My True Calling

This CollageMama is so old that she learned to build things with Legos using her imagination. In the olden days of the 1960's, Legos were sold without movie tie-ins or restricting instructions. They were for building, just like Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, alphabet blocks, and Erector Sets. We used my brother's Legos to build many things, but our favorite activity was constructing camper vans and pick-up campers. These were the glory days of Sunday t.v. with Ed Sullivan, Topo Gigio, Davey and Goliath, My Favorite Martian, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Lost in Space. We drank Fresca without fear of cyclamates. It was a different world. Dinah Shore sang about seeing the "USA in your Chevrolet", and Alexander Calder designed Braniff airplanes.

Dallas is losing its Delta Airlines hub and many jobs this month. Flight attendants and pilots are being transferred to other hubs like Salt Lake City and Atlanta. I heard part of "Car Talk" on NPR today while driving to Target. One caller asked Click and Clack about living in an old VW Westfalia Synchro camper van (Segment Six) in the long-term parking of the San Francisco airport. She was a pilot being transferred from her home in Alaska. I wonder if she was a Mattel Little Kiddle.

A Dallas friend of mine will have to be based in Salt Lake City to keep her job. This is extremely inconvenient, especially since she will also have to spend many nights in Omaha. She needs to know about the Car Talk camper van plan. I could build her a camper van if I had enough Legos. I have lots of experience!

Many of our Lego constructions were intended to be moon-rovers and the "chariot" from Lost In Space, so basically precursors to SUVs. Our other creations were pick-up campers that fit in the back of my brother's large metal Tonka trucks. These homes on wheels were for my sister's Little Kiddle dolls, mainly because we didn't have enough Legos to build homes for Barbies and Johnny West. Having also played the Beatle's stewardess game, I think I have many qualities needed to house displaced airline employees. Maybe I should get in touch with Jimmy Carter. Legos have been accumulating for fifty years or so now. Like National Geographics, no one wants to throw them away. Maybe Bill and Melinda Gates would fund a Lego Relief Airline Housing initiative.

Since Bush is messing with Social Security and Medicare, I expect to spend my retirement years sitting in a small, drab room eating Spam. That's why I'm holding onto my kids' Legos. I think I'll build some nifty red, yellow, and blue intergalactic space colonies for Barbie, Midge, and Ken.


Going tightless

Not long ago I wrote about my nightmares awake and asleep with pantyhose and tights. While I was in Lincoln my sister recounted the memorable winter day when she walked halfway to the elementary school, panicked, ran back home, pulled up her dress to verify she was wearing underpants, then calmly resumed the trek to school confident that God was in His heaven and all was right in the underwear world.

We had a lovely, springlike day on Wednesday. A day for children to have lunch at the picnic table, and tired art teachers to let the sun warm their sore carry-on luggage shoulders. So relaxing and refreshing, and I was quite blindsided by the vision of a four year-old girl sitting on the folding chair with her legs up on then art room table absolutely pantie-less. Yikes! Where were her underpants? Did she leave them in the bathroom, throw them in the trash, or flush them down? Did she somehow lose them in her drama class costume? When you teach children, you really don't want their parents to arrive at the conclusion that the student has lost undergarments while in your supervision! I sent a different student to the office with a note requesting immediate assistance. An APB went out for the undies, but they were nowhere to be found.

Normally, in the abnormal world of preschool creative arts education, students will arrive at class and announce that they aren't wearing any underpants, or that they are wearing Finding Nemo underpants that they would like to show everyone. It's abnormal for a student to arrive underpantless and not broadcast the fact. Preschoolers tell all.

This time it turned out that the child dressed herself, but left off the fuzzy tights and panties due to the unseasonably warm weather. Warm, tropical breezes are all fine and dandy, but I wish she would have run home to double-check.


Can you hear me now?

Many of you know I recently spent a week in my hometown. My parents have lived in the same house for forty-seven years, so I went past my old elementary school several times. One time I suddenly had the memory of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Erickson saying, "Boys and girls, please put your hands in your laps so I know you are listening." How old-fashioned! How 1961! But try it. Putting your hands in your lap to listen is very effective, calming, focusing, and respectful. Try it listening to your teacher or your boss, your children or your parents, a storyteller or pastor, your own breathing, a piece of music, an approaching thunderstorm, or the squirrels chattering in the oak tree. Your experience will be enhanced. We are going to try it in art class from now on.



A new cult is running amok in this country, and I am sad to report that my sister is a convert. While we were both in Lincolnland she passed up no opportunity to preach on the miracles of both Wet and Dry Swiffering, with personal testimonials about how Swiffer had changed her life and turned her unwayward kids into model citizens of The Tidy Future.

I'm sort of a housekeeping agnostic. I knock down really scary cobwebs with a contraption we call the dead-cat-on-a-stick. I have a groovy domestic tool for dusting the ceiling fans that looks like the Fuller Brush Man hung out with Barry Bonds.

My preferred kitchen floor cleaning method is the Texas Toe Mop. Years in the art room cleaning up dribbled paint have led me to this Two-step. I throw a damp towel on the linoleum and swab it around. Anything too small to trip me is too trivial to bend over and pick up in my book.



Today's vocabulary word is extrude--to shape by thrusting through a die.

The preschoolers are poking drinking straws into white modeling clay as we attempt to form the analytic shapes to make dinosaurs. Naturally, they are fascinated with the coprolites left in the straws, and work to force out the core samples. The dinosaurs are turning out pretty well. One little girl told me that choosing which dinosaur to make was like going to a "cafetherium" for lunch.

There's a theory that "Coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous." The quote may come from Doris Lessing, or even from Anonymous Herself. Whatever the source, life is weird.
Nearly everyone I know is involved in the care for an elderly parent. It's a physical and emotional task way beyond my expectations.

Donna Anna in Act I of Don Giovanni has been playing in my head all day. Also, I recommend turkey sandwiches. My coworkers decided I was a hormonal stress mess and picked up lunch from Corner Bakery. Those Thanksgiving tripto-thingies in the turkey got me all calmed out and groggy this afternoon. I'm feeling more integrated/cohesive/dried-out pink Play-dough than I have in days. I hate that soft moist weepy modeling clay kind of day, especially when the different colors get mixed together and it's all stuck in the cookie cutters.



It's Dinosaurs Days in the art room this month. I'm sad to say that I can't remember the name of every single dinosaur the way I could when my own kids were little. Of course I can't always remember where I parked the Buick at Albertsons either. There seem to be many new dinosaurs, but today I learned the favorite of four year old boys is the Slop-teraptor. I'm thinking Slop-teraptors never really died out, or else some crazed scientist cloned them for a theme park and they got loose to terrorize my condo. Crikeys, Crichton! They're running through the kitchen again!

The three year old girls are unwilling to let go of the Christmas season. Four of them sang a splendid version of Jingle Bells while we made our clay slop-teraptors and stegosaurus:

...bells on cocktails ring, making spirits bright...

The five year old boys were engaged in a spirited scientific debate about gigantasaurs, and whether the females were larger than the males. To cap his argument, one boy announced, "Well, my mom used to be a paleontologist, and she knows everything, and she said so!" I was very impressed, but when I asked the mom about her former career there wasn't a shred of truth to the story. I'm not sure if gigantasaurs are a scientific discovery or a video game. By the way, the velociraptors should all wear bells, and the bobtails are having cocktails before dinner.


A Bad Night At the Opera

I take my place center front on the otherwise empty stage. The light is golden. My gown is black, trimmed in a black and white diamond pattern. My gosh! My hair has never been so long or had such body and curl! It is time for my aria. I breathe in, then exhale. Breathe in, then yank up my beautiful velvet skirt and start trying to adjust the sagging crotch of my tights. The discomfort is maddening, so even though the audience is staring, I keep struggling. There's no way to run off stage when the crotch is at your knees.

It is good to wake up and get untangled from the blankets. I've got several blankets because the temperatures crashed from the seventies to the twenties in just two days, and my body is confused. My mind has no such excuse.

Growing up we walked the four blocks to elementary school in nearly all temperatures and weathers. We wore coats with the hoods pulled up over our stocking hats, mittens clipped onto the cuffs, snow pants, and overshoes. When we got to school we put everything in our classroom's cloak hall. At recess and lunch we did all this bundling and unbundling again. The most difficult part was sliding our saddle shoes into the overshoes. The most itchy part was stuffing our full skirts and stiff petticoats against our chapped bare legs inside the snow pants, which usually had a bib and shoulder straps. It would be several grades more before stretch knit ski pants with foot stirrups became the fashion, and could be worn under our skirts for winter recess. After that came the snow boots with fuzzy linings to replace the overshoes. Then we had to carry our shoes to school in a bag.

Once in awhile we would get to ride to school because musical instruments would suffer too much in the cold if we walked on lesson day. On those days, I got to ride with the other Nancy's violin case in the space behind the backseat of our neighbor's Volkswagen since I was the skinniest, and least musical, maybe.

I wore Buster Brown white anklets year-round. Some girls had tights in black, white, or navy. Stylish girls had red. My first pair of tights were by far the ugliest item of apparel I have ever had. I've been looking at some hosiery color charts, and can't find the color. The tights were in between beige and light taupe in a color I'll call Weathered Prosthesis. They also had a tiny texture that made them look permanently goose-bumped. In the days before Spandex, tights had sags at the ankles and blobs at the knees. The overall effect of these tights on my skinny second grader legs could be called "plucked duckling".

My preschool students wear tights when it is cold, and sometimes even in the Dallas July if they get themselves dressed. The tights have lots of wild stripes and colors. The girls pull on loose threads until they create holes in the tights large enough to pull a leg out, or put an extra appendage in. They also still have LCT, the dreaded Low Crotch Trouble.

While introducing new students to each other this week, my team teacher and I spontaneously combusted into this song:

Lydia, oh Lydia, say have you met Lydia, Lydia, the Tattooed Lady?

And so it is in this new year that I offer this blessing for you and yours:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God close the curtains while you pull up your tights.


Tiny bubbles on the floor

After last evening's Dallas Opera production of Verdi's Luisa Miller you'd think I'd be humming something more highbrow than Don Ho. Maybe I just need more sleep. I put Joy dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher instead of Cascade.

Normally this mistake isn't possible because I can't even find the Joy. My resident photographer takes it upstairs to his bathroom to perform lighting experiments, setting up a la-bor-a-tory with lamps, tripods, curtains amid the general disgusting debris of a teen male's bathroom.

I am on my third beach towel cleaning the bubble mess on the kitchen floor. That's nowhere near the number of towels used during the various cleaning adventures of the belated Batmobile, but it is significant. I finally got the needed impetus to mop the kitchen floor.

The opera was quite wonderful even though there wasn't a luxury automobile on display outside the Music Hall. The stage is set with an elegant minimalism, a picture within a picture, and successful use of light and shadow. The music was splendid, especially the mezzo voice of Mzia Nioradze as the Duchess Federica. The costumes were styled appropriately for the Austrian Alps in a pleasant palette of greens and RED. The biggest flaw in the whole production was the Sam's Club bulk buy of RED velveteen. Miles of the same RED. No wine, no rose, no scarlet or crimson. No satin or bombazine, challis or damask. I could go on, but you get the idea. And if you're curious, check out the Phrontistery word list and definitions.

Dotted Swiss doesn't appear on the list, but the bubble mess on the floor reminds me of my mom's fancy robe when I was little. Excuse me. I have to go look for more towels.


What am I, chopped liver?

Apparently, yes, I am. One of my tiny three year old students has been afraid of me for a few weeks. When things were going better this time, I overheard her say to herself, "What am I, chopped liver?"

"What? Who says that?," I asked.

"Chopped liver. My sister says that. She says you are chopped liver!" Her sister is six, and I've taught her since she was three.

"I'm not chopped liver!," I say as I continue behaving like a dinosaur at a roller-skating birthday party for the rest of the class.

"No, you're not. You're silly!"

Thank heavens. I much prefer being silly to being chopped liver. I wish I could see how this tiny girl envisioned chopped liver. It does sound awfully scary.

According to Ask the Rabbi:

As far as I know, the origins of the phrase are not Yiddish; I believe the phrase was originally coined in America. Being that chopped liver was always considered a side dish and not a main course, the phrase is used to express hurt and amazement when a person feels he has been overlooked and treated just like a "side dish."

I think creamed turnips are even scarier, myself.


Toot toot, Tootles the Tugboat

Trying to get back into my swimming fitness routine. I like swimming laps. It's a soothing meditation. I just don't like all the clothes-changing involved. After several weeks away from the pool, it felt good to be back. I didn't count laps, and I only lasted thirty-five minutes. I was really plugging like a tugboat.

One thing I noticed is my new Speedo suit is lined in the back as well as the front. I'm thinking that's wise, because we sure hate chlorine suit butt disintegration.

Since my swim on Sunday I've had a childhood song stuck in my head. The worst part is I only know one line of the song, so there's a lot of dut-dut duh-duh da dum-dum everytime it cycles through my brain. I'm sure it was on one of our Little Golden Records 45 rpms, and probably came from a Captain Kangaroo show. And so, I sing, Toot toot, Tootles the tugboat sailed up and down the bay...then the dut-duts, over and over.

When my kids were tiny, I bought Tootle the Train and Scruffy the Tugboat Little Golden Books trying to connect with something in my childhood. Those books didn't do it for my grown-up self or my kids. I bet I was really searching for Tootles. And no, I don't mean Tubby the Tuba.

A song stuck in the head is worth two days of The Bush.


I blog therefore I must be

an oblergver. I try to watch life as well as live it, but sometimes I can't even talk straight. That's not the same as my mom with her occasional slurred speech and confusion and CAT scans.

I am going to create a new blog with the record of her struggles, and maybe, finally, her recovery. I'll fictionalize it a tidbit to avoid the wrath of the health care system.

Being old is the toughest job description out there, and we are nearly all going to be hired.


Turning Prehistoric

Look in the mirror. Are you turning into your mother?

No. It's even scarier. Are you turning into the Venus of Willendorf?

When I first met the V of W in the early Seventies, I thought it was so sad that prehistoric man had such terrible eyesight and fine-motor skills. This lump of stone DID NOT look like WOMAN. It did not roar like Helen Reddy. For Playtex it had numbers too big to ignore.

In the early Seventies, just after the last Ice Age, we loved our history teacher. We grooved on Greeks, Romans, pagans and barbarians. We appreciated casual Friday short sleeve statues of Aphrodite, and suffered with wool allergy in our Pep Club booster mini pantskirts during freezing football games. I don't recall varicose being a vocabulary word when we prepared for the SAT.

varicose early 15c., from L. varicosus "full of dilated veins," from varix (gen. varicis) "dilated vein."

It was good to be young, happy, skinny, wrapped in white sheets, and challenged to excellence by a charismatic teacher. We didn't know V of W would stare back at us from the mirror thirty years later telling us of the accuracy of prehistoric man's artistic representation.

Antibiotics are Our Friends

One of my kindergarten students informed me that she needed a Kleenex because she has a "Sonics infection". Man, oh man! I've had those before, and they are the pits. When I lived in Oklahoma, I had one massive Sonics infection that took six months of super-antibiotics to smite.

My Hungarian allergist insisted that I snork on a piece of aluminum foil, then rush it to her office for analysis. She referred me to a German Nose Guy, who x-rayed my Sonics several times. Sure wish I had those x-rays now for collage purposes. The Nose Guy did an otorhinolarangoscopy, which is like having Lewis and Clark drive a Humvee through your nasal cavaties only to crash into your deviated septum at a remarkable speed for such a heavy vehicle. I fainted, which further convinced him that I was a truly pathetic specimen of a woman not fit to bear his sons. Next he sent me for a CT scan. Whoa. I really wish I had those images for a collage!

The Nose Guy looked like an older version of an evil hospital orderly on "Edge of Night" named Sharkey back during my soap addiction of 1981. I am proud to say that I've been soap free for twenty+ years, one day at a time.

Just when the Nose Guy was planning a surgical assault my Sonics cleared up. He was crushed, but couldn't show it, of course. He was really looking forward to using a laser weed whacker* to enlarge my sinus openings, and breaking my nose to straighten it just for fun. He asked me how and when I had broken my nose. I didn't even know I had broken it, but I'm pretty sure it was when I rode the saucer sled over the retaining wall.


Deep Tropical Moisture And Disturbances Aloft

Shoot! The National Weather Service predicts I will regret not writing bodice ripping romance novels. I am visualizing fabulous coconut butter massages under shady palms amid extravagant flowers, and hot-air balloon lift-offs from pristine white sand beaches.


Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl,
come on come on

You're listening to the Top Forty countdown and the tornado warnings at the same time on 1480 A.M. KLMS through the earphone connected to your transistor radio with its own vinyl carrying case. You smell like Sea & Ski suntan lotion.


Family resemblance

"Who are those cowboys on the refrigerator?," my middle son asked. "I look so much like that guy in the middle."

That guy in the middle is Ben Kilpatrick, a member of the Wild Bunch. My son figured the cowboys were ancestors, not the Hole in the Wall Gang.

I always count Butch and the Kid as family even if they never write or send Christmas snapshots. I first met them at my grandparents' fiftieth wedding anniversary in McCook, Nebraska. They were showing downtown at the picture show about thirty-six years ago. An assortment of young cousins went to see them, and my life has never been the same. It is still my all-time favorite movie.

My middle son is much like Butch. He's affable and generous and just keeps thinking. My youngest son is Sundance, the handsome sharpshooter. My oldest is most like the "colorful" miner played by Percy Garris. For nearly thirty-five years I have imagined myself as Etta Place, even though lately I've been more likely to be cast as Ma Barker.

Someday when I'm rich I plan to visit Bolivia.

Long May It Wave

We sold the Batmobile yesterday to an auto salvage yard dealer who drove down from Ada, OK. Chris looked only slightly older than my seventeen-year-old son, but has already bought, rebuilt, and sold nineteen Nissan Z cars, and is the boss of his auto supply company. He loaded the Batmobile with amazing care and concern. The 1990 300ZX only lived with us nine months, but it will always leave an oil spot in our hearts. It was far more of a symbol of a Dream than an actual driveable vehicle. I'm thinking we should sell commemorative ribbon-shaped auto magnets...

One-point perspective is teachable in elementary art class.

Two-point is possible if the kids are older.

Three-point gives me the willies just thinking about it. My college drawing professors sent us off to the Sheldon Art Gallery and the UN-L steam energy plant to do three-point drawings, and I never fully recovered.

If you need any parts call and ask for Chris:

Dave's Auto Sales & Parts
1901 N. Broadway
Ada, OK 74820

Parts: 580 436 7149
Toll Free: 1 888 436 7149
Auto Sales: 580 436 7130
Fax: 580 436 7145
Email: dasp@davesparts.com

Chris can help you get into a Nissan Turbo that will retain its value before the 2006 Z Car Convention here in Dallas!


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