Christ in Cleveland

Sometime in the mid to late Sixties Howie went to Cleveland for a seminar. It may have been when he got his certification to design bomb shelters, although I don't think he ever did design any. He did go hear the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, with George Szell conducting. He also brought me a few postcards from the art museum, and I still have one on my bulletin board. On the postcard, Georges Roualt's palette is more subdued and earthy.

It seems like a very simple, almost childish painting, and yet I can ponder this twenty-five cent reproduction for a half hour without realizing I'm doing so. What is it in the outline of the nose that makes me inhale deep into my sinus cavities and have a sense of the third eye? Why does the tilt of the head convey such deep compassion? Why does the small mouth suggest quiet, determined action rather than speech? Why do the large, cockeyed eyes evoke such wise external observation, such openness to all experience, and expanded inward eternal sight?


Behind the wheel, behind the scenes

Steven and I arrive at Opening Night of Carmen
We wish! Actually, it was a memory-making evening, even if we did drive the '96 Buick down to the Music Hall. The Dallas Opera production more than met my expections. Steven didn't moan about wearing his suit, didn't get Quiznos crumbs all over it, and looked very handsome (Every mom's crazy 'bout her sharp-dressed son.)
At the intermission after Act I we wandered outside for some air, and walked over to check out the luxury auto on display. Steven immediately knew, with his seventeen-year-old male cosmic connection to All Things Automotive, that the mysterious hood ornament was the mark of a Maybach. The back doors were open, and after a couple circuits of the car, we were invited to sit inside next to the champagne cooler to admire the burled Indonesian wood carried out of the jungles by elephants just to grace this vehicle's interior. I peeked my head in for a look-see. Steven asked if he could sit in the driver's seat instead. "But of course, sir, but please remember the motor is running."
Maybach's don't have dealerships. They have studios--one here in Plano, and another in Dallas. I don't know what to call the sales representative for an automotive studio. He and Steven engaged in a discussion of the V12 gas engine that takes it from zero to six million mph in fifteen seconds even though the vehicle weighs over 6000 pounds, and the B-4 level security features that deflect .44 caliber bullets at point blank range and galactic death rays from further out. I was impressed with the way the man treated Steven as though he would be buying his own Maybach 62 as soon as he signs his celebrity endorsement contract next week. "Could you get used to driving this?" he asked. "Oh, yes, in an instant. I felt just like James Bond." Perhaps I could ride in the back with the champagne and be M for mom.
Price was not discussed, except that if you have to ask about fuel economy you can't afford the Maybach. According to Luxury Nation the MSRP is $359500. I believe Steven is looking forward to Opening Night of "Jenufa" just to see what luxury vehicle will be on display!
After the incredible arias of Latonia Moore as Micaela, and the breath-taking conclusion in front of the terrific arena set, we got to go backstage for a personal tour. Our guide knew how much I would groove on seeing the prop goat the butcher hauls over his shoulder through the crowd scene, and the weathering effect on the bullfight posters on the arena walls. We even got to shake hands with the supernumerary peasant who pushes the wheelbarrow of steaming offul past the lounging soldiers in Act I. I forgot to get his autograph, though!

Too close friends

Two large lizards have decided to hang out on the inside of my sliding door screen. They really like it there in the sunshine, and are reluctant to leave. Normally it doesn't matter, but today it's finally, finally cool enough to have the windows open. I can't open the sliding door until the lizards vacate the premises. I like them very much. They are mighty cute and entertaining. Still, I don't want them roaming around in my bedroom.


Toro! Toro!

Bullfights make me giggle. I've never been to one, of course. We don't do that sort of thing in Nebraska. Bullfights are normally a serious, polarizing concept. Either you believe they are the supreme artistic dance of death, or you believe they are the most despicable example of animal cruelty.

Tomorrow night Steven and I will finally see the Dallas Opera production of "Carmen". I've been looking forward to this for months, and not just because Teddy Tahu Rhodes will be wearing the pink stockings of Escamillo. I'd be just as excited if Daffy Duck was performing the role of the matador.

Most of what I know about opera I learned watching Looney Toons in black and white on a 15" television. The rest I learned from silly routines with Captain Kangaroo, Dancing Bear, and Mr. Moose, or from my dad's songs about spittoons.

A year ago I went to my first opera, and I couldn't wait to get out of the Music Hall. After my second opera, though, I was hooked. Since then my friends have helped me overcome my Looney Toons background. Still, when I close my eyes and listen to the cd, I'm likely to see Daffy Duck strutting on my eyelids in his hat and cape.

In 1966 we went on a family vacation to Estes Park, Colorado. We stayed in a cottage motel on Highway 7. It looked way, way down the hill on a golf course and homes. Every evening a small boy came out of one of the homes and played bullfighting with his small black fluff dog. The little boy would swirl about with a bath towel, yelling, "Toro! Toro!" The little dog would go crazy with glee and charge all around the backyard. Their perfectly matched exertion and joy were contagious to those of us spectating from far above. Each time we watched the entire performance. I wasn't all that much older than that little boy, but I sensed a gulf from his carefree immersion in the present moment.

Play hard. Listen well. Suspend disbelief.


Lizard buddies

I've put some of Steven's new photos in my index on the left. If you want to see more of them, click the link over there for "Steven's Photos". I love the iron! He encountered this cooperative lizard sitting on the cables of his bike in our shed when he went out to look at all the gourds.

Have a great day, and keep your eyes open for surprises.


The Days Were Just Packed

Life just hasn't been the same without Calvin and Hobbes. Sure, I have comic strips I follow, but there are so many days when I could use a trip in the transmogrifier, or a laser battle with Spaceman Spiff.

My weekend was just packed by my standards. I am accustomed to a max of one notation per day in my DayTimer. Preferably, that notation is for an event before noon, so I can check it off my list and take my shoes off ASAP. So it was strangely peculiar, as my old friend, Papenfuss, used to say, that I would flip through "The Guide" in Friday's Dallas Morning News, and rush to buy a ticket for the Dallas Theater Center's production of "The Importance of Being Earnest".

Deep down I must have known I needed quality laugh therapy. You just can't beat cucumber sandwiches for handling that appetite. My oldest son once played Algernon in a middle school production of "Earnest". Nowadays he is Bunburying in grad school at Indiana-Bloomington. I am remembering his director, Laith M. Radif, a wonderful teacher, muse, and friend lost to AIDS in December 1997.

The last time I went to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Kalita Humphries Theater I had just finished kindergarten. Now I am forty-nine and a half. I wondered if I would have a sense of deja vu all over again. As I took the cramped stairway down to the restrooms it all flashed before my eyes. The red tile in the bathrooms, the feeling of being inside a nautilus, even the rain outside seemed the same.

The weekend was also packed with soccer, volunteering at a Whiz Quiz tournament, and taking photos of the homecoming couple. It was a great, packed weekend. I just need an empty one to catch up now.


Homecoming Kodak Moment

Steven and his date posed in front of the clean and shiny Batmobile. They strategically positioned themselves in front of the dent, so it wouldn't detract from the effect of the way-cool Z car. The wrist corsage of white roses looked lovely, just so you know he actually did order it in between lunches. They are now off to dinner at PF Chang in a group of five couples.

Jason, of the lunch gang, is off to homecoming in a different group of couples where all the girls are named Sarah. I've always suspected that half the girls born in 1987 were named Sarah. Baby names intrigue me, partly because I teach small kiddies and have to write their names on art projects. This year I am overwhelmed with Isabels and Isabellas. Jack is the most common boy name in my upper-class Caucasian student set. Sometimes I have three Jacks in a class of 24 kids.

My own name was in the top ten during the 1940's and '50's. There are only a handful of Nancy's born after the mid-60's. I wonder if it will ever come back into style. In my first grade class of thirty kids there were five Nancy's, so we had to use our middle names. There were a lot of Bobby's, Julie's, Debbie's, Mike's, and Carol's too. I always worry how it will affect a child when teachers have to modify his/her name. I became Nancy Lou in 1960. Would I have grown up more graceful and romantic if I had become Nancy Louise?

Steven's date had a classy, slightly retro black satin dress for the dance. The trim was a shade of pink I can only describe as Baskin Robbins Cold Duck Ice. Slam me back to 1972!

By the way, when Steven went to the Z Car Club meeting Wednesday he won a door prize. I am wondering when he will get around to reading it:



Sat down to watch the ALCS game seven on Wednesday night. I truly wanted to watch Kevin Brown pitch to the Sox, but there were visible electrical cords from the t.v., vcr, and dvd player to two different outlets, plus the wire for the cable t.v. dangling and snarling in plain view. Slap me with the defibrillator paddles because I just can't handle this aesthetic aggravation! Obviously, I don't sit down to watch t.v. in the living room more than twice a year, or I might have noticed the cable wire. It's been a year and a half since we got cable.

Rearranging furniture is always a stress relief activity for me. I can't control the world OUT THERE, so I shove heavy furniture and major home appliances around and try to balance the design aesthetics of original art works with the Auto Zone car battery that has been plunked down in the living room for at least two weeks.

I hope to sit down tomorrow night and watch the Tech-UT game and game one of the Series. It's going to be challenging, since they are on simultaneously. Glad I won't have the wire distraction to steal my focus.


O, Best Beloved, Where Art Thou?

My copy of The Just So Stories is missing in action. I have so many stacks of stuff at home and at work, and it's just got to be here somewhere. Rudyard could probably explain that CollageMama "humphed" instead of filing and putting things away ever since the work began, and she will just have to deal with it. And wouldn't Rudyard be a good name for a junkyard dog?

I am one of the world's luckiest inhabitants. My mother rocked me in the yellow Eames rocking chair when I was tiny, and read Kipling to me in the mornings after Captain Kangaroo and the Arthur Godfrey Show ended. Arthur Godfrey had a ukelele, and the Captain had Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, the ping-pong balls, Mr. Green Jeans, the Banana Man, the Magic Drawing Board, Bainter the Painter, Dancing Bear, and stories. Oh, what wonderful, gentle stories! Caps for Sale, The Littlest Snowman With the Red Candy Heart, Ping, Make Way for Ducklings, Millions of Cats, Stone Soup, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel!

I put together a whole curriculum for a summer art/drama camp about Australia because the Captain used to sing "Waltzing Matilda" forty years ago. I still wish a jolly swagman would sit beside my billibong and eat marzi doats and doesi doats. Some of my strangest nightmares may have origins in the Magic Drawing Board's version of "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea." Bob Keeshan was the genius that defined my childhood, even more than Dick, Jane, and Sally. I even saw Captain Kangaroo IN CONCERT! Yes, at Lincoln's Pershing Auditorium. It was a totally big girl event. A babysitter was engaged to deal with my brother and baby sister. I'm nearly fifty, and I've never felt more grown-up than going to that event.

When a story begins, "O, Best Beloved," you know you will be traveling in a special jungle. It is the same as, "Once upon a time," but without the shining armor. I am sad when people reduce the Kipling experience to the thumbnail plot outline. Kipling is all about language; words, wonderful words, swirling in dust storms across the outback or wallowing in the great grey-green Limpopo River, more patterned than a bicolored python rock snake, and absolutely feeding my "satiable curiotity".

"O, Best Beloved," the stories would begin, and my mom and I still call each other Best Beloved (pronounced Bee-luv-Ed). Did I obsess that I would be spanked by adults as the Elephant's Child was spanked by his aunts and uncles because of his endless questions? Of course not. Did I go out and paint myself with fingertips dipped in mud like the leopard? Well, only that one time, and I'm almost over feeling guilty.


Mr. Suave

Last evening my dear youngest son, resident teen, and social animal asked me if he needed to buy a corsage for his homecoming date. [The mum is not actually for the dance, even though it cost sixty bucks to make.] It was a special moment when we were having an actual conversation that didn't involve rolling eyes or saying, "Duh." I told him that he did indeed need to buy a corsage and he needed to order it tomorrrow at the latest. I suggested he could go order it at lunchtime. "Oh, no, Mom. Alex's mom is making lunch, and I NEVER MISS LUNCH!" Okay, he still has his priorities straight!

So then he asked what kind of corsage to get. I explained the wrist corsage vs. the regular kind, and asked about his date's dress. He queried, "How do you put the regular kind on?" I answered, "YOU pin it on." I thought he was going to choke on his Adam's apple, and I hadn't even mentioned that her parents would be watching this operation. It's good to know he isn't always Mr. Suave. I'm betting on the wrist corsage. [And don't you dare tell him his date's mom would probably pin the corsage on for him. A little fear is a good thing.]

Got home from swimming tonight and asked if the corsage had been ordered. Dumb mom question. Of course not. I explained again about ordering the corsage in advance, and again suggested his lunch break. "But Fish's mom is making lunch tomorrow!" So, if you see a corsageless girl at homecoming Saturday night, you will know her date is my son. And, yes, the way to a guy's heart is still through his stomach.


Through the bugs on the windshield

So there I am driving on back roads this afternooon, seeing coyote, deer, many roadrunners, countless scissortails, gorgeous red earth, blonde and pink grasses, white cotton, vultures, and my hawks. I'm heading back toward Dallas from Lubbock on Highway 82 to Seymour, then on deserted roads to Archer City. Outside the window there is poverty, decay, erosion, promise, creation, renewal, ripeness and light. "Carmen" is blaring, and cleansing quiet tears are streaming....Must refill the windshield wiper fluid!

I'm not good at crying. Tears rarely come to the surface without whacko hormonal assistance. If they did, maybe I would view life through a cleaner mental windshield.



Capistrano has the swallows. Oklahoma has the scissortail fly-catchers. Nebraska has forsythia bushes and pussywillows.

In Dallas I look for signs that fall is returning even if it brings the dadgum ragweed pollen. North Texas has about two days of classic fall weather each year. You have to pay attention so you don't miss them. Since shorts weather goes from Valentine's Day to Thanksgiving some years, I was delighted to spot the first corduroy of the season today. It's not even Halloween yet, so this is very encouraging. I saw a Longhorn orange long-sleeved corduroy shirt and a yellow corduroy mini-skirt with hot pink "Smiley Face" tights and groovy pink patent leather Mary Janes in my preschool class this afternoon. I haven't been so excited since that time I saw the Painted Bunting down at Enchanted Rock State Park.

Preschool teachers love the official switch to long pants for students. Shorts season is very long here, and provides children of all genders many opportunities for self-exploration. There are those two days of classic fall weather. Blink. Tedious pseudo-winter will kick in before we know it. Then preschool nasal mining operations shift into high gear.

There's a shortage of flu vaccine. Still, the best prevention is frequent and thorough hand-washing. Hanging out with kids makes me wash my hands a hundred times a day. Ewww.


He's AWOL, Horatio!

Alas, poor Yorick! I can't find my Halloween skull that is really a carved and painted coconut. I can't find my memory, either. This premenopausal grogginess is so weird. Scarier than preschoolers in blue Power Ranger and Belle costumes, that's for sure.

Halloween of '96 was the first major holiday after the divorce when my kids were with their father. In the original custody plan the boys would hang out with their dad every Halloween, and with me every Valentine's Day. I had high hopes of teaching them how to treat a lady on Febr. 14.

How strange now to think.... I remember getting off work at the library, and stopping at Target on the way home. Along with the necessities, I had purchased a string of green dancing skeleton lights, JUST BECAUSE I LOVED THEM. This was a break-through. I was in such a state of depression that I rarely knew what I liked or wanted. I am still discovering these preferences eight years later.

My old friend from Oklahoma met me at home and helped carry in groceries and hang the skeleton lights. I wasn't used to having anyone help me with anything. I wasn't used to having an actual discussion with an adult-type person. Especially, I wasn't used to a cherishing, supporting hug. I was confused about having a conversation that emphasized our intellect and intimacy, or enjoying a hug that was intended to convey fondness and respect instead of ownership. I wasn't used to choosing my own course of action, to making My Final Answer. I didn't have a clue how to be a middle-aged single woman.

That Halloween was a very scary time. The challenges ahead were terrifying. I was awakening from a long period of zombie dead emotions. I was entangled in the bandages of the Mummy. I needed lots of Halloween bite-size Milky Ways and Snickers, Hersheys Miniatures, and lucky Milk Duds. I want to thank the ghosts and ghouls, goofs and grocery checkout clerks who helped me through that time!



Breezed into my favorite post office in Richardson, TX (Motto: We won't make you want to gnaw your leg off to get out of this trap!) when it opened at 8:30 this morning. Mailing a family portrait of three GQ guys and their old chrome-top mom to my parents. Lucked out and got my favorite civil servant, a chatty English-speaking guy who looks like a somewhat past-fifty former surfer who enjoys his Coronas. I noticed the Buckminster Fuller commemorative stamp on the poster of "new issues", and was stunned to see the stamp came out in July. Where was I? How did I miss this? Why do I feel like I am being sucked down into the rabbit hole of Memory Lane? I don't have time for Memory Lane! Why does the rabbit hole look like the hair dryer of an early Barbie? I've got to get to work!

Flashback to 1976, University of Nebraska... Mary and I decide during lunch at the student union to cut class and go hear Bucky Fuller speak to an association of Nebraska architects in the auditorium of Sheldon Gallery. The auditorium is full, but we slip in and sit on the steps in the aisle. It's winter. I sense our midi-length wool coats bunched around us on the steps, and suspect we had on knee-high leather boots. Bucky is a visionary Mr. Magoo, all bald head and black Coke bottle glasses and high-energy stubborn conviction about better living through geometry. He is much cuter and crazier than the image on the postage stamp... A just-hatched baby archaeopteryx, featherless. You kinda want to rub his head for luck.

Flashback further to 1957, Lincoln. Sometimes I wonder if it was real, but I remember my dad having a homemade model of a geodesic dome in the basement of our duplex when I was two years old. You know how sometimes you think it is an authentic memory, but it turns out to be a distortion from an actual family slideshow to ward off cabin fever during a blizzard forty years ago? You think you travelled to Bismarck, North Dakota in 1960, but it turns out you ate a bismarck with a carton of chocolate milk at a diner in Marysville, Kansas on a rainy day? You remember getting carsick in the backseat of the '54 Chevy when you went driving around the reservoir dam that was under construction in that plastic raincoat that didn't breathe? Still, for the next twenty-plus years you checked North Dakota off on the map of States I Have Visited... So, I maybe just think Howie had that model of a geodesic dome, but for thirty years I expected that when he retired he would build a real dome out in the backyard.

So, the civil surfer servant said, "You really want those stamps? No one has ever asked for those stamps. We can't get rid of them. Didn't that guy make geo-dweeezy domes or something?" The stamps are truly ugly. They look more like Dr. Strangelove-Does-Epcot than Bucky. I will be glad to use them to mail Mary and my parents. The civil servant is crossed off my Prince Charming list, though!

Back to the Future

Read some of my email when I got up at five. Some were sent at 6:44 and 8:44 a.m. Tues. I always laugh when I get emails from the future. I've tried to adjust the clock for my computer and my Comcast, and it hasn't made any difference. It really doesn't matter. It's not like I'm involved in insider trading. The emails were really sent about 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.

Was aware of the sound and aroma of my coffee maker automatically making my morning coffee at some point, but went back to sleep. Woke up again at 5 a.m. Geez. I thought I set the coffee maker for six a.m. Now I'm getting coffee from the past to go with email from the future. Where is Michael J. Fox with that DeLorean? This afternoon when my most precious class decides to play "carwash", I will imagine myself in the DeLorean instead of the Buick. Wonder if the DeLorean has a cupholder.

And yes, I'm really posting at 06:11 a.m., Tues., Oct. 12, 2004!


Not Wade Away

Over a decade ago I had the good fortune to bond with a friend over a discussion of an Ann Tyler novel in which the main character just walked away from her family down a Florida beach. It was a very appealing fantasy for both of us. Carole and I have been swimming laps for exercise this year, and we might qualify as "old swimmers". I know our friendship will not wade away.

Swam seventy lengths at the pool today. I keep increasing my "monster" swim. Sometimes I swim a shorter workout, but the long one is sooooo relaxing. I keep my mind busy calculating fractions and percents, and observing the water colors. In weak moments I also worry that my swimsuit is fading away. Today the worry was real. I had to throw my swimsuit in the trash.

I'm hoping to visit Mike in Lubbock next weekend. While he is at work I will go to the Buddy Holly Center. I know my suit will not wade away!

Not Fade Away
by Buddy Holly

I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
you’re gonna give your love to me
I wanna love you night and day
you know my love a-not fade away
a-well, you know my love a-not fade away
My love a-bigger than a cadillac
I try to show it and you drive a-me back your love for me a-got to be real
for you to know just how I feel
a love for real not fade away
I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
you’re gonna give your love to me
a love to last a-more than one day
a love that’s love - not fade away
a well, a-love that’s love - not fade away

Hokey hot glue, Bullwinkle!

The mum is done. Long live the mum.
What would Mr. Peabody say if Sherman decided to go to PSHS Homecoming with the Queen of Denial? Would Mr. Peabody and Captain Peachfuzz help Sherman unroll Cleopatra from her rug.? Would Sherman double date with Dudley Do-Right and Nell? Can CollageMama trip the watusi and do the frug in the Wayback Machine?

The homecoming mum aesthetic tradition in the Lone Star State (i.e. BigHairistan) makes me want to dress like Natasha and hurl those cannonball bombs willy nilly. This is the ultimate in tacky. It is too tacky for Frostbite Falls.

In civilized places, homecoming mums are just fresh spider mums, not monstrosities with floor-length cowbells! I think I'm breaking out in a satire rash. Get the calomine lotion, Rocky.


Reader discretion advised

This entry contains some material that may be inappropriate for younger readers. PG-13

Friday was just excellent. It was the sort of day that should really be "put on your permanent record" instead of the things we always worried were recorded there. Spent the morning at Janie's farm watching the goats, her persimmon-eating pig, and cats wrestling on top of the pool table. After sipping tea with gluten-free brownies, we put on boots to go out in the mud to pick gourds. My big feet had to wear her husband's boots, but they were lost inside them. I walked just like the preschoolers who come to class in big brother's footgear. Janie sat down on the seat of the miniature tractor without noticing the puddle, so the two of us looked like characters from Mayberry.

Major mud and laugh therapy was good for both of us. It's great to know the spirit stays the same when the hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes are lost to chemo. We didn't talk about her ordeal. I admired the way Janie's getting more "crusty". She stands up for herself and seems stronger in some ways than I have ever seen her.

We loaded the Buick trunk with birdhouse gourds to finish drying in my shed. Eventually my students can paint them (and we can play Shaman-For-A-Day) if I can bear to share the fun. As I was unloading the gourds my Wagnerholic lesbian masseuse neighbor walked over to ask what they were. I explained in detail. She responded, "Well, they would make good mammary implants." Yikes!

Since I was so muddy, I put on my swimsuit before I rushed to the aquatic center. Did my short, faster swim instead of my relaxed lengthy swim. After my shower, I discovered I had clean clothes in my bag, but I'd forgotten unmentionables. Terrified two petite Chinese-speaking ladies when I tried to squirm my damp, middle-aged Rubenesque bod into jeans without...They ran screaming from the locker room like extras from the original "Godzilla". Perhaps some blog surfer will find this entry by searching "warm", "moist", "tight", and "bouncing". I am sorry to report that "slippery" was not an applicable adjective.

This is Border's Book Store's "Educator Appreciation Weekend"so I went for the 25% discounts. Good coffee, total zone-out browsing, a chair massage, and a discount on Curious George and Paul Fleischman's Weslandia. What more could a gal want??? Well, she wanted this, too, so she treated herself:

Maria Muldaur's Richland Woman Blues cd is a collection of historic blues songs from the 1920's-1930's. The songs were created by Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Mississippi John Hurt, and Leadbelly, among others. Bonnie Raitt, John Sebastion, Dave Mathews, and other musicians join Maria.

Here's a link to Mississippi John Hurt's lyrics:


An artist needs three things

On this day in 1930, William Faulkner's novel As I Lay Dying was published. Faulkner said that of all his books, he liked As I Lay Dying the best. He also said, "A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others."

My email from The Writer's Almanac supplied that quote. I'm always teaching kids about these three things, things remembered, things seen, and things imagined. We play with different combinations of the three in all our creations. The elementary art class that has been the most involved in creating our treehouse installation made sketches of that installation today. They were making drawings of what they saw, which was something they had imagined and brainstormed and created. By sketching the treehouse they were enhancing their memory of the creative process and of the creative product. I sincerely hope they were envisioning future creations!

Do you remember learning to braid? The writer or artist is braiding experience, observation, and imagination at all times. Did Neanderthals know how to braid? When did Homo Sapiens learn? Learning to braid is a braid! What leap in thinking led a person to cross the reeds or hair just so to make a braid? Did that person already have a spoken language? How did that person visualize this advance? Did the next generation imagine how to make rope? Did the next imagine spinning wool? Knitting? Crochet? Good grief. Did a Neanderthal macrame a plant hanger for her apartment/cave? Did her mate observe spiderwebs before creating the first fishing net or hammock?

What about the storytellers? When did they begin to braid the retelling of the day's mammoth hunt with comparisons to other remembered hunts,or embellish it with remembered sounds and inflections, and imagined powerful nature spirits?


Gordie Doll

When I was very little, I got a boy baby doll for a present, and I named it Gordie Doll. I'm not sure why I even thought it was a boy doll, since dolls in the mid-Fifties certainly didn't have any telltale features. Gordie Doll didn't have hair like my Tiny Tears. His molded rubber head had a few textured swirls to hint at hair, but they were not colored. Okay, basically Gordie Doll was a bald baby. Being two, I decided he looked like my parents' architect friend, Gordie. I am not sure that the architect was flattered to have a namesake. Most of the time Gordie Doll just wore a white terry cloth bathrobe that my mom had made. The robe had "Dolly" stitched in red cursive letters on the back like a boxer's robe. Gordie Doll was not as high tech and interactive as Tiny Tears. It was not possible to give Gordie Doll a bottle of water.

Thinking of Gordie Doll brings up smell and texture memories even more than visual images. I have no memory of the actual architect, but I can smell the doll and the warm wood smell of the picnic table where it was probably left out in the sun all afternoon. Wonder what area of my brain synapses would light up in scientific tests!

An old buddy has been growing birdhouse gourds out at her farm. She's also been in chemotherapy this year. Janie knows I am into gourds, and the various ways they are used and decorated around the world. I'm wondering if my interest in gourds was triggered by my ancient fondness for Gordie Doll. Janie has gourds for my students to decorate for maracas or birdhouses. I'm excited anticipating a jaunt to her farm to collect the gourds Friday. Do we still make the same powerful sensory memories at age forty-nine as at age two? I bet the gourds will be as bald as Gordie Doll.


That's a mighty happy fish!

One on-going job of an art teacher is helping children learn to respect and enjoy other people's artwork. By the time preschoolers are ready for an art class, they've usually learned to appreciate an object without immediately putting it in their mouths. They've rarely learned to appreciate it without touching or climbing on it, though. As my blog today is about self-control, I will exercise restraint and refrain from making any comparisons to grown men at this time.

We have an ever-changing display of student art at school. Large group collaborations like murals stay on display the longest, since they don't belong to any one student. You saw the seven foot long shark named Larry that we made this summer. Larry swims in the lobby these days, and is in perpetual danger of having his teeth pulled out by children who are at their own wiggly/lost tooth phase.

By happy chance, I was doing a silly cowgirl imitation when I took the new students on a tour of the school last month. At each piece of art I would put my hands on my hips, lean way back, and drawl, "Now that's a mighty fine _______ (shark, camel, jungle mural...)." Pretty soon they were all imitating me, saying, "Why that's a mighty tall beanstalk," or, "Say, that's a mighty colorful zebra," with their hands on their hips. The great thing was, when the kids were mighty-fining, they weren't touching the art. Dang! Why didn't this rodeo clown figure that out a dozen years ago?

My elementary students are collaborating on a treehouse installation. So far our tree is full of squirrels and girls, a ladder, and a bucket on a rope. Soon we will add a tire swing, birdhouses, and birdfeeders. I was very afraid kids would actually try to climb the tree or the ladder made out of toilet paper tubes. Back to teaching a refresher course in mighty-fine!

Seems to me that men should be able to hook their thumbs in their belts, pretend to be Wild Bill Hickok, and drawl the observation, "That's a mighty bodacious female." After all, when we art teachers went to see The Motorcycle Diaries, we were able to put our hands on our cheeks, appreciate Gael Garcia Bernal, and gasp, "That's a mighty superior specimen of a man!," and "That's a mighty lucky hammock!"



You say you want a revolution

The Motorcycle Diaries is a visually gorgeous, sometimes powerful, frequently funny movie about Ernesto Guevara before he became Che. It is also a reminder of youth, idealism, intensity, false invulnerability, and the decisions we make in our early twenties that shape the rest of our lives.

Decisions I made in my early twenties have been shaping my life for over twenty-five years. Life has a way of slipping from idealism into pragmatism while we sleep, which is a good thing for the continuation of the species. Life slips from risk-taking to caution, too, which isn't bad. If we aren't careful, though, it slips from intensity into lukewarm freeze-dried instant decaf with powdered non-dairy creamer. Perhaps the challenge of our fifties is to remix our personal blends of intensity, curiosity, philosophy, and risk-taking, with our acquired judgment, skills, and long-range view. We've done the radical roadtrips, and we've buckled precious children into safety carseats. Collectively we have more power to change the world for the better than Che and his small group of Bolivian rebels ever did.


Mum's the word

This is so very groovy! I have been invited to Homecoming at last! Steven's friend Stephen went through all the girls on his cellphone list, and decided I was his best bet. Never mind that his classic Datsun 240Z was made after I graduated from Lincoln East High School in 1973. (His car is often as reluctant to start in the mornings as I am!) Never mind that my best friend and I went on a spring break road trip in March of '75 in her 260Z to Purdue and Michigan State.

Speaking of roadtrips, I am going to see "The Motorcycle Diaries" tomorrow. Che+Machu Pichu+Mexican heartthrob actor=diversionary anticipation. When I was a senior in high school I wrote a big research paper over the Christmas break entitled "Cuba After Castro". I typed it on my dad's 1928 Fleetwood (I'm hazy on these particulars) with carbon paper.

Royal pain in the glass

I have a visual memory of Humphrey Bogart riding in an elevator with a crisscross lattice door. I'm in search of that cinematic source. Okay, I'm not searching very hard, but I did decide to reserve the Bogart movies from the public library just for fun. I've seen "Casablanca", "Maltese Falcon", and "African Queen" several times, of course. I've seen the "Caine Mutiny" and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre", but it's been a really long time. I'd never seen "Sabrina" until today. It was the first of my library reserves to become available.

This hasn't been a stellar weekend except that my mom got to go home from the hospital after two weeks. My computer was attacked by a terrible case of chicken pop-ups, small pop-ups, swine, monkey, and avian pop-ups. I had to guide it through a traumatic psychic rebirthing experience known as system restore, and then reinstall and reset EVERYTHING. Now I'm teaching it to ride a bicycle with training wheels and taking lots of Polaroids. They're so cute when they're little!

When Steven jumped into his Batmobile to zoom to work at 8:45 a.m., he found the passenger window bashed in, and his CD player stolen AGAIN. I actually went out in the condo parking lot in my jammies (a first in 7 1/2 years) to help him swear and listen to him rant about getting a shotgun. Ranting in this case is healthy. Shotguns are never healthy, but I understood the feeling. A police occifer straight off "The Simpsons" arrived and took down just the facts, ma'am. He didn't actually take fingerprints or anything. Steven drove my car to work, and I spent the morning trying to clean up the glass and talking to neighbors.

In about 1976, my parents went out to Colorado to pick up my brother from Rocky Ridge Music Camp. My sister and I stayed home since we were very mature and employed. One night the tv screen just shattered and fell out on the living room carpet in a bizarre glass avalanche while we were asleep. It's amazing what a heap of "snow and ice" the glass of one front passenger-side window or one tv screen can make. The glass shards today were all over the car, down inside the door, down inside the seats, and sprayed all over three parking spaces.

In the mid-Nineties my oldest son had to make a "project" about a symbol of Texas history. Apparently the middle school teacher's expectations were of the toilet paper tube cannon or covered wagon shoebox variety. Being uninitiated, Jeff made a 2'x3' mosaic of the Alamo using stones, shells, broken tiles, and automobile glass that I carefully scavenged from the site of a fender bender on our street. The history teacher gave the project a B, and commented that it was "almost like art". Jeff was insulted and I was disgusted. We ranted, but shotguns weren't mentioned. I really liked the mosaic sky made of the auto glass shards. We still have the Alamo mosaic.

Today I managed to refrain from collecting the broken glass for future art projects. I'm getting so healthy I can even throw away the occasional toilet paper tube, which is a major feat for an art teacher. More on this topic later!

When the auto glass repair team arrived to replace the car window, they couldn't get the door unlocked for at least half an hour. After my clean-up efforts I had locked the car door, even though the window was wide open. Oops. Once they got the door open with a slim jim, things didn't get much easier. When the Bad Guy(s) popped the window, they managed to break the connectors that hold the window in place. We have to get those connectors from the Nissan dealer, and it is five o'clock on Saturday... So now we have a new Batmobile window, but it's held in place with tape. At least I got to keep the corrugated cardboard portfolio with handle that the window glass came in!

To complete the day, I enjoyed watching William Holden sit down on two champagne glasses, and have the glass shards removed from his posterior in black and white. I enjoyed "Sabrina" very much, even if Bogie didn't ride in the right elevator. My brunette bouffant Barbie had Audrey's Sabrina evening gown!


Paint on that comfort food!

Stapling is hard work. My little students are making fierce lion headdresses. They are learning to hold their scissors the right way so the dangerous alligator can do its biting. They are transforming squares into octagons. They are folding and curling papers.

I've been stapling the components of lion headdresses all week. No classes today, but my hand is still sore from stapling. For a treat I went to the closest fabulous fingernail place. The hand massage by the manicurist helped my staple strain.

Didn't realize until I got back home that I chose a polish that looks exactly like Campbell's Tomato Soup! Guess I've been a bit stressed lately.


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