Looper Doopers

The last two weeks have brought me powerful clues that it is time for some in-depth reexamination of my childhood in the mid-1960's. As psychoanalysis isn't in the budget, blogging will have to do for now.

Planning my trip to Fort Worth to see the world premiere of Bruce Wood's ballet, "Dust, Texas," I realized I could squeeze in a visit to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The museum has a very open definition of "cowgirl" as a spirit of courage, self-reliance, trail-blazing, connection to the land of the American West, and of what my co-worker calls the attitude of "Git 'er done!" Cowgirls include Dale Evans, Patsy Cline, Georgia O'Keeffe, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sandra Day O'Connor, Annie Oakley, horsewomen, trick riders, stunt riders, singers, photographers, and real branding iron ranchwomen.

I've logged countless hours in the dusty saddle myself--approximately eight, but it seemed like many more, what with the horse flies. I've worn saddle shoes with anklets if that counts. Moreover, I have a deep and abiding love of scruffy plains and canyons, an interest in the history of the American Frontier, and enormous respect for the influence Laura Ingalls Wilder has had on generations of American children, male and female. I've got a little bit of the self-reliant "Git 'er done" attitude when it comes to shower tile repairs and uncooperative Buick headlights. I also had a fringed leather shoulder purse in about 1970. Therefore, I am proclaiming myself a cowgirl.

Of course, the Cowgirl museum has a gift shop. Of course I had to scope it out. One never knows where the idea for an art class project is hiding. That's when I was blind-sided by the deluxe metal hand weaving loom and hook set! Holy moly, it's a potholder loom!

Weaving potholders got me through some rough patches in the Sixties. I bought my metal loom at Fisher's House of Toys in McCook, Nebraska for under a dollar on a hot dry weekend. Bruce Wood may have his "Dust, Texas," and James McMurtry, Jr. has "Levelland," but McCook, Nebraska is the dustiest place on my personal Earth.

Looper doopers were the weaving loops for making potholders, or "hot pads" as we called them. Cotton loopers were bulky and dull in color, like tops cut off of socks. Nylon looper doopers were available at the Ben Franklin on Cotner Boulevard in Lincoln, with smoother weaving action and brighter colors for the mod Sixties sensibilities. My maternal grandmother gave me a crochet hook, and taught me how to bind off the loop ends to finish the hot pads I wove. That was the finest moment of our relationship. The crochet hook is broken, but it is still in my embroidery basket.

I produced many hot pads in my most productive golden looper dooper years. To the best of my recollection, I never sold my wares, but gave them as gifts to everyone I knew for Christmas and birthdays. Two other women in the museum gift shop recounted their experiences as potholder artisans/door-to-door salespersons on dusty roads in Texas and Oklahoma. Peddling hot pads for two bits were their entries into the world of entrepreneurship. One recalled telling her mother that she couldn't do her homework because she "had so many orders to fill!" A third woman told sad tales of loom frustration and potholder envy in her Kansas childhood. We were all laughing and experiencing hot pad catharsis at the hot flash phase of our lives.

Levelland - James McMurtry, Jr. - 1995

Flatter than a tabletop
Makes you wonder why they stopped here
Wagon must have lost a wheel or they lacked ambition one
On the great migration west
Separated from the rest
Though they might have tried their best
They never caught the sun
So they sunk some roots down in the dirt
To keep from blowin' off the earth
Built a town around here
And when the dust had all but cleared
They called it Levelland, the pride of man
In Levelland

Granddad grew the dryland wheat
Stood on his own two feet
His mind got incomplete and they put in the home
Daddy's cotton grows so high
Sucks the water table dry
Rolling sprinklers circle round
Bleedin' it to the bone
And I won't be here when it comes a day
It all dries up and blows away
I'd hang around just to see
But they never had much use for me in Levelland
They don't understand me out in Levelland

And I watch those jet trails carving up that big blue sky
Coast to coasters watch 'em go
And I never would blame 'em one damn bit
If they never looked down on this
Not much here they'd wanna know
Just Levelland
Far as you can point your hand
Nothin' but Levelland

Mama used to roll her hair
Back before the central air
We'd sit outside and watch the stars at night
She'd tell me to make a wish
I'd wish we both could fly
Don't think she's seen the sky
Since we got the satellite dish and
I can hear the marching band
Doin' the best they can
They're playing "Smoke on the Water", "Joy to the World"
I've paid off all my debts
Got some change left over yet and I'm
Gettin' on a whisper jet
I'm gonna fly as far as I can get from
Levelland, doin' the best I can
Out in Levelland - imagine that

"Follow Me"

The motto of the United States Army Infantry is also the title of Bruce Wood's ballet about the service, sacrifice, interdependence, and brotherhood of infantry soldiers performed Wednesday evening at Bass Performance Hall by his Bruce Wood Dance Company. In just eighteen minutes of dance, I received a transfusion of understanding about my father's long reluctance to talk about his WWII experiences, the life of friends' sons and son's friends currently serving in the armed forces, and even the army play of my young sons.

Wood is a Fort Worth choreographer of great originality and very professional production standards. The dance's physical power, intense repressed emotion, and symbolism are still with me. I wonder if Mr. Wood created an eighteen minute dance because so many army recruits are just eighteen years old.

Mr. Wood and I are about the same age--Sixties kids too young to have been in Viet Nam but too old not to have been impacted by it. At or about age fifty, we are both grieving over the deceased hope that our generation would bring about peace, justice, and tolerance in the world.

There were many children in the audience, and they were all enthralled and marvelously well-behaved. A nice couple with two fifth-grade boys were seated ahead of me. The boys had an animated discussion after the first piece on the program, the world premiere of Wood's "Dust, Texas," mainly about the small, quirky movements of the barn dance section, the actions that resembled windmills and farm machinery, and the athletic feats of the dancers.

After "Follow Me" I asked what the fifth-graders what they thought about it. They informed me that the ballet was set to music from "Band of Brothers". They told me they really liked WWII history, but they had some trouble finding the word they wanted to describe "Follow Me". The father helped them by suggesting "solemn". The boys reminded me so much of my own sons at that age. We chatted a bit more about how to build a theater like the beautiful Bass Hall out of Legos, then laughed at the idea of little Lego people as ballet dancers.

I really regret not taking my sons to modern dance or ballet performances! We try so hard as parents to expose our children to all the fabulous opportunities. Those efforts are not wasted. Every outing or event opens a window for new ideas and appreciation. We all need the arts. They are carefully planted seeds, crisp spring breezes and cooling summer rains for our brains.

Before the final work on the program the young family had to weigh whether to stay up late just this one evening. So many students seem to not get enough sleep on a regular basis. I really respected the couple's concern that the boys be well-rested for school the next morning, but I did hope they would stay for Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." I just knew Bruce Wood's choreography of that favorite would be fabulous. I was wishing that my mother could have been with me, and also my sister and niece. Fritzi would have loved the dancers in their blue satin, and the playful leap-frogging to Gershwin's rhythms. And I would have cried if the fifth-graders had missed the literally glittery finale and final slide through the sparkles.

The story of Wood's "Follow Me" commission and the creative process it involved is intriguing reading. There are also some photos of the dance on the web at http://www.popphoto.com/idealbb/view.asp?topicID=47834. For additional fun, watch the video clips.



I'm feeling stressed out because real life is not leaving me much time to write my blogs. I think the American Psychiatric Association diagnosis for my condition is blogstxiety maximosis chroniculitis. I don't fantasize that legions of fans are waiting for my latest insights about pop celebrities and sports felons. Heck, I couldn't even answer a current events question on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," this morning about whether Britney Spears is pregnant. I probably have a bad case of Diva deviated septumrotisserie with/without hallucitosis of grandeur.


Thirty Girlfriends

"I have thirty girlfriends," boasts the prekindergarten student missing his two front teeth. "The one who broke up with me got hippotized."

Dang. Don't you hate it when that happens. You meet a guy. Preferably one with all his own teeth. Go out a few times. It's not really working, so you call it off. Next thing you know, you are getting very sleepy, and fat, sleepy, and fat. When he snaps his fingers, you start clucking like a chicken. Even worse, you start humming detached snippets of old Fleetwood Mac.


LSL in our schools

Amidst the immigration debate we have brushed aside another critical language issue for our public schools. There are many theories about how to best teach English as a second language, and how to conduct bilingual education. Fluency is important, but perhaps nowhere more important for our current culture than in the realm of Litigation as a Second Language.

In a country where a ridiculous percent of college-educated adults can't accurately read a simple sentence or road sign for content, we are being swept up in the Litigation Invasion. I was not born in a state where the primary language was litiginous legalese. I get a headache when I have to read the fine print on pizza delivery coupons. I will never be able to pass as a native speaker.

Arriving home this evening I found three official-looking documents in my mail. I opened them with fear and trepidation thinking I was being sued or investigated. To the best of my ability to read these documents, I am part of a class action lawsuit settlement I didn't know anything about. There's a possibility that my Epson inkjet printer cartridges have been professing emptiness prematurely. I stand to be rolling in dough soon.

Speaking, in fractured English of course, of dough, maybe I should double-check the expiration dates on the pizza coupons. Should I get the buffalo wings?

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Buffalo Springfield
For What It's Worth


Choice and power

I used to ask my preschool sons if they wanted "hot supper" or "cold supper". Sometimes I offered them a choice between "yellow supper" (mac & cheese, Jiffy cornbread, carrot sticks, and canned peach halves) and "red supper" (pasta with Ragu, cherry juice, and the ever-popular Gerber baby plums). I empowered them to choose between a nap and a cessation of sibling bickering. My oldest didn't care what he wore, but I gave his brothers choices between their Ghostbuster jumpsuits and their spaceman sweatsuits. They could pick whether to take a GI Joe in the car, or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. At the grocery store I let them choose the yogurt flavors. At the library I gave them free reign to pick two picture books. When they got older they could choose which two extracurricular activities to join.

It blows my Big Mama Sandbar brain to hear about my students choosing where their families will vacation--Banff or Wales, Cancun or Disneyworld. Many of them can choose whether to settle down and go to sleep in their bedroom at a reasonable hour or to watch heaven knows what on their own television until who knows when.

When I was little I knew I had the choice to behave myself in a manner appropriate to the occasion and setting, OR to go home immediately. One of my most humiliating memories is of being sent home from the next door neighbors' house because we kids were jumping on the sofa with our shoes off. I had to go home with my shoes untied because the mom of the house would not tie the shoes of the sofa-jumping transgressors.

In the Sixties we knew that if we could become sufficiently well-mannered we would enjoy privileges of going out to dinner or seeing a movie. My students know that they will have to be incredibly badly behaved before they might possibly lose their nearly guaranteed dinner out and movie. They have no incentives to improve their behavior. They already have control and power over their parents.

Today I made a "green supper"--a concoction of spinach noodles, edamame, zuchini, celery, Spanish olives, green peppers, and Italian dressing. I'm feeling empowered to choose between deli turkey pieces or tuna in the green salad supper. Plus, I tied my own shoes.

Progress reports

Now that my soccer mom career has ended, I am discovering how many parts of my life were organized around that identity. I have a very difficult time writing semester progress reports for my art students at home due to all the piles and stacks and stuff angling for my attention. That's why I wrote progress reports sitting in my official soccer mom sling chair during team practices and game warm-ups for so many years.

My youngest is away at college, but some Sundays he joins a pick-up soccer game on the field outside the dorms. Some Sundays I sit on sidelines here just to get my work done. It is nice to visit with my ref friends at the half, but mostly I do my reading or writing in a little post-soccer-mom bubble of familiar sounds, sun, and breezes. No art teacher is an island, but maybe I'm a big mama sandbar in a flat river, just letting the sun soak in, the activity blur, and the distractions melt away.

No games today, so I sat my sandbar bottom down at the Dallas Arboretum to write the progress reports and watch the sailboats racing on White Rock Lake. The numerous brides at the Arboretum were billowing photogenically, too, near every fountain, arch, and pool in the gardens. I would not have been surprised if a bride had suddenly ordered, "Prepare to come about. Ready about. Hard alee!"


Make a new plan, Stan

Tomorrow I'm going to the White Rock Home Tour, and to the Dallas Arboretum. I want to see the homes designed by Lyle Rowley, a disciple of famed Dallas architect Howard Meyer.

It wasn't easy bringing what was, at the time, new architectural thinking to Dallas. Ju-Nel's homes featured large, non-standard doors and windows, open floor plans and unique details like terrazzo floors, exposed interior brick and beams, pitched ceilings and courtyards. With today's trends leaning contemporary, these homes sound like a dream. But in the late 1950s and early 1960s, banks didn't agree. Back then, there was one home style they made loans for--mid-century ranch homes with boxy rooms and traditional floor plans. These were the ones that sold like hotcakes.

In their short but illustrious career, Ju-Nel created about fifty homes found exclusively in the hilly, urban forested Casa Linda, Eastwood Estates, Old Lake Highlands and Lake Highlands neighborhoods. Today the homes are coveted and owned by architects, artists and art enthusiasts.

I grew up on that new architectural thinking, and it will always resonate for me. The home tour will be an extension of my childhood Sunday afternoon pastime--flopping down on the living room carpet, paging through Living Spaces, edited by George Nelson. Amazing to see that book for sale for up to four hundred dollars now.

Perhaps the oddest thing is that I have a plan. When I was married, my spouse was always disgusted that I didn't plan weekend activities for us as a couple or as a family. I was so preoccupied with the logistics of getting three kids to overlapping sports practices and games, scouts, allergy shots, swim lessons, clubs, karate, and the occasional emergency room visit, almost always without his help, that I had no energy left for planning amusements and outings for my novelty- and risk-seeking spouse. My locus of operations kept collapsing inward as his need to skydive, run marathons, and climb Himalayas spiraled outward.

It's been years since our divorce. The kids are mostly grown. They show a remarkable sense of adventure MIXED with wonderful practicality, responsibility, good sense, and frugality. They have excellent planning skills, and make fabulous opportunities for themselves. I have hopes that they will even be able to choreograph simultaneous crosstown soccer practices a few years down the road.

Now I'm mostly planning for myself. Somedays I'm happy with a plan to get the laundry folded and a blog or two written. Other days it is nice to set off on an adventure.

Jam Box Office

It's wonderful to get a clear sign about something I must do. This morning I was finally getting around to reading The Guide from Friday's Dallas Morning News. There are so many fantastic things going on in the metroplex this month that it is hard to decide how to spend my limited entertainment dollars.

DMN dance writer Margaret Putnam quoted choreographer Bruce Wood about his new work, "Dust, Texas":

Either you respond to a sky that's big and land that is flat and it makes you bigger, or else it oppresses you.

When I saw that it was the clencher. I'm the poster child for big, flat land. I was already excited about "Rhapsody in Blue" on the program for Wednesday's Bruce Wood Dance Company performance at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Putnam writes, "Rhapsody in Blue is a romp – lush, jazzy, fluid and infinitely sophisticated, riding on the wave of Gershwin's spirited score."

Still in my PJs at 8:20, I headed to the computer to buy a ticket. After attending Fort Worth Opera's "Dialogues of the Carmelites", I vowed not to ever again sit in the seating sections requiring rapelling equipment to reach. The Bass is so steeply constructed as to set off my very, very rare acrophobia.

Bass Hall online ticketing seemed pretty simple, except that it asked me to log-in as a returning customer. I typed in my email address, then clicked on "Forgot My Password". The computer again asked for my email address, then told me in big red letters that it could not accept my email address. Okay, maybe I didn't buy my ticket online before. One time I won my tickets from ArtsCard in the same way I win most of my movie passes and get other deals for tickets and outings. Maybe the other time I bought my ticket at the box office the day of the opera.

Time to try registering as a new user with the usual name/address/email/phone info so that I could purchase my ticket before my allowed time for completing the the transaction expired. The little time clock was ticking down the seconds. You would think I was taking the SAT or playing in the state basketball tournament! My new user status may have been accepted by the online box office computer kahuna, but I wasn't able to get back to my ticket request, so I went through the whole process again. This time I got the dreaded message:

Not one to give up easily I tried yet again, but to no avail. Still sure of my divine mandate, and thinking I was being tested in my faith, I picked up the phone and called the box office. Like many artists I know, I use the phone as a last resort. We are a group prone to phonophobia.

"How can I help you this morning?," asked the friendly woman. I explained that I tried to buy a ticket online, but I wasn't sure if the transaction worked. "Well let's just see what the computer tells us," she says with the patience and good humor of the sonogram tech at the OB-GYN. Then a gasp. "Why, there are three of them in there!," she says. Great. I'm having triplet tickets. Actually my name and address are in the computer over and over and over, but no tickets have actually been purchased. Whew! By this time I've apologized profusely for jamming and disabling the Bass Performance Hall ticket website, and the friendly woman and I are both laughing so hard tears are running down our cheeks. We agree that I should probably have a third cup of coffee before I ever shop online again. She's going to hold my ticket at Will Call. She probably wants to take my photo for the Most Wanted Poster. It's been six hours, and the online box office is still disabled.

So my plan for Wednesday is to leave work at 3:00 and go to Fort Worth. Go to the National Cowgirl Museum. Go to the Bass Will Call at 6:30. Go to Jail. Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.


Elvis Avocado

This week's Thursday word comes from a preschooler who knows how to have a good time, so put on your poodle skirt and saddle shoes and drop a 45 on the spindle!


Take a ripe avocado and cut it in half very carefully. Remove the seed to grow a plant. Scoop out the yummy soft inside. Put it in a bowl and mash it up. Preschoolers aren't interested in garlic or onions, so skip those and just squeeze in some lemon juice. Serve with triangle chips. And there you have it.


If you are headed to McKinney, Texas this weekend, check out the Elvis art at Carrie Garner's Galleria d' Arte. The gallery is at 100 E. Louisiana. That's the southwest corner of the old Collin County courthouse square. Roger Nitz has some entertaining artistic thoughts about Elvis on display. The one that gave me the greatest chuckle was a painting of a chicken with Elvis hair. I instantly grasped the connection between Elvis impersonators, poultry, Warner Bros. cartoon character, Foghorn Leghorn, and the old radio character, Senator Beauregard Claghorn on Fred Allen's Radio Show back way before I was born.

I wonder how it would sound on the radio if Fred Allen strolled up "Allen's Alley" to have a little chat with The Decider aka Dubya:

I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense. That's a joke... I say, that's a joke, son.

I might need to get out my green suede shoes to Guac Around the Clock. Preschoolers, you're doing a heckuva job.



In the middle of Googling Herman W. Mudgett, my oldest called. "Mom, I have some questions about weddings," he said. GASP! Breathe in. Breathe out. [A soft and low voice in the back of my head started chanting, "Elope. Elope. Elope. Elope..."].

Everyday and everyday, I am thankful to be the mother of sons. A friend of mine says I'm a MOBO--a mother of boys only. MOBOism has been a good fit for me, and I've enjoyed it immensely. One of the side benefits of MOBOism is not having to obsess about providing The Perfect Wedding For My Little Princess*.

My oldest explained that the wedding in question was that of a fellow grad student. Whew. I asked if he was in the wedding party. "How would I know that?," he asked. Granted, he's been to two weddings in his life, or three if you count the one when he was two weeks old. Normally you know you are a groomsman because the groom personally asks you to stand up with him. It's not like being summoned for jury duty, I explain.

*T P W F M L P
It looks like a bad draw at Scrabble or an eye chart, but it requires weird dresses with matching shoes, fingernail polish, and lingerie showers. The good news is that games requiring attendees to make as many words as possible from the letters in the names of the bride and groom have pretty much passed by the wayside at bridal showers.

"I think you have to sit on a special side at the wedding. How do you know which side is the right one," my son asks, "and what is black tie optional?" At this point I'm printing out fourteen pages about Mudgett, America's first serial killer. Fortunately, my oldest is more adept at Googling while on the phone than I. We figure out that he can wear his suit. This is good. The last time he wore a tux and cummerbund he ruined the effect by forgetting to zip his fly. I didn't mention prom since we were having such a fun discussion.

It's a good idea to take a SuDoKu puzzle or the NYTimes crossword along when you are summoned to jury duty. There's quite a bit of waiting around. Taking a SuDoKu or crossword to a wedding is considered bad form, though. Just a free bonus etiquette tip from the CollageMama! Those of us in the jury pool who weren't selected for the trial this morning raced out of the courthouse even faster than "Just Marrieds." We didn't have to gather up our trains or throw our bouquets. We didn't have to duck the rice or birdseed.

The info on H. H. Holmes aka Herman Mudgett was not for me. "Oh, sure," you mutter, "tell it to the judge". It was really for a friend's book club reading Devil In the White City about the Chicago World's Fair.

Now where's my old cassette of David Bromberg singing "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair"?! Oh, and maybe I should tell my son he doesn't have to take his own Minute Rice to the wedding.


Affordable Housing

Spent the evening out there on the lunatic fringe at the condo homeowner association annual budget meeting. It was pretty civilized as these meetings go. Nobody's head spun around. No one channeled an ancient Mayan priest at a sacrificial rite. The board president managed to maintain order and limit the amount of time wasted by the usual suspects/repeat offenders.

I was able to ascertain that the management company is unlikely to have my son's car towed in the remaining two weeks of his study in Italy. I've tried to keep the Intrepid dusted and bird poop free. (Swiffer Dry and Swiffer Wet!) I've done my best to distract the neighbors from the oil spot under the immovable object Dodge by telling them amusing anecdotes about the life of a poor, yet devastatingly handsome and aw-shucks wholesome, college student overseas--hostels, backpacks, nights sleeping on the floor of trains, riding scooters all over Barcelona. Their patience is wearing thin, though.

It will be terrific to see my son again after two semesters. It will be great to see him get the darn Intrepid started, washed, waxed, licensed, insured, and moved.

I'm also looking forward to seeing the National Building Museum's traveling exhibition, "Affordable Housing: Designing an American Asset" at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary in May. Some of the country's most gifted architects are focusing their visions and energy on designing attractive, efficient homes for low-income families in both urban and rural settings. Open until June 30th 2006. The MAC.


Velcome to Haunted Taco

May I take your order?

Imagine Vincent Price's all organic zombie select celebrity hot sauce for worthy causes. .. Morticia Addams at the pick-up window. .. Alfred Hitchcock's Heart Healthy Menu Choices ...

I'm deep in the middle of a three-week art unit involving a fictional drive-through taco restaurant. The kids are totally into the project, but I'm starting to have taco burn-out. It was a gift when a kindergarten student changed his restaurant picture from "Happy Taco" to "Haunted Taco". Zat vill be $4.78. Please drive up to ze vindow.


That little taste of home

Texas will never be Nebraska no matter how hard it tries. True, Texas doesn't seem to be working very diligently toward that esteemable goal. Texas wastes a heckuva lot of time in fruitless debates about funding public schools, and wastes a lot of energy on trying to win a site for the Dubya Presidential Liebury of Nucular Fiction. I believe all this waste stems from a lack of time spent trying not to freeze one's petootie onto metal playground equipment during the winters of one's formative years. Freezing your petootie onto the jungle gym and wiping your snivelling nose with your ice-encrusted mitten have a way of shaping your resolve, clarifying your values, and focusing your efforts to achieve your goals.

Texas just plain needs more Culver's restaurants. We made a special trip to McKinney yesterday to enjoy a lunch at that rare Texas Culver's. We also checked out the experimental "green" environment-friendly WalMart with its xeriscape and wind turbine. A WalMart is still a WalMart, but a Culver's is a cut above!

Hank Williams: Lost Highway

WHEN you go to the Dallas Theater Center's production of "Hank Williams: Lost Highway"--and you WILL go because the CollageMama told you to whether you like country music or not--be sure to look at the art in the Kalita Humphreys' lobby. The display of works from Ellen Frances Tuchman's Matchbook series are tiny, yet appropriate complements for the play. The pieces are vintage matchbook covers centered over beaded and painted grid surfaces of vellum. Matchbooks from the road certainly fit a play about Hank's band on tour in the early Fifties. The beaded surfaces hint of the rhinestone cowboy costumes of the Grand Ole Opry.

Hank Williams, Sr., is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so don't you be whining about country music. His songs are roots of rock music, and they are so admirably performed in the DTC show it's easy to forget you aren't really hearing Hank himself.


Religion on the field and in the school

My students were discussing religion during art class, which isn't surprising on Maundy Thursday and Passover. It was the turns the discussion took that were surprising. Two girls were chatting:

1st girl "What school do you go to?"
2nd girl "________ Episcopal School."
1st girl "________, a basketball school?," with a mixture of surprise and envy.

(If you are having trouble understanding the conversation, start over and read it aloud.)

2nd girl "Yes, ________ Episcopal."
1st girl "What letter does it start with?," as she begins drawing her version of a school crest for the 2nd girl.

(Things go straight to "Who's on first?" from there.)

1st girl writes "___ A B S" for the school letters on the crest.
2nd girl "It's ___ E S."
I add to the confusion by spelling E-P-I-S-C-O-P-A-L aloud.

Frustrated, but ready to draw the mascot for "_____, A Basketball School" on the crest, first girl asks "What animal does your school team worship? Because my team worships horses."

2nd girl "My team worships panthers."

3rd child "My soccer team worships sharks, except we are forsworn against false idols."

I add "I think it is time to clean up now!"

No use crying ...

...because I'm over it now. Thursday afternoon's word, I'm sorry to report, was sour milk. After hearing it used a couple hundred times in the space of an hour, everyone but the user was mightily sick of sour milk. We were all beginning to make faces that must have resembled the one the student's mother made when she found sour milk in her refrigerator.

In the second hour of class we had a new diversion. Mr. Sour Milk announced he had learned a "new not good word" at school, and he would be happy to whisper it to the other art students. The others were indeed interested, but I did not allow this transfer of strategic information. He wanted to give hints to the other kids, so he told them the not good word was an "onomatopoeia"! I have to love the dichotomy of the first grader who gets all excited about a new potty word, but who can use "onomatopoeia" in an off-hand and correct manner.


The Green Bathrobe

There was a brief and shining moment when I felt like a princess. It was the minute when I unwrapped a gift and found a light green bathrobe of a soft, quilted fabric. I remember few details of the moment, but the color is imprinted in my consciousness as the transcending healing hue, more spring than mint.

Was I eight, nine, or maybe ten? Who gave me the gift? I don't know. What triggered my extremely positive reaction to the green bathrobe? Not a clue. Why, forty-plus years later do I send "good vibes" to a friend undergoing chemotherapy in exactly this shade of mental green?

Still choosing princess green clothes. It is a good color to waltz about in the spring. Princess Lettuce. Princess Asparagus. Princess Fern. Princess Pistachio Ice Cream. Young pouty lizard princes in silver-green ceremonial armor. Glass slippers, lime Jello, and grasshoppers.

Why did the turkey cross the road?

The image flashed through my mind again. A wild turkey racing across highway 169 just north of the huge Amazon.com distribution center near Coffeyville, Kansas in mid-March. What was it thinking? Was something chasing it? Black/green feathers shining under a bright blue sky. Yellow forsythia in bloom near the farmhouse. Flagman waving just one direction of traffic through at a time. My mind an old school film projector that clicks as the reels turn. Turkey running fence flashing sun black green blue yellow construction orange slow moving traffic fast moving turkey.

This is a poor reproduction of an old friend from the Sheldon Gallery's permanent collection. I was lucky to find Theordore Wendel's 1886 oil, "Girl with Turkeys, Giverny" on display last month. The Sheldon had a delightful grouping in the Rohman Family Galleries, including one room full of Robert Henri's portraits.

For fifteen years the Sheldon sculpture garden has been the site for "Jazz In June", a free series of concerts on Tuesday evening. It's been many years since I was in Lincoln in the month of June, but an old "Jazz In June" t-shirt is a star in my art classroom. It features a picture of a mosquito playing a trumpet. Ever since I put "the mosquito shirt" in the smock box a few years back, it's been easier to get kids to put on smocks. It's now a game to see who ends up with "the mosquito shirt," and other shirts have also acquired titles and status.

Real authors wear boots

I may never be a real author, and I'm sure I'll never play one on tv. Still, I'm interested in the lives and secrets of success for writers. Naturally I was thrilled to hear in the news recently about the DaVinci Code author's website. What advice would Dan Brown have for this blogger?

Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details that would enliven your page. If I'm not at my desk by 4:00 A.M., I feel like I'm missing my most productive hours. In addition to starting early, I keep an antique hour glass on my desk and every hour break briefly to do pushups, sit-ups, and some quick stretches. I find this helps keep the blood (and ideas) flowing. I'm also a big fan of gravity boots. Hanging upside down seems to help me solve plot challenges by shifting my entire perspective.
From Dan Brown's official website.

Okay, Dan, let me rephrase the question. Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you that won't make us gag. Gravity boots are just so, so, so 1980's, Dan! I expect to see dark wood paneling, red shag carpet, and avocado green crockpots full of melted Velveeta, RoTel tomatoes, and Old El Paso refried beans in those photos of basement rec rooms with a gravity boot inversion table. I checked the claims about Spyder Gravity Boots:

Spyder Gravity Boots Used by professional athletes, personal sport trainers, medical doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists.

As yet it doesn't mention Dan Brown, although one might think the inversion fitness folks would want to jump on the DaVinci Code bandwagon with everyone else. I don't think Dan's advice will be much help to me. I can't afford an inversion table, but I did pick up an inversion poodle for $1.99 at World Market today. I'm going to set my chicken kitchen timer for one hour, then do some (3) push-ups and some (7) sit-ups. I'll hang up my inversion poodle to get the ideas flowing. I might have to make some of that last millennium bean dip, though.


Hansel and Griddish

I've been brainstorming and writing lesson plans related to the theme of maps, so it was funny that I got lost Sunday afternoon. I was driving to the Dallas Arboretum, a place I've been several times over the fifteen years I've lived in Plano. This time, though, I was taking a different route from a different starting point. I was following posted directional signs instead of trusting my gut directional guidance instincts (the low tech GDGI system in my Buick). A sign to turn right from N. Buckner Blvd. onto Garland Rd. was missing, so I went on straight ahead into the unknown territory of East Dallas.

Hoping to get back to where I should have turned, I hung a Ralph on Ferguson Road, the first street name I recognized. Then I hung another Ralph onto East R. L. Thornton Expressway. I've listened to traffic update folks in helicopters for fifteen years without ever linking a place to the highway names.

My goal was to hang another Ralph from R. L. Thornton onto the N. Central Expressway a.k.a. "75" so that I could hang yet another Ralph onto Mockingbird Lane to eventually find the Arboretum on Garland Road. I wasn't thinking at that point about the one hundred thousand plus people headed to the immigration reform rally in downtown Dallas via R. L. Thornton or 75. Big oops!

It was impressive to look down from the elevated interchange and see all the cars and all the gathering marchers dressed in white shirts. Immigration policy is extremely complicated, so I worry that it is being tackled by the current Congress and administration. No amount of grids, maps, and bread crumbs can magically solve this human and economic problem. Maybe I should loan out my Buick's GDGI system.

Dallas freeways frequently have two names, and some have more. It makes those radio morning commute reports slightly poetic and quite distracting. It's a rare traffic update when I can stay focused long enough to hear the conditions on the southbound North Central. When I hear "C. F. Hawn," I think Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In. "Julius Schepps Freeway" always registers as Julia Child's Freeway. "Westbound LBJ" provokes If congested I will not move. If irritated I will not merge. Loop 12's multiple monikers (Northwest Highway, Buckner, Walton Walker Blvd., Ledbetter) are like mental Yahtzee dice spilling out in different combinations, made worse when mixed with Woodall Rodgers , R. L. Thornton, Stemmons, Marvin D. Love, George Bush, Tom Landry, The Tollway, and The Canyon.

You think the High Five is a complicated interchange? Try untangling Marvin Gaye**, Roy Rodgers, Will Rogers, Keebler elves, billy goats, Bear Bryant*, GHWB ralphing on the Japanese prime minister, Thornton Wilder's "Our Town", Hitchcock's "North By Northwest", stamens and pistols, and the untethered punchline to a long forgotten joke, "Would I? Would I?" Julia Childs would add a little more wine to the sauce at this point.

If the radio helicopter lady tells me that traffic is moving slowly through The Canyon, I'll drift into Joni Mitchell memories about big yellow taxis and "Ladies of the Canyon." Thank heaven for the Arboretum in this paved paradise!

Remember, four Ralphs do make one right.

*I get Bear and Tom Landry mixed up. Didn't one of them wear a hat?
**Okay, I get Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, and Al Green mixed up when the helicopter lady reports on traffic on 121 in Grapevine.


Tulips optional

The Dallas Arboretum's tulips lost their heads too early for the annual Dallas Blooms event, but Dallas went right on blooming. Sunday was that one day of absolutely perfect spring weather that Dallas is allotted annually, and a glimpse of the azaleas at the Masters in Augusta on the tube prodded me out to see the real thing..

The arboretum crowd strolled and strollered about speaking a musical array of languages, and wearing costumes as lovely as the garden beds. A person couldn't walk too fast lest they accidentally step into someone's photo shot. It seemed like everyone was taking a picture of someone or some flower. Rather than being an annoyance, everyone seemed to appreciate the opportunity to slow down, be courteous, and spend a moment being more observant.

I didn't see any dogs taking pictures, but people were taking pictures of their dogs by the snapdragons. Brides, their supportive entourages holding veils and dry-cleaner bags back behind the hedge, were being professionally photographed and causing major botanical detours. A cheerleader was posing all perky+plus by the cascading water curtain, while her photo shoot was interrupted by soggy kids playing tag through the fountains. Seersucker sunsuited babies were plunked down in every patch of color anchored by soggy Huggies while grandmothers performed ancient photo-enhancing say-cheese-&-watch-the-birdie dances.

An entire drill team was posing on the sloping lawn of the DeGolyer House next to that huge old live oak tree. I watched for awhile, but they didn't do any Kilgore Rangerette routines. Elderly brown women with dried apple faces and serene expressions flowed by in fabulous floral saris . Children in embroidered and sequined traditional ethnic costumes tried hard to be photogenic hoping to be rewarded with a refreshing run through the frog fountain.

I didn't see many young ladies posing for quinceanas portraits, but I saw girls in every possible pastel Easter dress sitting in the poppy bed waiting while their little brother wiped his nose on the sleeve of his sailor suit.

Best of all were the young people posing for engagement photos. Slender young girls posed in mid-kiss under wisteria-laden garden arches while pudgy young men wondered how in the hey-ho they got into this situation that required delicate fish kisses in front of hundreds of people. When they proposed marriage they probably weren't thinking of spending Sunday afternoons wearing a lemon sherbet yellow golf shirt in the very public gardens, right?


Skylark on the silver screen

I've lost my bet. Buick Skylarks have been in movies according to the Internet Movie Car Database. A '64 Skylark appeared in My Cousin Vinny in 1992. A Skylark of unknown vintage appeared in Nine To Five in 1980, which fits as the Skylark is the sort of car for getting a single mom to her job. Both of these Skylarks were older than my 1996, which isn't a bad car, but lacks star quality and a Pepsodent smile.

Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and I have to leave now. We are buckling our seatbelts, and warming up our vocal chords. Join us! There's room for one more in the backseat:

Do you know the way to San Jose?
I’ve been away so long.
I may go wrong and lose my way.

Do you know the way to San Jose?
I’m going back to find
some peace of mind in San Jose.

L.A. is a great big freeway.
Put a hundred down and buy a car.
In a week, maybe two, they’ll make you a star

Weeks turn into years.
How quick they pass.
And all the stars that never were
Are parking cars and pumping gas

Do you know the way to San Jose?
They’ve got a lot of space.
there’ll be a place where I can stay

I was born and raised in San Jose
I’m going back to find
some peace of mind in San Jose.

Fame and fortune is a magnet.
It can pull you far away from home
With a dream in your heart you’re never alone.

Dreams turn into dust and blow away
And there you are without a friend
You pack your car and ride away

I’ve got lots of friends in San Jose
Do you know the way to San Jose?
Can’t wait to get back to San Jose.


Elevator to the Gallows

When I drive the Buick up the North Central Expressway, after an evening at the Dallas Angelika Film Center, the Cosmic Cinematographer is not inspired. I imagine the Cosmic Cinematographer tinkering with the scene, the lighting, the atmospheric conditions, but still being dissatisfied. The technicolor film is tossed out in favor of black and white, and a light rain shower with some lightning is ordered . The dramatic High Five interchange loops and arcs overhead, but the '96 Skylark just won't work in this motion picture, no matter if I put improvised Miles or Coltrane in the cd player.

I bet no Buick Skylark has ever had a role in a feature motion picture. Not sure how to research this notion, and wonder if anyone know a good source for identifying the automobiles in movies.

Went to see "Elevator To the Gallows" at the Angelika this weekend with guy friends. Over coffee afterward we discussed the vehicles as much as the story and the 1957 film's powerful visual effects. I thought it would be easy to drive home in the Buick, do a bit of Googling, and find out about the cars in Louis Malle's first feature film. Alas, http://www.imbd.com/ doesn't list the cars with the stars. Shouldn't the credits read

Directed by Louis Malle; written by Noel Calef; starring Jeanne Moreau, a 1950 Chevrolet DeLuxe Styleline Convertible AND a 1956 silver Mercedes 300SL Gullwing?


What happened to last Thursday's word?

Every Thursday I learn a new word from my student, and I try to post that word out there on the Itty Bitty cyber frontier ASAP so that we can all become more erudite (not to be confused with crudites*). No need for me to hog all the erudition for myself! You know how it goes straight to my thighs anyway... sorta like a chocolate cake donut with white frosting and sprinkles. More about that donut later.

Now, I appreciate your mounting sentiment that it is cruel to leave you hanging on this barbed hook, justa wigglin' and waitin' for the Thursday word, with baited breath, even! Last Thursday's word was approcreate.

Since I subscribe to the highest standards of bloggership, I must hold each Thursday's word of insight up to the bifocal lens of Visine scholarly research. Which means, basically, I Google to see if the word might have been previously discovered, check the Online Etymology Dictionary, and page through my favorite old American Heritage Dictionary. I don't look it up in my Funk and Wagnalls**, since I don't have one. Alas, this time the Thursday word had several Google hits. What if "approcreate" is some sort of asexual function of Martian sea slugs? Scouring the Web for illumination I find that "approcreate" is an adjective used primarily by homophobic teens, Audi owners, physics nerds with Tesla tuners, and secretaries of student government organizations.

"Is that approcreate behavior?" The kids are singing the Queen song that goes, "We will, we will, rock you!" They are replacing "rock" with every rhyming word and variation that exists, and you know what I mean. Sensing a small dose of radiated teacherly disapproval they mimic a teacherly tone to ask each other if their behavior is approcreate.

Reminds me of an apocryphal family story about a spelling bee in a one-room country school. "Spell fish," the teacher says. "Fish, B O X," replies the spelling student.

Besides all this vocabulary instruction, I have a helpful hint for you free of charge. If you ever have to calm a preschooler who has been injured, I suggest you calmly introduce the subject of donuts. Preschoolers have very firm opinions about donuts, and they are always glad to tell you those opinions even while they are having a scary major nosebleed. As they express their opinions, their mental image of The Perfect Donut overcomes their fear. Of course just discussing donuts for the time required to stop a nosebleed may make a grownup gain five pounds.

*crudites (kroo-dit-ta) pl.n. Cut raw vegetables, such as carrot sticks and pepper strips, served often with a dip as an appetizer. [French, pl. of crudite, rawness, from Old French crudite, from Latin cru-di-tas, indigestion, undigested food, from crud-us, raw; see crude.] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. See also Rabbit food

**One of the catch phrases on the late '60s American television show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was: "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls". My Thursday students would fit right in with Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, JoAnne Worley, Judy Carne, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Flip Wilson, and Gary Owens.


Why Can't You Behave?

My Mental Barbie started singing Cole Porter's song from the musical, "Kiss Me Kate" during the morning class. Of course, Mental Barbie (MB) was wearing that long black sequined dress! MB always wears the most fabulous outfits, often with above-the-elbow gloves, even while teaching preschool art. MB's voice was that of Lisa Kirk from the original Broadway "Kiss Me Kate" cast at Shubert Theatre in 1951. True, I wasn't born then, but neither was MB. This information is from the portal for all things Porter, The Cole Porter Reference Guide:

Why can't you behave?
Oh, why can't you behave?
After all the things you told me,
And the promises that you gave,
Oh, why can't you behave?

Classroom management is always a challenge, so it is comforting to have a Mental Barbie with that vintage wire stand to hold me up in times of trouble. As if I didn't feel old enough already, Paul McCartney is on the cover of AARP Magazine! Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? 64?????

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mental Barbie comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.


Imagine you are a playwright

It is easier for me to imagine being a crocodile or a green anole lizard for a day than to imagine being a playwright for even an hour. After I blogged the possibility about Dad's breakfast dreams yesterday, a friend introduced me to a stranger as, "This is Nancy. She's a playwright." What a daunting concept. What a joke. Ah, but what a dare.

My students have been making lizard art after listening to Joanne Ryder's fine book, Lizard In the Sunabout becoming an anole for a day. Since I moved with my sons into these condos nine years ago I've been a dedicated watcher of the anoles who also call the condominium complex home. The anoles have presented me with a this Power Point program to change my life at absolutely no charge:

  • It's often wise to blend into your surroundings
  • Sometimes you have to stand your ground against intruders and those making impositions on your time and space
  • Other times you just have to soak up the sun, breathe, and do a few push-ups
  • Once in awhile there's nothing for it but to shed your skin and start over
  • It's good to sport your pink neck flap and be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished
    • Watching the lizards is a slow-down meditation for me, a time to connect with nature and spirit. Planning breakfast is my dad's daily devotion, although it is unlikely he would put it in those religious terms. Dreaming of planning breakfast is the night version of "praying incessantly" in J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey:

      • Planning breakfast is embracing life as it is, not life as you expected.
      • Planning breakfast is gratitude for Mother Earth's bounty and variety.
      • Planning breakfast is starting each day with a disciplined, well-armed force aligned against the marauding guerillas of loneliness and grief.
      • Planning breakfast is acknowledging the dominion of Father Time by synchronizing humble efforts to ready sausage, eggs, and toast so as to savor their perfection together.
      • Planning breakfast is respecting the life's work of my mother to coordinate, nurture, nourish, and ease all our lives with great skill, responsibility, love, and patience every morning.
      • Planning breakfast is honoring the generations before us by savoring the smells and flavors of remembered percolated coffee and dishwashing detergent in olden sunlit kitchens, the tastes of foods from across oceans, and the ancestral pang of doing without in depressions, droughts, journeys, and wars.
      • Planning breakfast cherishes the rituals that made our family life a tapestry of coffee cakes, waffles, Betty Comden and Adoph Green songs, pop-overs, and Cheerios with the milk poured just right.

      • Planning breakfast accepts the presence of chaos and confusion in life and pledges eternal vigilence against their powers
      • Planning breakfast is an act of gratitude recognizing the circle of supportive friends who send love and courage in jars of jams and preserves
      • Planning breakfast ensures a supportive and vigilant guardian with the bald eagle wings of an old plaid bathrobe is watching the neighborhood children board their school bus and parents drive off down the icy street to work.

        I have no idea how to write these ideas into a play. I do have new ideas of how to pray incessantly while enjoying some Little Smokies.



      "So, I was doing the crossword puzzle under the dryer, and I had put in a wrong word on across. "

      "Why on earth were you doing the puzzle under the dryer?," my walking buddy asked.

      "Because it gets really boring otherwise, just watching 'Oprah' backwards in the mirror. Plus I can't hear or understand the women speaking Persian," I logically replied.

      "Oh! That dryer. I thought you meant the clothes dryer!" My buddy gets it now.

      "So, like I said, I had put in a wrong across, so the down was blank, blank, S, P, for Beatles movie. That just shorted my brain out. All I could think of was 'Hard Day's Night'."
      _ _ S P!

      "Help!," she says. "It's 'HELP!'"

      "I know. Once I decided I would ask you for help, it came back to me." Thank heaven that's solved.

      "But you know what else? Watching "Oprah' in the mirror made me forget her boyfriend's name, not that I even care about Oprah, but it's always in the grocery checkout," I continued.



      Hesp, I need somebody,
      Hesp, not just anybody,
      Hesp, you know I need someone, hesp.

      When I was younger, so much younger than today,
      I never needed anybody's hesp in any way.
      But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured,
      Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the door to unload the dryer, and wouldn't you know, I forgot to put in the Bounce...

      Paring knife

      The older and wider I become, the more I think about narrowing. How do we pare our lives down to what make it sustainable, meaningful, and enjoyable? When I was young, skinny, and feeling invulnerable, my goal was to become more open, to widen my world, to accept all random stimuli, and so I accumulated images, articles, memories, colored papers by the boxfuls.

      My octegenerian father dreams of planning and preparing his next breakfast. My twenty-something sons aspire to experience the wide world through study exchanges, study abroad, internships, and (hopefully) challenging jobs. They don't tell me their nighttime dreams, and that is probably a good thing. I dream of packing--packing for trips, packing for moves, packing without any assistance against impossible deadlines--too much stuff. I wake up exhausted after working all night to sort and pack everything in my dream house into boxes to load into a lifesize Fisher Price Schoolbus. I stuff the stuff of a real life alongside sequined dresses for unattended proms, place-settings for unserved dinner parties, and files of maintenance records for cars I never owned.

      A collage is not art unless considered choices have been made by the artist. We can take in so much stimuli, and stuff it into our memories, our file cabinets, our garages, and our computers. Meaning and art do not come from amassing, but from chosing and narrowing the material.

      Last evening I attended a preview for a play written by an actor whose performances I've admired. The subject is obviously precious to the writer, who wants to share his enthusiasm for the life and music of Jimmie Rodgers with an audience. Unfortunately, the result is not drama. The show is educational, in the same way a filmstrip was educational in 1960's junior high social studies classrooms. It had the excitement level of an overwarm classroom with the venetian blinds closed after a cafeteria lunch of fish sticks and canned peas.

      As a third or fourth grader my son read a biography of Marco Polo. He was so excited about Marco Polo he convinced a drama teacher to have his class make up a play about the man. The class play may have interested a few kids and parents in Marco Polo's travels across the known world, but it suffered from too much material and too wide a scope.

      Jimmie Rodgers and Marco Polo could both be the subject of an interesting hour on PBS or the History Channel. For live drama, both need to find the single relationship and dialogue, the tension of a single conflict, that exposes the core meaning. I found myself wondering most about the relationship between RCA Victor and early recording artists like Jimmie Rodgers (but not like Marco Polo).

      I'm not critiquing or preaching this to anyone but myself. What needs to be pared away to find a meaning for this blog with its all-over-the-map subjects? What needs to be narrowed and harvested from the masses of material I've accumulated in my life and my file cabinets? Maybe then I would have the focus to write a play about my dad's relationship with his next breakfast.


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