Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"F" is for Frogs...

It's not easy being green...

Grandma!
Today we learned
About the letter
“F” is for
FROGS!
Oh, Sunshine!
I love frogs!
In the Spring time
The frogs would sing
At night.
It's night, I see a light...Go to the light
We learned
About how they hop
And about their
Long sticky tongues
That catch bugs!
SEE ME JUMP!
My brothers
Would go down
To the pond with a
Flashblight
and nets.
We learned
That frogs are
All colors and
Live all over
The world!
Then my brothers
Caught the frogs
And brought them
to the house
To kill and clean them.
Yep, he's a big fella'!
Oh, Grandma!
I love frogs
So much!
Don’t you love them,
Too?
My mother
Would fry up the frog legs
For supper.
They taste like chicken.
I don’t like chicken.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Length of Time


When I hold a new crayon from a fresh box of colors, 

it doesn’t matter

what color I choose,

for I will fill the page with all the colors.

When I draw the first line, squiggle or circle,

I am six years old again.

When I buckle a new shoe across my granddaughter’s foot,

I am five years old, trying on my first pair of patent leather shoes.

I will dance around in them,

watching how the light shines

on the shoes and the buckles.

When I sit on the floor to watch “Peter Pan”,

I am again seven years old,

and I am hoping

that Peter Pan

will appear at my window someday.

When I hear my husband’s laughter

I am a newly-wed and deeply in love.

When I see the photos of my children dressed in brand-new

Easter clothes,

I am again a young mother, thinking about the roast in the oven and Sunday afternoon.

Our lifelines are ruled by the clock and the rotations of the Earth,

But our lives are lived by “…the length, the breadth, and the depth…” of our

memories 

and
imaginations.

Friday, August 26, 2011

This is the ‘hurricane season’ traditionally.  The news is covering the on-coming Hurricane Irene, which is expected to move along the eastern coastline from Florida and on up to where?  Whether it moves back out to sea or whether it will lose its hurricane status is anyone’s guess.  At least, here in 2011, the news and the National Weather Service are able to make a reasonable timely forecast, and prepare the citizens to evacuate, or to get in supplies. 

We expect this forewarning; we have grown accustomed to having the ‘heads-up-y’all’ that technology and rapid communications provide us.  However, it was not always that way.
A simple meteorological map showing the 1938 storm's path

In 1938, the U.S. Weather Bureau consisted of a few men, a telephone, maps of currents and winds, telegraph equipment, knowledge of history, and precious little else.  One of the men, Charlie Pierce was a junior forecaster in the U.S. Weather Bureau.  He was certain that there was a hurricane heading for the Northeast, but the chief forecaster discounted Mr. Pierce.  It had been over a century since such a hurricane had hit the Northeast.
This is supposed to be animated.


The years of 1937 and on were the pre-War years and unstable political conditions existed all over the world, so the possible hurricane Charlie Pierce was predicting was not news as real news went at the time.  By the time it was obvious that there was going to be one amazingly destructive hurricane, it was too late to send out warning.
Storm surge wipes out boardwalk
The destruction was unimaginable, and can only be truly understood by reading accounts from that time.  On September 21, the Category 3 “Great New England Hurricane” made land-fall along Long Island; it destroyed at least 150 luxury beach homes (including the family home of Katherine Hepburn, who was there at the time).  Unknown numbers of homes and people were pulled out into the ocean.
 
storm surge
The hurricane moved along the coast up to Connecticut and Rhode Island, where the state was nearly under water.  Many people, including children in school buses, were swept out to the ocean and never recovered.  It moved up northward across Massachusetts and on over northern New England, finally losing its strength and fading over Canada.
Small and large towns severely damaged
Final numbers?  It is estimated that 700 people were killed outright by the hurricane, and 600 of them were from Long Island and southern New England.  The cost in damages in 1938 terms were $306 million, which is about $18 billion in current terms.  Other estimates put the number much higher.
People were in shock as they read the papers.

This event obviously made an impact on me.  We are spoiled in many ways to expect ample warnings about horrific events like the 1938 hurricane. 

What happens when the unexpected happens, like the East coast earthquake a few days ago?  Are we ready?  To carry the question even further, are we ready physically and spiritually for when the unexpected rumbles over and under us?
What do you think?

For further information on the 1938 Great Hurricane, please go to the following sites:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Crackling


Yesterday the temperature here in the upper desert was easily 107 degrees;  It depended what part of town one was in.  It was 111 in one part, and only 97 in another.    The sidewalks were empty,  no one was walking a dog or heading to the local market.  It was stinking hot.

Courtesy of Bing.com
I went to pick up my granddaughters from school.  Normally parents are mingling and talking about stuff.  The younger mothers are in their yoga outfits, with those cool shoes that are rounded on the sole.  They weren’t yesterday; they were almost naked, and they didn’t care one darn bit. 

Normally their little toddlers are toddling around, being so cute with drool and bits of crackers on their faces.  They weren’t yesterday.  No, the toddlers were crashed in their strollers, red-faced and miserable.  At least they had a bottle with something to drink.   

I wanted to steal the bottle, but the mother was watching me closely.
The playground

There was a silence that crackled; when it is that hot outside, I swear everything and everyone crackled.  The sidewalk was a pancake griddle; when I walked across it to get to the lunch area shade, the heat that rose from the griddle burned the hair off my legs.  I needed to shave them anyway.  The trees crackled, or perhaps it was the leaves that were crackling out their last bit of moisture. 

Other parents picking up students from school
We other miscellaneous adults were huddling under the lunch area shade.  No one spoke; we didn’t want to give up any last bit of spit to the dry air.  We all sat the same way:  arms akimbo, hands on knees, legs sprawled, head hung down.  It was the sight of misery, and none of cared one bit that we all looked like we had been dragged through sand, rolled in a tortilla, and toasted over a hot fire. 

My face must have given the image of one who was about to pass out.  I felt that way.  My cheeks were a shade of red that defies any color description, and the rest of my face was white, pasty white like Elmo’s glue white. 

Even the school children left their air-conditioned classroom like normal kids, but they crackled the moment they hit the outside air.  My granddaughters were silent as we walked to the car. 

‘Please, God.  Help me get to the car!’ I prayed. ‘I don’t want to pass out on the sidewalk.  They would send for an ambulance, and…wait, let me pass out on the sidewalk after all…” 
The vulture by my car

We made it to the car, just barely.  As the girls fastened the seat belts, I got the A/C cranked up to the last number, 4.  Why there isn’t a 5, 6, or 7, I don’t know. 
This parent didn't make it to the car.


I had forgotten I had left my iced coffee in the car.  The ice was melted, but the diluted coffee was cool.  I let the girls drink it all, Lord love them.  It wouldn’t sound good to hear in the news that a grandmother let her granddaughters pass out from dehydration, while she sipped on iced coffee.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Sense of Wonder

I was set to write about the ‘Sense of Wonder’ which I am experiencing through the eyes of children.  Had all sorts of images in my mind, with great metaphors and amazing perspectives.  It was going to be a great piece, really.

When the mail came that day, the September issue of Real Simple filled up the box.  Dang it.  On page 188 was the fashion outlook for fall…”It’s all about clothes that feel good: A Sense of Wonder.”  From page 188 through page 199, the feature focused on how textures and materials give a “…touch of comfort…a touch of luxury…and altogether breathtaking.” 

At that point, I sighed heavily.  How could I possibly write my own ‘sense of wonder’ now? 

 








The photographer had chosen marvelous landscapes with rustic structures, weathered wood barns, and long low landscapes under a brooding sky.  

 He had selected bales of pale golden hay, dark ancient conifers, and a slightly blurred road that faded into a gray distance.   

In short, the photographer picked out scenery that mirrored my thoughts of ‘wonder’.  He sought a mood in the wonder of a lonely land, and captured its beauty. 

The model was exquisite, as models usually are.  This understood, this particular elegant lady revealed quiet intelligence and subtle emotion.   
The new styles and designs in velvet, nubby wool, and silks were made gorgeous, and given depth because this lovely young woman made it so. Clothes on a hanger could not look so rich. 

Her eyes actually reach out to the reader, making contact with us, telling us…telling us what?  I don’t know, but I cared about her thoughts and her reactions to the incredible environment surrounding her.  Each photo was a story waiting to be told, a past aching to be unfolded. 

Of course, I understand that the resulting successful photographs arise from coexisting talents of both the photographer and the model.  But I am at a loss to understand this:

whether the environment merely framed the model and her garments (making her even more beautiful), 
OR
if the model with the very beautiful fall couture assisted the endless, moody landscape to give me pause, and to feel a sense of wonder.

I don’t know. Maybe it's the old "chicken and the egg" dilemma. What do you think?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Confessions of an alektorophobia sufferer

The dread chicken sitting on her eggs
It is a humbling thing to admit to one’s fears, especially when they seem silly.  I suffer from “alektorophobia”, which is a fear of chickens.  Yes, chickens.  Fortunately, I can trace the source of my fear to a childhood event that spurred and shaped the rest of my life.

When I was born, we lived on a remote farm where my parents raised Angus cattle and chickens, lots and lots of chickens.  Mom collected the eggs; once a week ‘the egg man’ would come by and pay her for the eggs.  She also made butter, so perhaps she sold that as well. 

Every day, my brother Robert and I would toddle along with her to the barn where the free-range chickens laid their eggs.  Robert held onto Mom’s skirt, and I held Robert’s hand.  It was a train, but it had flaws. 
Barn interior

Robert was three years old, and I was 10 ½ months younger.  So that put me at 2 ½ years old at the time of this event.  Most will question the validity of being able to recall events from such a young age, but the trauma of this event has made the memory indelible.  Add to that, my mother confirmed certain facts, ending with, “You remember that?  Why, Susie, that was just a silly chicken.”

As we entered the barn on that fateful day, I let go of Robert’s hand, the flaw in the train mentioned earlier.  I was wearing a brand-new red-and-white gingham dress, of which I was very proud.  I remembered the sun shining through the clouds, and my dress looked so bright.   

The train had moved on, but I could still see Mom’s back.  There was an old corn bin next to me, so I crawled up into it because I noticed a pile of shelled corn.  I plopped down beside it and began filtering my little fingers through the pile.  The corn showered down to the pile, over and over, and I laughed at the golden kernels.
Corn on cob, not yet shelled

A shadow filled the doorway through which I had climbed, the only way in or out of the corn bin.  I glanced up, and then looked up with real fear.  It was a rooster that stood taller than a little girl who was happily sitting in a pile of shelled corn.  The shelled corn was the chicken’s food, I was to find out later, and I was sitting square on top of it all.

Malevolent, evil rooster
The rooster came closer, cocking its head this way and that, the way chickens do.  It had evil eyes, malevolent eyes that were angry at me, a little girl in a new red-and-white gingham dress.  By the time it was only a few feet from me, I could see its angry red cockscomb and razor sharp beak.  It was about ten feet tall now, and I burst out in screams.  I probably wet my pants as well.  The rooster responded by flaring out its feathers, and came even closer.

Mom arrived, my dear brave mother who scooped up the rooster and tossed it out of the corn bin.  In her own mother hen way, she soothed me and hoisted me up on her hip.  Robert stood waiting outside the bin with the rooster, both looking at me with confusion. 

We made our little train, only this time Robert was the caboose.  We toddled back to the house.

My fear has manifested itself only a few times, but with enough vehemence that I pull up that memory and I shudder.  I do not wet my pants.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wisdome of the Dinosaur


courtesy of Bing.com
Yesterday I held a sick child for almost the whole day.  ‘Sunshine’ had been sick with fever and vomiting the night before, and was staying home from kindergarten.  She lay across my lap while we rocked, and I caressed her face and hair.  In my grandma kingdom, this was a great day.

We watched a selection of Disney movies, starting with “Dinosaurs”.  We have watched this movie many times, but I have never been plastered in the chair by a five-year old with a fever of 101 degrees.  Usually, Sunshine and I watch a movie, and she gives me a running commentary on the movie along with her own unique insights.  You would be amazed by the perspectives a kindergartner has about life and theology.
Add caption

The plot is straight-forward:  a dinosaur egg miraculously escapes many brushes with crushing, ends up hatching in the tree occupied by a family of primates.  They adopt the adorable newly hatched dino and name him “Aladar”.  All goes well, happy times ensue, and Aladar (who is fortunately an herbivore) develops friendships and family. 

This is the bad dinosaur; he has sharp teeth, Grandma.
Then the meteor crashes into the water, all hell breaks loose; the primates climb onto Aladar and they manage to find safety.  There, they find out that all the herbivores are trekking to the safety of a distant valley where they go every year to breed.  From this point of the movie, all the dinosaurs must make choices that will either save them or lead to being consumed by two nasty carnivores.

There are some universal truths conveyed in that movie.  Go with me on this:

Everyone needs to love and be loved.

Everyone needs to know they are not alone.

Everyone needs to make conscious decisions for good or evil.

Aladar and his love interest
Everyone needs to be believed in and encouraged.

Everyone can change and grow.

Everyone has the potential to learn and the capacity to give to others.

Everyone must take chances, to make ‘a leap of faith’.

Everyone needs to trust and believe in something bigger than themselves, something they cannot see.

Okay, this is not a profound revelation.  I have never evaluated a movie for universal elements before, and I was struck by the way the movie displayed these characteristics. 

Then we watched “Night at the Museum (has a dinosaur)”, and “Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure (no dinosaur)”.  We both nodded off before Tinkerbell was able to repair the moonstone.  Dang.


Friday, August 19, 2011

If I could do it over again....

If I could do it over again...




In 1953, Henry climbed off the bus in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with a battered army duffel bag and $57.38 in his pocket.  Korea was behind him. 

‘Nothin’ and no one can tell me what to do!’ he thought, striding to the nearest bar.  ‘I am my own boss…’ as he ordered his first beer.  ‘…ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do and when to do it…’

A few beers later, Henry trudged up the steps of the dingy slop-house hotel, and threw himself across the narrow bed.  “I am my own boss…” were his slurred words as he dropped into a dark sleep. 

The next morning and every morning after for forty years, Henry would get up and go to the factory job he found through an old army buddy.  Every night for forty years, Henry went to the same bar and the same hotel room.

The factory and the bar were his family for forty years.   

Then in year forty one, Henry coughed up blood, and was told he had two months to live.  ‘…ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do…”  He sat down on the steps to the hotel and read the doctor’s report from the VA hospital.  ‘…ain’t nobody…’

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Not the 'Good Napkins', but....


This is the second day of school for Bright Eyes.  Already, she and her little clutch of friends are striving for good behavior, and most importantly, “table points”.
 
courtesy of Bing.com


Rules are there for a reason.
Unless you are familiar with the discipline plans and rewards used in an elementary classroom, that means nothing to you.  “Table Points” are the points a cluster of six students called a ‘table group’ can earn by sitting up straight, paying attention, folding hands in front of them, or remaining silent when the world around them is wreaking wild havoc.

The table group who garners the most points throughout the whole week gets to choose prizes from the Treasure Chest.  “Oh. My. Goodness.  This is so big, like, you know, Grandma!  And, we were the first table group for the school year, too.”  Bright Eyes now sounds like every teeny girl in Disney™ television shows.  It makes me sad, and a little cranky to be honest.
You, too, can choose from the treasure chest!

So, Bright Eyes hopped into the van, grasping her prize from the Treasure Chest.  It was a small zippered bag, like a girl would carry in her purse for lipstick and such. She had so much to tell about her day, and she had to buckle in before she could examine her treasured prize.

There was silence from Bright Eyes as my daughter drove, letting Sunshine fill in the news of her day.  Then, “Mommy, what is this?”

From the treasured prize, Bright Eyes pulled out three Tampons™, and held them up for her mother to view in the rear view mirror. She was told that they would talk about those things at home.  But that was never enough for Bright Eyes; she knew a brush-off when she saw it.  So Bright Eyes tore them open, and speculated about their uses.  Not a flashlight…oh, look, here’s string…she swung the tampons around on their stringsNo, this isn’t a telescope. Here, Sunshine!  You can play with this one…”
This looks like a good book.

When they all arrived home and the front door closed, my daughter (God bless her.) gave Bright Eyes an abbreviated explanation; she took the Tampons away.  Then she called the teacher, who listened in silence.  The Teacher said, “Oh, dear.  I’d better called Bright Eyes’ best friend.  She picked the same thing.” 

Ahhh.  The joys of teaching.  The joys of learning.