or basketball game, win or lose, with the girls in cheerleader and pep club uniforms, knee socks and saddle shoes, and everyone ordering cokes and onion rings. Just imagine having to call your dad on the payphone when it was time to be picked up, and talking over the sound of a couple hundred classmates. Cellphone users are wimps!

One of the Kings' specialties was a sandwich called the "Tuna Frenchee". Yes, it sounds kinky. Imagine a tuna sandwich with Velveeta and Miracle Whip on Wonder Bread. Dip it in batter and deep fry it. Bite into this crunchy/creamy sensory delight!

I'm not sure when our college town discovered pizza, but our family didn't get the concept until the late-Sixties. Tacos followed in the early-Seventies, along with Chinese food. Before then, my neighborhood considered ordering from Chicken Delight a form of domestic dereliction of duty. Scandalized people gasped when the radio played the jingle, "Don't cook tonight! Call Chicken Delight!", as if it was Janet Jackson's breast, not the chicken's.

This little reverie of hot grease was partly provoked by a sight on the way home from Steven's dermatologist appointment today. He will corroborate my story. We saw a man riding a bicycle with a wheelie office chair perched over the front basket and handle bars. Are you wheeling in the years? Having a french fry basket?


"Starry Night" finale

I took the fun Vinny Van Gogh lesson to my Montessori students today, and heard many more intriguing explanations of the "Starry Night" painting. The kids, in three groups, range in age from barely three and barely speaking English, to nine years old. I have been surprised by how many kids see bones and skeletons in the lower left corner of the painting. Take a look for yourself, and let me know what you see.

The youngest preschool group decided that the painting had lots of fireflies! The oldest group decided the painting should be called, "Atlantis". They said the village is under water, and the stars are shining down into the ocean. They also said the swirly stars reminded them of street lights during our rare Valentine's Day snow.

I have the great fortune to live catty-corner to a farm that is surrounded by our suburb. Started my morning kind of down because it is my son's birthday. He is studying at Texas Tech, and this is the first time one of the boys has been away for a birthday. Driving past the farm, I was delighted to see lots of brand new, snowy white baby lambs. They look like they were born in a fresh set of long undies. Nineteen years ago my son was born with a wild head of long black hair. Visitors to the hospital nursery window were commenting on "that little Italian baby". He didn't look Italian for very long, and the lambs may look like they need Clorox by tomorrow morning. Perhaps the lambs will chase fireflies, and Mike will discover Atlantis. Happy birthday!


Reading for content

Now I remember why I avoid chalk art projects!

In the frenzy of writing lesson plans, I swerved off onto the freeway of theory instead of following the bumpy road of experience. One might think it was a good idea to teach analogous color schemes by arranging centers with buckets of colored chalk in related color "families", stacks of black paper, and fun examples from Blue Dog Man. One might think it if one was totally relaxed in a hot tub in the mountains during a light, fluffy night snowfall while drinking excellent champagne. One might think it also if one had been procrastinating writing lesson plans all of one's impoverished winter break.

Alas, one returned to reality during the afterschool kindergarten/first grade class. One could say one got a rude awakening! When students use chalk, their hands get messy, then they touch their noses. Their faces get messy. Their clothes get messy. They start drawing on each other...They scratch whatever itches, and spelunk in body orifices...

To stop the hemorrhaging, art teachers use spray fixative. The cheapest fixative is Aqua Net hairspray, but it smells awful, and has to be used outdoors. Outdoors is the back porch, but the door locks behind anyone exiting that way. The art teacher must put a dozen kids in a line with their chalk drawings, appoint kindergarteners to hold the door open, and keep one foot in the door anyway, while spraying hairspray on the drawings.

This has the potential to be an ooh-ahh moment. The hairspray seems to eliminate the chalk drawing, but then the colors reemerge. I finish off one, then two partial cans of Aqua Net. The next can is full, but clogged. Panic is setting in. Kids are marking chalk warpaint on each other's faces, leaving marks on the wall, and making a major mess at the sink. They are in position to escape out the back door, and losing a kid is A Bad Idea. I run back to the art room for more fixative. Thank heavens there's a can of real Krylon Artist Fixative on the top shelf (well out of the reach of students and most teachers). I grab it and shake it as I run back to the porch. I spray, the chalk lines disappear, but something is different. Mildly puzzled, I spray five more drawings. The images aren't reappearing. I touch one. Sticky. Aaack! I've been spraying the drawings with Krylon Spray Adhesive, not Artist Fixative. A little "ive" is a dangerous thing. Now the drawings are blowing around and sticking to each other and to me. I'm sticking to the spray can. I'm still keeping the door open with my foot, while apologizing profusely to all the kids whose drawings I've just ruined. Meanwhile back in the art room the kids have transformed each other into Roswell aliens with the lime green chalk.

I'm pulling out my hair. It occurs to me that maybe the reason my hair always looks so weird is my inability to distinguish spray adhesive from hairspray fixative.

When my sons were little they used to play barbershop, and pretend to style my hair with all the tools in their Fisher Price workbenches. Plastic wrench, rubber screwdriver, spray adhesive, and voila! a new look for mademoiselle!


Tell Santa I'm being very good

We had the pea green Chevy until about 1972. Then my dad bought a red and white 1961 Plymouth Sport Fury with push-button transmission and rectangular steering wheel. The windshield was tinted so the whole world looked like "South Pacific" in Panavision. That is the car I used to load up with 4'x4' canvases. It is also also the car in the Unfortunate Incident When the Moth Flew Up My Bellbottom Pant Leg. The 1961 Sport Fury is quite probably the greatest car ever made, and I would very much like one in mint condition if you happen to be out shopping. Make sure it is red and white. Thanks.

From the middle to the middle

How funny! Just got a flashback of my dad taking me to see "The Snow Queen" when I was about four. We must have waited until the result of the t.v. baseball game (annouced by Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese, of course) was not in doubt, then driven downtown in the '54 pea green Chevy to the State Theater. Walked in as the scary evil Snow Queen was turning everybody to ice, then sat through it, thawing, melting, and back to being frozen again. I know Dad & I saw "Babes in Toyland", "Lady & the Tramp", and "Bambi" by the tag-team middle-to-middle system also. "Bambi" had a nature short about desert animals in the middle (well, it should have been at the beginning, right after the newsreels!), that I remember vividly as it was my introduction to rattlesnakes. Dad & I were probably escaping long weekend afternoons with my colicky baby brother. We also used to drive out to the old Lincoln Air Force Base/muni airport and stand on the outdoor observation deck to watch airplanes take off. One time a pelican was sitting on the railing of the deck. That was a way off course pelican! I think that was the time Dad & I were escaping after my mom slid our chicken potpies off the cookie sheet onto the heating element in the bottom of the oven by accident. One time Dad & I escaped to the city's Pioneer Park, and I rolled down a hill. Got cockleburrs stuck on every inch of my face and body. Dad felt so horrible. He picked me up gently, put me in the car, and rushed me home. Mom sat me on a highchair, and the two of them spent hours pulling the stickers out of me with tweezers.
The first movie I remember seeing was a double feature at the drive-in. I was probably barely three, and my parents must have thought I would sleep in the backseat. The first movie was some sort of Sinbad story with ships, pirates, people hiding in large wicker chests, and other people poking swords into the wicker...The second feature was "Porgy & Bess". Singing black guys with no legs...! "Bess, you is my woman now. You is..." The first movie I can remember seeing in a theater was "Gypsy". My parents were really into Broadway musicals. One time my folks were down here visiting, and the boys were watching Steve Martin & Darryl Hannah in "Roxanne". My folks were freaking because Darryl had no clothes on. It was great fun reminding them about "Gypsy"!

Steven and I had a discussion about Twinkies this week. That set me off recalling how I got the job of riding shotgun with Dad late one night up to the hospital in Norfolk (120 miles in the Chevy) where one of my ancient relatives had been taken. I went along to keep my dad awake. He taught me to whistle. We stopped for gas, and to get vending machine treats to go with the vacuum bottle of coffee. I thought the Hostess "Snowballs", especially the pink ones, were the most tempting things I had ever seen, and finally convinced my dad to buy them. Dang if that coconut didn't stick halfway down my throat. May I never eat another bit of coconut as long as I live! I will always be suspicious of anything pink, fluffy, and too good to be true (probably should pass that suspicion on to the boys!). We arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night. While Dad was doing whatever he had to do, the nuns took me down to the basement kitchen and fed me soup.
I must be dying, since my life is passing before my eyes--but maybe Dad and I are just arriving in the middle of the feature.


Henry Finkelstein

Treated myself to a visit to the Valley House Gallery to see paintings by NY artist Henry Finkelstein. The landscapes and still lives were brushy and soft, but with vibrant, clean colors, and strong compositions. I was very much entranced, and would like you to see them, too, especially if you are in the midst of a cold, gray, winter afternoon. I put a link to Finkelstein's website on the right.


In the kitchen with Dinah

I been workin' with the preschool all the live long day, and they're singing:

Try not to blow!
Try not to blow!
Scrubbing on the old man Joe.


Blowing the whistle

Still humming the music from "The Triplets of Belleville", and doing little dance steps, three days after seeing this fabulous French animated film. The whistle-blower in the movie is a ferociously-devoted club-footed grandma training her orphan grandson for the Tour de France. I can't even begin to describe the delights lurking for the brave cinema-goer. "The Triplets..." aren't for the masses, because I don't want to share! So, nanny nanny boo boo...

Well, maybe I would be willing to share if you love

Rocky & Bullwinkle
Toulouse Lautrec
Dr. Strangelove
Eric Satie
Steamboat Willy
I Yam What I Yam Popeye
Rube Goldberg
Cole Porter
78 rpm recordings
Mary Lou Williams
Count Basie
Tom Robbins
Cruella DeVille
Mickey Hart
Charles Addams


Briny and sweet

In the past month I've been to four movies in theaters! This is a personal record. Many years I see less than two. Don't rent videos, either, since I got in a huff with Blockbuster and mailed them my chopped up card several years back.

Anyway, I've been going to movies, but not eating popcorn, which lifts me aesthetically above Your Average Movie-goer. Not that I feel morally superior, just middle-aged rotund.

Went to see "Something's Got To Give" on a misty evening. Yes, it made me want to walk down a beach even if I couldn't have Diane Keaton's character's fabulous beach house. Was it an artist date? Hardly. Driving home in the cool, misty rain with black bare trees silohuetted against the trapped-light urban night sky was a feast for the senses. Caviar, lox, melon, champagne, licorice, hot springs, sandstone, steam, grapes, must, slate, shrimp, frost, charcoal, ash, oxygen.

Feeding the artist's soul

A few years ago I worked through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. It seems to be time to take a refresher course and do some intensive refueling and reinvestigating. For the time being, I have parked the millennium Falcon on the tarmac, and headed on into the Cantina.

One of Cameron's basic tools is the "Artist Date". For me, that means making time to be a tourist in my own world. I seriously need to redevelop the Artist Date habit! Even though I've been writing, my inspiration and urge to create visual art has gone on vacation and left no forwarding address.

I'll be sending some "Wish You Were Here" scenic postcards. Here in Texas there's a tourist trap with a high diving pig named Ralph. For the time being, I'm identifying with the pig!***

***Actually, Aquarena Springs has transformed from a cheesie tourist trap with a diving pig into an educational center teaching Texans about the importance of the Edwards Aquifer. I still like to imagine the pig in a Speedo and goggles. Maybe even with those old-fashioned pink rubber nose plugs. And there in a wood a piggy-wig stood with an inflatable ring around his middle...


Murder by Weed-Whacker, and other happy thoughts

It would be very interesting to take a poll of women more or less my age to see how many of them ever entertained the following fantasy...(no lingerie garments were harmed in this experiment)...might be a good Science Fair project:

1. Did you ever daydream that your spouse crashed his car into a bridge abuttment?

2. Were you relieved he was the only fatality?

3. Approximately how many hours did you spend pondering how you could best use the fantasy life insurance money?
a. 1-5
b. 5-10
c. 10-100
d. More than 100 (per week)

4. In what kind of new car did you imagine yourself driving off to A Better Life?

4.a. Did your hair look like Farrah Fawcett's as you drove off?

4.b. What was playing on the car radio?

5. Did this scenario seem like the ONLY way your life was going to improve?

6. How many years did you spend in this scary place?

Bright lights, big city

Both the morning and afternoon preschool classes suggested that the painting was in New York City!


Today's explanation of the painting

The title should be "The Winds of Change" because the wind is making the star colors change and be wiggly.


Vincent Van Gogh

This is how my students, age 3-7, have been describing Vincent Van Gogh’s "Starry Night" to me this week:

It’s the stars, the moon, and the planets.

The sun is painting the picture.

It glows in the dark.

Bees are buzzing round and round.

It's fireworks, and puddles.

There's the wind.

But the wind is invisible!

It should be called, "The Dragon's Wind".

Or "The Moon Houses".

There’s a scary black castle.

No, it’s a church or a mountain or a cliff.

It is not. It’s seaweed.

It’s the sea witch under the water!

There’s a village. You can see the car lights.

The moon fell into the water.

It's a bedtime story.


Super Bowl Sunday

Grew up in the Bob Devaney years in Lincoln, Nebraska, viewing that sociological phenomenon of long-term mass hysteria through a kids' eyes. One of the first years that the Cornhuskers made it to a bowl game our family went to a big party at a house out in the country where Dad's friend raised champion black labs. I was completely amazed that people could have more than one TV. I think a bunch of the engineer dads brought theirs along to hook up so all the simultaneous bowl games could be watched side-by-side in a dark room (to improve the picture quality). The whole memory is in soft focus black & white, even the table of snacks. Cold, snowy, gray New Year's sky, heaps of black overshoes amid melting slush, gravel roads, snowy fields, a farmhouse full of strangers, people in some stadium waving a sign that read, "Hail Mary Full of Grace. Notre Dame in Second Place." I asked Dad what that meant, and he said he would have to explain it on the way home. Terrified of dogs at the start of the day, but by the end madly in love with a very gentle and tolerant black lab.

That is how Catholicism became confused in some lobe of my brain with football. It was at about the same age that Congregationalism became linked with war, due to my Sunday School teachers having us sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" every week.


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