If you see a gray ribbon loop magnet on the bumper of some Buick you'll know it's commemorating National Delete-A-Thon Week. Gray being the color of both dust bunnies and the pulled-out hair of a tech service phone call, it seems appropriate to launch this first annual awareness campaign.

The Delete-A-Thon hasn't found the right celebrity spokesperson or perky animated mascot yet. Rather than sending each donor a pledge gift coffee mug, the Delete-A-Thon promises to smash an ugly mug for every fifty dollars pledged. For one hundred bucks I'll take a monogrammed totebag full of recyclables to the collection cart.

I'm cleaning out both cyber email folders and accumulated crap in the physical realm. It's slow going, and I could use your donation of aid, either monetary or emotional.

One Riot, One Ranger, Many Rivers

There's ever so much I will never know about this great Lone Star nation of Texas. I will never wear the folk knowledge of this place next to my skin like fine dust and sweat. Although we moved here in 1990, I have never immersed myself in this state. I am still an other, resisting the claim of this land. I fight against being a Texan, but curiosity catches me up.

My sons were all born at Methodist Hospital on Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska, 68114, for heaven's sake. That should make them Nebraskans, right? I tried so hard to raise the boys as Yankees, as Great Plainsians, and as grandchildren of The Drought/Great Depression. I wanted my children to be little Democrats that JFK and FDR could be proud of, possessing enough sense to use the restroom before donning snowsuit, boots, and mittens. In their teens I wanted them to always have a dime for the payphone in their penny loafers, and to know that carbonated beverages are called "pop".

None of the guys have ever said they were "fixin' to" do something in my presence, but they indiscriminately refer to all carbonated beverages as "coke" when they mean Dr. Pepper. I doubt any of them know the significance of the Nebraska Unicameral, but I'm proud of them anyway. If I were to call them on the phone, they could tell me about the Come & Take It cannon, and the origin of the phrase, "One riot, one Ranger".

That phrase, which stirs a true Texan of either the big belt buckle or the Austin pierced eyebrow variety, derives from the peace officer career of one William Jesse McDonald. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety's Texas Rangers website :

The law authorized four Ranger companies of a maximum of 20 men each. The career of Company "B" Captain W. J. McDonald, and a book written about him, added much to the Ranger legend, including two of its most famous sayings. The often cited "One Riot, One Ranger" appears to be based on several statements attributed to Captain McDonald by Albert Bigelow Paine in his classic book, Captain Bill McDonald: Texas Ranger. When sent to Dallas to prevent a scheduled prize-fight, McDonald supposedly was greeted at the train station by the city's anxious mayor, who asked: "Where are the others?" To that, McDonald is said to have replied, "Hell! ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!" And on the title page of Paine's 1909 book on McDonald are 19 words labeled as Captain McDonald's creed: "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin." Those words have evolved into the Ranger creed. During the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, Rangers found themselves up against men in the wrong as always, but some of the law enforcement problems these officers confronted were as new as the century itself.

Experts.com has a different rendition:

Texas Rangers gathered at El Paso to stop the illegal Maher-Fitzsimmons fight, 1896. At the front row from the left are Adj. W. Mabry, and Capts. J. Huges, J. Brooks, Bill McDonald (author of the famous phrase) and J. Rogers.One of the most enduring phrases associated with the Rangers today is One Riot, One Ranger. It is somewhat apocryphal in that there was never actually a riot; rather, the phrase was coined by Ranger Captain William "Bill" McDonald, who was sent to Dallas in 1896 to prevent the illegal heavyweight prize fight between Pete Maher and Bob Fitzsimmons that had been organized by the eccentric "Hanging Judge" Roy Bean. According to the story, McDonald's train was met by the mayor, who asked the single Ranger where the other lawmen were. McDonald is said to have replied: Hell! Ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!Although some measure of truth lies within the tale, it is largely an idealized account written by author Bigelow Paine and loosely based on McDonald's statements, published in Payne's classic book Captain Bill McDonald: Texas Ranger in 1909. In truth, the fight had been so heavily publicized that nearly every Ranger was at hand, including all the then-captains and their superior, Adjutant General Woodford H. Mabry. Many of them were not really sure whether to stop the fight or to attend it; and in fact, other famous lawmen like Bat Masterson were also present for the occasion. The orders from the governor were clear, however, and the bout was stopped. Bean then tried to reorganize it in El Paso and later in Langtry, but the Rangers followed and thwarted his attempts. Finally, the fight took place on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande near Langtry, and all the Rangers could do was watch. Fitzsimmons won in less than two minutes, and according to their testimonies, they enjoyed the event very much. The motto appears on the pedestal of the large bronze statue of a Texas Ranger in the Love Field airport, contributed in 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. Earle Wyatt.

Rocking my babies in the middle of many nights, I chanted the mantra of Omaha's downtown streets running east-west:


I can imagine an exhausted Texas mother with a colicky boy singing the old "Texas River Song" in much the same way:

We crossed the wild Pecos
We forded the Nueces
We swum the Guadalupe
And we followed the Brazos
Red River runs rusty
The Wichita clear
But down by the Brazos
I courted my dear

Singing li, li, li, le, le, le
Lend me your hand
Li, li, li, le, le, le
Lend me your hand
Li, li, li, le, le, le
Lend me your hand
There's many a river
That waters the land

Now the fair Angelina
Runs glossy and gliding
the crooked Colorado
Runs weaving and winding
The slow San Antonio
Courses the plains
But I never will walk
By the Brazos again

She kissed me and she hugged me
And she called me her dandy
The Trinity's muddy
But the Brazos quick sandy
She kissed me and she hugged me
And she called me her own
But down by the Brazos
She left me alone

Now the girls of Little River
They're plump and they're pretty
The Sabine and the Sulphur
Hold beauties a'many
The banks of the Neches
There are girls by the score
But down by the Brazos
I'll wander no more

We mothers survive the colic and sleep-deprivation, and still rock in those chairs of the Drought/Great Depression. Our sons root in the place where they've grown, no matter our efforts otherwise. They, too, will chant rivers and streets beneath full moons in their turn.

Obama vs. Pajama

When the shrieking crowd greeted Senator Barack Obama in the House Chamber of the Texas State Capitol Saturday at the Texas Book Festival, I was in the Senate Chamber at the other end of the building. I wasn't lost, just well-rested.

On our road trip to Austin, pajama party time beat out the rising star of the Democratic Party. We three didn't get up and moving nearly early enough to stand in line for a wristband for admission to the House Chamber. MOBOs of a certain age like to wake up slow, read in bed, and have a leisurely breakfast, and we aren't crazy about crowds.

MOBOs may be an under-appreciated voting bloc. Mothers Of Boys Only like to take time to smell the roses once our sons can all tie their own shoes (or pay for their own car insurance). MOBOs get more excited about the Botanical Garden in Zilker Park than the famous Austin night life. MOBOs are concerned about responsible environmental policies, improving health care, and keeping our sons out of Bushy's Iraq.

There wasn't any shrieking in the Senate Chamber, but there was plenty of laughter. NPR essayists John Moe and David Rakoff were talking about their experiences writing humorous first person articles and books. Moe is the author of Conservative Me: How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith, and Beef Jerky . Rakoff is a contributor to "This American Life".

I'm putting this one on my To Read In My P.J.s list.


Leave us not tarry

I'm looking for the origin of the phrase, "Leave us not tarry," without success. Let us make haste! Don't dawdle! Get thee to a library!

I feel like I encountered the expression in elementary school, because it always conjures up an image of the teenager, Terry B., who lived across the street with his family's annoying little yippy Boston terrier, Jet. I did not want Terry (or Jet) to be left with us. Terry had contact lenses and kept blinking in a perfect imitation of a Boston terrior.

Another Terry at that time was Nebraska Unicameral senator Terrible Terry . It was clear that my parents did not hold Senator Carpenter in high regard, even though he spoke to my summer school class.

Is "Leave us not tarry," from Shakespeare's Lear? Or does it come from Edward Lear?


Grackles cackling for Halloween

I've just had a lovely weekend in Austin, Texas, and I'll have details at ten, as they say on the local t.v. news teases. I do need to broadcast this late-breaking Special Alert:

(Not an actual photo, sorry! This is an artist's conception, to use N.A.S.A. lingo.)

We stayed at a very pleasant hotel at the junction of I-35 and Highway 290. The yellow warning sign shown above was posted under the trees in the hotel parking lot. There was no oppressive build-up of grackle splats on the parking lot surface. Maybe it is just a warning sign of our litigious society. Heaven help us if a driver parks under a tree and the car is decorated by mulberry-eating grackles and cowbirds!


Tigers and Cardinals

Denny McLain, Bob Gibson, and Mickey Lolich were the stars of my first and most vivid World Series. My eighth grade American Studies teacher at Millard Lefler Junior High believed strongly that baseball was both Our National Pasttime and a barometer of racial equality. It was our duty as citizens to observe the World Series, just as it was our duty to vote and serve on a jury. Mr. Stith required our class, just after lunch, to watch and listen to the '68 games. Back then the World Series games were played in the afternoon. I didn't like Mr. Stith, but I've always been grateful for this World Series experience.

In the 1968 World Series between the Tigers and Cardinals, there were seven complete games. Mickey Lolich and Bob Gibson pitched three each, and Denny McLain the other. Gibson was a favorite in Nebraska, having been born in Omaha. McLain ended up in prison. Lolich had a donut shop. I don't have a clue what happened to the cute but nerdy kid named Dougie who sat behind me in Mr. Stith's class.


Finally realized my elementary students have merged avalanche with lava lamp to get lavalanche!

Ragweed, cantaloupe, and OAS

Oops! I set myself up for allergy problems this week, although I should know better by now. Cantaloupe was a bargain at the grocery store, so I bought one to snack on this week.

Much of the year I can eat and enjoy cantaloup, but not in the fall. This time of year, eating cantaloup gives me a prickly tongue and itchy throat. It probably didn't help that I've been putting sunflower seeds on my salads instead of croutons.

I've known since I was three years old that bananas are not my friends. At three I knew bananas made my mouth feel itchy, and I've been refusing to eat them ever since. I stood up to the very adamant neighborhood mom, even though I risked being sent home for this rebellion. I would cave to her demands and eat bread crusts or apple peels, but not bananas.

As a thirty-something adult, I had my first allergy skin prick testing. Vindicated at last, I had a huge itchy reaction to the banana prick. I wasn't surprised to have prick reactions to the cucumbers and chamomile tests, either, as they were suspects in the two times I'd had severe hives.

I'll add an explanation about cross-reactivity from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology in the hope that someone with itchy eyes and throat will remember next fall to skip the melon:

Itchy mouth may be tied to produce, ragweed

MILWAUKEE-Does your mouth or throat become itchy after eating fresh fruits or vegetables during this time of the year? For the 36 million people suffering from ragweed allergies, it is important to know about pollen-food syndrome, also known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), caused by allergens such as ragweed, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Each year, ragweed begins to bloom around August 15. "The pollen released from ragweed is the airborne allergen most responsible for the onslaught of allergy symptoms at this time of year," said Suzanne S. Teuber, MD, FAAAAI, chair of the AAAAI's Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee. "In addition to sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, and symptoms of OAS, ragweed allergies can take a heavy toll on the allergy sufferer's quality of life."

Oral allergy syndrome results from a cross-reactivity reaction between allergy antibodies directed towards pollen proteins with similar proteins that are found in other parts of plants. Itchiness of the mouth and throat with mild angiodema (swelling)immediately after eating fresh fruits or vegetables are common symptoms of OAS. Individuals with ragweed allergies might experience these symptoms when consuming foods such as:

Sunflower seeds
Chamomile tea

And, since I know you're wondering:

1739, from It. Cantalupo, former Papal summer estate, near Rome, where melons were first grown in Europe after introduction, supposedly, from Armenia.

1790, from ragged (q.v.), so called from shape of the leaves. Applied to a different plant, ragwort, from 1658. Ragwort itself is attested from c.1450.

Ragweed, Giant (Horseweed)
An annual broadleaf weed reproducing from seed that has a strong vigorous stem that under fertile conditions can grow 8 to 15 feet tall. Leaves are large, with three to five deep lobes. Male flowers on long spikes at tips of stems release large amounts of pollen. Readily controlled with a good herbicide or mowing program.


Lava Lanch

Yes, it rhymes with "branch". The elementary art kids had a grand time making transparent constructions today with an assortment of clear and tinted plastic boxes. They added other metallic, reflecting, and see-through items to create intriguing and nearly-neon designs.

The first Dallas Opera my son and I attended was Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades" in 2003. The set included a clear plexiglass staircase that looked like it came from Target's bath decor and toothbrush-holder department. The student constructions today were more interesting:

"It goes up and up and then it's like a waterfall!"

"There's a coffin on the next shelf."

"It's a runway for models at a fashion show!"

"No, it's a Lava Lanch!"

I didn't know whether to launch lava projectiles with a medieval catapult, or lunch on magma salad sandwiches on mica. Heaven knows, I've eaten some school cafeteria lunches that sat in my gut like psychedelic warmed wax blobs. During the ensuing debate the kids agreed that "lava lamp" was an incorrect pronunciation. "Lava lanch" was the correct term! I'm picking my battles on this controversy.

After building transparent/reflecting constructions, the kids started drawings of their own sculptures. How do we describe transparency? I'm including some of the works-in-progress:

Maybe Cinderella lanched her celebrity career with glass slippers.


Monday's vocabulary homework

Today's words are:


The children are frustrated and chewing their #2 pencils. Eraser shreds cling to the stomachs and sleeves of their shirts. The kids are learning to use the guide words in the dictionary to locate their vocabulary word. They copy the definition and use the word in a sentence, of course. We've all been there. We've all lived through it. Some of us perfected our penmanship enough so picky and prickly old maid schoolmarms* could see we wrote bay and not buy. It would be pretty surreal to be stuck in a rut buying futons, like a bad discount furniture store version of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. The Curse of the Evil Dinette Sets, with wolves baying at the moon...

Rut was giving one boy trouble. Monday before last, the two of us danced around the silent e rule when he insisted that rap was pronounced rape. Yikes. He copied the definition of rut today, but didn't understand the meaning well enough to use the word in a sentence. I wasn't getting anywhere talking about grooves in roads, so I switched to soccer field damage when games are played in the mud. (I was really thankful he didn't read the next definition of rut about the cyclically recurring condition of sexual excitement and reproductive activity in male mammals, such as deer.)

The boy told me his soccer team was playing the Hawks tonight. His team, the Raptors, must defend against this "hard-charging team". I asked him if he knew that hawks are raptors. Well, of course not. To him "Raptors" are those velociraptor dinosaurs menacing around the kitchen in Jurassic Park. I didn't even mention F-22 Raptor fighter planes!

Another boy was struggling with the definition of "bay". Much as I wanted to, I did not say, "Open the pod bay doors, HAL." Two of my favorite hobbies are watching hawks and using the dictionary. How wonderful it would be to transmit some of that joy to a new generation! I wish I could give each child a sprinkling of dictionary fairy dust and the RDA of vitamin silent E!

*So are campaign managers spinsters?


Fairy dust

"You have glitter on your chin," I told the grandmother driving the car while I played semi-competent navigator. "Stay in this lane; we don't want to exit." My borrowed granddaughter was napping in the backseat.

The three of us didn't want to leave the ethereal atmosphere of the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. We didn't want to exit the fairy tale world created by Texas Ballet Theater's lavish Rococco production of "The Sleeping Beauty". We hadn't seen enough of the evil fairy Carabosse's spider-monster in the forest of Act II (which is really the third act).

The young daughters, nieces, and granddaughters in the audience were tired and crabby now. It was time for the show to end. Three hours is a very long time, even in Ballet Princess Land. Tiny girls in velvet and tulle swirly skirts were falling asleep with their heads on grandmas' minks. Girls in matching sister dresses were getting seriously cranky and being carried out by their parents.

I felt lucky to visit this foreign fantasy. Raising three sons, I missed Ballet Princess Land as a mom, just as I skipped the pink aisle at Toys R Us. My nieces have never been conveniently located for auntie outings. Maybe someday I'll be a glitter-chinned grandma myself (no rush, guys!!), and get to enjoy some fuchsia-tutu-sparkling-tiara time. I wouldn't trade a minute of the cowboy/camouflage/ninja/Hot Wheels experience of raising three sons. Still, it might be nice to add some experience with little pink aliens to my resume somewhere down the line. You know, try out some cultural diversity, with or without fairy wings.



There's no need to apply for the job listed in the previous post! I got the lightbulb replaced with that extension-handled suction device.

A Man Around the House

Once in awhile I start thinking it sure would be nice to have a man around the house. It's not that I'm ever lonely or bored. What it boils down to is that lightbulbs burn out. Lightbulbs in the recessed fixtures at the highest point of the cathedral ceiling. It would be nice to have a man around to change the lightbulb. A man with a tall ladder.

Of course men with no lightbulbs to replace loll around on the couch watching the NBA or flicking the remote control ad nauseum. Maybe I just need a tall ladder.

Of course, this is a small condo (a small condo with ridiculously high ceilings). Where would I keep the tall ladder when I had no lightbulbs to replace? Behind the couch?? That would be attractive.

So, during daylight hours I read articles in the newspaper and magazines about how we are all so sleep-deprived. Not only sleep-deprived, but obese and at increased risk for several types of cancer.

Maybe the best approach would be to just get to sleep earlier because I can't turn on the burned-out lights! I'll have some sons home at Thanksgiving, and they can help with the lightbulbs. I could just hibernate until then! And think how skinny I'd be!


Mother of the Library Books

When I was volunteering in the school library when my boys were little, the bilingual students called me, "La madre de los libros librarios", the Mother of the Library Books. I've always like being the Mother of the Library Books, and the mom of the library boys.

I started reading chapter books to my kids when J.T. was five and M.J. was two and a half. I admit that I started this suppertime ritual for selfish reasons. Their dad was doing a lot of traveling for work, and also for his karate hobby. He headed off for a month in Korea when S.C. was barely two months old. If I read picture books during meals, the boys were too distracted by the illustrations to eat. Chapter books kept them listening while munching on all their finger foods. Yes, they were slow, and sometimes picky eaters. Reading kept me from feeling frustrated.

My boys liked the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I heard them say, "Let's play Laura and Mary" as often as "Let's play firemen". It didn't occur to them that Laura and Mary were girls. They put a stuffed animal under the bed to be Jack, the brindle bulldog, and used the headboard of the bed for the driver's seat of their covered wagon. The same headboard made a good hook and ladder firetruck.

After Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek, we read Farmer Boy. That became their favorite.

Our suppertime chapters continued when we moved to Oklahoma. It kept things calm on evenings when my spouse was away teaching tae kwon do. Stories made the transition from supper to baths and bedtime somewhat less chaotic. Other read-aloud favorites were A Cricket in Times Square, The Enormous Egg, Mr. Popper's Penguins, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

This mother is still learning, and still reading aloud. I started reading Little House in the Big Woods to my culturally-diverse students during their snack time. What I remembered about the book was the self-sufficiency, how the family worked together, the strong character of the Ingalls parents. I remembered how Laura and Mary played with their corncob dolls amidst the pumpkins and squash in the attic without any Disney princesses or registered-trademark movie tie-ins.

Oops! The whole first chapter is about hanging deer carcasses in the trees so the wolves don't get them, shooting a bear, smoking and salting meat and fish, and slaughtering the family pig complete with extensive details about making sausage and headcheese. The little vegetarian kids were staring at me like deer in the headlights! Speaking of which, I don't think I'll be reading Bambi anytime soon.


Junior High Journalism and Speech

During my teen novel library book talk this afternoon my vision filled with the image of my junior high speech teacher, Mrs. Walker. My mom made me take that speech class. It was pure torture. I hated every minute in Mrs. Walker's class, every lined index card, each bibliographic citation, and every moment spent with the musty-smelling greenish Reader's Guide to Periodicals under the watchful eye of the balding librarian with the woolly-bear caterpillar chin mole. I hated doing the How-To speech on broiling the perfect T-bone steak. I detested the group project radio show. Then there was the Persuasive speech about why we should all read "The Odyssey." Because we were reading "The Odyssey" in ninth grade English, Mrs. Walker made me go give that speech in the English classes, too.
On the way home from the book talk I picked up a Plano Star Courier. Looked at the sidebar headline, and was whooshed back to junior high, this time to journalism class. Ah, the sweet scent of blue mimeograph stencil correction fluid!

I learned a few things in journalism class besides that boys will always wonder if Cindy wore underpants. I learned about the Five Ws. Who, What, When, Where, and Why were pronounced Dubyu back then in Nebraska, not Dubya. [Five Dubyas is a pretty scary concept] We also learned to Get The Facts and Interview Sources. And it was impressed upon us that we must never, ever, ever hyphenate a word in a headline.

Yes, I knew that Collin County is Bush Country, but until I saw the Plano Star Courier I didn't realize I might be rounded up for ranting about the war in Iraq:

Collin County
officials to
initiate war-
rant round-up

Oh, yes. I learned something else important in junior high journalism class. Make sure when you name your baby that the initials don't spell something embarrassing, like

*Probably a good thing I don't have any outstanding traffic or hot check warrants in the county.


Positive ID

Brought a bunch of gourds to Elementary Art class. I love the variety and color of gourds. Even more, I love teaching children to notice that variety and color.

What's the same?

What's different?

Gourds teach color, pattern, shape, and texture. I just facilitate the lectures, like the person who makes sure the big electric coffee urn is gurgling at an early morning workshop.

The kids were having trouble with the idea of different. I don't know if each gourd in the cornucopia has a different fingerprint or DNA. I do know the kids are aware of tv cop show lingo:

  1. You witnessed a burglary. One of these gourds committed the crime. How will you describe the gourd perp to the police detectives?
  2. You are asked to go down to precinct headquarters to view a line-up. What distinguishing features will you look for?
  3. Please help the police artist create a sketch of the squashish criminal.
  4. Be sure to draw both the face and the profile.
  5. Which gourd looks like Harry Morgan on "Dragnet", and which looks like Art Carney on "The Honeymooners"? Okay, I didn't ask the kids, but I've always gotten these two confused. Harry Morgan was on "M.A.S.H." Carney was in "Harry and Tonto".

The kids got it. They started looking for each gourd's birthmarks and scars. They compared the weights, widths, and heights. They named each gourd. Their drawings improved. It was intriguing to find they automatically divided the gourds into presumed innocent or presumed guilty categories based on physical differences. Some thought the bumpy white gourd could never commit a crime. Others thought "Cauliflower" was a nefarious mastermind.

It wasn't elementary, my dear Watson, but I was grateful for this artistic trip down to precinct. We named our drawings "C.S.I.: Gourd Squad."

I was left wondering why I could instantly name the "Mod Squad" actress, Peggy Lipton, even though I never watched that late Sixties tv show.

I just finished reading Eleanor Updale's teen novel, Montmorency and the Assassins. Professor Cesare Lombroso is fictionalized in the book. Lombroso is considered the father of criminal anthropology, although his theories about the facial characteristics of "born criminals" are no longer accepted. You can't tell a criminal gourd just by looking at its face, but you can remember its identifying features!

Our National Naptime

Eureka! I've found it, but it's nearly two decades since I really, REALLY needed it. I've found a cd that makes kids fall asleep!

If you want to know the name, just mail me a twenty dollar bill... No, I'm going to tell you for free. It's the humanitarian thing to do! It's a good feeling knowing I'm making the world a better place for sleep-deprived mommies (and kids)everywhere.

"Bella Espana" is the name of the cd. My little art students are painting to the music, with some splendid results. They are abnormally calm and focused. Some of them are so calm they fall asleep in class. I'll post images of the paintings soon, but I wanted the word to go out immediately about the nap-inducing effects of this classical guitar music.

The first four tracks are music from Bizet's "Carmen" performed by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The preschoolers love track four, which is the "Toreadors". They know this music from a Disney tv series called "Little Einsteins". Track four gets them really listening to the music. Then the less familiar pieces can work their calming and sleep-inducing magic. As an added bonus, I don't mind listening to it for a solid week of classes.

My colicky son has finished grad school. My son who perfected the technique of ripping wallpaper off the wall by his crib during naptimes is a senior in college. My youngest will probably never tell the guys in his dorm that he could only fall asleep to music from Disney's "The Little Mermaid" or Raffi songs about ducks. I would have loved "Bella Espana" in those years.

I have one other tip for getting little kids to fall asleep: "You must get in bed now, but you may listen to the baseball game on your radio." Mark Holtz died from leukemia in 1997. I had nominated him for sainthood several years before for his ability to engage my boys in radio baseball. Mark, with his signature expression, "Hello Win Column," did the play-by-play for Texas Rangers baseball games on the radio, with Eric Nadle doing color commentary. Following a baseball game on the radio takes considerable concentration. It's exhausting. Eventually, little ears and brains wear out, forgetting to stretch in the seventh inning. When kids drift off to sleep, many moms have thought, "Hello Win Column".


In my salad days I recall...

According to Dictionary.com salad days is a noun: A time of youthful inexperience, innocence, or indiscretion.

Salad days was coined by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra: "My salad days,/ When I was green in judgment, cold in blood."

Perhaps our latest current event could be marked on future middle school history timelines as The Salad Days. It's a scary business out there on the salad bar lines. Spinach has gone over to the Dark Side. Lettuce wants a share of the publicity.

Does this supermarket crisis have anything to do with Baby June, that five foot two bundle of dynamite in the Broadway musical "Gypsy"? Maybe it's a Jimi Hendrix posthumous advertising campaign using the music from "Foxy Lady" like those Led Zep and Jethro Tull car commercials!

Let me entertain you
Let me make you smile
Let me do a few tricks
Some old and then
Some new tricks
I'm very versatile ???

Maybe, just maybe, I need to teach my bifocals some new tricks so I can see that there's only one O! Just recall the cartons, not the cartoons. The terrorists haven't won.


A Congregational Celebration of Complementary Colors

Although it might be bad luck to proclaim it, autumn seems to have finally arrived in North Texas. True, we can wear sandals and capri pants for another month or so (as long as they aren't white). Maybe, though, just please-please-PLEASE, we won't need air-conditioning.

I love fall. It has always been my favorite season. I love the contrasts, the tang and tartness, and relish the increase in my energy. More than spring, autumn is a time of promise. Maybe it's the gratitude factor. I'm so diggity-dog filled with joy and thankfulness each six a.m. when I walk out the front door into the crisp air to find my newspaper that my whole day is colored with optimism. Between classes I step outside to watch the lopedy-dopedy-dope flight of thousands of Monarch butterflies headed to Mexico in no particular hurry, and thank heaven for forces and patterns way beyond my understanding.

I strain my eyes to spot the highest orange butterflies against the piercing blue sky. The energy is in the vibrating boundaries between intense opposites. I admit to teaching about complementary colors through experience, not through science or theory. I want kids to have their very own Oh, Wow! moment when they paint with orange and blue. There's all that energy created by completing the whole in a composition of opposites. I love showing them that artists modulate the values and the dominance of the opposing forces to create extremely satisfying works of art. I love showing photos of landscapes with Nature's own color lessons. I pray that my students occasionally look away from the obnoxious animated farting warthogs and belching squirrels on PG-rated dvds playing above the back seats of their SUVs, and turn their gaze out the window to a bright cobalt sky, pale peach ripples on water, or shadows of darkest violet.

Fall is all about the vibrating boundaries between the catsup and mustard on the steamed hot dog from the chilly football concession stand manned by those long-suffering band booster parents. It's the bee-busy mauve blooms against the 15" tall light green leaves of Sedum spectabile. Five more weeks, and autumn will be shiny wet cadmium yellow leaves against pale lavender drizzle. Then it will be time for hooded sweatshirts, plaid flannel, and corduroy.
Glory hallelujah!

To everything there is a season... This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it:

Let our hearts lift up like hot air balloons at dawn and float over the early youth soccer games played on the chilly, dewy city parks & rec fields. Let our spirits alight between sweet-smelling hay bales next to impressive sun-warmed pumpkins for sale in the parking lots of suburban mega-churches.

Let us call up our maturing sons on their cell phones or Skype and feel humbled in conversations with self-sufficient young adults. Allow us to cherish the knowledge that each son belongs to something far greater than their parents' clueless efforts.

Let our souls rest and replenish on river sandbars with 4-H recipe oatmeal cookies and the college football game on a transistor radio. May each of us be fed by the memory of church youth group road trips in rusty pale blue hot rods to Waubonsie State Park across the Missouri River in Iowa.

May we leap and dance with Frisbees and tamborines. Let us be jubilant with vibrating color boundaries and homecoming mums. Aunts Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy will remind us to buy a half-gallon of icy Nebraska City apple cider and a jar of clover honey on the way home!

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He.


No eggs

Thursday was very busy with school Open House. Friday dawned with nothing breakfastablish in the refrigerator or bread box.

Stopped at Sonic for a breakfast burrito ($1.83) on the way to Albertsons for lettuce, eggs, and pickle relish. Something bright red caught my eye, and it wasn't the skirt of a roller-skating carhop. At the back of the lot a woodpecker was bopping around the clock eating bugs on three small trees.

Not a ladderback. Probably a red-bellied woodpecker rocking to its own beat in spite of the Sonic soundtrack of pink Cadillac and blue Pontiac oldies. The morning sun gave its red head a neon cherry limeade glow.

Beyond the trees, an old man performed his tai chi exercises around a black SUV. The SUV just received a carwash next door, and a youngish power couple set their briefcases out on the pavement while they took digital close-ups of its lights, tires, license plates, and bumpers, all the while talking on their cellphones.

Closer to the street, an elderly gentleman sat in the back of a truck attending the donation site for clean, used clothing and other household items. He could not see the tai chi, or the SUV, or the dawn day-glow Red Dye No. One hairdo. He couldn't see the breakfast menu combos with tater tots and OJ. He could only see the gas pumps on down at the 7-11, and the new pop-up branch bank being built across the street.


A burrito and a Barq's

Woke up this morning at five a.m. Sure, that's early, but it's much better than 3:38 a.m. I felt lucky to be so refreshed.

Been having wild dreams with and/or without giant rodents/ex-husband/airport rental car returns/Escher staircases/artificial resuscitation lately. For several nights, actually mornings, I've been waking at exactly 3:38. Get back to sleep and it's time to get up.

Started the pot of coffee at 5:15, and went to check my email. Great Hairy Pink Hostess Snowballs and other @!*~% cuss words! Internet Explorer couldn't find the server. Five twenty was a ridiculous time to be sitting under my computer desk unplugging and plugging cords on the back of the Hewlett Packard and using Professor Howard Hill's revolutionary Think System to restart the cable internet.

First time I've ever called my cable internet tech service number before six a.m., but I can report that "Josh" was very polite and helpful. Maybe he was in a time zone two mugs of coffee ahead of CDT, lucky dog. I'm pretty sure he wasn't in India.

"Josh," I said, "My internet is down. I'm afraid my entire neighborhood has been wiped out by aliens or a cataclysmic event while I was sleeping, but it's too dark to realize it yet."

"No, that's only in Chicago," Josh said.

"Huh??? Chicago was wiped out by aliens while I was sleeping??" Josh patiently explained about the flooding in Chicago disrupting cable internet service. I was embarrassed to flunk this current events quiz. I hoped I wouldn't be sent back to eighth grade.

My internet connection restored itself before Josh had a chance to intervene with his magical tech desk talents. He asked how else he might help me, but solving my life and telling me what I should be if I grow up are beyond his powers. We shared a good laugh and I felt lucky for my previous inconvenience. It was novel and fun to talk to another live human so early in the a.m. Hot dog, I feel lucky!

Headed out to the dumpster about 7:15 with the trash. Happened to glance at the Buick and the observation slowly percolated into my brain -- that front tire is really, REALLY low. How lucky! Most mornings I'm halfway to work in my mental fog before I even notice the gas gauge.

Glad to drive the two miles over to Discount Tire looking into a neon red rising sun in a pale lilac sky, just thrilled there's enough air so I'm not driving on the rim. I'm only slightly over the edge, but not on the rim. No time for breakfast or making the bed, no sack lunch prepared, no cash in my wallet! I've got an 8:45 class to teach. Jose removes a screw from the tire, and gets me back on the road only slightly late.

It's six blocks to my nearest branch bank, but a mile and a half as the crow flies to navigate old downtown Plano's one-way streets. The ATM is out of order. My luck is holding steady. Perhaps the ATM thinks it is in Chicago with Josh or with giant rodents on escalators. I have to write a check in the drive-through to get some lunch money. The teller is another friendly morning person. Maybe she is Josh's perky twin sister.

When I get to class, just a few minutes late but entirely breakfastless, my little students ask if we will make "flat tire art". Not today, but maybe soon! Maybe Discount Tire would have some tire tread pieces for print-making!

I feel lucky having so many little students fully engaged in our art project. My stomach growls. I feel lucky that I can go pick up "a burrito and a Barq's" for a very late breakfast. I'll never forget the first time I heard Mary Chapin Carpenter's song, "I Feel Lucky", on the radio of a rental car in Albuquerque driving to the Petroglyph Monument. No flat tire that day, just keys locked in a rental car by a giant rodent hanta virus then-spouse:

Well I woke up this morning,
stumbled out of my rack
I opened up the paper to the page in the back
It only took a minute for my finger to find
My daily dose of destiny, under my sign
My eyes just about popped out of my head
It said "the stars are stacked against you girl, get back in bed"

I feel lucky, I feel lucky, yeah
No Professor Doom gonna stand in my way
Mmmmm, I feel lucky today

Well I strolled down to the corner,
gave my numbers to the clerk
The pot's eleven million
so I called in sick to work
I bought a pack of Camels,
a burrito and a Barq's
Crossed against the light,
made a beeline for the park
The sky began to thunder,
wind began to moan
I heard a voice above me saying,
"girl, you better get back home"

But I feel lucky, oh oh oh, I feel lucky, yeah
No tropical depression gonna steal my sun away
Mmmmm, I feel lucky today

Now eleven million later,
I was sitting at the bar
I'd bought the house a double,
and the waitress a new car
Dwight Yoakam's in the corner,
trying to catch my eye
Lyle Lovett's right beside me
with his hand upon my thigh
The moral of this story,
it's simple but it's true
Hey the stars might lie,
but the numbers never do

I feel lucky, oh oh oh, I feel lucky, yeah
Hey Dwight, hey Lyle, boys, you don't have to fight
Hot dog, I'm feeling lucky tonight
I feel lucky, brrrrr, I feel lucky, yeah
Think I'll flip a coin, I'm a winner either way
Mmmmmm, I feel lucky today


Bathtub aggravations

We put men on the moon. We remote-controlled rovers on Mars. We demoted Pluto. You would think "We" could design a perfect bathroom shower by now. True, we lost our bolts on a recent space walk at the ISS. Maybe even our Ivory soap and loofah...

My condo was built in the late Seventies, but didn't utilize the NASA Tang technology available. The tub/shower "surrounds", or the three walls around the shower, are tiled in textured white 4" x 4" ceramic squares. The surrounds have built-in ledges and soap holders. The grout around these tile amenities tends to leak or crack causing tile to fall off, and invites insect visitors to the moisture-damaged wood. It's a continuing "blessing" of condo ownership.

My dad's house was built a quarter century earlier. His bathtub surround is sheets of Carrara glass. Carrara glass is structural glass, also known as Vitrolite, and was first popular in the Art Deco period. Dad needs some alterations made to the shower while he recovers from his broken hip. The idea of drilling holes in the Carrara glass for supporting grab bars is aesthetically daunting. The Carrara glass has done far better at being low-maintenance, aesthetically pleasing, and moisture-shielding than my more modern condo bathroom materials.


L-RAT, the Bad Dreams Exam

Part One

  1. Did you ever find, at an inopportune moment, that the sheet of dryer Bounce you didn't know was inside your clean slacks when you put them on in the morning had now worked its way down to the bottom of your pant leg and was hanging out looking ever so much like toilet paper? Oh, come on! Admit it.
  2. How do you feel about rodents? (in 100 words or less)
  3. It is the Super Bowl of the Animal Kingdom. The Rodents are playing the Reptiles. Who will you cheer on to victory and why? (100 word essay)
Part Two
Some children are traumatized by the death of Bambi's mother, the flying monkeys in the "Wizard of Oz", or pretty much the entire Disney "Pinocchio". Other children wait in dread for that scene in everybody's Christmas ballet favorite, "The Nutcracker", when THE MICE COME IN.
  1. Do they ever get over it?
  2. What would be a good age to introduce these classics to children, assuming that you actually like children?
  3. What would be a good age to introduce these classics assuming you are the parent who has to get up in the night with children experiencing bad dreams?
Part Three

  1. Did you see your first Indiana Jones movie before or after you read George Orwell's classic novel of totalitarianism, "1984"?
  2. Did you actually read books in your high school English class, or did you watch videos?
  3. Did you ever thank your English teachers for making you read those books that you swore were of absolutely no use in real life, but now come to mind far more often than Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"? It's not too late!
  4. As a child, did you have a neighbor that you suspected of being the real farmer's wife who cut off the tails of the three blind mice?
Science Section
  1. Why can't rats be more like lemmings? [Alas, lemmings don't really jump off cliffs.]
  2. Where can a condominium complex rent a live rat snake? Herpe-Rent-All?
  3. Will rat snakes also eat dachsunds and poodles if they get really hungry?
  4. Is that a bad thing?
  5. Do you remember when we had enough mental energy to worry about hantavirus back in the Nineties?
  6. Should lab rats have to run through mazes, or should they get to drive in the HOV lane?
Arts and Literature
  1. If the Pied Piper showed up in your neighborhood would you make him/her the Mayor?
  2. Will Samuel Jackson star in the new film, "Rats on a Cruise", about a diabolical plot onboard a Disney cruise ship?
  3. Would you put up with a few rats to sail with Captain Jack Sparrow?
  4. What percentage of books in the children's room of your local public library are about rodents?*
  5. Why did Jack put a sack of malt in his new-built house? What was he thinking??
Television Regulations
Many cable tv systems have a basic channel that is nothing but a camera on an aquarium of fish swimming around to music from a local radio station. This allows viewers to enjoy the sensation of being in their dentist's waiting room any hour of the day or night.
  1. Should the FCC require cable systems to also offer a Habitrail hamster and gerbil channel with local radio traffic reports in the spirit of fair and balanced reporting?
  2. Should there be a reality show based on Mother Goose rhymes? Seems like Simple Simon stepped right out of a Seinfeld episode.
So, there I was getting ready to board the airplane, but there was something inside the sleeve of my sweatshirt. I reached in to pull out the sheet of Bounce, but pulled out a mouse instead. There was more wiggling inside the sleeve near my elbow. It slowly worked its way to the cuff, revealing another mouse. I was unable to board the plane as I had to have the bites treated. Nevermind the part of the dream about my ex not allowing enough time to check in the rental car, speaking of rodents.
Since I was already sweaty after my dork walk through 2.8 miles of the neighborhood, I attacked the overgrown vegetation around my patio. The cannas, ivy, and myrtle groundcover have not been affected by our watering restrictions this dry summer. They grew as thick as ever, providing a shady, protected commute for rodents racing between one neighbor's dog food bowl and another's bird feeder. I haven't hand-watered out back since mid-July, but the cannas had more red blooms enticing more hummingbirds than usual. After the mice-in-the-sweatshirt dream, it was time to make the patio a more dangerous crossing for rodents. They can run, but they can't hide. Plus, it makes it easier to watch the lizards leaping from leaf to fence. Go, Reptiles, Go!
*Library Catalog Search Results
I used my public library keyword search with "juvenile" as the Keyword Anywhere, and the animal name as the Subject Keyword.
Juvenile + = 105373 titles (the maximum allowed by the catalog search)
Juvenile + Mice = 1207 titles
Juvenile + Mouse = 894
Juvenile + Rats = 173
Juvenile + Rat = 165
Juvenile + Hamster = 70
Juvenile + Gerbil = 23
Juvenile + Lemming = 6
Juvenile + Bears = 1721
Juvenile + Bear = 1497
Juvenile + Lion = 320
Juvenile + Fox = 440
Juvenile + Cat = 1518
Juvenile + Dog = 2108
Juvenile + Rabbit = 644
Juvenile + Rabbits = 894


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