Diving the shipwreck

This whole situation with my mom in the hospital has made for lots of introspection. It was a surprise to find I am strong and centered enough to be sad without becoming overwhelmed by and mired in the sadness. That seems to have brought up many other sacrifices and losses of the last 15-20 years for which I was always too afraid to grieve. The grief work still waited. It has been like discovering a bottle in a submerged shipwreck, bringing it to the surface, and uncorking it.....

Free Low Fat Diet Aid

Yes, free! No prescription needed! Just close your eyes:

My mom is in the hospital, and she is getting better, I'm thrilled to report. The amount of fluids she is receiving through her IV has been halved now that she is eating and drinking liquids. She is still receiving fat through the IV, though. We all realize that we need some fat in our diet for our bodies to function. Looking at a clear bag of the ugly stuff hanging from the IV stand and dripping into you is a real turn-off, though.


Guacamole Gwvaaaakkk

Dear Heloise,

I am hoping you can help with some stubborn laundry stains. My son plays in the Under-19 Rec soccer league. Thursday evening he mashed up a lovely, large avocado to make guacamole (He is trained and certified to make his own guacamole) and ate it with Tostitos before his game. Right before his game...Right before his hard-running game on a hot, muggy evening against a tough opponent.

It is difficult to play at the peak of your abilities when you have Ralphed guac on your soccer socks. It is also very difficult to wash the encrusted gwvaaaakkk out of the white socks after they have petrified in the bottom of the laundry hamper for 48+ hours. Bleach didn't work. It still looks like bug guts on the grill of '54 Chevy after a nighttime gravel road detour.

I don't think I'll be buying all that many avocados in the coming month. Kind of reminds me why I won't eat goldfish crackers...


The Paint Fairy and Fluffy

Back on 5/19/04 I wrote about how to play "Pass the Paint" in your art class. I don't think I explained about Fluffy the Paintbrush, but I will do that someday soon. "Pass the Paint" is like Musical Chairs. It is a chance to review how to hold and treat Fluffy the Paintbrush, to recap the shapes we've been learning, and cut loose with bright tempera paints. "Pass the Paint" is also a chance for me to dance around as the silly Paint Fairy, and to play lots of good music. I play lots of Mozart and other classical favorites, Linda Ronstadt, and Buddy Holly:

Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, Peggy Sue,
Oh, my Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh, well, I love you gal, and I need you, Peggy Sue.
The preschoolers especially like "Peggy Sue", but they think the song is "Baby Sue".
Baby, baby, baby, baby, Baby Sue! They start singing their version and playing air guitar. I twirl about in my imaginary pink poodle skirt and saddle shoes, while I wonder about my sister's doll with the bad haircut. The doll was named "Baby Dear", and my sister mastered her left-handed scissors by giving "Baby Dear" a really bad haircut. My students sometimes give themselves equally bad haircuts when they learn to use scissors. It doesn't happen often, and we usually take it in stride, unless the student is scheduled to be a flower girl or ring bearer (aka "Pillow Boy") in the near future.

Better Coping Through Caulking

I haven't been able to blog much this week, and I feel weird. Blogging's like an exercise routine. When I miss for too long I feel grumpy right down to my toenails.

My mom has been in the hospital back home since Sunday. She had been through a prolonged spell of nausea, and was dehydrated and weak. My dad was exhausted from taking care of her. Things are getting better now. Mom is rehydrated and able to eat some soup, although still on an IV, and is pleased with the care she is getting. The therapist has her up walking now. Dad is rested, but worried, naturally. He's able to get more information from the doctors now, and the doctors are starting to figure out what has caused this problem. We are all relieved that the diagnosis isn't as scarry as it might have been.

So I spent my week on the telephone getting updates, feeding my questions to Dad, and disseminating information to other friends and relatives. By the time I sat down to watch a bit of the video of Bizet's "Carmen" I would conk out in the chair.
Why "Carmen"? That will be a different blog.

Why is it when we are stressed our tolerance for little stuff goes down? All week my disgust with my shower caulk has escalated. So I spent my Friday off in a crazed mode hacking and pulling out the old caulk, getting stains off the tile grout, and going to the hardware store. I can't change the situation for my parents, but, by golly, I can change the appearance of my bathtub!

Mike drove home from college, and did the actual caulk application. His hands are steadier and stronger, and he can even read the tiny print instructions on the caulk tube. We talked about his plans to change his major. He told me after he graduates and gets a job, he will help me repair and improve the condo so I can sell it and move wherever I want. I used to think I would live here forever, but I have days when I want to live in an urban loft or a small older home like my Grandma's. Anyway, Mike is a great kid, and he gave me a much-needed boost. I'm so glad he came back for a visit.

My shower looked fantastic this morning, even if I couldn't shower in it. I trudged upstairs to the teen bathroom to shower. Next thing I knew, I was tearing out the gross caulk in that shower, and running back to the hardware store.
Now the day is winding down, and I even have new caulk in the kitchen, and around the lavatory. A little part of my life is clean and orderly, and my effort will be visible for awhile. It's time to call Dad for today's update.


The Billiards Club

The Friday lunch gang has formed a Billiards Club at the high school. The history teacher who coaches the Whiz Quiz team is also going to be the Billiards Club sponsor. He's helping the gang write the official club charter, motto, anthem, and secret handshake. The club members and the sponsor are going to take some lessons, and then play in tournaments, and "get good enough to hustle pool games in college next year to recoup expenses for the cue sticks and lessons". The club's first fundraiser consisted of hitting up parents for seventy-five dollars for lessons at a nearby bowling alley.

What is proper billiards tournament attire? Should the club have printed t-shirts? What about a parental Billiards Booster Club? What about selling those really good chocolate almond candy bars??? Mmm. I never could resist those.

The club sponsor should be in line for sainthood. He has spent more time traveling with my sons during the last eight years than I could manage. He never lost any of them in the French Quarter. That is a significant accomplishment. For all you do, this blue chalk's for you!


Pink Giraffe

"Make mine a Shirley Temple, bartender."

I bet kids don't drink Shirley Temples in fancy restaurants and country clubs anymore. I've only had one student who knew about Shirley Temple and the Good Ship Lollipop. I'm sure none of my students have experienced the pure sugar rush of a candy cigarette. My Barbie had over-the-elbow gloves. Maurice Chevalier knew about the night they invented Shirley Temples. Thank heaven we little girls could pretend we were wearing over-the-elbow gloves as we munched our candy cigarettes, sipped our Shirley Temples, and said, "Dahling!" Try to imagine Carol Channing with black olives on all her fingers singing, "Olives are a girl's best friend." I never could decide if I looked more like Leslie Caron or Audrey Hepburn!

Did a very patchy job applying sunscreen before the one p.m. soccer game. I look ridiculous. My neck is lobster red striped with white due to my double chins-in-waiting. My arms look like pink giraffes. One foot is red, but the other is white. My legs are covered with bug bites. Reminds me of the old picture book, "You Look Ridiculous, Said the Rhinoceros to the Hippopotamus".

Should you be curious about making a Shirley Temple or a Roy Rogers for your little socialite, try this site: http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink8476.html


Swiss Family Robinson

I want to live in a tree. Don't know exactly why I chose to teach line control, opposites, and gluing techniques to my preschool students with a project about treehouses. I suspect it was one of those Memory Lane moments. A treehouse is a magical opportunity for quiet, space, solitude, relaxation, imagination, simplification, and observation. I need those opportunities in my life, and I suspect most artists do.
An 8-year-old's treehouse has mosquito netting and bean bag chairs:

This preschooler made a very sturdy old tree with a squirrel running up the trunk:

I spent two wonderful childhood summers reading about archaeological excavations, writing letters to pen pals, and embroidering pillowcases with lazy daisies, French knots, and chain stitch. Artists need times and spaces when the fresh breeze can really blow around in their heads without meeting people or demands on their time.

Artists need to watch lines of ants travel a tree branch. They need to invent fabulous contraptions for their treehouses, or just move with the tree as it sways in the wind. Artists need to climb up high to look out over their whole neighborhood from a different viewpoint. They need to communicate with the rest of the world in unusual ways, maybe sending notes down to ground level in a bucket, or flashing coded messages with a mirror. Artists need to soar above the ground on a tire swing at sunset when the insects are droning, but before the mosquitoes really start biting.
Climb up the stairs or enjoy the tire swing:

Look for the housekeeper, the six detectives, and the eight construction workers in this picture by a kindergarten student:

Artists need sun-warmed, shade-dappled places to dream. Every child has an artist within. Please allow some treehouse time in your child's week.

Rabbit Hole

Went to an unusual movie this afternoon. I saw What the [Bleep](Do We Know)?. It is about quantum physics, neural nets, anxiety, memory, and brain chemistry, and the big questions:
  • Why are we here?
  • What is real?
  • What is God?
  • How do we change our reality?

Adding to the otherworldliness, the movie stares Marlee Matlin, so you have to get used to hearing a deaf person's speech. There are cool animation and visual techniques, and ideas to ponder at leisure. It is only playing at one theater in Dallas, but it is an interesting way to spend two hours.

After the movie I took my car for a free tire rotation and new wiper blades at Sears. I know, don't lecture. I should be able to buy wiper blades at Auto Zone and put them on. I am Woman. Hear me roar. I just don't like doing wiper blades. So I spent an hour and a half wandering around in the mall pondering the same sort of questions as in the movie, plus the unanswerable questions:

  • Who buys all this stuff?
  • Why is the Goth fad still going?
  • Why are all the clothes made of acetate these days?
  • Doesn't anyone remember back in the late Seventies when we all did our Scarlett O'Hara imitations and swore, "I'll never wear man-made fabrics again!"?

What the [Bleep] asks all of us to choose how far we want to go down Alice's rabbit hole of mysteriousness. What I will remember most is a quantum physics expert saying that life is not about being in the know, but about being in the mystery.



Panic Disorder

A few entries back I wrote about my years living with panic disorder. I finally realized what was happening to me when I picked up a little brochure at the grocery store. On the off chance that someone recognized the feelings I was trying to describe, I have added a link to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration information site about the various kinds of anxiety disorders. The link is over there in "Defying Description". Please don't wait as long as I did to get some help!


Spoiling the fun

Part of this week's preschool lesson plan included reading Pierre: A Cautionary Tale In Five Chapters and a Prologue by Maurice Sendak This wonderfully funny and engaging book includes a scene in Chapter Four when Pierre's father hits the hungry lion with a folding chair. Oops! Our Texas Rangers have been hitting people with folding chairs.


New Developments at the Car Wash

What precious preschool kids wash my car in the Tuesday afternoon class! The chemistry in this particular class is like nectar and ambrosia. It refuels this old mama, and makes me remember why I love this job, and why it is important.

Today we continued to tame our lines and make them behave, even as we used them to draw lions. We don't worry about not knowing how to draw a lion. Heavens to Betsy, no! The recipe for a lion is a baked potato, and everybody can draw a baked potato--even self-conscious grown-ups. Everybody can draw a spaghetti tail, and even french fries for legs. Should we dip them in ketchup? No, not yet. Does your lion have a pepperoni head yet? Blueberry ears? Curly snails for its mane? This is a lion made of round and curly lines, but it still might be ferocious!

Our lion might just need a thorn pulled out of its paw. I read James Daugherty's classic, Andy and the Lion, and was stunned when a four-year-old made the connection with the story of Androcles.

What if our baked potato lion turns out to be dangerous? We will use our lines to put the lion in a box. A box has corners. The straight lines sound like Daffy Duck: skraaatcchh; skwittchh; skraaatcchh; skwvitcchh. Should we make the box into a cage? You can make the bars by saying swavtksch, swavtksch, swavtksch... What if we want to take the lion to the zoo or the circus? Put some wheels on the cage. You are almost ready to meet Fluffy the Paintbrush. Fluffy is developing quite a fan club. Fluffy will be signing autographs soon. Stay tuned.

Oh, no. I didn't even mention that the kids started building "squeegees" out of the building straws and jacks. They are doing a really good job on windows. Some of them even built vacuums and dust busters to clean my car's interior. Maybe next week they will program my car cd player/clock/radio since I can't figure it out.

Swimming into the sunset: Good news & bad news

Wow. I am starting to see the results from my increased swim exercise program, aside from the enjoyment I've had from watching the sunsets on the pool water.

Today I put on a skirt I haven't been able to wear for two years because I had no waist. It fits! So I got on the scale. I lost two pounds this week. Weight loss on this exercise program has been very slow but steady. For once, I truly believe that muscles weigh more than fat. My shape and posture have both changed.

So what could be bad about this? My sleep cycle is all goofed up. Some nights I am out like a log for nine or ten hours, and feel groggy the next day. Other nights I only seem to be able to sleep three or four hours. Then I'm alert, but wired.

Does this sound familiar to anybody? Please tell me it will even out soon! You can tell I only got three hours last night.


Truly Ugly Neckties

Came home from work today to find a bag of thrift store neckties on my doorstep. Some people would take that as a sign that a Mafia hit had been put out on them, or the condo homeowners association's self-appointed planetary overlord was highly displeased by the oil leaks in the parking lot. I had a rough day at work. My coworkers might have left the neckties as a symbol of my future noose should the electronic payroll transmission have been disrupted by my inadvertent logging on to the internet and bumping our bookkeeper off. Oops! If you don't hear from me, it will be because I'm swinging from the yardarm.

Went to a meeting about colleges with my son. Not to disrupt the presentation, I scooped around in my purse to find my phone, and turned it on to make sure it was turned off. Holy schmoly! I had two voice messages. The first message was an entertaining recording from the anonymous necktie donor wandering around my condo complex with a bag of unmarked neckties asking the residents about the location of my condo. The recording is so funny that I'm surprised no condo resident notified the police department bomb squad. "Hey, I've got these neckties. I'm in your complex. All the apartments look alike. You already knew that, but I've got these neckties. Do you live in 1703, 'cause I'm at 1703? I'll see if anyone knows....Hey! Do you know Nancy, the art teacher? I've got this bag of neckties and I....no, wait, I just want to leave these neckties. Do you know where she lives? No please, wait. Don't slam the door. I just want to find Nancy to give her these neckties... Yeah, some of them are really ugly, but some of them aren't so bad. I really thought they were nice, but my wife made me give them away...So do you know which apartment?"

And so, you ask, why would Anonymous leave a grocery bag of truly ugly neckties on an art teacher's doorstep? Because ugly neckties are sooooo coooool. My young students make the neckties into snakes and dragons. Sometimes my preteen students just decide to make weird fashion statements with my collection of neckties. Steven has photographed the most outstanding ties left on the doorstep. There are two I may need to keep! If you have neckties, there is probably an art teacher near you who could use them. And thanks for the good laugh!


Nothing up my sleeve

As I said in an earlier post, I'm not a grandma. My sons are the ages of several soldiers killed in an Iraq ambush this week. My sons have friends in the military, and other friends contemplating enlisting or going to college on a military career track. This track is not the same as the Sims version. In real life soldiers don't jump out of bed, swirl into their camo, nuke a quick breakfast, and run out to the street to hop into a jeep. In real life our soldiers are the Sims of the current administration. I am sad and disgusted. Please read:

Sunday, September 12, 2004 Seattle Times
Leonard Pitts Jr. / Syndicated columnist
Tickets to Bush magic show only thing 1,000 deaths bought

Three years later, Osama bin Laden is still free, apparently hiding somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Three years later, a spirited presidential campaign is in full swing, the candidates sparring over Vietnam.
Three years later, there comes news that the American death toll in Iraq has surpassed a thousand.
Iraq, as you know, is the front line in the War on Terror that began Sept. 11, 2001. Or at least, that's what the president keeps stubbornly saying and polls indicate half of us keep stubbornly believing. And never mind that intelligence experts say Iraq had about as much to do with Sept. 11 as Canada did. No need to focus too closely on that.
We're watching a sort of magic show, after all, public opinion manipulated like a handkerchief borrowed out of the audience. Nothing up his sleeve, presto! The lie becomes the truth.
And a thousand people die.
It's one of those numbers that always gets the news media's attention, carrying as it does the weight of a milestone. But I am reminded of something a reader told me after an earlier column lamenting the death toll that, at that point, stood just south of 600.
That's not that many, he said.
By the grim mathematics of war, he has a point. Even a thousand deaths represents the barest fraction of those who were lost in Vietnam. During the Civil War, many times that number often were lost in a single day.
Besides, the death count is slightly misleading, given that it includes not just Americans killed in action, but also those who died from accidents, suicides and other causes.
But the weight of the milestone is not so easily shrugged aside and, even given those caveats, a thousand lives lost is not an insignificant thing. "One" life lost is not insignificant. Especially when you consider all the mothers, fathers, children, husbands, wives, co-workers and friends each loss affects.
Of course, the sobering truth is that life is the currency of war, the means by which a nation purchases its goals when they cannot be obtained by peaceful means. Or when the nation refuses to wait for peaceful means to bear fruit.
Given that this currency is so precious, we're morally obligated to spend it carefully. So even though we're talking about "only" a thousand lives, it seems fair to pause and consider what they have bought.
Actually, it's easier to list the things they have not bought.
They have not bought a sense of security. Pollsters say more than half of us expect a terrorist strike in the near future.
They have not bought peace in Iraq. The death toll rose by four while I was writing this column.
They have not bought the world's respect. We are feared by allies and vilified by people we purported to liberate.
So what have those lives bought? As near as I can tell, only tickets to a magic show.
Maybe you consider that an insult to those who lost their lives in their country's service. I would only point out that the search for meaning in death has nothing to do with the dead. It is, rather, a comfort the living give themselves to soften the rough edges of mourning.
Will we insist on that comfort even if doing so requires us to believe what is not true?
That's a question I could not have imagined asking that September morning three years ago.
But three years later, the man who authored that unholy day is on the back burner.
Three years later, our moral authority is squandered, our sense of purpose wasted.
Three years later, the death toll in an unnecessary and unrelated war climbs above a milestone number.
And the president presents a magic show. Abracadabra! A quagmire becomes a showcase of his iron resolve. Maybe for his next trick, he will pull an election out of a hat.
You might be able to enjoy his act. I keep thinking we paid way too much to get in.
Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.'s column appears Sunday on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is: lpitts@herald.com
Copyright 2004, The Miami Herald


Lunch with the Dwarfs

After last week's Stain Defender lunch, I bit the bullet and put the second leaf into the dining table. A friend loaned me two folding chairs. Now I can seat eight of the high school kids.

I had turkey and pepper jack melts ready in the oven, fresh fruit salad and the requisite Peppermint Patties on the table, and chili on the stove when the guys arrived. As they walked in, one said, "What smells so good?" Another said, "Oh, look! The table is bigger." Stephen said, "Mrs. R., have I told you I love you?" We handed down the DPs and Cokes, and they sat down while I put sandwiches on plates and passed them down the sides of the table. When I started passing the bowls of chili, they got silly and started passing the bowls around and around the table like my preschool students sometimes do with their bags of popcorn.

"Where are the ladies?", I asked, referring to the two girls.
"They're crazy. They didn't come."
"We're serious, Mrs. R. We really look forward to lunch on Fridays. There's always lots of good food and it's fun."
"Yeah, those sandwiches with the avocado we had last time were an art form!" This from the giant Jason.

The six guys were totally relaxed around the larger table, and the lack of the girls changed the dynamic, of course. Fisch had two DPs and challenged Chris to a semi-mock fork fight in the living room. I broke it up when I began to fear for the tines. They all just laughed. As always, they made a good faith effort at cleaning up the paper plates and soda cans, and expressed their appreciation as they headed back to school. If Dopey had come back, I would have kissed him on his bald head. "What funny little men!", Snow White would say. She would mean young men, not little, in this case. I like Friday lunch as much as they do.

My mom's letters this week have the Disney stamps on the envelopes. I might have to rent "Bambi". I watched all of "Snow White" in July. I was cuing videos for summer camp, but got sucked into the incredible animation. One of Disney's animators on those films, Franklin Thomas, passed away this week at age ninety-two. I will thank him for his art everytime the gang comes to lunch.


I'm not a grandmother...

...but I play one on t.v. Well, not exactly, but I am older than the statistical average age of a first-time grandparent. I teach art to itty-bitty kids, and get enough hugs to have a hint about the joys of being a grandparent. I have sons who are 17, 19, and 22, so I keep my fingers crossed that I don't become a grandmother before I'm ready, but that is a different worry. I know lots of great picture books to read when I do become a grandmother, and I suspect sharing them will be one of my life's greatest joys.

I must look like a granny. One of my condo neighbors stopped me to say what a sweet grandson I have. I was somewhat stunned, to say the least, and couldn't really get out a response. Apparently, my seventeen-year-old knocked on her door to ask about the ding on her old car. He was afraid she thought he had done it. He does park his oil-leaking Batmobile next to her car, but he had not dinged it. Statistically, I am not old enough to be his average granny!

"What would happen if grandparents would vote the interests of their grandchildren who can't vote for themselves?"

I just read Ellen Goodman's op-ed about the Granny Voter project. The project asks all of us to think long-term when we go to the polls. Click here to read her op-ed piece, "Kids the secret to this granny's vote". What do enquiring Granny Voters want to know?

  • Will our grandchildren have a chance for decent jobs, good education and adequate healthcare?
  • Will our grandchildren live in a world of polluted air and water and disrupted climate?
  • Will our grandchildren carry a burden of debt for today's spending?
  • Will our grandchildren have the same rights we have today and be able to speak their minds openly and freely?
  • Will our grandchildren face rage and resentment created by the policies our government pursues?

For more information go to GrannyVoter.org. And just FYI, I am NOT planning to hide my gray hair. And yes, one of these days this blog will become CollageGrandma's Itty Bitty Blog!

Ogres of Literature and Politics

Cheney Spits Toads
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/09/opinion/09dowd.html?th and republished in many newspapers, even The Dallas Morning News today. You can look it up, as James Thurber would say. Ms. Dowd and I agree that the Vice President has been behaving like a Grimm Brothers' ogre.

One of my wittle fwee-year olds was chattering on about seeing Fwek Tvoo. It took serious concentration and eyeglass windshield wipers to figure out what she was talking about. Shrek II.

That's our Cheney in a word. Fee fi fo fum. Now Shrek is a William Steig ogre. Dick is real Grimm bad news at the top of the beanstalk.

I do wish I could sit John Kerry down on my knee and read Paul Galdone's version of "Puss and Boots" to him. It is time for the Democrat to put on tall red leather boots and start charming people with gifts from the "Marquis of Carabas". Mr. Kerry better get his wits together soon and trick the evil giant into transforming himself into a mouse so Puss can catch him and devour him. Time is running out.

Iraq was Halliburton's war from the beginning. Bring our troops home. Let Halliburton clean up its own mess and turn out the lights.


Swimming with Rainbow Sparkle

My exercise partner and I have been swimming laps for eight months now at the nearby Plano Aquatic Center. The pool opens at seven p.m. for lane swimming, and our swims this week have been magical. When I arrived this evening I was the only swimmer, so the water was very still. The huge windows on the west side of the building were all open, and the late sun was hitting the water just right to make dancing rainbow helix patterns on the bottom of the pool.

Twenty minutes later the sky had turned golden. The edges of the metal bleachers were reflecting the glow. The picture had changed to a perfect complementary color scheme of many blues and orange stripes.

By the time I climbed out of the pool, the sun was setting behind the high school practice field on the hill, and the sky was rosy. The pool surface was rippled with pink and turquoise sparkles.

It would be fun to make a time lapse photography movie inside the Aquatic Center. Now I am curious how the water looks when the sunrise peeks in through the large east windows. What might it look like when everyone is gone and the moon is full?


Baby, you can wash my car

At the end of most preschool classes while kids are finishing their projects and washing hands we get out some building toys that are like straws and jacks. Once their hands are clean they can build. Of course, all the little boys make "guns". Last week (the first class), I told them they couldn't "shoot guns", but they could wash my car. "Where's your car? What color is it? Why is it dirty? My gun can shoot water! My gun can shoot soap! Sssshhhhwwwwsssshhhhssshhh!" I told them they could wash my car while I drove through the car wash in my chair. They were delighted, and managed to not poke my eye out with their car washing wands. So today, they were so charged about washing my car they could barely make it through the art project and the hand-washing. They were relieved when I told them I hadn't been able to wash my car because it rained. I convinced them that a car-washer has a handle and a spout. That means they connected the straws at right angles. This seems so basic to you and I that we can't ever remember not being able to do it, but to them it is new stuff. The water seems to shoot at a much higher pressure when the wand has a handle, judging from the sound effects. Some of them could connect more straws so their car-washers also shot out suds, or dried my car. Some shot out yellow suds for the tires, some shot pink suds for the doors, and the best builders could also spray wax my car. Suddenly, some little guys were on their backs on imaginary mechanic's creepers "fixing the brakes" with the "tools" they built, and were making loud sound effects for drilling and welding and heaven knows what. The little girls replaced the headlight bulbs, and were ready for me to give them my credit card. You could almost smell the 10W30.


Houston, we have a problem or two

I grew up in the Space Age with the Friendship Seven, and JFK challenging us, "Before this decade is out..." The Space Age seemed to promise that if I drank Tang like the astronauts, learned fractions and decimals, and did fifty sit-ups for the President's Physical Fitness Test each year, that the technological benefits of Our Race To The Moon would belong to me and my generation. We went to sleep each night secure in the belief that by the time we were old enough to work at Spaceley Sprockets, flying cars would be ready to get us there. Like his boy Elroy, we would have robot maids to make beds, and taking care of our homes would be as easy as pi.

Yes, some Space Age Technology did trickle down to those of us still earthbound. We got Teflon and no-wax floors, frost-free refrigerators (as long as our spouses didn't leave six-packs of diet Coke in the freezer overnight), microwave popcorn, fiber-optic Christmas trees, Velcro shoes that light up, 24-Hour fitness centers and titanium golf clubs, Stain Defender pants, Thanksgiving turkeys with pop-up thermometers, and self-cleaning ovens. We got computers, which I appreciate. We got MTV, Talk Radio, and grocery self-checkout lanes, and whose fault is that??? Okay, maybe not NASA's. But did we get the flying cars?

Through Space Age Bureaucratic Oversights we also didn't get:

1. Self-degreasing mini-blinds
2. Self-returning library books
3. A universal sizing system for clothes so if you wear a 10-12 in one brand at Foley's you wear a 10-12 in all brands at Mervyn's
4. Clean air in our cities
5. Leaf-blowers and weed-whackers that operate on Silent Drive
6. Dog poop atom-blasters so you don't have to take Spike for a walk and carry around a ziplock baggie of hot ....
7. Outfits like Jane and Judy Jetson's
8. Everlasting elastic in boxer shorts
9. Steerable grocery carts
10. An understanding of that view of Earth from the moon that we are all on the same small planet and need to be respectful of each other and our Mother.


O, Happy Day!

There is a new Moosepath League book, Fiddler's Green. These delightful books have to be read in order, so be sure to start with Cordelia Underwood.


Thanks to Gregg & Duane, and Dickey Betts

Late last evening I popped the Allman Brothers "Decade of Hits" into the cd player while I worked on a millipede wire sculpture. The Allman Brothers may have saved my life in the early Nineties. I always say a little prayer of thanks when I hear "Jessica" or "Revival". Gregg, Duane, Dickey, and the guys made anthems of pure joy. One particularly hideous day those anthems probably kept me alive.

In the early Nineties my marriage was imploding, but I didn't realize it. For several years I'd been having extreme allergies and chronic sinusitis. The allergy symptoms were being mimicked in the manifestations of a severe depression and massive panic attacks. I was using sinus and allergy medicines to treat the depression and anxiety episodes. My self-confidence and self-esteem were so eroded that I doubted I could sit in a meeting of the parent-teacher organization board, let alone keep coherent minutes of the meeting. I was on the edge of agoraphobia, and my behavior was getting erratic. I had serious insomnia, and spent some nights sitting in the living room counting the bricks in the fireplace as a lifeline. Caring for my three small sons was the only thing giving my life form and routine.

One evening my husband actually came home for supper so that I could go to some sort of meeting. I got in the van shaking all over in anxiety. The radio was on, and the station started playing "seven at seven" (seven hits by a band at seven p.m.). It was the Allman Brothers Band. I chose to keep driving instead of going to the meeting, just so I could listen to the seven hits. I headed up highway 75 toward McKinney, out of suburbia and into farm country. The music was golden. The countryside was lush and green. The sunset was the pinks of roses, lantana, melons, and plum dumplings. It was overpowering the panic. I kept heading north toward Sherman feeling the first sense of calm in months. Somewhere between "Ramblin' Man" and "Midnight Rider" I got angry enough at my situation to vow I wouldn't let it destroy me. I had great little boys. The earth was a beautiful place.

I would love to report that my life was transformed in that moment. I turned around and headed home to my sons. I stayed in the horrible marriage for several more years, but I did get medicine for the panic attacks. The power of my drive north with "Melissa" was in reviving my sense that I had options and that life could be better.

Whatever type of music reminds you to watch the sunset, pop it in the cd player, and crank it up! Life is good.


Registered trademarks

The Friday lunch gang just left. I think I may need to put the other leaf in the table, and maybe find some folding chairs. Eight seniors, eight pops, ten ham and cheese on rye sandwiches, twelve donuts, one bag each Ruffles, carrots, and frozen niblets. When the last guy arrives he had to bring in the dirty plastic chair from the front step. Everybody says, "Wait! Don't you care about your pants?" "It's O.K.," he says, "They are Stain Defenders." So he proceeds into the kitchen and does a demonstration of the miracles of Stain Defender pants. I was unable to observe this part since I was trapped in my bedroom because of the crowd in the dining area. It must have been a very impressive demonstration, though.

There are workers out front power-washing the sidewalks. My homeowners association dues are going to wash the sidewalks?! The only reason I can think of for hiring someone to wash the sidewalks is that the someone is a relative of a condo board member and owns a power-washing business. I really wish we could have gotten the power-washers and the Stain Defenders together, but I would have needed another dozen Krispy Kremes.


Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

"Blogging will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no blogging."

I'm an aging hippie. I've heard a lot of variations on that slogan. Sex, beer, pot, books, rock & roll, religion, pizza, guacamole... I am pleased to report that blogging really is getting me through times of little money in pretty sane shape. I'm sure there are psychological terms for this sort of displacement. If you were feeling grumpy you might even call it procrastination or obsession, but I won't get upset. I can't. I'm too busy with this creative energy flow. I can only allot so many minutes to worrying about this problem because, after all, I have a blog to care for.

Maybe that is what it is like to have a pet dog. I've never had one. Maybe you just can't worry right now because your dog needs to be walked, fed, or brushed. Is my blog really Snoopy? Maybe you need to take your blog out for a bit of blog frisbee in the park. So far, my blog doesn't make me sneeze or break out in hives.

An aquarium doesn't really compare with a blog. I have had aquariums. Once in awhile I do have to flush last night's blog entry when it floats belly-up in the cold gray light of dawn, but I've never had to use a siphon.

Blogging seems to be about being observant, staying in the moment, and sharing one's energy. Maybe blogging is prayer in the same way that a smile is a prayer. There are certainly many writers who claim writing is a right or a sacrament.

"I ask God to make me willing to see clearly my everday experiences, to sharpen my perception of how much there is to enjoy, even in ordinary things and happenings. Let me be receptive. Restore to me my capacity for wonder."
from One Day at a Time in Al-Anon.

Ms. Wednesday

On Monday my students told me that they knew about another Ms. Nancy. "He's a spider, and he plays tricks," they said. It's true. Anansi the spider is a trickster of African folktales. I am sometimes a trickster of art classes, and have been known to teach spiderweb weaving projects. I only have two legs, though.

On Tuesday my students told me my name was Ms. Wednesday. It had never occurred to me how similar that sounds. I kind of like it. It's not as racy as Miss November, or as literary as the new novels about Thursday Next, but it's fun.

On Wednesday a student told me he knew another Ms. Nancy. "She is my French teacher, and she is really old, just like you." Great. You can see why I prefer being Ms. Wednesday! I also like it when a parent nudges his child and says in a stage whisper, "Look! It's Ms. Nancy, the craziest art teacher on the planet!" Boy, that makes my day.

Perhaps inspired by the woman I watched doing Tai Chi exercises on the lawn of the Santa Fe Post Office, I've been teaching line lessons through movements that are a mix of pantomime and modern dance. My goal is to impress on the kids the importance of using one hand to hold their paper on the table while they use the other hand to draw big, strong lines. I'm teaching them that pulled lines are stronger than pushed lines, that little snail lines only need our hands and fingers, but big whale lines need our whole arm and shoulder, and some hip-hop hiccup mountain lines (not to be confused with mountain lions) need us to move us our hips, knees and ankles. My knees and ankles haven't moved this way since I practiced tae kwon do side kicks with my boys when they were pretty little. It's been fun and effective. The kids are all game to mimic that old lady, Ms. Wednesday. They are all getting the idea of holding the paper in place while drawing. I believe occupational therapists call that a bilateral skill--your left hand isn't doing what your right hand is doing. If these little kids can get this skill by mimicking me doing a silly dance, it is worth it. But after Day Three I can barely move! Don't ask me to do the limbo.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...