Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Teaching

I loved teaching, still love teaching.  When my health said it was time to stop, I turned away from the classroom.  I now have two granddaughters whom I love without end.  Still, I miss the classroom, the eyes of the students as they learn. 

The eyes never change.   

In the twenty years since my first group of students, I may not recognize them, but they recognize me.  

 When I see the eyes, I can call up the child-face these adults once had.  Suddenly we are talking about their lives and what they are doing as adults.  Some have children holding their hand, some are going on to school.  I don’t tell them about me, my life goals, because I am not and never was the important one:  the students were all that mattered to me.

Almost every night I have a dream about teaching.  Some are great, where we are on the playground or we are reading a grand book.  Others are not. 

In those dreams, the teaching situation is desperate, the classroom is an abandoned rotting shell of a building, and the students are scared.  So am I.  There are so many students with all sorts of needs and we don’t have enough books to go around.  Whatever learning happens is up to the teacher, because there is no other source.  I see their eyes looking at me, waiting, and that is when I do something.

Bolivia Road of Death
I never get to find out what I do, for the dream morphs onto something like driving a school bus along that most dangerous road in Bolivia.  Then I wake up.

It all comes down to the teacher and the quality he/she brings to the classroom.  Money can be thrown at the needs of the schools, but if the teacher does not have the freedom to teach, nothing will happen.

e ceiling, reams of lined paper can line the walls, and sharpened pencils can lie in laundry baskets.  

But, if the teacher does not have the freedom to explore and fulfill the needs of each student, learning will dwindle to the bubbles on Scantron™ test papers. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Boy with a Leaf

The Leaf Boy from 1st Writes

Sitting on his booster seat at breakfast, Jeffrey watched his older sisters race around the table.  “Soccer practice!...Library book?...Algebra test…Time to go!”

 Jeffrey could not hear the rest.  Unless he was quiet, the tornado of sisters and words could take him with them.

But they did take him.  Whoosh. Jeffrey was in his car seat.  Whoosh. At daycare.  Whoosh.  Back in his car seat.  Whoosh.  In his booster seat with a snack.  The tornado of sisters and parents whirled around him.

Jeffrey went out to play where he sat on his swing.  A breeze danced, bringing him a gift: a giant leaf.  It was bigger than his head with a perfect hole for his eye. 

With the leaf on his face, he went inside at supper time.   He announced, “Jeffrey is not here.  I am his tree.  I’m here.”  He sat down in Jeffrey’s chair and waited.

His sisters and parents stared at him.  Everyone shrugged, and began talking.  They looked at the tree with side-ways eyes.
The tree ate a carrot and a piece of chicken.  At bedtime, the tree used Jeffrey’s toothbrush, put on Jeffrey’s pajamas, and went to bed.

For two days the tree did most of the things Jeffrey usually did.

At supper on the third day, the tree came in to sit on Jeffrey’s chair.  The sisters and parents were gone!   
In their places sat big trees with leaves on their faces and perfect holes for eyes. 

Well, the tree did not know what to think.  Or to do.

What would you do?

This is intended to be a children book.  But the question still stands!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Little Girls in Crowns

There are very few television shows that I go out of my way to avoid.  I mean, close my eyes and hum loudly while I zoom past it with the remote.

This particular show is “Toddlers and Tiaras”.  It is a reality show that follows a certain few pre-school girls and their mothers as they shape their lives and future through the beauty pageant business. 

It is difficult to describe.  I do not want to write something that does further damage to these three – six year old girls.  I will say that these mothers (and sometimes fathers) need serious psychiatric help.  Even as the words come out of their mouths, “I just know that little _____ loves being in a pageant!  She told me so…” I see a little girl who has missed a childhood.

Wasn’t anything at all learned with the unsolved murder of Jon Benet Ramsey?

Usually the mother is a former pageant participant herself, or always wanted to be in the beauty pageant.  There is so much pain in these expressed desires, and it becomes apparent as the mother and girl interact. 

How has this affected the general society of little girls?  Well, it has fed into turning little girls into little sluts, as seen in the clothing industry.  I went to buy some size 6 panties for my granddaughters, and there was a rack of padded bras (size 6) right there.  “Oh, look, Grandma!  Bright Eyes would like a bra like that!”  Bright Eyes is 6 ½ years old, and she will not get a bra like that as long as I have breath!

It is a distorted and sick world our children face.  They must rely on adult intelligence and protection.  What in the world are these parents thinking? Or, are they thinking?

Post Script:  I have never included a video on my blogs; I would rather write.  But, words did not seem adequate for my rage. Also, I am technologically inept.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Odes to Odes

The Master Quipster, Ogden Nash

Ode to Odes

'Tis hard to create an ode
When my brain is growing mold.
The meter and rhyme--
I run out of time,
When the meter
Is sweeter
Than the rhyme
Is fine.

The sage, Ogden Nash
Knew when to slash
If the words he had
Smelled rather bad
And what he needed
Was better heeded.

So, Dear Odgen,
To quote such an odd one:
Candy is dandy
But liquor is quicker.
This is mine:
Dark chocolate is divine
When eaten with red wine.

Please note: I am not a drinker, but I do remember in days gone by.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Leaf

I was a bud when I heard a baby’s first word.  Her mother was below me, pushing the stroller.  “Bah!”  It was a great word. 

I was almost leafed out when the boy on a red bike slid into my tree.  He scraped his arm and knee; he ran inside crying.  The red bike lay below me for a while.  I don’t know its thoughts, but I am certain it hurt much more than the boy.

In bright summer, I danced in the warm breezes.  The young lady with yellow hair strolled beneath me with the young man in military uniform.  They leaned against my tree, whispering promises, planning the future, and kissing lightly.

As the air cooled at night, I felt my color seeping back into the tree.  I tried to stop it, but it didn’t hear me.  My edges became golden, and along my spine, burgundy red appeared. 

The boy on the red bike rode under me to start school.  I watched the baby taking her first steps; she stopped to pat my tree.  The young lady with yellow hair ambled along while reading a letter; she was laughing and crying, then laughing.

Daytime changed from cool to cold, and I let go of my tree, falling to the ground with the other leaves.  Next year, another leaf will watch for my friends.   Will it love them as much as I?

Thursday, September 22, 2011


On Thursdays, one will find me flat out on the couch with eye patches and a cold ice tea.  I will be exhausted and may not answer the phone.  One would have to be a blood relative or someone I love for me to answer the phone or the door.

Watch out!  There's a foot coming...
The reason will be that I spent the day before with my two granddaughters, Bright Eyes and Sunshine, on Wednesday.  Both are in school now and amazingly enough, that’s the reason I am about as energetic as a smashed snail on Thursdays.

Sunshine is in kindergarten now and filled with joy, laughter, and an amazing collection of information, both educational and personal.  I pick her up at 1:50 pm, and we walk about 10 miles from her classroom, across the griddle called the ‘parking lot’, and to my car.  When Sunshine used a car seat, she could buckle up and be ready to go before I shut her door. 

Now, she uses a ‘booster’, which requires me to pull the shoulder harness across her, find the buckle in the backseat, and click it. She can do this in Mommy’s van.  

The problem is that our Saturn Aura has back doors that give minimum swing and has hide-and-seek buckles.  
 In order to secure my precious cargo, I have to virtually crawl into the back to find the buckle, grip it with my arthritic hands, and force the buckle in.  My rear end is hanging out the door, and soon I find it hard to breath.  “You okay, Grandma?”  Oh yeah, honey, I am just fine.

Then we go to Target for 45 minutes. My darling girl can unbuckle in 2 seconds flat, and we walk about 3 miles across the Target parking lot.  Sunshine knows every inch of this store, and she takes me to see those inches.  When our time is up, we head back to her school to pick up Bright Eyes at 2:50.  All the above gets repeated.

All told, I have buckled the girls six times, walked about thirty miles in desert heat, and am having a massive hot flash. 
Then we drive to pick up Grandpa, who works about three hundred miles across a desolate desert.  We unbuckle, go into his work where the girls initiate a search for candy on all the co-workers’ desks.  

 My husband does not understand why I am flushed and grumpy.  He smiles and tries to bluff me with good natured banter, but I do not respond.

I do the buckle in routine again, and we always drive to either McDonald's or Dairy Queen.  The girls get ice cream cones, I ask for a blended Margarita, and everyone just laughs.  Silly grandma.
The rest of the time with my girls is wonderful.  We do homework, color pictures, tell stories, watch a feel-good older Disney movie, and the girls sit on my lap.  That is what I live for all day:  to hold them and hear what they have to say.

Do not call me on Thursday.  I will be busy.  Please note: I do not drink, but sometimes it sounds good.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Special for Special

Oh, I could have used this jar of change!
When we were young parents with three small children, we were always struggling with finances.  ‘Struggling’ is a mild word, for I was doing down-right brutal, in-the-mud, hand-to-hand battle with money, or the lack of it. 

I was frugal, careful with every penny.    I was so frugal that I would stop in the middle of a roasting parking lot in 114 degrees to pick up a flattened penny. 

It was about the end of the month that I noticed that our 2 ½ year old son, Johnny, was walking slowly and seemed to have problems with his feet. 

The GP doctor said that his feet were pronating which means

to turn into a prone position; to rotate (the hand or forearm) so that the surface of the palm is downward or toward the back; to turn (the sole of the foot) outward so that the inner edge of the foot bears the weight when standing.  

Laces on, tie shoes; untie shoes, look for shoes

He sent us to an orthopedic doctor who would diagnose and write a prescription for special shoes.

Centipede from James and the Giant Peach

Specialty doctor?  Special shoes?  Money, where would we get the money?

Somehow, God provided, and we brought home the ugliest shoes a boy has had to wear from Stride Rite shoe store (good store, by the way).  They were brown leather, laced up over the ankle, and the sole had been adjusted for Johnny’s feet.  Putting them on and off reminded me of the centipede in James and the Giant Peach.  They cost $85.

 That may not sound like a fortune now, but in 1981 when the mortgage rates were 16.5% and we had no money, it was a fortune.

 Needless to tell any mother out there, boys misplace everything.  Everything.  At the end of the first day after bath time, the shoes were somewhere.  My oldest daughter found them, and I talked straight into Johnny’s face about where the shoes would/should go each time he took them off.  He nodded, as if he understood a word I had said.

 For the next two days, we played hide-and-seek­ with these shoes made of gold.  Finally at the end of the third day, I pulled Johnny up into my lap, and gave him the shoes, telling him (with tears in my eyes) that these shoes were made especially for HIM, because he was so special.  With big eyes and a solemn nod, he went off to bed.

 Before I turned in, I decided to make sure the shoes were where they were supposed to be, and they were not.  Growing more and more frantic, I searched the house with my husband.  We looked everywhere, no shoes.

 I was ready to burst into Johnny’s room and wake him up, to ask him where the shoes were.  I opened the door and walked in.  What I saw changed my whole perspective.

 Johnny was lying on his back with that soft kissable baby face.  Tucked under each arm was a shoe, with his special arms tightly wrapped around those special shoes. 

 I kissed his rosy cheeks and brushed back his hair.  God bless this child!  I tiptoed out.






Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Secret Desire

My brother Bill with 'Sonny'
I have always been a secret cowboy, yes.  In my mind, I am riding a white Andalusia horse across the golden hills of Santa Barbara.  I would be young again, with long chestnut hair; my horse would fly across the golden land, and we would never stop.  Yes, that is my dream.

In reality, the only ‘horses’ I have ridden with any success are on the carousel at the fair or the ponies who miserably plod around in a circle. 

My brother Bill was a real cowboy; he bought a two year old quarter horse when he was in high school. When he became an adult (well, he grew to adult size, anyway), he lived in Texas and had several horses.  He even talked like a Texan.
My brother, Bill, in 1992
I came home from college one weekend after Bill had gotten ‘Sonny’.  He asked, “Wanta ride ‘im?” Sensing no subterfuge, I eagerly climbed up, and held the reins the way I remembered from my pony-riding days.  I even make that click-click sound, the one I’d heard in all the cowboy shows ever made.

Sonny took off, and I mean he took off like a rocket.  As he headed up the road, Bill’s laughter filled the air.  I was hanging on for my very life, and he was laughing. 

When Sonny finally stopped after going a quarter mile (I swear), I jumped down, and lead the blasted animal back home.  I didn’t sit for two days. 

My red boots next to my spinning wheel, things I have collected
I will never ever ride a horse again, I think.  I don’t want to hurt something that may not heal.  So instead, I bought something that will have to substitute: red cowboy boots.

Yup, pardner.  I may never fly across the plains on my white horse, but I will strut like nobody’s business in my red cowboy boots.   

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sun

Nancy put the phone down, leaning back in her chair.  ‘Well, it has happened again…’  Looking at the wall covered with her many awards for psychology and counseling, credentials for teaching, Nancy saw nothing, felt nothing.  ‘I didn’t think it could…’

Her mind blank and emotions distorted, Nancy paced around her office.  She saw the calendar, and circled tomorrow.  “…a middle school at 10, and then that big high school on Grand at 1 pm,” she murmured, amazed as she saw her fingers writing.  They were still shaking. She clenched her hands together tightly.  “I can help those kids!  I will help them through this!”

Shaking herself, Nancy shouldered her leather case, feeling the weight of tomorrow and all the following days.  “It’s gonna be a long month, a long year…” she mumbled as she turned the off the light, shutting the door quietly. ‘Please, I don’t want to talk right now…’

But it was too late.  Angela burst out her office door.  “Did you hear?  Did you see the Twin Towers fall this morning?” 

But Nancy was already down the hall and thinking of getting home.  Home was safe.  Home, she could control.

Walking into the quiet dark house that had been her parents’ home, Nancy slipped off her shoes, tossed the keys onto the table, and stared at the family photo wall. 

She could see them, feel them: her trip with them to Niagara Falls, where they were all covered with mist.   Her mother and father on their trip to London, but Nancy didn’t go with them.  They called from London before they boarded the plane that would bring them home.  They would be home before Christmas in 1988. 

They went to Lockerbie, Scotland, instead, and never came home.

‘…and now, it has happened again…is there nothing new under the sun?'  
Nancy hung her head, and let herself weep, this time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tag! I'm IT!

This lovely photo came from someone's blog, but can't remember who...

Today I was ‘tagged’ by Dawn Hamsher at!  I really enjoy her blogs, and was honored to be one of the tag-ees. 

That said, I will tell you ten random and previously unknown things about myself.  Then I will tag five other bloggers!  Here goes:

1.      I really enjoy reading children’s books, all types and ages.  The art and the language thrill me. 

2.     “Doctor Who” has been a favorite series, from way back.  I lost touch with my Who roots in 1985, and recently have returned to the TARDIS.

3.     I yearn to live in a place where the predominant nature color is green.  Here is So. California, the green tends to be faded most of the year.

4.     I am playing the piano again.  Oh, not with a performance goal, but to hear the music, and feel it.  In 1998, my right elbow suffered a bad injury, and three of my fingers were partially disabled.  God has given music back to me, and I play for Him and me.

5.     Seeing a baby renders me incapable of logical thought.  I melt.

6.     People amaze me.  Knowing that every car on the freeway holds a                   family with thoughts and dreams like me—well, that is just amazing.  

7.     I am not confrontational.  Over my teaching years, there were      situations where I had to go toe-to-toe with some aggressive (sometimes abusive) parents.  It took everything in me, but it was God’s words that came out.

8.     I realize that my years ahead are probably countable using all my digits.

9.     I miss my mother more than words can say.  She died April 3, 2011.

 I     I love the smell of rain.

Well, there you go!  The five lucky tagged people are:

He thinks, ponders...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Problem with Profanity

This says it all!

I am having a real problem with profanity.  I know, I know.  This is a hard thing to admit:  Living a Christian life, making certain that my speech was uplifting and true to God’s Word, I am finally having trouble.

It is only two words:  Damn-it!  and hell.

Is it a sign of the times, I wonder?  It sure seems to me that the world IS going to ‘hell in a hand basket’.  I don’t know what that means, but my father-in-law said that phrase frequently, and he was born in 1926.  So, perhaps my usage of hell in that sense is understandable and acceptable.  Is saying, “Last week was hell, as the temperatures were at 108 to 111 degrees!” acceptable?  Obviously, the word ‘hell’ has some confusion for me.
What is this really saying?

But Damn it!  or just plain Damn!...I mean, I know that cannot be permitted.  

 I grew up in a ultra, uber conservative church that looked on ‘dang’ or ‘darn’ as subtle substitutes for the big Damn!, and could not be tolerated.  

 Other words were accepted as we lived in a farm country where excrement surrounded us, but the word Damn! was on the bad list.

I have gotten sooo bad that I even giggle a little when I say Damn it! or Dammit!.  Why!  Why?!  Has the word moved from the ‘bad list’ to the ‘slightly amusing list’?  

 Shoot, I don’t know.  

Maybe if I say ‘Hoover Dam(n) it!’, I could feel less guilty. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Band Aid Courage

We have all been here.  Go to See*Photo*Write

Quick!  You can do it!

James heard Dan’s voice.  He trusted his friend and followed him blindly.  Whatever Dan said was the law.

Dan shifted from foot to foot, his breath coming out quickly.  “Come on!  We gotta go!  Just do it!”  Dan watched as the backs of his pack of boys disappeared around the corner.

James hesitated.  He heard Dan hiss, “Coward!”

James stared up into Dan’s eyes.  Without breaking contact or even blinking, James grasped the loosened edge of the band aid.

1st Writes