You Nork, You Nork

Two of my preschoolers just returned from a trip to see the "Yifull Tower". I didn't know they had been in France, because they told me before spring break that they were going to Africa. Maybe they went to Africa AND France. On the way home, they saw the Statue of Liverdy in You Nork.

"New York, New York" is a song from the 1946 musical On the Town, which has music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The first line of this song is, "New York, New York, it's a hell of a town: the Bronx is up and the Battery's down." My teen-in-residence, being a self-assured third child, is into Frank Sinatra. Frank was confused, and didn't know about You Nork.

On my drive to work I pass a shop with a banner proclaiming, "Cigarettes Discount/Open Sunadays". I would like to work Sunadays, and stay home Uddadays. This shop is in the same neighborhood as the classic "Wok Bueno" restaurant.

Another student told me his friend was on a trip to "Princess". Turned out she was in Paris, France. If you pick up Paris, France with Silly Putty, then twist it a bit, you do get "Princess". I hope that young student will visit the Yifull Tower while she's in Princess. Being an art teacher, I wonder how one might make Georges Pompidou out of pipe cleaners and pom-pons.

(Composition of Silly Putty 65% - Dimethyl Siloxane 17% - Silica 9% - Thixotrol ST 4% - Polydimethylsiloxane 1% - Decamethyl cyclopentasiloxane 1% - Glycerine 1% - Titanium Dioxide )

Two boys were not to be outdone by the girl transatlantic travelers. They had ridden on the "D.A.R.K. Train" over spring break. So much of Dallas city government and rapid transit is frightening, but I'd never actually considered the eerie Halloween possibilities. [I do wonder why the DART Rail can't have easy tickets and fares like the D.C. Metro.] And besides, what about the D.A.R.T.H. Rail options at warp speed? I see the Wookiee singing with Sinatra...

"The Battery's down" always reminds me of my brother's Dodge Dart the year he was doing his student teaching at a rural school. Many sub-zero mornings the Dart's battery was down.

FYI: Finding Nemo underpants are no longer as newsworthy as Bob the Builder briefs for the 3-5 yr. old male demographic. Spiderman waterproof band-aids are the ultimate!
Nanu nanu, You Nork.

Muddy Waters

Maybe you can remember how frustrating it was to use a watercolor set as a child until you mastered keeping the paints from getting muddy. You rinsed your brush, but didn't know how to get the extra water out, so your paint tray flooded; the blue got in the yellow, the black got in the red, and nothing was going right, right?

Learning to use watercolors is as difficult as learning to cut with scissors. It takes lots of practice. That's what we are working on in Art Class.

If you are going to buy a set of paints for your child, please avoid the inexpensive sets in the grocery store school supply aisle. Those paints are very chalky and your child will have a really tough time getting vibrant clear colors. If possible, get a set of Crayola® So Big® Washable Watercolors. The pans of color are larger than usual, can be replaced, and encourage practice mixing colors. The sets have splendid bright red, yellow, green, and blue. For more advanced students, please get a nice eight-color set of Prang watercolors (it should not have white). Good results build on good experiences with good materials.

A bunny dances into a bar...

A bunny dances into a bar...no, wait. This isn't an old joke. The bunnies are at the barre in ballet class.


The Three Baffled Goats Gruff

What in the hey-ho is a Billy Goat Gruff?? As a kid, the troll made a lot of sense, compared to the goats. Who was Billy? Was he as cute as Bill Z. in Mrs. Erickson's first grade class? Bill Z. had a buzz cut, and big, dark brown eyes.

And what's up with "Gruff"?
Gruff is much more worrisome than troll!
The definitions say "course, thick, large, rough, surly, brusque, and forbidding."

When my sons were little they demanded that I say, "Who's that TRIPPY TROMPING on my bridge?" "It's just a little billy goat was the answer." You tell it that way once, and you are stuck for the next seven years! Children crave repetition. They need grown-ups to always read or tell the story the exact same way. We gain the confidence to change the elements only when our safe grown-up has given us the firm foundation of repetition-on-demand.

Last week my little students gave me a new insight on this tale first recorded in 1845 by Peter Christen Asbjornsen. "What's a belly goat?" "Do the goats dance on the bridge?" The image lurks just off-stage in the absurd theater of my over-active mind. That poor troll! I'm sure the belly-dancing goats have rubies in their belly buttons as they play finger cymbals on the bridge!

It's an image to keep in mind during long rainy days with small children. I am closing my eyes really tight, but the belly goats seem to be singing, "You've Got To Have a Gimmick"!


Off the eye chart & Off The Map

"Please read the smallest line you can see clearly," said the eye doctor's assistant.

"What lines?," I asked.

"Can you see this light flashing?"

"What light?"

I have some prescription eye drops to relieve the inflammation of my lower eyelids, and I've ordered new bifocals with a "tweaked" prescription. The drops are very creepy as the instructions read:

Tilt your head back and with your index finger, pull the lower eyelid away from the eye to form a pouch. Drop the medicine into the pouch and gently close your eyes. Immediately use your finger to apply pressure to the inside corner of the eye and continue to apply pressure for 1-2 minutes.

Just reading the instructions made me queasy. I was still seeing magenta, yellow, and purple spots from when the doctor looked into my eyes. Inside there, I bet he saw the auditorium at Eastridge Elementary School.

In the upper primary grades of the mid-Sixties we studied Our Senses. We watched black and white filmstrips in our classroom about Our Nose and Our Ears, with the teacher's pet advancing the frames, and the highest reading group taking turns reading the script aloud. For Our Eyes we had to go to the school auditorium walking in two single-file lines, the Girls Line and the Boys Line, following the Supreme Line Leader For a Day, who was following the teacher in her shirtwaist dress. We walked with our hands clasped behind our backs so we wouldn't pinch each other. The teacher set up the film projector, and we were zoomed into what amounted to High-Tech Multimedia Learning! Our Eyes was a color film, with a couple of frenetic splices! The more informed about the workings of the human vision system I became, the more queasy I felt. After the film, we all stood up (too quickly), and filed out of the auditorium into the hallway. The single-file lines walked off down the hall behind our teacher, but I leaned against the wall and fainted, sliding down the chilly pale green cement block wall onto the swirled linoleum tiles. No one noticed. I recovered to find myself alone, and made my wavy way to the School Nurse's Office. Please don't mess with this mama's eyes, or make her study optical diagrams!

First time I met my future in-laws, I was wearing those doctor-issued black plastic shades with cardboard earpieces after my first eye exam. I've always sort of blamed my marriage on those cheap sunglasses.

Saw a wonderful movie this afternoon, "Off the Map", with Joan Allen and Sam Elliott. So many of my own themes cropped up in the movie: solitude, New Mexico, depression, letter-writing, sailboats, credit card debt.

Much of the movie is about a child, but it is not a kid movie. I love the artist using a rusted out bus for a studio. For years my New Mexico artist fantasies have involved using an abandoned Sinclair gas station at an isolated road junction for a studio. I've always wanted to be Sam Gribley in My Side of the Mountain. I've often wanted to returned to La Junta, the meeting of the Rio Grande and Red rivers near Questa, New Mexico.

If you enjoy the movie, you might like to read Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. You might also read And Now Miguel aloud to your children.



I've got a headache. The theatre next to my classroom was the site of a high school student rock band's performance this afternoon while I was teaching preschoolers about making tints and shades of blue.

I needed a break from the tints and shades of red after three days with Lettice the bunny. The children were quite taken with Polar Bear Night. They had different opinions about whether the polar bear cub really went exploring alone, or if the cub was dreaming. The illustrations were definitely ice cool and dreamy.

With the bass, drums, and vocals of the teen band thrumphing the classroom, we took time out to do do some Chuck Berry and John Travolta imitations, to play air guitar and applaud. Just another weird day at work!

Our health class teachers in the late Sixties-early Seventies told us psychedelics could cause us to suffer flashbacks without warning any moment making us strip off our clothes and jump out of high-rise hotel windows. I don't know about that. I did suffer a flashback of sorts this afternoon to the ninth grade dance at Millard Lefler Junior High in 1969. In those days the school colors were pink and black, due to the school being built in the poodle skirt era. We bore the burden of that "sissy"image at the time we were dealing with our early adolescent gender awareness, and it made us stronger. Remember, this is the same year Johnny Cash recorded "A Boy Named Sue" at San Quentin Prison!

As for the ninth grade dance, I was terrified about the upcoming event, and managed to get a horrible headcold in my anxiety. My nose could have guided Santa. I had a legit excuse to stay home, but wiser forces were conspiring otherwise. I wore an itchy brown wool pantskirt, a white sweater, and "suntan" nylons, Yardley white lip gloss, bronze blush, and "kitty cat eyes" green eyeshadow. Pocketless, I had to fold Kleenex tissues and tuck them into the cuffs of my sweater. Staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I was paralyzed. Mom suggested that if I wore her favorite hot pink mod daisy pin no one would notice my raw red nose. It was a hard sell, but I ended up at the dance in the gym. The lights were low. The folding divider between the Boys Gym and the Girls Gym had been opened. Boys loitered next to the wall of the Boys Gym. Girls stood in huddles near the wall of the Girls Gym. Across the north end of the combined gyms were the food tables, laden with plates of cake donuts. Under the basketball hoops at the south end was the band. The band was playing its version of Iron Butterfly's "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida", which was way longer than seventeen minutes.

If you were to ask me if I would rather experience several hours of back labor or relive the ninth grade dance, I would choose labor. If you asked me if I would rather have impacted wisdom teeth removed or relive the dance, I would choose oral surgery. Would I rather deviate my septum crashing on the saucer sled or go to that dance, I would endure a two-day nosebleed. Would I rather eat cold cooked brussel sprouts or go to the dance? It would be a draw.

As the drum solo dragged on, the ninth grade boys and girls got relaxed enough to meet in the middle of the gyms for a donut food fight under the disco ball. I wanted to go hide in the girls' bathroom, but, horror of horrors, a boy asked me to dance to a Jackson Five song!

Did I mention that I was on the staff of the Millard Lefler Mascot newspaper under the editorial leadership of Beverly Renee Austin, a teacher stuck with the monogram "BRA"? I can still smell the blue stencils and stencil-correction fluid. My sister found an advertising poster I made for the Mascot today in the closet of the room we shared back then. It took a bit of description, but then I remembered the large poster I drew with very Monkees-style lettering, flowers, and a beautiful girl. My sister asked if we would have to have a big fight over who got the hot pink mod daisy pin. She found it in the jewelry box in the drawer in our closet. My memories are way too vivid to need the actual pin, even though it would be back in style this spring. Maybe the health class teachers were right about flashbacks.

"...'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' by Iron Butterfly was the first rock album ever to go platinum. For 140 weeks it stayed at the top of the Billboard charts and was spun millions of times in living rooms and at make-out sessions across the country..."

"Iron Butterfly's 1968 album veritably defined the burgeoning genre of hard-rock, primarily by way of its utterly over-the-top title cut. Reportedly composed by keyboardist/lead singer Doug Ingle in such a stoned-out, numb-tongued condition that he couldn't properly pronounce its intended title--'In the Garden of Eden'--the track seemed almost a parody of every excessive inclination of psychedelia. Melodramatic vocals, repetitive riffing, aimless solos--you name it, this 17-minute behemoth had it. Aided by FM DJs who loved to program it in its entirety so they could take "legitimate" breaks, it became an unavoidable hit--and an anthem of its era. "--Billy Altman

"...With its endless, droning minor-key riff and mumbled vocals, 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' is arguably the most notorious song of the acid rock era..."

If this memory is a monochromatic exercise in the tints and shades of red, I can tell a parallel tale in blue of a high school Fifties dance in the cafeteria with a student band playing a mind-numbing version of "Duke of Earl":

Duke, duke, duke, duke of earl
Duke, duke, duke of earl
Duke, duke, duke of earl
Duke, duke, duke of earl



Drove into the 7-11 down at the corner to get a local suburbia newspaper. In the spring there's more to read about students, awards, soccer, and craft shop sales of plastic Easter eggs and fake flowers. Whipping in right behind me was a small vehicle propelled by a nearly explosive male driver of about twenty, in a leather jacket, Converse All-Stars, many earrings, and a "Bad Religion" cap. He spent nearly a minute making his choice, which I thought was mighty studious under the circumstances, before heading to the check-out with his Trojans. I was happy to allow him to go ahead of me in line, and he zoomed off in his beat-up compact car. Nothing in my life has that sense of urgency any more. I like it that way.

I chatted with the cashier about the chill of the wind, and the pretty sunset we had earlier. As I got back in the Buick another young male screeched his old Ford Escort to a halt. I couldn't read his backward cap. I couldn't really understand the hurry anymore.


Tints and Shades

Fluffy the Paintbrush is dancing again this week in very springy colors. My little students are drawing ballet bunnies, and trying to grasp that the eyes go on the head, not on the tummy, and the arms are shapes, not lines. It is hard work, and sometimes Fluffy, the bunnies, the preschool students, and the teacher all wish they could have a nap in the rabbit family's burrow.

We are inspired by a cute book called Lettice, the Dancing Rabbit.
My kindergarten-second grade kids are also learning about light and dark, and the difference between watercolor and tempera paints. When using watercolors, you add more water to red to get pinks. With temperas, you add white. It is all splendid for painting dancing rabbits. I get to tell the boys it takes a really strong guy to be a dancer and lift the ballerina bunnies in the air.

Our colors remind me of the Bruce Wood choreographed dance, Rheology, performed by the Texas Ballet Theater. The students' art took me back to the beauty of monochromatic color schemes. We resist monochromatic thinking it is dull, and then it shoots us a Rose Bowl Parade moment. Ooooh. Aaahhh. Can you smell the rose petals?


Sixty per cent solution

From the official waste assessment of the condo complex (aka snooping through our trash) the city recycling guy estimates we could reduce our trash by 60% if we recycled everything all possible materials. Sixty per cent is significant. Heck, I was married for nineteen years to a man who was rarely rated in the sixtieth percentile in national standardized testing for diversion and other forms of amusement.

One thing that would help get more apartment and condominium complexes recycling is to make sure tenants receive current information on what can be recycled, how (sorted or single stream, paper only, labels removed?...), and where the nearest drop-off locations are for them. Maybe this could be accomplished by mass mailing postcards every six months, or by requiring this information to be imparted at the time a lease is signed. I'm smarter than the average bear, as Yogi would say, but finding this information hasn't been a snap. I also think management companies could be required to print the information in the complex newsletters at least every six months, and post it at mail box locations. It would be a nice break from reading the rules for cleaning up after your pet! Would you rather take a bag of crushed cans and shredded paper to the dumpster, or hold a baggy of warm dog poop in your hand? Perhaps the ubiquitous "condo dogs", chihuahas and poodles could be equipped with tiny backpacks or Sioux-style travois for hauling recyclables to the collection bin!

The Raytheon WASTE program involves incentives and quotas for departments to maximize reuse and recycling. That's why we art teachers send back photos of how we use the recycled materials in classes. We help motivate the employees.

How best to motivate condo and apartment residents and managers? When I met with Christopher Day, the Commercial Diversion Coordinator of Environmental Waste Services for the City of Plano, I told him about some of our hostile condo association relations of late. He told me that recycling can be a community-building program. I'm thinking of those United Way charts that show if a business is meeting its contribution goal, and the banners marking a community as a "Tree City". How can pride and unity be built through recognizing complex participation in "waste diversion programs"? Could the mayor read a proclamation at a city council meeting (on public access cable t.v.) when a complex achieves full participation? Could Mother Earth blow kisses and sign autographs?

Rolling in Dough

I did not pass Go. I did not collect two hundred dollars. I've got lots of dough, though.

Friday afternoon I was seized with the urge to make the ground beef and the head of red cabbage I had on hand into runzas. I had a recipe from the Minnesotans for Nebraska web page celebrating that distinctly Nebraskan taste treat, the runza. A runza is ground beef, chopped cabbage, and diced onions "cooked down". The mixture is scooped onto a rolled out square of bread dough, then folded into a pillow, and baked. I replaced the onions with pepper and celery, then got a bit carried away with seasonings. Following recipes has never been my long suit.

I left Steven a message to pick up four loaves of frozen bread dough on the way home from work. Instead, he brought four packages, each containing three loaves. So I've got yer dough! I will be able to make many more test batches of runzas before I can fit anything else in my freezer.

Monopoly has been on my mind all week. I teach with a woman who will also hit the big fifty mark this year. We learned to play Monopoly in 1962. We were comparing our Barbie dolls. We both had the red-headed Midge doll with the flip hairdo. Midge was always my favorite, more friendly, playful, and approachable than my rather stern-looking brunette bouffant Barbie. We agreed that red-headed Midge dolls were never ever allowed to wear the magenta ballgowns. It was an unwritten law. We are both surprised when little red-heads come to class in magenta outfits. Alas, their mothers are way too young to have had flip hair-do Midge dolls, and so they just don't understand the law!

My brother has been driving to visit my dad every weekend. In my mind's eye, he is driving the silver racing car from the Monopoly set. He always used the race car. He always amassed all the cheap purple and light blue properties, improved them to the max, then made the rest of us go bankrupt paying rents. My sister usually chose the shoe/slipper. She was fond of the red and green properties because they were such nice colors. If we could convince my mom to play on a snow day off from school, she used the thimble or the iron game piece. I generally used the cannon game piece even though I wasn't sure what it was. It was just the easiest to slide around the board. That left the hat, ship, and dog for guests.
Midge always looked drop dead gorgeous in this green party dress. It's sad that the matching open-toed high heels wore out from dancing with Ken. I always wanted to own Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Pacific Avenue, and Monopoly strategy be damned.

A dearly demented friend reported recently that she had to go break up a fight between her sons. Her youngest always wants all the yellow properties; Marvin Gardens, Ventnor, and Atlantic, but her older son had bought them up. Was it a matter of strategy that the youngest always wanted the yellows, in the way it was strategy for my brother to buy up Baltic and Mediterranean? Oh, no. It is because that particular yellow, henceforth known as Parker Brothers Yellow, is Henry's favorite. He would give his brother anything he owns, including his bedroom, to hold those yellow deeds.

When Henry was in my preschool class he would tell me about the continents. The continents were completely linked in his mind to the colors of the pieces on his world map picture puzzle. When he grows up he will probably become the world's foremost expert on European geopolitics, and it will be because Europe was the yellow continent on his map puzzle when he was three.

Everyday on my walk to and from Millard Lefler Junior High School I passed a green Camaro convertible. It was beautiful. The Camaro didn't radiate macho speed and power. It seemed to me more of a magical vehicle, like a leprechaun's magic carpet gliding just above the dew-laden grass in springtime. Although I would rather own a 1961 red and white Plymouth Sport Fury with rectangular steering wheel and push-button transmission, the 1969 green Camaro with the white convertible roof is my second choice.

For some people, choices are about strategy and power. For the rest of us, it's all about the color!

Mid-life career change

A dearly demented friend has found a new calling acting as a one-man match-making service. Since I am his only client, I expect he will be quite diligent on my behalf.

Monsieur M. Nomadie
Introductions Arranged
For Shy & Artistic Ladies
of a Certain Vintage

Monsieur Nomadie spent many fashionable seasons on the Continent in his prime, introducing handsome Croatian soccer players to expatriot American mimes, smoothing out differences in manners and customs. He is well aware of my stubborn Yankee suffragette tendencies. Still, he understands my very occasional longing for the companionship of an independent, intelligent, informed, witty, non-smoking, salt and pepper-haired Democrat member of the male gender at various local arts events and performances.
Monsieur Nomadie is compiling a slate of candidates for my consideration, and probably an overly enthusiastic list of my charms for theirs. My other friends question my sanity. They say my life is perfect. I don't have to share a bathroom or a checkbook with a member of that male gender, and soon I won't have to share a condo either. Their points are well taken. I must retire to my swooning couch, as I have a touch of the vapors.


Sam and Janet Evening

Not long ago I wrote about having my students paint to music, each one dancing his paintbrush on the paper. The results were enchanting in every class. Some of the most stunning were analogous color schemes. That involved passing the tempera paints in spectrum order. The experience of painting with this range of colors seemed to transport the children deeper into the mood of calm, clarity, and beauty.

I've been challenged by friends that the process of playing "Pass the Paint" operates against individual student's artistic choices by exerting teacher control over how long they paint with a color, and with the actual color choices. The teacher does exercise that control. I believe that what is lost in individuality is made up by what is learned, noticed, experienced and absorbed. This really came home to me as I watched the ever increasing spiral of beautiful painting. Most of the children were aware enough of the beauty they were creating to make increasingly lovely choices about shapes, lines, and composition.

All too often a project can backfire on a teacher when students are given free reign to choose from a full range of colors. Students stir the first two choices together, create an ugly mud, and have no incentive to impose thought or order on the rest of the effort. It becomes a spiral into mucky chaos.

Adults aren't immune to the spiral of mucky chaos. I went to a homeowners association meeting Monday on the subject of removing a twenty-two year-old live oak tree planted too close to a curb. The situation was exacerbated because the tree was on the property of the association board president, and the association was paying for the removal. As the meeting lacked a clear moderator, despite the presence of the board, its president, his lawyer (being paid for by the homeowners' association), and the owner of the property management company, it quickly descended into an ugly spiral of shouting, insults, interruptions, and what we preschool teachers sometimes call "potty mouth". Nothing was accomplished. Everyone left furious.

In art class, the equivalent is creating mud, adding in gobs of black, painting one's hands, spatter painting one's neighbor, painting the chair, and eventually deciding to pour the paint container on the floor. An aesthetic awareness is not increased. The child might learn that paint feels icky as it dries on his hands, and mommy's are crabby when clothes are ruined.

The role of the teacher is to create an experience in which learning can occur. The teacher must provide the structure in which the student can explore free choice and its results. The teacher's job is the same as that of the referee, the chairman, the conductor, the scientist, and Miss Manners.
(I'm a hick from Small Rock, but I'd like to appreciate the beautiful view from Emile de Becque's plantation terrace in glorious Technicolor.)


Tom Jones

What's that sticky goo? Woah, woah!
What's that sticky goo? Woah, woah!

Kitchen floor, kitchen floor
I've spent hours and really scoured
Still new sticky goo
So go out and Swiffer your seriously sticky gross kitchen floor!


Save the rain forest so I can run away from home

Jane Craighead George's classic children's book My Side of the Mountain has fueled many daydreams well past my Wonder Years. Spring break ended, and I wanted to go live in a hollow tree and live off the land instead of going back to work. I would need Sam Gribley's librarian to help me research falconry, that's for sure!

I'm using Jan Brett's gorgeous new picture book, The Umbrella, in most of my classes this week. A red-eyed green tree frog makes a good introduction to complementary color schemes. While a boy climbs up a gigantic fig tree in the cloud forest, an assortment of animals pile into his leaf umbrella, reusing Brett's Mitten formula. I'm having trouble reading about the kinkajou. Half the time "kinkajou" comes out "cockatoo", and the other half it comes out "Pikachu".

My condominium complex is embroiled in its latest brouhaha (not a rain forest animal, but possibly an itchy tropical rash). The fight is about a tree, and whether to cut it down or save it. It's a nice tree, but not big enough to live inside when I run away from home.


Lights out at the library

Dear librarians, friends, Deweys, Elsies, and alphabetically-ordered readers,

Went on a road trip yesterday to look at the University of Arkansas to see if it would be a good location for my youngest. He's planning to study photography, so we are looking for scenic locations as well as academics. Financial aid plays a big part in the search, too. Some of our drive from Dallas was quite lovely, and would be even more so a bit later in spring. After visiting the Fine Arts building we wandered around campus. We got to the main library at 6:05 on Friday evening, and IT WAS CLOSED. Steven looked at me stunned. What kind of university closes its library at six on Friday, he wondered??? What if he wanted to do some research?? What indeed? We stared at the posted regular hours. Ridiculous! We went back to the car disgusted, and drove all the way home instead of staying overnight. The most impressive sight on campus is the abundance of grey squirrels.

Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas has regular hours Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m. to midnight, Fri. 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. , Sun. noon-midnight. (100 hrs./wk.)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Love Library is where I spent many of my lovely, yet chilly, library hours as a student, student employee, and full-time employee. I worked shifts late at night, on weekends, and even during winter breaks with barely enough heat to keep the pipes from freezing. I do understand that library budgets shrink, costs rise, and hours have to be adjusted to meet usage. Love's regular hours are 8 a.m.-midnight on M-Th, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays (even during Cornhusker home football games), and noon-midnight Sundays. (96 hrs./wk.)

Down in Austin at UT, the main Perry-Castaneda Library is open 122 hrs./wk. (M-Th 7 a.m.-2 a.m., Fridays 7 a.m.-midnight, Saturdays 9 a.m.-midnight, and Sundays noon-2 a.m.

Out in Lubbock at Texas Tech the University Library is available for use M-Th 7 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri. 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sun. 10 a.m.-2 a.m. (121 hrs./wk.) I hope my middle son is using those hours wisely!

My eldest son is in grad school at the University of Indiana-Bloomington. The Main Library has hours M-Th 8 a.m.-midnight, Fri. 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.-midnight. That's 101 hrs./wk.

The Zimmerman Library at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque with its fine old reading room is open 100 hrs./wk.: M-Th. 8 a.m.-midnight, Fridays 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and 10 a.m.-midnight Sundays.

Near the fourth floor elevators of the University Library of Arizona in Tucson you will see the old author/title card catalog which contains the catalog cards for books cataloged prior to 1984. After 1984 all cataloging was entered into the online catalog. It makes me sad for the good old days adding and withdrawing cards in UNL's wooden drawers. My right index finger still feels the drawer pull nearly thirty years after my filing career began.

I could gaze at the old wooden card catalog 142 hrs./wk. if I were a U Arizona student or faculty member. The library is open 24 hrs. a day M-Th, closes at 9 p.m. Fridays, has Saturday hours 9 a.m.-9 p.m., and opens at 11 a.m. Sunday. A student could sleep like Rip Van Winkle in a library carrel from 11 a.m. Sunday until 9 p.m. Friday. Maybe that room in the dorm isn't really necessary!

Hey Diddle Diddle

One good thing about being on the wrong road in the middle of nowhere late at night is the stars are really bright. Tonight the constellation Orion looked ever so much like a cow jumping over the moon, that I thought I would find the cat with the fiddle if I could just hang my head out the car window like a little dog laughing.

The most dazzling starry night display I've had the joy to observe was in South Dakota in 1985, the same summer as the Tyler trip. We were driving our two sleeping sons back to our cabin in Badlands National Park after an exhausting train ride in the Black Hills. We listened to KILI, the "voice of the Lakota Nation" as we drove--two tired parents afraid to break the sleepyland spell by turning off the radio. Looking at my Rand McNally, I can't say exactly what road we were on. My memory doesn't even have a road. It is so disconnected from my normal life it seems we were traveling in space. With no artificial light except the Toyota Corolla's headlights for miles in any direction, the stars seemed to hang just outside our grasp, shimmering, popping, and swirling.

Dialect Quiz results

I haven't met anyone yet who says "poke" for a bag or sack, but I found out where they do. Driving back from Arkansas at night, on a two-lane road south of Lake Eufala in Oklahoma (and we won't even go into why we were on that road instead of I-40!), with Steven sound asleep, I passed a little convenience store called the "Tote-A-Poke". I was so amazed I almost hit the possum ambling across the road. I flew by the Tote-A-Poke, and there wasn't enough shoulder on the road to try a U-turn to go back and take a photo to document my discovery. Please believe me, as I don't ever want to drive highway 31 between Bokoshe and Kinta again in the dark or by daylight.


Goldilocks, phone home!

If you really squint through your bifocals, you can imagine my three phones as Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and the wee Baby Bear. There's my home phone, my "ancient" cell phone, and the free replacement cell phone. Like my Danger Baby at the zoo, I think I'll have to strap Baby Samsung tightly in it's stroller so it doesn't climb over the fence and fall into the prairie dog town exhibit.

My old Nokia didn't do any tricks. I'd had it six years, and had finally learned to add numbers to the phonebook, and to use the key guard. It's predecessor had been almost as big as my home phone, and was kept in the glovebox strictly for automotive emergencies, of which it saw more than its share. So this tiny Samsung is my third cell phone. It fits in my pocket, but I'm afraid I will forget it's there and run it through the laundry! I've spent several hours trying to comprehend the owner's manual and program my phone numbers. Now I've got to learn to actually make and receive calls. Another five years and I might figure out text messaging. I don't like to rush into things!

Programmed the numbers of my dad's neighbors in the phonebook. I sure hope I don't ever need them, but I wouldn't have to search for them in an emergency. Added the numbers for my children and siblings, coworkers and friends. I've heard tell that you can set up different telephone rings to signal different callers. Yeah, right. I expect to master that skill about the time Social Security really runs out of money. For now I'm settling for a ringing "Waltz of the Flowers".

As a child, my sister made the observation that a lady at church was so fat that her fingers would get stuck between the keys if she played the piano. Somehow, that became a scary recurring dream theme for me. Whenever I am in a dream disaster, my fingers become too fat to push the buttons on the phone. I can't ever call 911. Technology isn't the terror. I'm sure if we were still dialing my fingers would be stuck in the rotary phone.

It isn't that the buttons have become smaller as phones got more high tech. I put on my little leftover Science Fair Mom hat (and thank heaven I'm done with science fairs!). Did an on-site comparative analysis of phone button size. For once I have clear results showing Size Isn't Everything. It's all in the spacing. Phone button size hasn't changed much, but button density has increased significantly. By the way, my porridge is still TOO HOT!


Hook, Line, & Sinker

Sat outside eating catfish this noon, and all that was missing was the Missouri River. Okay, maybe an XLG styrofoam glass of draft beer and the aroma of sunscreen and Deep Woods OFF would have completed the flashback. We lunched at the "Hook, Line, & Sinker" in the trendy Dallas Uptown Lemmon Avenue area on batter-fried jumbo shrimp, batter-fried catfish, Coca Cola, french fries and hush puppies. It was fabulous! I can't wait to go back with my dad, to try the rainbow trout, and maybe the corn on the cob. The boiled crayfish looked good, if time-consuming. Well, actually, I call them crawdads. That's why I flunked the dialect quiz.

In the Eighties, back in Omaha, we spent many fun summer evenings eating catfish and chicken, and watching the Missouri River flow past the Surfside Club. The Surfside is a very classy place, and you can't help leaving way more relaxed than when you arrived in the gravel parking lot. Sometimes motor-boaters on the river give the "Surfside Salute" and moon the diners. Back then we were usually too sun-burned and full of deep-fried batter to think anything of it.

Watching The River Flow
by Bob Dylan

...But this ol' river keeps on rollin', though,
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow,
And as long as it does I'll just sit here
And watch the river flow.

Watch the river flow,
Watchin' the river flow,
Watchin' the river flow,
But I'll sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow.

Thank heaven I had good teachers from an early age about holding a bamboo pole and watching a fishing bobber, or sitting on a Platte River sandbar. Thank heaven for bluegill, sunfish, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, blue dragonflies, slow rivers, oatmeal cookies, and kites.


The Soft Game

A ladybug plowed straight ahead through the thick tempera paint on little Carla's paper. Carla was oblivious to the hard-working, but misguided insect. Don't know where the ladybug came from, or why she insisted in forging ahead through the thick drifts of gooey paint. I lifted the ladybug out on my fingernail, and set her off across the comparatively arid region of the table.

My oil painting professor worked hard to convince me to leave the arid region and plow ahead through goopy gooey cake frosting paint. James Eisentrager wanted me to simplify and clarify in my paintings, and to enjoy a wider range of textures. Ah, oils! Nothing else compares.

Every artist, writer, and athlete must strive to find their Soft Game. We all want to let it hang out in feverish exertion and big kicks. It is so much more difficult to find the control, calm, clarity, center, and concentration that defines the true artistic or athletic accomplishment.

My little students have been painting to music, and trying to find a little touch of calm and clarity. We are trying to put our colors next to each other instead of stirring them all on top of each other into mud. We listened to James Galway's recording, "Seasons", until we were nearly comatose. We let Fluffy the Paintbrush dance across our paper in time with Smetana's "The Moldau". We read about the little green cat and the pink dog dancing into a soft gray fog in Margaret Wise Brown's book, "The Color Kittens".

My soccer coach friend is on the same task with the same age group. He is teaching a brand new bunch of kids about the game and reports:

Soft game worked fabulous. that is my best deal. afterall, they can't kick it, so i told them not to kick it. i want the ball under them, rolling under their control. i am going to convince them, the ball goes where i move it.

i think i will have them repeat.... The ball goes, where i move it. after a few practices i might change the word move to kick.

but i also got them quiet by saying "soft".

Professor Eisentrager reminds me to paint as if I were brushing frosting and cake batter and yogurt around my canvas, but to seek clarity and order. In my dreams I am driving on the streets of Wayne Thiebaud's paintings.

Puffy Shirts

I don't get out much. I've been Wendy for a long time now, taking care of little boys, reading stories, making pockets, and sewing shadows. Most of my boys can fly now, and they are growing up, unlike Peter Pan.

I have a great fondness for pirates, and a huge dislike for brussel sprouts. One year when the Mary Martin/Cyril Richard stage version of "Peter Pan" was being shown on t.v., I couldn't choke down the brussel sprouts at supper. In a rare moment of vegetable aggressive action, my parents told me I had to eat the slimy sprouts before I could watch my absolute favorite show. I know it is difficult to imagine a time when one couldn't just pop a recording into the DVD player, possibly while driving across town to Gymboree, but this was a difficult and primitive era! We could see "Peter Pan" once a year ONLY by hovering near our tiny black and white t.v.

The colder the brussel sprouts on my plate got, the less possible it was to chew and swallow the repulsive things. Somehow I got the dreadful job done, but I could probably spend a couple years in therapy just on the long-term ramifications of the experience.

So, after attending a splendid play performed in the round last weekend, when a friend took me to a nearby sports bar, it was a trip to Never-Never Land (it's not on any chart; you must find it with your heart). Suddenly I was not grown up! Then I couldn't believe my eyes when a guy dressed up as Captain Morgan began visiting the tables to promote spiced rum. Oh my gosh! I don't like rum, but I sure want a Captain Morgan costume to use at work. Puffy shirt! Puffy pantaloons! Tall boots! Big hat! Red coat!

Somewhere out there is a person who knows where Captain Morgan costumes go when they get too worn out. Contact me, please. I want one!


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