Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thank you, Siv Maria!

Thanks go to Siv Maria


Hmmm… A wonderful writer awarded me this award.  Siv Maria has the most amazing blog "Been there, done that" all the way from Norway. 

Seven random things about myself:

One: I fall in love with my husband every single day.  I have to do this, to keep from bludgeoning him.

Two: I like to ‘rescue’ damaged antiques.  One example is a spinning wheel, which lay in pieces on a concrete floor.  Another is a quilt that was destined for the dog’s bed.

Three:  I don’t like being in noisy crowds.  It does bad things to my migraines.

Four:  In my head, I can hear how a piece of piano music should be played.  In reality, it is a different scenario.

Five: My favorite activity is to read children’s books to my grandchildren, with them sitting on my lap or snuggled up next to me.

Six: I believe that any person who abuses a child in any way, or kills a child, should be condemned to death or locked in the deepest dungeon in existence for the rest of time.

Seven:  I know that God loves me, that I am His child, and that I will kneel at His feet in Heaven.

Thank you, Siv Maria, for awarding me this precious award!  Catch her site by clicking under that nummy strawberry dessert!

Friday, June 24, 2011

MC Blogfest: Interview with Ellen Jo Carter

Some photos are courtesy of Bing.com--from all over the world

MC Blogfest:  Interview with Ellen Jo Carter, age 4 ½ years, from In Preacher’s Creek

Interviewer:  Susan Kane, author of In Preacher’s Creek

Questions:  1. What is your greatest fear?  2. What is your biggest accomplishment?  3. What is your biggest regret?

KaneHello, Ellen.  I am glad you could join me today.  You sure look very pretty in your lovely dress!

Ellen Jo:  My momma made me wear this dress, it’s my Sunday dress.  Momma fixed my hair and she scrubbed me hard to make sure I was clean.  Momma is ‘ticular like that.  And, she wouldn’t let Kent come with me!  He’s my brother and he is six years old. I am 4 ½ years old, and we do everything together.   I mean, everything, and we go everywhere together.  (Ellen looks around uncertainly, and wiggles in her chair.  She pats down the poufy skirt, and then scratches the scabs on her knee.  Her patent leather shoes hang over the edge of the chair, and her feet swing back and forth.)  Do you like my shoes? I like them a lot. They’re called ‘Mary Jane’ shoes, ‘cause someone named Mary Jane owned them ‘fore me, maybe. 

KaneAre you nervous about being here by yourself? 

Ellen Jo:  I don’t know what that means—nervous?.  My dress is itchy, and Momma said I had to sit like a lady.  Do I have to sit like a lady?  (Kane shakes her head, with a smile.)  Ohhh, thank you!  You won’t tell Momma, will you, ‘cause she is picky like that.  (Ellen pulls the dress up from behind her.  Her relief is palpable.) 

KaneSo, Ellen.  I want to ask you some questions.  (Ellen nods, while scratching her head where a fluffy bow is tied.) The first question is:  What is your greatest fear?

Ellen Jo:  (Her eyes grow wide.)  Greatest fear?  You mean, I can have only one?  I got bunches of fears. (Kane indicates that Ellen can name more.)  I guess I am afraid that Kent will ditch me,and leave me behind.  When he does that, it usually means I get caught ‘cause I’m a slow runner.  Or it means Kent has gone off with Bobby or somebody else.  Then I'd get left behind, without him.
We been together since I was born, about a hundred years. 
The author with her family
Other than that, I guess I fear that I'll break Momma's heart, like this! (Ellen demonstrates how she could break a stick or pencil.)  That'd make her cry, and I don't wanta do that.

KaneVery good, Ellen!  (Ellen Jo beams at the praise.)  Now, the next question is:  What is your biggest accomplishment? (Ellen appears puzzled. Kane explains definition.)  ‘Accomplishment’ means something that you learned to do that was hard for you, but you did it anyway.  Can you think of something?

Ellen Jo:  Oh, yeah, I know of somethin’!  You see, I was really scared that the devil was gonna take me because I was doin’ all this sinning when Kent and me did stuff we got in trouble for doin’.  You know, like stealing the bases on the playground and hiding them in Bobby’s shed?  Or when we painted Ol’ Man Henderson’s shed with left-over paint? 
Anyway, I couldn’t sleep or eat, ‘cause I was afraid the devil’d come and steal my soul.  Finally, Momma asked Pastor Beechum to come to my house and he prayed with me.  I gived my heart and soul to Jesus, and I’m not afraid anymore.  (Then she lowered her voice to a whisper.)  Kent is still a big-time sinner; he lies all the time, and he knows he’s goin’ straight to hell, if he don’t stop sinning. (Ellen Jo leaned back, folded her hands on her lap, and gave Kane a sweet satisfied smile.)

Kane:  Well, then.  Just one more question:  What is your biggest regret?  ‘Regret’ means how you feel when you have done or said something that you wish you hadn’t done. 

Ellen Jo:  (Her face changed from sweetness to great sadness, and her hazel eyes glistened with tears.)  Oh.  I know what you mean.  I called Bobby a “dummy head” and told him that I was smarter than him.  I told him that he was stupid.  His face looked all twisted up when I said that, and then he wouldn’t look at me for the longest time, and he wouldn’t play with me.  I wish I hadn’t said that, and he won’t let me say I’m sorry.  I can’t make it right, ever.

Kane(She looked at her watch.)  Well, that’s all I wanted to ask you for now.  I just want to say that I love working with you and Kent.  You two sure have interesting adventures. You can go now.

Ellen Jo Carter hopped down off the chair and skipped through the open door. “Momma!  Momma!  I did real good!  I didn’t pick my nose or anything!  Can we go get ice cream?  Me and Kent?  Can we get ice cream?”  The noises receded, with a boy’s voice joining in with Ellen’s words.  Kane peered out the door, and saw Kent take Ellen’s hand as they left the building.

Thanks for reading my interview with my main character, Ellen Jo Carter.  Now Click here! to read other interviews!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stupid Things I Have Done: #348

photo courtesy of Bing.com; sky courtesy of God

Yesterday I found myself lying by the pool under a cerulean sky.  The sun had not reached its apogee, and the air still had that early morning feel.  The concrete’s warmth seeped into me slowly, toasting all the parts of my body that ached.  Soon the sun would creep over the roof of our house, and I would spend the rest of the day doing—doing what, I wondered.

Not my pool...someone else has it.
I trailed my left hand through the coolness of the pool’s water, wishing I had thought to put on a suit and go swimming.  Instead I was lying on my back and thinking one particular thought.

‘What the hell just happened!!’

I do not swear, even under the most extreme circumstances, and then only when I am alone.  At that moment, I was in too much agony to summon up more than some sincere moans.

Accidents usually happen quickly, like the strike of a rattlesnake.  This one was a true slow sprawl, but one that I could not veer away from or avoid.

The events leading up to this were so uninteresting: the pool needed water, and I went outside to turn on the spigot.  Then I noticed that the strainer basket had some stray leaves that needed to be emptied.  I knelt down on both knees and reached into the strainer, pulled out the leaves.  This is when everything “…went to hell in a hand basket…”, as my father-in-law used to say. 
Note: bruising down the palm!

When I moved to stand up, I forgot that my right ankle was kinda broken, and that it wouldn’t support me.  “OH, NO!” was all I could say as I sprawled gracelessly forward.  My right knee came down the two inches to the concrete, then the right side of my ribs, and finally my right hand.
Note: bulge below little finger

After I hit, I rolled onto my back, groaning in utter pain and in total frustration. 



That was when I noticed the sky.


Author’s note:  Ribs are okay, just bruised.  X-ray of right hand doesn’t show any broken bones that Dr. can see.  Just have a severe sprain, and OH-BOY-HOWDY, that hurts like nobody’s business.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#347a: The Saga

At the City Museum

The saga continues.  What was a stupid thing done two months ago has awoken. 
In reference to “Stupid Things I Have Done: #347”, I need to renumber this post to be “#347a”.  To see the original post, go here: Click HERE.
To recap, I must go back to April 6, 2011.  We were in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott Hotel.  Our flights were the next day, so we (me, my husband John, son John4, and daughter Erin) found ourselves with a few hours of daylight to do something in the city.  John4 said, “Hey, I heard about this ‘City Museum’.  Let’s go there!” With the enthusiasm of young children, we piled into the car and took off.
One of the re-bar tunnels
The Droid took us there.  Driving through abandoned industrial buildings covered with graffiti did not look promising.  Rows of tall brick buildings looked through their empty dust-covered windows out on the river and us. 
Man meets elephant
Trust the Droid, use the force.  Rounding a corner, there it was: the City Museum.  It had been another industrial building, which once produced all matter of fabric goods back in the late 1800s and into the 1950s.  Then it closed down, along with the many blocks of other brick buildings.
While those buildings stared blankly, this ‘City Museum’ had been purchased by an artist/architect, who took it, shook it, and turned it inside out and upside down.  The result was a charming and incredible ten-story ‘museum’ and playground still camouflaged by ancient bricks.
The Monster Slide: just get out of the way at the bottom!
We wandered through this place in awe usually experienced only by children.  There is a fantastic slide, we were told.  Go this way, climb up those stairs, and keep climbing.  For ten stories, keep climbing, and you will find the slide.
7 story high pipe organ
Human hamster wheel
We did exactly that, with John4 striding in the lead and John-husband grumbling in the rear.  Up the winding staircase, we climbed and climbed, until we reached the shiny slide.  John4 plopped himself on the spiral slippery slide, and we heard his laughter drop down the many floors.  Then Erin flung herself down the tube, screaming all the way.  Then I took my turn.  And finally John-husband reluctantly joined us.
We'll try this first.
This is where things went wrong for me.  The rubber sole of my right heel caught on the slide and twisted my ankle. 
We finished up the day at the museum, went back to hotel, where I iced my ankle and sent John4 to get Ace bandages to wrap the now swollen and throbbing right ankle.
Come to me...I'll help you!
Two months later, the ankle still was swollen and throbbing.  Purple capillaries spread out like spider webs over the pain, and reminded me that I wasn’t 18 or 28 or 38 or 48, or even 58 anymore.

My doctor x-rayed it last week, found that the end of the tibia had a splinter break.  Now I stand tall, because the boot wrap I wear adds about 1.8 inches to my height. 

I wonder if I can look at the height-weight charts can count that 1.8 inches and give me a break in my weight.  I sure could use a better ‘break’ now.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

PMS vs. PPSM

After years of suffering at the mics of comedians worldwide, PMS can finally get even.  Oh, yes.  Women who expressed displeasure in various ways have been accused of being “PMS”, and therefore that weakened them somehow.  Well, today PMS has its revenge.

Now PMS can stride up to the microphones in comedy clubs and stream on about “PPSM” and everyone-- everyone—will laugh in agreement.  We have finally identified the syndrome now known as “Politically Powerful Stupid Men”
I won't be back.

It has been recognized and whispered about since the early 1990s, when the President of the United States stated with firm conviction, “I did not have sex with that woman!”  Firm jaw, unblinkingly staring into the camera, the PPSM sufferer lied boldfaced to millions of Americans.

Other PPSM afflicted men have had their day in the spotlight, and now we have the current PPSM Congressman Weiner.  As a nation, we have witnessed his struggles to come to terms with this affliction:
What WAS he thinking?

Anger—then they moved onto being peeved that this confrontation won’t stop.

Bargaining—they admitted to a portion of their syndrome, but insist that it doesn’t prevent them from being effective in politics.

Stand by your man...
Acceptance—the hardest one of all was finally coming out and accepting their responsibility in their indiscretion.

Accountability—they ultimately have to take the bitter consequences of their PPSM, and maybe develop a conscience about it all.  Or they sneak off to the private sector where they can continue to do the same despicable things, but not on tax-payer money or time.
It was just a little vacation.

It was only a little money.
PMS is currently touring through coffee shops everywhere, and discussing the PPSM problem with other PMS participants.

Note: If you are unfamiliar with PMS and its definition, please look it up, or discuss this with a female of your acquaintance.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Small stones

wedding rings
wedding small stones
This is the html to copy into the 'source' or 'html' page of your blog post, to see how this looks click here.


Kaspa & Fiona have taken over my blog for today, because they
need our help.




They are both on a mission to help the world connect with the world
through writing. They are also getting married on Saturday the 18th of
June.



For their fantasy wedding present, they are asking people across the
world to write them a ‘small stone’ and send it to us using this form. You can also post the stone on your blog, or facebook or on twitter using the #aros hashtag.



A small stone is a short piece of observational writing – simply pay
attention to something properly and then write it down. Find out more
about small stones here.




If you’re willing to help, we’d love you to do two things:




1) Re-post this blog on your own blog any time before June the 18th and
give your readers a chance to hear about what we’re doing. You can
simply copy and paste the text, or you can find the html
here
.




2) Write us a small stone on our wedding day whilst we’re saying our
vows and eating cake, post it on your blog, and send
it to us.




You can find out more about our project at our website, Wedding Small
Stones
, and you can also read our blog at A River of Stones.




We also have a July challenge coming soon, when we’ll be challenging
you to notice one thing every day during July and write it down.




Thank you for listening, and we hope we’ll be returning from our
honeymoon to an inbox crammed with small stones, including yours.




Kaspa & Fiona

Fiona and Kaspa are on a mission to help people connect with the world through writing.

To find our more about the river of stones challenge in July visit our blog: a river of stones

We also have a brilliant community of writers at Writing Our Way Home, we'd love to see you there.

Contact us: email Kaspa or Fiona
Home

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What is a small stone?

Send us your small stone

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What I Saw on the Drive Home

The valley between the sloping hills stretched and wound around with the creek.  The brittle golden fields met the rocky hills, where rows of avocado groves clung to the rocky sides.  The wind rustled the leaves, birds circled in the sky, and creatures scurried about their lives.  I looked out across the valley and to the mountains beyond.

courtesy of Bing.com
The birds, I remember the birds the most.  The big turkey buzzards cruised on the rising air currents, with their black wings tips furled out.  Around and around, searching for carrion—they hardly seemed to move.  Desperate songbirds stayed close to earth, darting from tree to tree.  Had to get out of sight, get to the next branch.  The black crows sang that annoying song of theirs.  How could any bird be so annoying and yet so beautiful with their glossy feathers, all at the same time?

A red tailed hawk’s cry sliced through the quiet.  Up high, he had been riding the waves of air, but his predator’s eyes remained earth bound.  He folded his wings in, tucked his head down, and dove out of the sky.  It was so fast, so incredibly fast. 
Hawk in flight


He went out of sight, behind an outcropping of rock and manzanita.  In the space of one breath, the hawk rose into the air, a furry rodent in his talons.  Did I really see that happen?  I watched the red tailed hawk recede into the distance, until he was gone.  If I had blinked, I would have missed that display of such beauty and such power.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Vegas, Baby!

We were going to Las Vegas.

We were on the road the day after school ended.  For months we had talked about this.  I had been reading about the great shows we could see, while my husband was calculating the expense.  By the time the day arrived, he had turned in months of soda cans and bottles for recycling, coming home with $100.  Vegas, baby.

Excalibur Hotel was brand new, and we were in awe, like the true tourists we were.  I went to the nickel slots; soon lights were flashing and ringing.  I made $40.  My husband took to the quarter slots, and broke even.
courtesy of Bing.com

Exhausted after a four hour drive and hitting jackpots, we went up to the room to change and go see a show. I had three great ones circled with the ticket cost.  It was going to take all my nickel winnings, and cut into the recycling money, but hey…Vegas!  I showed the paper to my beloved, hoping to make a great choice.
He's an original.

I searched his face, and realized that he wasn’t interested in seeing a live show.  He turned the paper to another page where “Terminator” was showing in a movie theater off the Strip. 

We came to Vegas, and he wanted to see “Terminator”. 

I caved and went on the drive off the bright flashy streets to some dimly lit, grungy theater.   It was easy to find.  It was between cruddy bars, with a pawn store across the street, and liquor store next to that.  The streets were lined with big motorcycles and prostitutes.  We, a modest grade school teacher and geeky high school algebra teacher, were like two fireflies in a sky filled with bug-eating bats. 

The show started in a theater filled with bikers and biker chicks, pimps and prostitutes, drug dealers and users, and two school teachers.  As the plot developed, the theater roared its approval with colorful metaphors and heartfelt profanity.  Swearing wasn’t unexpected, but never with such sincerity and verve.  As the movie came to a rip roaring conclusion, the guttural howls nearly ripped the grime off the floor.
1959

We walked out toward our car very aware of our vulnerability.  A few steps ahead were a pimp with two of his girls.  Oh, it was very clear who and what, because the car was a white decked out Cadillac, and he was wearing a white suit, with white fur cape, and gold jewelry on every digit.  The girls were also dressed for their profession.  We kept close to them, figuring no one would mug two stupid school teachers within close proximity of the Cadillac.  The pimp wouldn’t want blood on his car, right?

We were parked behind him in our little Toyota Tercel.  We took off with all the speed it could give us.  I didn’t talk to my husband for the entire trip back to the hotel.  When we were in our room, we looked at each other, waiting.  First there was one giggle, and then a chuckle.  Then we burst into relief-filled laughter, amazed that we had done such a thing, and nothing happened to us.

To this day, when we consider Las Vegas and its lights, all we think about is that one night, that one movie, and that white Cadillac.  Vegas can never beat any of that.



Friday, June 10, 2011

Who Blinks First...

He who blinks first, loses.

This is what I learned as a child when facing down a brother or another aggressive boy on the playground. Hold your ground. Invade personal space. Close in for the kill. AND never blink first. 

This is important:  He who blinks first, loses.

courtesy of Bing.com
The skills honed in the fires of sibling conflict and playground battles have carried me through many rough situations. Okay—not necessarily rough, but definitely confrontational. 

As a young mother, I learned the importance of holding my position on naps (everyone takes one in the afternoon, including me) until my oldest child was almost 9 years old.  Having three stair-step children, I bent over and drew my eyes level with theirs.

 “You will take a nap today. A good long nap.” They blinked. I didn’t. The nap wars fought and won, because I didn’t blink first.

When teaching, the teacher must hold the line on so many discipline issues:  raising the hands to speak, asking permission, respecting another student’s right to exist, etc. Staring down thirty + children requires practice and experience. It must be done with firmness and, most of all, with kindness.

Do you understand???
There was always one student who challenged the blink contest “You will not steal anyone's pencils. Do you understand, mister?”  Blink, blink, “Yes’m.”
That was when all the skills in the first paragraph had to go into the game. The teacher has to win this—the rest of the class has to know that the standards of behavior are listed on the wall for a reason.
Yes'm.

When not playing poker for big bucks, or trying to convince a three-year old that he will stay out of the flour canister, blinking is fine. Blink away to your heart’s content. 
In your face.

But, when one absolutely must win a situation, keep those eyes open, piercing into the other eyes with deadly aim, and impose your will.  Good luck, soldier.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lists of Happy Thoughts

The past year has been hard for my family. Over the past 15 years, we lost two brothers, our father, and now our mother. The rural area that had been ‘home’ for generations dating back to the 1820s, now has no ties for us. When our mother died in April 2011, there went the last reason to return to the farmlands and small towns. Most probably, we would never again drive down those country roads we once knew so very well.

All this made me realize how truly wonderful life is in general, and my life in particular. The things and events that have made me stop and reflect have been small in the large scale of life, but significant. This list may not make sense to anyone but me, but here goes:

1. The smell of angel food cake baking.
2. The sound of a violin solo and getting goose bumps
3. The jasmine blooms winding over the front door
4. Holding hands with my husband in a dark movie theater
5. Churning homemade ice cream under a maple tree on a hot summer day
6. That first cup of coffee (or tea) in the morning
7. Holding a baby
8. Walking on the beach with the tide washing over my feet
9. Watching a smiling young couple pushing a baby stroller
10. Writing anything
11. Singing the “Hallelujah Chorus”
12. Reading poetry aloud in an empty house

This is my list.
Do you have a list? What would be on that list? 

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Dreams May Come

“What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?”

courtesy of Bing.com
This is from Hamlet, and is one of the few lines I can remember from high school English class.  It was an enigmatic line to me then, being all of fifteen years old, and having seen little of life or death.

Now, of course, that has changed.  Life and death—those are much more real to me.  You might be expecting me to expound on death and how it surrounds us all.  Nah, I want to share dreams of life with you.

I taught first through eighth grades over a twenty year span.  I restarted my teaching career when my youngest child began second grade.  By that time, I was almost 37 years old, with a load of life experiences in my backpack that most of the younger teachers could not have had.  My first class was a fourth grade class whose teacher had to take sick-leave mid-year.  Up to the time I came, there had been 18/eighteen different substitute teachers who went and left after one day. 

It was a rough class, a broken class.  More than that, it was a group of 10-11 year old children who felt abandoned in the one safe place where they could count on being cared for and taught what they needed to know. 

Not an endorsement--but it looks good.
God knows what we all need, and He certainly knew what these children needed: someone to love them, to slug it through, to stay the course with them. 

To say that we endured and came out winners would be too light-hearted.  It was a struggle, almost mental hand-to-hand combat.  Each child had their own issues of pain, divorce, poverty, gang-pressure, and abandonment from home.  They needed—no, they absolutely were desperate for someone to hold onto and to show them the door to a better world. 

Teachers must be warriors for their students.  I was a soft mother type, who made quilts and baked brownies, who taught Sunday school and played the church piano.  But I was also a tenacious and stubborn woman, who saw into the hearts of these hurting kids.  It was a daily test for all of us, and in the end, we were drawn together.  On the last day of school, we were all teary eyed to see school end and our relationship to change. 

Months before, I had entered that classroom as their adversary, another teacher whom they thought would leave them.  My promise was that I was staying, and they were not going to be left with someone else.  I kept my promise. 

Now, I have dreams of my students, over 600 of them, in different situations with me as their teacher.  Sometimes I am driving a bus on a field trip along a crazy Bolivian mountain road.  Sometimes we are in a classroom put together in a bombed out bunker.  In other dreams, teacher friends and I are going to somewhere like Haiti to set up classes for other abandoned children. 

Dreams indeed. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life

Horton and the dust-speck are one.
The other day when I was watching my granddaughters, I found myself up stairs and getting ready to watch a movie while we lay in Mommy’s bed. Both the girls were sick and asked me if I wanted to take a nap. It would be okay with them if I wanted. Sunshine found the TV controls, and zip-zang, she showed me how to do all the remote control stuff that previously eluded me. With “Horton Hears a Who” starting, the girls lay down, telling me I could have the middle between them. They had taken all the pillows, and the middle was perhaps eight inches wide. 

This isn’t going to work, I told them. I need more room than that. So I manually scooted them over, grabbed a pillow from the end of the bed, and climbed over them. The moment I extended my arms, they both rolled  to nestle into me. ‘Ahhhhh’. 

The Last Unicorn
Sunshine is somewhat like a puppy, which has to turn in circles a few times before finding the right spot. This time she was lying on her stomach, with her head at my knees and her feet at my head. “Draw pictures on my back, Grandma. I want a unicorn, a rainbow, a flower…” Before I drew the rainbow, Sunshine was sound asleep.

Bright Eyes placed her head on my chest. “I can hear your heart beating, Grandma,” she whispered. I wiggled my fingers into her mass of brown hair, and lifted the strands up to let the heat escape. She sighed, and blinked, then was asleep.

That left me with Horton. Before we settled in for the movie,Sunshine had found one of Daddy’s clean socks and placed it over my eyes just so. "Here, Grandma.  This will help your headache."   I could look down my nose and at the TV, if I wanted. 

When Mommy/my daughter came home, she found us three just like that. “Oh, my, that is precious.” I agreed with her.

Life can’t get much better than that.