Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grocery Store Mafioso

I was just emailing with a friend about how hard it is to deal with pushy people, especially over the holidays. My friend graciously invited the woman behind her (who was invading her space) to go ahead of her in the grocery store line since the woman was holding only two items. The space-invading woman promptly brought over her daughter and an entire cartload of food. In the end, my friend didn’t say anything and just found a new lane.

So we were discussing this. Is the high road a strength or a weakness?

I often wish there were such a thing as Dial-a-Guru, a person we could all call with such questions. Free of charge, of course. Or a Hogwarts class. Defense Against the Dork Arts, maybe.

The whole thing reminded me of the time a woman cut in front of me in the grocery store line. I actually knew her, having volunteered with her once. She was the stuff of which sit coms are made, and I’m sure she really did think her time was much more valuable than mine. Honestly, the thought of what kind of character she would make was enough to keep me plenty entertained as I waited.

When it was finally my turn to check out, the cashier mentioned the incident. This is an older man who's been in the business a while.  He assured me under his breath that he would “get her” next time. Get her! Those where his exact words, too. I told him please don’t. Really, not a problem. But I’ve always wondered what he meant by that. Charge her for the organic instead of the generic? Manhandle her Bunny Bread? Give her plastic instead of paper?

Or did he mean something more insidious? Would she wake up to find prepackaged cow tongues in her bed? Expired ones? For a while I was half afraid they’d find the self-appointed, divinely righteous Ruler of Volunteerism floating in the lobster tank, her head weighed down by tater tots and turkey giblets and bags of Yukon Golds….

Okay, so I got a bit carried away. It comes from spending too much time in lines. This week as you’re shopping for your holiday festivities, be reeeeeal careful. And if somebody cuts you off in the shopping line, just know that somebody way more scary than Santa Clause might be watching.

Just remember that…mistletoe is not an excuse for sexual assault. ~Andy Bernard, The Office

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Memories

Here is a charming Christmas memory to warm your heart. Every year, my grandfather would get a twinkle in his eyes. My grandfather had more than a sense of humor. He had a sense of fun. So the best stories started with the twinkle.

“Know what I’m going to do?” he’d ask. “I’m going to take a greeeat, biiig bag and sit up all night long and watch the fireplace for Santa Clause. I’ll hide behind this chair, and when old Santa comes out of that chimney…I’LL JUMP OUT AND CATCH HIM!”

At this point, my grandmother would yell at him, “Oh, Homer, stop that! You’re scaring the children!”

He wasn’t scaring me at all, though. I secretly thought it was a brilliant idea! Why had no one thought of it before?

Sad to say the only thing I worried about was whether or not it would work. What would my grandfather do with Santa once he was in the bag? Would Santa be forced to live with them, or would my grandfather let him go at some point? Wouldn’t Santa be mad? And since Santa is magical, might he have secret magical defenses against just such assaults? Plus there was also the question of whether my grandfather could take him. They were both old, yes, but my grandfather was clearly much thinner; would Santa’s extra fat slow him down or give him an advantage?

Somehow my grandfather never accomplished it. He always fell asleep waiting. This was Santa’s real magic, I decided.

So that’s my heartwarming Christmas story. At least you know where I got it.

The reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly. ~G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My First Sub Job, Part VI

The last day of school was hot. I was desperate to get through it. I still had grades left to enter and would end up staying very late that day. I told the class good bye.

And then she said it. The girl who sat in the back and said very little the entire time I was there stood up and spoke up.

“We liked our other teacher because she let us mess around,” she said. “But I guess you did teach us stuff.” And then she stepped forward and hugged me.

I remember being so floored, I didn’t know what to say. I must’ve stood there like a cardboard cutout. The thing I regret most now is that she will never know how valuable those words were to me. How I cherished them. How important they were to me—not just then, but in all the years since.

Since then I’ve been surprised how often it’s that kid in the back—the one who never looked up, the one who never smiled, the one you thought was completely oblivious to your presence or even hated you—who later tells you that you touched them somehow.

Not for the first time, I cried on my way home. But this time it was for a different reason.

God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God. ~Hildegard

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Improper Poll: Bad Santa

When I was a kid, Real Santa always went to one particular department store downtown. Going to see him was a big production because we’d go at night to see the lights. He had his own floor of the department store and sat on an enormous throne surrounded by elf helpers and glittering snow and a cute little miniature train that wove around the animated reindeer. He was truly jolly. You could even see where his beard actually grew out of his face. It was magical.

Loser Santa was found at the little mall. They just sort of plunked him down by himself on a folding chair in front of a plywood house next to the cheese display. He had B.O. and a black five o’clock shadow peeking out from under a beard that had visible ties in back and was slipping off. I can still remember the way my mother giggled when I told her about the beard. And my mother was not a giggler.

Worst of all, he lacked proper Santa Clause enthusiasm.

I know he was probably some underemployed guy who had to put up with obnoxiousness all day long, but oh wait, that kind of describes a significant portion of the workforce. Bad Santa still reminds me that every day is a new chance to do a good job in spite of it all.

Did you ever have a bad Santa?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sub Notes: My First Sub Job, Part V

Max possessed two talents that I’ve never seen before or since. The first of these was the ability to say something truly funny in class. Usually if students try to crack a joke, it’s immature. Inappropriate. But this young man kept it appropriate, respectful, and impeccably timed. He was witty. Once after he’d made me laugh, I shook my head. “I can see you being famous someday, Max, but I’m just not sure as what,” I blurted.

“Max can dance,” a girl offered. The others nodded with looks that told me it was impressive. So I asked him if he would perform for my theater class. He shrugged in that way that meant sure, whatever, and we arranged the appointed time.

I still think of those simple words, “Max can dance.” They could not possibly have prepared me. In all fairness, I don’t think any words could have.

There is right now a viral video of a man who is an impressive dancer. I honestly think Max was better. He was a magician. Before my eyes his bones dissolved. He bent in places no human being should bend. His movement wasn’t fluid; he was fluid. He melted and become rubber and elastic and oozing syrup all at once. He was ragdoll, then puppet, then robot, then top. He defied gravity. He glided and floated and flew. He danced with his ears and pores and fingertips. Dance wasn’t something he did, but something he was.

And all the while there was a look of boredom on his face.

I sat dumbly while watching him, though I’m sure my mouth hung open. Because there just were no words. There still aren’t.

The thing with students is this. You always try to find good in them. Sometimes you find wonderful that you never forget, and that is how it was with Max.

He had something going on with his health. I never did find out what, but it made his eyes disturbingly yellow and it made him put his head down sometimes. When I would ask him if he needed to see the nurse, he’d tell me it wouldn’t do any good. He couldn’t go home because he had too many absences. If he missed anymore school, he wouldn’t graduate.

He graduated, and I have wondered about him since. Looked for him—on television, anywhere. Just now I Googled him. I never seem to find anything. I hope somewhere out there he knows. He is special. Many years and thousands of students later, even more so.

(Next week: Part VI)

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Improper Poll: Hangin’ with My Uglies

I’ve been rooting around my basement looking for ugly Christmas ornaments. This is the best I could do, but it’s not my favorite. My daughter decorated this year and I couldn’t find the one I wanted. For her sake it had just better be hidden in the back, because if she threw it out, she is in some big trouble. How I cherish those Charlie Brown ornaments, those ghosts of Christmas Past that were fashioned so carefully from hands that were just learning to cut and color and glue!

I remember being her age; I too thought the point of a Christmas tree was to be pretty. My mother used to insist on hanging a Santa Clause that she’d had since she was a child. It was scary and emaciated and looked more like an old guy you’d see hocking loogies in a downtown alley with a bag made of brown paper. This guy’s lap would be one of the last places you’d want your children.

Now that my mother is gone, I get it. And I sort of wish I had it if only for those memories—not to mention the joke about the really ugly Santa.

Do you have an ugly-beloved ornament?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My First Sub Job, Part IV

The Friedrich thing started in study hall. He was out of his seat. I told him he needed to go sit down and get to work.

Freidrich was a tall, tall kid who moved syrup-slow. He strolled up to me and stood close enough to show me that he towered over me. And then he looked down. “You know what we do to teachers who give us homework,” he whispered.

I flew by the seat of my pants then. Maybe I always do. My pants launched me forward, toward Friedrich. I grabbed his arm and grinned up at him. “I bet you send us thank you notes for helping you to get so smart that you go on to get wonderful jobs and live happy lives,” I said.

I will never forget the corners of Friedrich’s mouth, the way they twitched and then slowly, slowly turned up and broke first into a grin, and then a laugh. An indulgent laugh. Friedrich was humoring me. Giving me a break.

Which was okay with me. I desperately needed one.

We walked, the two of us, arm in arm, back to Friedrich’s seat. And he indulged me again by sitting down.

From then on, Friedrich was my ally. A very valuable ally. He was big and commanding and popular with the other kids. If I told someone to sit down, Friedrich made sure they did. “Miss G says sit down,” he would rumble, and they would sit down.

I took it.

(Next week: Part V)

For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. ~Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Improper Poll: A New Season of Hoarding

Here is a confession: I hoard ideas. Just like the people you see on those hoarding shows. My computer is a metaphor for some of those houses. A computer expert friend of mine once commented about how I have a lot of “…ah…folders and…items” on my computer. It was clear during those pauses that he was choosing his words very carefully so as not to insult me about my stuff. My junk.

And he was right. There’s stuff everywhere. Word stuff. Words from songs and little kids and religious leaders and friends and posters and cartoons and famous people. Some are possibly your words. I started to say, “some of the greatest minds in history,” but they are all great minds in history. The thing that makes a mind great is the way it happens to fit its time—the relevance of the connections it makes. And all of them are relevant. Every single one makes me think or laugh or reflect or feel.

Just like words are supposed to do.

So. Do you have a favorite quote you’d care to share?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My First Sub Job, Part III

There are things I would handle so differently now. Take Marta, who was in her third trimester of pregnancy. She wanted to eat in class, which I didn’t allow. Now I would let her eat, but I would make one requirement: None of those vending machine Doritos. It must be healthy. I’d even bring snacks for her if necessary.

I had one student who had to have his assignments sent to prison. He was 18, so he’d been charged with rape as an adult and his family couldn’t make bail. I don’t know his story, but he never felt threatening to me in the slightest. In fact, he seemed like a very nice kid. Only one student in that school truly scared me.

I never knew if Rolfe's instability was natural or induced or what, but I always felt I had to have my “spidey sense” tuned to his direction when he was around. Once it was not…and another student rested his long legs in the book basket under Rolfe’s chair. Rolfe lost it so badly that I was afraid of what he might do to the other kid.  I had to move his already-up-front desk positively next to mine so that I got the joy of being next to him every day.

As if that weren’t bad enough, he never turned in his work on time, so he got detentions with me on a regular basis—so I got extra time with him as well.

He wrote his final essay on why he wanted to kill a police officer.

(Next week: Part IV)

Conversation overheard between two ninth-grade girls while one was putting makeup on the other: “Just cake on the makeup, because I like a lot. Did you know you’re not supposed to share makeup with other people? I used to share makeup. But not really, because it was just Haley, Madison, Taylor, Brittany, Micah and Sierra, and we were all best friends. But I got a sty. It’s probably because I never washed my eye makeup off. You’re supposed to do that, too.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Improper Poll: When Bears Attack

My kids have been home for Thanksgiving, so of course I’ve been distributing the items that my daughter calls “Momish.” You know—winter coats, cold medications…and pepper spray.

I purchased the pepper spray in a large sporting goods store. I couldn’t figure out what sport required pepper spray, however, so I asked at the front desk, where the girl told me it was in the “huntin’ department.” She said it like, “Duh.” Like any fool knows pepper sprays are part of hunting.

So what I want to know is, what animal does one hunt using pepper spray? Are there really hunters out there chasing after deer and frantically squirting? I have a hard time envisioning this.

So I asked my daughter. She said she heard they really do sell it as a defense for bears. Yes, bears. I think if I were going to get so close to a bear that I could reach it with pepper spray, I would want a more effective weapon. “Better than nothing,” my daughter said. Maybe, but presuming one is in the woods at the time, wouldn’t a rock be better? Or a strategically placed stick? Even running away. Or playing dead—which I’ve heard is the proper response for bear attacks, anyway. Do you play dead and then squirt if they are sniffing you to check? Or if they aren’t fooled?

So today’s poll is less a poll than a serious question. Do you know what gets hunted using pepper spray?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #39

I guess today is BLACK Book Blurb Friday, thanks to Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff. Her weekly challenge is to “write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.”

So I hope you will buy this book, which I think went on sale at 40% off if you bought it at 1:00 A.M. today only.  The blurb is 150 words.

~The Black Friday Games~

It was considered the best reality show ever. Fifty top shoppers—one from each state—were chosen to compete for $50,000 in toys and electronics awaiting the winner who could ascend Mount Bluelight Special and be the first to claim the prizes.

And Margie Poffenburger of Iowa, the self-described Bargain Barbarian, knew that among the toys was the coveted (and back ordered until February 2012) Botox Britnee doll that her granddaughter wanted.

Contestants, armed only with shopping carts and assaulted with piped-in soundtracks of screaming babies and an endless loop of “Winter Wonderland,” were stuffed with turkey dinners and then released at 2:00 AM with only one day to scale the mountain.

Though outright murder was ostensibly frowned upon, contestants were allowed—and even encouraged—to maim and wound fellow contenders at will.

Murder and mayhem were no problems for Margie; the question was, could she haul herself up 9000 feet?

About The Nutcracker Suite: Who believes that a young girl on the brink of womanhood would fantasize about a hideous wooden kitchen tool with a mustache and beard? It’s like having a crush on a whisk. Why can’t he look like Baryshnikov from the start? ~Cynthia Kaplan, Leave the Building Quicikly

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My First Sub Job, Part II

I was subbing for a woman who had obviously had a nervous breakdown after her husband left. But it was the kids who told me she had also started dating one of her students. I told them it wasn’t nice to spread rumors, but I later found out it was true.

A lot of bad stuff had gone on, and I was under a great deal of pressure to restore order.

When my last class of the day finally filed out, I breathed a sigh of relief. There, on my desk, was a folded piece of paper. A welcome note! I thought. Yes, I actually thought this. Have I mentioned I was fresh from college?

I carefully opened my note. I still remember the exact spelling, even. It read:

We goan cut you all to pesc.

Now I know enough to save it. But at the time, I gasped and threw it away as quickly as possible. And found myself looking at my empty hand. I think I was looking for blood.

And they tried. Gracious, how they tried, some of them. On the way to work each morning in those first few weeks, I used to think how much I wanted to turn around and drive home. Every bone and fiber of my being wanted to drive in the other direction. Drive to Mexico, maybe. Every cell, every hair, every molecule wanted to run. All the strands of my DNA. Every atom. On the drive home, sometimes I would cry.

During that time, my father had a stroke on top of it all. It was the first time in my life I felt positively assaulted from all sides. And unfortunately, not the last.

(Next week: Part III)

Those things that hurt, instruct. ~Ben Franklin

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Improper Poll: More Embarrassing Checkout Experiences

It's that time of year again for purchasing Thanksgiving groceries. I like to pretend that my grocery purchases are somehow sacred and that the store workers don’t notice what I’m buying. But I once went through the lane with nothing but a box of tampons and a large bag of chocolate…and the Checkout Dude and the Bagger Dude exchanged giggles.

This was a few years ago, so by now I figure they’re old enough to be married. And I hope their wives send them to the store for the chocolate and tampons, and I hope the checkers laugh.

Have you had any embarrassing Checkout Experiences?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sub Notes: My First Sub Job, Part I

I wasn’t just the sub. I was, by the time you reasoned it all out, the sub for the sub’s sub. Third person in line not counting the teacher, about whom no one spoke. I was the non-singing Sister Maria, come to save inner city Friedrichs and Liesls and Brigittas, those little imps.

And there were a lot of people not speaking about why the teacher was gone—representatives from the school board, administrators. They had gathered to meet me, a fresh-from-college girl who was, when you figure that I started school a year early and some of my students were a few years behind, shockingly close to some of her high school students’ ages. It would be…a challenge, they warned me. There hadn’t been much…discipline. I didn’t like the way they exchanged glances or the care with which they chose their words.

The teachers were less shy. “Nutjob,” they mumbled while gulping chewy cafeteria tacos in the teachers’ lounge. The worst was her study hall, they said, because it was right outside the lounge and no one wanted to have to hear the kids during their only down time. No discipline at all, they told me. I would have to come down hard on them.

By that time I already knew there’d been something terribly wrong with the teacher. The teacher next door filled me in on a little. Youngish woman. Had a small child. Had a husband, but the husband left. This is where everyone clammed up and began using euphemisms. She struggled. Had a hard time. Her work suffered.

There were no grades in the grade book. Nothing written in the plan book. When I asked her students in each class what they’d been working on, they said they’d been having discussions. About what? I’d asked. This was English class, so there were only a few choices. A book? A story? A poem?

Like if you’re in a relationship and the person leaves you, they said.

Each hour I heard the same scenario. Each hour I got a chill when they said it.

My last class of the day was theater. And what had they been working on? I asked. Improvisation, they said. Snort. Still, I was a tiny bit heartened. It sounded like an actual theater class assignment. What kind of improvisation? I asked.

Like you pretend you’re in a relationship, they said. And the other person leaves you.

(Next week, Part II)

“You missed it. Yesterday was ‘Talk Like a Trucker’ day.” ~A.P. English student talking to a friend who’d been absent

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Improper Poll: The Writing is…Everywhere

Anytime you get writers together, conversation inevitably turns to reading. Writers always seem to read more than one book at once. Usually there’s a short, light read for travel purposes, another light book that’s kept at home, the not-so-light read, the one they’ll talk about for a while, and the next one in line. Sometimes there is even a bathroom book, á la that-one-Seinfeld-episode, which is usually an anthology.

I can’t read that many at once. Three is my absolute upper limit, and that’s counting the inspirational book I still have in my car leftover from the days when I had to drive my children everywhere.

How many books do you read at once? What are you reading right now?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #37

Hooray for Book Blurb Friday, a meme hosted by Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff! The challenge is to write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) to go with the pretend book cover.  The goal is to write a blurb so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.
My offering this week is 141 words.

~Survival of the Finnest~

Twelve-year-old Ian Spindly was not tough. He was the sort of boy who preferred to stay indoors and read. When his father forced him to join the Fun in Nature (FINs) club, they both knew it was really an attempt to keep the bullies at bay.

But during the big campout, Ian got separated from his group and went missing. When the day turned into weeks, no one held out any hope that Ian could survive.

Ian Spindly had a secret weapon, however—one that everyone underestimated: a thorough knowledge of Jack London, Gary Paulsen, Jean Craighead George, Scott O'Dell and others. Ian, it seemed, wasn’t quite as helpless as everyone thought.

Survival of the Finnest is a story of parents who must survive a decision that probably killed their son…and about the remarkable boy who must survive so much more.

Mind what you have learned. Save you it can. ~Yoda

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sub Notes: Classroom Clairboyant

Many years ago, while I was subbing in seventh grade, I got the children working and then walked around to make sure they didn’t have questions. One little boy raised his hand as I walked by. “What day is your birthday?” he asked.

I’ve always thought that was worded oddly. Not “when is your birthday,” but “what day.” But the weird part was—that day was my birthday.

“Today,” I blurted out, shocked.

The little boy nodded sagely. I didn’t want to encourage him to ask personal questions rather than doing his work—anything to get out of working for some of them—so I kept walking around the room.

Then I realized how weird that was. I didn’t know the kid or anyone related to him. I hadn’t said a word about my birthday to anyone. It's not a question people typically ask, let alone children.  I backed up. “Why did you ask me that?” I asked. He smiled shyly. Then he just shrugged. "No kidding," I said.  "Did something tip you off?"  He just shrugged again.

Kids say the darndest things.

An open mind is the beginning of self-discovery and growth. We can’t learn anything new until we can admit that we don’t already know everything. ~Erwin G. Hall

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Improper Poll: Out of Sight, Not of Mind

So last week when I mentioned Halloween candy, some people responded that they freeze their candy or end up throwing it out when it gets stale. I can’t quite grasp the concept of having chocolate long enough for it to get stale. The exception was the healthy chocolate that was almost 100% pure cocoa. As in, they’d barely added any sugar or creamy stuff to it, so it was lean and black and dense and bitter. Mean-bitter. Chocolate should never be something you have to fight. It was so wrong.

So anyway, to get rid of my remaining Halloween candy, I resorted to standing at the end of my driveway (in bedroom slippers) and hollering at passers-by, “Does anybody want the rest of this bowl of candy?!” Which, under any other circumstances, would have made me the Lady-You-Run-From. As it was, one adult politely took a piece the way you would do with a crazy person you were trying to humor.

Usually at that time of night, all that’s left is teenagers. And sure enough, I eventually stalked a gang of them and practically forced it on a large but slightly scared-looking mouse.

Then I had some birthday cake last week that I tried to foist off onto friends. “Just freeze it,” they said. People always say that, and I don’t get it. What is the point of freezing? Do some people not know how to open a freezer door? Because I do. It’s almost as easy as opening a refrigerator door. And frozen cake is still cake. In fact, it’s sort of good frozen. I’ll even try setting up obstacles for myself by double-wrapping with the really clingy stuff and then sealing it in various containers so that I have to really want it to get through all of the barriers. Problem is, I usually do want it that badly.

Do you have a food you just can’t resist?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #36

I’m off work today and grateful for the time to get caught up. I was going to (unofficially) attempt NaNoWriMo, but so far it’s NaNoWriNO. Is it possible to get caught up when you’re this far behind? It’s a question I ask myself a little too often these days.

But for inspiration, it’s time once again for Book Blurb Friday, a delightful meme hosted by the equally delightful Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff. The challenge is to write a blurb of 150 words tops to go with her pretend book cover. I apologize to the talented Christina Claro for the changes I made to her beautiful photo. My blurb this week is 127 words.


When neither her mother nor social services would help Sheba La Grande after her stepfather tried to rape her, 15-year-old Sheba got on a bus and stepped off in Cincinnati, where she ended up living in the city’s abandoned and little-known subway. There, Sheba found herself adopted into a new family that consisted of the blind Mother May-Eye, the kind but delusional Fredo San Luci, the microwave-cart-wielding Princess Diva, the ghost of Mr. Finkelstein, and a pet squirrel named Justin Beaver, among others.

What resulted was the story of an incredible—and incredibly successful—family. A family that grew out of necessity and love.

Welcome to Suburbway, where you may find yourself redefining the meaning of dysfunction—and having a jolly good time while you’re there.

Close friends become family and family is the true center of the universe. ~Dave Marinaccio

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Improper Poll: The Candy Man

Today while I was in the grocery store checkout line, the Checkout-Dude asked me if the candy I was buying was for Halloween or for “personal use.”

At first I was speechless. I was buying four large bags, so all sorts of retorts crossed my mind. Ultimately I blabbed out the truth: it’s supposed to be for Halloween, but the reason I buy it so late is to prevent it from being personally used. Then I heard myself saying, “I try to hide it from myself, but I always find it.”

Sad to say, this is true. I also try buying the kinds I don’t like, but that’s pretty hard since I like pretty much everything, including Almond Joy—which, let’s face it— almost nobody seems to like.

Don’t you think he wouldn’t have said such a thing if I looked like I routinely snack on four large bags of candy? That’s what I’m telling myself.

Are you able to resist the Halloween candy? Any tricks I should know about?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #35

It’s time again for Book Blurb Friday! Thank you to Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff for hosting this wonderful challenge to write a blurb of 150 words max designed to sell a book inspired by her picture. I loved this week's photograph, and this is overwhelmingly one of my favorite covers so far. My blurb this week is 144 words.
If God had ever spoken to Christopher Jostus, Chris had clearly never listened. Chris was a drug dealer, a thief, a wretch who hardly knew what the inside of a church looked like. But an old woman who had once made quite an impression on Chris began appearing to him. In a burning trash bin, in an alley, in his dreams. Each time she said the same thing: “God is calling you, son.”

And what’s more, God wasn’t calling just to save him. God wanted to put him to work helping others. Hard work.

Was it the drugs? Was Chris losing his mind? No one had ever bet on Chris before in his life. Why would God have such lofty goals for a drug-addled loser?

The answer that surprised everyone was because Chris could deliver. And Chris was perhaps the most surprised of all.

Saint Anthony once wrote about having gone into the desert on silent retreat and being assaulted by all manner of visions—devils and angels, both. He said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company. If you are appalled, he said, then it was a devil who had visited you. If you feel lightened, it was an angel. ~Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sub Notes: A Scary Halloween Story

I’m sorry to say this is not my story. This is an “as told to” story passed along by an elementary school teacher some time ago. I just thought it bore repeating and fits so nicely with Halloween.

There were several children in the family, all elementary-aged and under. At some point after the mother ran off and left the father and children, a well-known prostitute in town moved into the family’s trailer.

The children referred to her as The Nanny.

The children had been under The Nanny’s care for several weeks when Halloween rolled around. The school’s policy was that costumes were allowed as long as they weren’t threatening in any way.

The Nanny sent a note to the children’s teachers saying that the youngsters wouldn’t be attending school on Halloween because “Halloween is a day for SATIN!”

So instead of exposing them to such turpitude, The Nanny took the children to the local bar with her. Where the authorities eventually had to retrieve them after she got arrested and hauled off to jail for getting into a drunken brawl with another woman.

Ah, the fabric of humanity.

Happy Halloween.

Halloween is a day for SATIN! ~The Nanny

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Improper Poll: The Date with Superfluous Boobs

During my college years, I went out (once) with this guy. In my defense, I later found out a good friend of mine had also gone out with him and had an almost identical experience. In order to carefully protect this friend’s identity, we’ll call her Diborah, (Dib for short). In both our cases, when we’d first met him, he was cute. Slim, twenties. Had on a loose shirt that buttoned down the front.

Then, for the date, he showed up in a knit shirt. The tight one. The one that showed off the fact that he had positively enormous breasts.

“Huge ones!  Huge!"  was Dib’s comment.

Dib, as it turns out, did not even get the full treatment that I did. On my date, the guy also brought a couple of his friends along—the brofriends. The brofriends were presumably there in order to conduct a Cheech-and-Chong-like discussion…of me. In front of me. As if I weren’t there. They said things like, “Dude! This one’s okay, but what about that last one? That Shauna? Dude! She was hot.  But this one’s okay….”

This from a man with breasts that were bigger than mine. And the two men who were on his date with him.

Do you have any memorable first date stories?

Cam: Notice that I have not eaten any of the chocolates.
Mitchell: There were two levels. You know it and I know it.
~Modern Family

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #34

It’s Book Blurb Friday! Thank you to Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff for hosting this marvelous challenge to write a book jacket blurb of 150 words or fewer to go with her picture. The goal is to get potential readers to buy the book.

This week I have 150 words.

~The Road Taken~

High school freshman Mackenzie (Mac) found her entire world shaken by her family’s move from Chicago to the town of Greenwood, IL. At a time in her life when she was struggling with who she was, now she had to deal with where she was as well. And Mac felt like a complete outsider in this rural area.

Everything changed when Mac bought a bike and began exploring the woods. When she rode down the path, she was inexplicably transported back to Chicago—to her old life—for the rest of the day, as if the move had never happened. The next day she was back to Greenwood and reality.

Desperately lonely Mac rode to her old life again and again. Until it became clear that her old life led to a disaster of tragic proportions. The question was, was it too late now to get back home to Greenwood?

“No matter how far you go down the wrong road, you can always turn back.” ~Poster in high school classroom

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Improper Poll: Fall

I just felled a tree. All by myself. And I did it using a saw that looks a little like a giant emery board. Well, really the tree was a weed, but this was a really big weed. Like, it was taller than my house and the caliper was at least 4”. And it was growing behind some giant shrubs, so I had to crawl into the foliage while leaves and what felt like bugs rained down on my head.  Afterwards I had to do my own bug check.

I am Paula Bunion. No! I am Sheena, mighty conqueror of forests!

Have you done something you’re proud of lately?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #33

Am happy to report that once again it is Book Blurb Friday thanks to Lisa Ricard Claro’s Writing in the Buff! The challenge is to borrow her picture and then “write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.”

My contribution this week is a mere 103 words.

~Take Me to Your Larry~

Larry Ponopolis had been warning the people of Camp Verde, Arizona for years: the aliens were coming. Larry, who lived in his Aunt Tammy’s trailer along with his large collection of pet skinks, had found proof in some hieroglyphs scratched on the walls of nearby Montezuma National Monument. But no matter how long Larry stood by the popular Lotta Tots drive thru holding up a sign that read “The Allens are Comming!” (spelling wasn’t Larry’s forte), no one paid attention other than to chuck the occasional tot his way.

Until, that is, the aliens really did show up.

And they asked for Larry.

Back by popular demand, SpongeBob Squarepants:
Psst, Squidward, I'm working in the kitchen...at night! Hey Squidward, guess what? I'm chopping lettuce...at night! Look at me, I'm swabbing the bathroom...at night! OW I burned my hand!..at night!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Improper Poll: Fishing for Tact

This is Fish Day for me—the day I clean out my itsy bitsy pond and get it ready for winter. It’s grueling and nasty and smelly work, so I’m taking one of many breaks.

Not too long ago my 18 year old daughter bought a beta, and the fish promptly died. So I went with her to the store to figure out what went wrong. Fortunately this store had a very knowledgeable manager who was willing to discuss all of the aspects of fish care with her. Every time the manager would bring up the nature of the fish’s condition, he used a euphemism. They started out very commonplace. The fish was a “floater.” It “went to that big fishbowl in the sky.”

But as he went on, his creativity kicked in. Even though the pet was a fish and the owner was a legal adult, the manager never forgot what I’m sure is a cardinal rule of pet shop management, which is always to respect the bereaved when dealing with a deceased pet. Lucky for us, he was loath to use the same phrase twice, so they got increasingly interesting. The fish “met the other fishes in fish heaven,” “went to live in the big sea,” and my personal favorite, “swam with the other fishes.”

But back to the pond. The above is an old picture. Sad to say, since Bob’s recent demise at the age of eight, I am down to two goldfish—Leopard and H.C. Bob was my favorite, though. It appeared to have been natural causes, at least. He turned into an angel fish.  Swam up the river Styx.  Kicked the chum bucket. Bought the hatchery. Swam toward the light down the big porcelain tunnel.

Do you have any entertaining euphemisms for death?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Blurb #32

Once again it’s Book Blurb Friday, a fantastic meme from Lisa Ricard Claro’s Writing in the Buff. The challenge is to borrow her picture and then “write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.”

I’m still in sci fi mode. Can you guess what genre I’ve been reading lately? My blurb this week is 122 words.

~Where Angels Tread~

Will Freeman had always led a weird life in his 27 years. Good luck? Bad? He had a knack for attracting both. Or so he thought…until he met a strange young woman named Rayne who kept telling him the same crazy story: Will’s official title was Pawn. She and Will were tokens chosen by “Angels” in an extraterrestrial game of chess.

Their game was to interfere—to throw circumstances in the way of each other’s chosen Pawns in order to bet on how they would respond. Could Will and Rayne team up and somehow beat the Angels at their own game? And if so, how?

Or was Rayne herself a plant to see how Will would respond?

Or was she merely insane?

For he loved her, as you can only love someone who is an echo of yourself at your time of deepest sorrow. ~Orson Scott Card

Oh, tartar sauce. ~SpongeBob Squarepants

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sub Notes: The Fire Drill

I’m subbing in a high school that never warns subs about pre-scheduled fire drills. Which is just mean.  So of course this particular school has them all the time.

Fire drills are a nightmare for subs. Imagine being charged with keeping track of 27 people you’ve never met before who are pretty much trying to lose you. And they’re all the same age and look surprisingly alike. And they know the surroundings much better than you do.

When you’re a sub, the problem with fire drills isn’t getting the kids out of the building. It’s keeping track of them while you do, then knowing where to take them. And getting them all back in again, of course.

Subs pretty much have to follow the kids, at least enough to know which are theirs and where they meet up outside. So once I tried following a girl in a red shirt. Later I found out I had managed to pick the only new student in the classroom. She didn’t know where she was going any more than I did, so we both ended up getting lost. If you’re lost, you are considered unaccounted for, and the fire department has to plan to go in after you. It’s all pretend, of course, but the fire department doesn’t enjoy even pretending to go in after you. Which is understandable.

One problem is that when you’re my age, they all look alike. If you decide to follow what looks like a distinctive plaid shirt, for example, when they all come pouring out of classrooms in thundering droves, suddenly there will be at least ten distinctive plaid shirts. And high school kids are big. They block your view.

So one of the last times I tried to follow several students at once. I kept repeating to myself what I was following. I kept repeating dreadlocks, flower-and-skeleton shirt, t-shirt with the word “bong” on it, girl-who-looks-like-the-girl-who-plays-Bella. Lost Bong Shirt immediately. Dreadlocks walked away, but I managed to track him down. Kept Bella Look-Alike in sight, but she was petite, so that made it hard.

In the end, I made it to the right place thanks to Flower-and-Skeleton kid, who was big. Hooray! But it turned out Flower-and-Skeleton had Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. He realized I was following him and took it personally.

He never forgave me for it.

Most people fail in the art of living not because they are inherently bad or so without will that they cannot lead a better life; they fail because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide. ~Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man; Its Genius for Good and Evil

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Improper Poll: Full of Rocks

I have a small hobby that most people never notice—except, ironically, middle school aged boys. It’s ironic because I imagine middle school boys don’t notice much about me at all. But what they invariably notice is that I often wear…rocks. Sometimes it’s been a little game, to see which rocks I have on today and if they can name them.

While many of my friends grew up dreaming of diamonds, I dreamed of jaspers with distinct veining. And now one of my personal indulgences is wearing rocks. That’s why my little avatar wears turquoise (or more likely dyed howlite or aventurine).

Do you have a weird hobby most people don’t know about?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #31

I’m finally back to Book Blurb Friday, a great meme from Lisa Ricard Claro’s Writing in the Buff. The challenge: “Write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.”

I’m into colons this week, by the way. The punctuation variety, of course. My colon-laden offering this week is 147 words.

~ Option: Survival~

A.D. 2111: The Sentient 350s are classified androids designed for “experimental sport” by a group of scientists. Secret scientist-toys, in other words.

The catch: Sentient 350s are “choice-makers,” programmed to believe that they are human.

The goal: To design a droid who is able to win the game by making the best choices to achieve a life on Edenne, a small island in the Caribbean. Droids that lose are destroyed.

The problem: Daniel has just found out what he is. As if that weren’t bad enough, he can’t let his programmer, Zeus5, know what he knows…which is that each choice he makes—no matter how small—will result in certain preprogrammed outcomes which may lead him to paradise…or death. So Daniel must make every choice very, very carefully.

The paradox: Daniel wouldn’t even choose to live on Edenne.

The bottom line: It’s better than being a dead droid.

I dreamed this one the other night, by the way. It was a pretty creepy nightmare, let me tell you. I was the one who found out that my life had been programmed for sport by some unknown gods. Each choice I made triggered a predetermined outcome that I actually saw on a holographic computer screen because I had a fever and it somehow messed with the program. For example, I’d walk into a room and see a book sitting on a table, and then this would flash on the screen:

Option A: subject thumbs through book...Outcome A: subject gets option to join garden club.

Weird...yet lots of fun to think about.  (Outcome B: subject gets Book Blurb Friday idea.)

“It is not our talents that determine who we are, it’s our choices.” ~J.K. Rowlings (Albus Dumbledor)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sub Notes: Little Deers

On one classroom wall was a mounted deer head. I surmised by the tiny sticks just emerging from his head that he was young—a teenager deer. He was mounted in such a way that he appeared to be shrugging as if to say, “I’m about to be killed and stuffed, but what can ya do?” Even his eyes looked a little sad and red-rimmed. I named him Marty because he looked like such a martyr.

On the back white board, under Things to Think About for your Science Project, an eighth grade girl had written, “I think about giving head all the time.”

I vaguely wondered about her misplaced modifier. Did she think all the time about giving head, or did she think about this activity becoming her primary occupation?

What bothered me most was the self-esteem of a little girl who finds herself obsessing over how to please others because she thinks it makes her desirable. It made me sad.

I looked at Marty while I erased.

“What can ya do?” he asked.

“…on those occasions when speech was necessary he had a way of compressing large thoughts into small, cryptic packets of language. One evening, just at sunset, he pointed up at an owl circling over the violet-lighted forest to the west.
‘Hey O’Brien,’ he said. ‘There’s Jesus.’” ~Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Improper Poll: the Future is Now

I recently got to teach George Orwell’s 1984…which I first read around 1984, when everyone was either reading or rereading it. Of course it made me wonder, as such things always do, what the future would be like. What now would be like. Remember The Jetsons? Cartoon or not, how I used to covet that little TV that Elroy wore on his wrist! I used to think that if my kids someday had tiny TVs like that, they would be the Luckiest Kids Ever.

One of my all-time favorite school assignments was in sixth grade. We were supposed to predict what life would be like in the year 2000. I still remember picturing myself with poufy hair and a poufy dress. In reality—go figure—the only poufy thing about me is my stomach.

A lot of kids said we would fly to school on our desks, but considering the condition of the desks in my school—not to mention the recklessness of some of the kids—I figured that would be a scary thing. I remember predicting that people would wear disposable paper clothing and celebrate our birthdays all on the same day so that The Birthday could be made into a Monday holiday.

The closest thing I ever predicted, though, was when I had a dream that earrings and rings would have tiny transistor radios in them.

Have you ever made any predictions about the future that have or haven’t come true?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sub Notes: Touched

She looked at me with pure, unadulterated hatred. Her teacher was on maternity leave, and I suspect she hated me simply for being the wrong person. As if that weren’t enough, Erica was a very large child for seventh grade—almost adult looking. But the thing that stood out the most was the fury on her face.

When I gave an assignment, Erica ignored me. When I talked, she talked. I was never able to catch her doing something positive. When I tried to talk to her about it, the hatred burned hotter on her face. I almost felt stung.

One day she came in the room crying softly. She took her usual seat in the back and looked miserable. It was the first time I saw a look on her face that wasn’t hatred. It forced me to realize that even though she was bigger than I was, Erica was still a little girl. I waited until the rest of the class was working, and then I knelt beside her and gave her shoulder lightest of pats. Did she need anything?

She turned to me as if bitten and then shook her head. I withdrew my hand and thought, Oh, crap, I’ve done it now! Has she been abused? Will she hate me even more now? Is that even possible? Will she try to claim I assaulted her?

But the next day, she gave me a different look. I was sure there wasn’t so much hatred. I smiled at her. Her mouth…twitched. It was a start.

In the weeks that followed, she did her first assignment since I’d been there. She colored a map, and she’d done a great job. I slapped that map with the biggest “A” I felt I could get away with and hung it on the bulletin board, front and center.

I moved her seat up front “so I could see that smiling face.” And miraculously, in the weeks that followed, that face did smile, and often. I will always think of Erica as one of the greatest miracles I’ve ever encountered in education.

Who knew the power of one little touch on the back?

Only connect. ~E.M. Forster

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Improper Poll: Baby Rodents

Here is an interesting fact I noticed years ago: nearly everyone has at least one story about baby rodents. Here’s an example from my own past. When I was a kid, my friend got a pet mouse. A female...and it turned out she was pregnant. When tiny pink lima beans appeared in the cage, one of the younger sisters decided to take them out to show her mother. She carefully placed them on a pillow and took off up the stairs. It was a huge house with very long stairs…so as you might imagine, the size of that mouse family was reduced considerably by the time she got where she was going.

Another friend found a nest of baby mice holed up in her desk, of all things. Her young son had a friend over at the time, and the friend excitedly asked if he could take those baby mice home. He thought they were the coolest things ever. “Sure!” my friend said. She was mean like that. She got him a nice box and set it up all cozy, then giggled the whole time he carried his prize so carefully home. Then she waited for the phone to ring.

Another friend had a three-legged gerbil named Stumpy. Stumpy’s mother was dumb even by gerbil standards and built her nest in the wheel. So shortly after giving birth, when she decided to run…well, you can guess what happened. Poor Stumpy ended up catapulted on the other end of the cage where he got stuck in something or other and tragically earned his name.

What are your baby rodent stories?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Loving Memory of Buddy, April 1996-September 14, 2011

Our beloved black lab and terrier mix, Buddy (aged 15 1/2), went into heart failure last night. Today he passed peacefully and at home with the help of the House-call Vet, who even waited for my son to get here from out of town. It was a gentle end to a wonderful, long life. He will be dearly missed.

This was printed in Chicken Soup for the Soul What I Learned from the Dog, © 2009.

Best Dog in the World
by T’Mara Goodsell

Years ago, I owned the very best dog in the world.

I was a child when we got her. She was a graceful brown hound, a foundling who taught me that our pets are not purchased, but ordained.

She romped when I did and knew how to smile in that funny way that only some dogs have. She grew up with me, always there when I needed her. My grown hand still remembers the sleek bump on the top of her head and that gentle divot just past her nose that fit my index finger just perfectly.

She passed away during one of my college vacations. My heart broke then, and I knew that there would never be another dog like her, and there hasn’t been. I was sure that I could never love another dog as much as I’d loved her.

Fortunately, I was wrong about that part.

My next dog came into my life when I was married. My husband traveled for a living, and I was often lonely. This dog grew into a lumbering wolfhound/sheepdog mix who taught me patience. He was a large, grizzled sentry, that dog. He rarely left my side until the children were born, and then he became their guardian, too. I can still feel that swirl of fur along his back and the weight of his chin when it rested in my lap.

When he passed away, my heart broke. As much as I had loved that childhood dog, I had been wrong. This was the very best dog in the world. There would never be another dog like him, and there hasn’t been. I was sure I would never love another dog as much as I’d loved him.

I was wrong again.

We got the next one, a loping black lab-and-terrier mix, when the children were little. He taught me the importance of adapting. He was everyone’s dog from the beginning, and that was just as it should be. When he played tug of war with the children, he dragged them across the kitchen floor as they shrieked with laughter. He always seemed to sleep in the room of the child who needed his company the most.

These days his face is expressively gray, and he spends more time with me since the almost-grown children aren’t around so much. The other day my oldest, home from college, played tug of war. We all laughed—just a little—as the dog was gently pulled across the kitchen floor.

He is, of course, the very best dog in the world. I will never forget that exquisitely soft tuft of fur behind his ears or the tickly feel when he nuzzles. There won’t be another dog like him.

And that’s okay, because we will never be at this point in our lives again.

Sometimes I’ve wondered why two species that get along so well should have such different life spans. It just doesn’t seem right. And then I wonder if that’s part of the lesson: To teach us that love itself has a spirit that returns again and again and never really dies.

It’s amazing, in a way, how they bring to our ever-changing lives exactly what it is that we need at the moment. They make room for one another, this family of dogs who has never even met. And they fit—into our families, into our lives, into our memories, and into our hearts—because they always have been and always will be the best dogs in the world.

One’s first love is always perfect until one meets one’s second love. ~Elizabeth Aston

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Improper Poll: Nasty Mom Food

Sioux over at Sioux’s page has some entertaining reflections on bread worth checking out. She reminded me about Friendship Bread. Remember that? You had to “feed” it and keep it warm, and it was supposed to bubble and grow before you cooked it. That was way too Little Shop of Horrors for me. I like my food to be a little more subdued. 

Coincidentally, I had just been thinking about my own family’s history with food. My grandmother was a perfectly lovely person and a wonderful cook. But every now and then, she would eat…are you ready?...pickled pigs feet. I know this because I once opened her refrigerator and discovered a jar that belonged in the back of a science room. The ones where intact animal parts float suspended in murky liquid. In her refrigerator. I literally screamed and ran.

My mother’s nasty mom-food was sardines. She would hide them and cover them up, but still—you knew they were lying in wait side by side in their little can.

And then the other day I bought…I’m embarrassed to admit this…Vienna Sausages. My grandmother used to give them to me when I was little, so I bought them for old time’s sake, but it struck me as I was sneaking them that they are, in fact, my version of nasty mom-food. After all, who knows what they really are, not to mention what that gelatinous substance surrounding them is? And any meat that has to hide in a jar or a can is just afraid it won’t really qualify as meat.

So 'fess up.  Or am I the only one who eats disgusting food?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #28

Hooray for Book Blurb Friday! In this fun meme from Writing in the Buff, Lisa Ricard Claro invites us to come up with a blurb of 150 words or fewer for a pretend book jacket that makes potential readers feel compelled to purchase. Mine this week is 108 words.

Marlie was about to be dumped by her dumpy husband of 14 years—by way of a dumpster. Fortunately for her, she had a few modest talents in this world. One of them was a recurring dream that had warned her...and showed her what to do. The other was that luck was on her side. There was a little twist to the hit man her husband had hired to kill her.

He was a friend, and he was there to warn her. Together, they used the dumpster to concoct a plan that would help both of them…while making sure that Marlie’s husband’s dumping days were over. Forever.

“Throughout the history of mankind there have
been murderers and tyrants; and while it may
seem momentarily that they have the upper
hand, they have always fallen.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sub Notes: Rynallison

The following took place at some point across the country between 1982 and the present. All names have been changed.

The two of them were a pair all through middle school. They were Samneric. Bert and Ernie. Mutt and Jeff. They were Ryan and Allison. Rynallison.

Yet they couldn’t have looked like a less likely pair. Ryan was big and ruddy and handsome, with thick hair and perfect teeth and a huge smile. Allison was tiny and pale and quirky, like a cartoon come to life. She had glasses that were too big for her face and tiny ears that stuck straight out like rudders that were trying too hard to halt her forward motion.

They’d met in first grade, Allison once told me, and had been close friends ever since. They always sat together when it was allowed, and they laughed, the two of them, always. At everything. When Ryan left the room, she deflated somehow and looked frail. But with Ryan there, she came alive in a shimmer of bubbles. And when Allison left the room, Ryan lost a certain glow. I would have to reprimand them sometimes, but deep down I couldn’t help but marvel over the strength of that human bond.

Then one year I saw Allison, in high school now, sitting primly and quietly. She was bigger, and her glasses fit her face better, but there was something wrong. And then I realized what it was: she was missing her Ryan. Where was he? I asked. Different high school, she said. It came out in a whisper, almost.

And broke my heart.

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Improper Poll: The Shirt of Worms

While moving my daughter into college, the subject of theft came up. And this reminded me of my all-time favorite article of clothing, ever, which was unfortunately stolen at college along with some others. My Favorite Article of Clothing of All Time was a souvenir tee shirt from Worms, Nebraska.

Yes, there is such a place, though I’m sorry to say I have never actually had the pleasure of visiting there. I admired a friend’s shirt so much that she gave me one as a gift. Her father was a farmer who used to drive to Worms for some reason. At the time, I believe she told me that the population of Worms was somewhere around 25 people. There was a church and a bar. The bar was appropriately called “Night Crawlers.”

What is your All-Time Favorite Article of Clothing?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #27

It’s time again for Book Blurb Friday from Lisa Ricard Claro’s Writing in the Buff! This fun meme invites readers to come up with a book jacket blurb of 150 words or fewer that makes potential readers feel compelled to buy the book. I struggled this week but managed to come up with around 114 words. Be sure to check out the others here!


The well-known talk show host and former stand-up comic, Jack Blattstone, told one too many jokes. He officially insulted al-Qaida members who called for his assassination.

What people didn’t hear about was the families of Jack’s wait staff—and also his limousine driver and private pilot. What would their families go through just because they were associated with Jack Blattstone?

Would it matter that the pilot’s wife—whose landscape firm Jack had hired to redesign the courtyard in his California house—was Jewish?

Just as everyone was beginning to relax, a note was left on board Jack’s Gulfstream and another just outside the house. And that was when the real fear began.

I guess you want to fly the plane? Well good luck pressing “Take Off,” then “Autopilot,” then “Land.” ~Carol on 30 Rock

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Senior Sex(less) and the City: #20

Joe Cool
Joe is cool. He’s so cool, in fact, that all he has to do is say what his job is. Then he leans back and awaits the praise. I.T. Joe is IT.

I ask him about his job. I’m not intending to pry; it’s just all I have to go on, and Joe and I are sort of isolated on one end of a table with no one else to talk to. Joe’s response is to give me a “look” to tell me how stupid I am. Joe’s job is so cool, I should know all about it.

A woman sits down next to us and Joe is too cool for her, too. So we talk to each other. She is a child psychologist and very nice. But when she goes to the bathroom, I sneak a look at Joe’s face because there just isn’t much else to do. Joe has a goatee that doesn’t go. It might go on some people, but it gives Joe the look of an aging evil genie. Joe’s goatee makes me wonder if the word “goatee” has something to do with goats. To me Joe’s cool goatee looks a little like pube art sprouting on his evil genie face.

Joe is popular. He’s so popular, in fact, that he texts his friends at the table during the middle of dinner. Don’t you have a phone, Cool Joe asks?

I have to stifle a giggle while addressing Joe’s facial pubes. “I yell at my children when they do that,” I say, indicating the texting at the table. He rolls his eyes to show how very uncool I am.

I yell at my children when they do that, too.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Improper Poll: Flashes of Non-Brilliance

In honor of college starting, I can’t help but think of the time I walked clear across a college campus with my blouse unbuttoned. As in, seriously unbuttoned. I don’t know which is worse—the fact that I didn’t detect the breeze, or the fact that my flashing attracted so little attention that I didn’t notice until I got home.

Have you experienced any wardrobe malofunctions?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #26

I’m late this week for Book Blurb Friday, a meme from Lisa Ricard Claro’s Writing in the Buff. This fun challenge invites readers to come up with a book jacket blurb of 150 words or fewer that makes potential readers feel compelled to buy the book.

I struggled with this week’s, so I apologize in advance. But at least, with 129 words, I’m under the word limit!

~Dallas, But Not That One~
By Wanda Goodjob
Come listen to a story ‘bout a man named Dallas
A rich businessman, kept his family in a palace
Then one day he was enjoying autonomy
Then-boom!-he lost his job in a depressed economy!

Downsized, that is. Sacked. Pink slipped.

Well first thing you know old Dallas was so poor
Mortgage company said, “Dallas move away from there”
They said, “tarpaper shack is where you ought to be”
So they loaded up the U-Haul and moved to Valley.

City, that is. North Dakota. Low unemployment rates.

Well now it’s time to say goodbye to Dallas and all his family
‘Cause they’ll soon freeze their butts off in the northern territory
Y’all are invited back, but please leave your car
And don’t forget to drop some money in the jar!

After you've checked out the clever book blurbs, be sure to stop by Donna's Book Pub to enter her Cactus Country Anthology giveaway!

And welcome to Beth Wood of I Digress!   

If you show enough houses, you learn all the tricks. Every realtor is just a ninja with a blazer. The average burglar breaks in and leaves clues all over the place, but not me. I’m completely clueless. ~Phil Dunphy, Modern Family

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Being True

I am driving to the college, my car packed so full that we had to make portholes between pillows and piles of clothing. I amuse myself by wondering with what profound words I can leave this child. It seems necessary somehow to have an important parting sentiment.

I think about Polonius’ famous parting words to his son Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true/And it must follow, as the night the day/Thou canst not then be false to any man." And I think about what I’ve tried to get across to my children their whole lives: Respect yourself and others. Seek balance. Play fair. Look at the big picture. Make good choices. “Make good choices” became a joke among us. A half-joke. We were kidding but we meant it.

You’d think with all of the goodbyes I’ve said in my life, I would be better at it. Most of my married life, we moved a lot. Every time I had built a life that I loved and lived in a house that represented all I had built, we moved. And every time we’d drive away from a place that one last time, I would mean to turn around and look back so that I could store that memory in my brain like a photograph that I would take out and reminisce over. At least that was the plan. But what happened every time was that I was always too busy to look back.

Which was okay. Sometimes it’s better to look ahead.

In the end, we hug somewhat awkwardly, and I say something that is not remotely profound. The words of wisdom I blurt out are, “Have fun.” Like I say, I am bad at goodbyes. Have fun? What kind of lame thing is that to say to your teenager? Do I really want that?

Well, yes, yes I do. Of course I do. Not the kind that hurts anyone, of course, but I do want my children to have fun, happy lives. Are my parting words really that bad? Who knows. These are responsible people who do, by the grace of God, make good choices. Now is not the time to teach them anything I’ve never taught before. So I drive away, thinking of the tall, wonderful, surprisingly self-possessed young person I’ve marveled over lately, and while I am smiling over that, I forget to look back.

And I realize as I am driving away that I’ve just left a person whose job it is to find their own wisdom. Which is, of course, what it’s all about, anyway.

Navajo proverb: “We raise our children to leave us.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Improper Poll: Blog Award Time!

Jules at Just Trying to Get Over the Rainbow gave me a lovely award Friday! Thanks so much, Jules! Problem is, I can't get the actual award to post.  Nonetheless, the answers Jules gave were hysterically funny. Here are my answers. They are also your Improper Poll questions should you decide to accept them, so pay attention to the questions!

Are you a rutabaga?
I don’t know what this means, but yesterday I drove out of town, so I’ll say I feel more like a Winnebaga. And I lovelovelove summer festival time.

Who is your current crush?
I have one! I do! A real live person this time! That’s all I’m sayin’. ;)

A picture that makes you smile.
Pretty much anything on Awkward Family Photos.  The pictures—along with the titles and captions—never fail to make me giggle uncontrollably.

Oh, and also this. It’s all over the Internet, but for good reason. Who can resist a bowl of kitties? Especially a wash bowl? Add those expressions…. It doesn’t matter how often I see this picture. I melt every time.

When was the last time you ate a vine-ripened tomato?
Today, thanks to my friend John who gave me two big bags of them, along with two big bags of peppers from his garden. And they are incredible!  I didn’t grow them this year and have regretted it every day of tomato season.

Name a habit that causes other people to plot your demise.
Here is but one. I sneeze about ten times in a row after I eat. It makes some people very uncomfortable. Me too. Though once when it happened at lunch with a friend, I was apologizing in between sneezes. She merely shrugged and gave me this sage look she has and murmured, “gustatory rhinitis.” I looked it up when I got home and as usual, she was right.

What is the weirdest most disgusting job you have ever had to do?
I did product demonstrations in college. When it was food and I was in a grocery store, I had to wash up in the meat department. Butchers have to be the lustiest group of men on earth, giving new meaning to the term, “meat market.” They could be counted upon to ask for my phone number, probably because, in contrast to everything else in their workspace, I was female and human and alive. The back of a meat department is enough to make you a vegetarian—which I un-coincidentally was at that point in my life—and has to be one of the most un-romantic places in the world. So I was standing there shivering in the cold and struggling not to dry heave while surrounded by the stench of raw, dead animal flesh and little globs of fat and pools of blood getting on my shoes, and some old guy in a bloody apron surrounded by cleavers would be coming onto me. Trust me, it was disgusting.

Where da muffin top at?
Forgive me for boasting, but I bet I could produce a muffin top around any cinched body part. Case in point.

Describe yourself using obscure Latin terms.
Besides Gustatory Rhinitis, which sounds Latin to me, Vetulus Pectoris, Ploutizo Pneuma. According to something I read, it means “poor souls, enriched spirit.” I heard it in reference to artistic types. In case that’s not obscure enough, I speak gardening Latin such as clematis triternata rubromarginata.

I never know how people feel about awards, so I officially pass this one to anyone who wants it. You have been polled! Thank you again to Jules!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #25

Time for Book Blurb Friday, a meme from Lisa Ricard Claro’s Writing in the Buff. This fun challenge offers a picture for inspiration. Our job is to write a book jacket blurb of 150 words or fewer that makes potential readers feel compelled to buy the book.  This week I came up with 126 words.

~Grand Land~
Decker “Deckhead” Worthingless was a spoiled trust fund baby who decided that the best way to get his parents’ attention was to ignore them. Going home for Christmas vacation with his Princeton roommate, the brilliant and eccentric Larry Squirell from Grand Island, Nebraska, seemed just the thing.

Despite the name, Grand Island is neither grand…nor an island. Yet Larry affectionately referred to his small, prairie-grass-roots home town as “Grand ’Land.” What Decker found in Nebraska surrounded by the Squirell clan—Helen, Chuck, Grandpa Winslow, and Larry’s quirky sister Evelyn—was indeed something grand that would change more lives than just Decker’s…especially when Decker made a mistake that no trust fund could buy off.

Fortunately for everyone, what happens in Grand Land doesn’t stay in Grand Land.

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. ~John Powell

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


When I was very, very small, my grandfather would hold up his watch. Hear it? He’d say. Hear the tick tick tick?

He was born on this day in 1889. And when my own son was born in 1989, I was proud to hold up that same watch that I’d wound for just that purpose.

My grandfather had several gifts to give: the wisdom to know what to pass along, the inclination to pass it, and the talent to do it well. He was a former teacher who knew that life is a lesson and a game, both, and he possessed the divine sense to give these gifts to any child who would take them. He died when I was too young yet to thank him, so I try hard to pass along what I remember and hope it is thanks enough.

Now I look at my son who is studying to be a teacher. Born 100 years after his great grandfather. Learning to be a real man in his own right, nurtured by teachers, coaches, his girlfriend’s father who is both. Hear the watch, my son?

I believe he did. He heard.

And only now do I know. That tick tick tick was the sound of immortality.

Children are the only form of immortality that we can be sure of. ~Peter Ustinov

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Improper Poll: (Don’t) Give Me a Hand

I recently read an article on weird dreams and what they mean. Nowadays I tend to have nightmares about things like my air conditioning going out. Which did, in fact, come true. And yes, it was a nightmare!

But it got me thinking about my Weirdest Dream Ever. It was a toss-up between several, but this is the most recent. I dreamed I’d moved to Boulder, Colorado and wanted to have a party to meet people. My neighbor suggested that if I wanted to be really cool, I should serve as an hors d’oeuvre the latest delicacy: human body parts. I thought that was gross, but I also happen to think some kinds of sushi are gross, so I called the contact she gave me. He told me he had a nice shipment of hands coming in. I asked him how one prepares human body parts, and he told me it would come precooked and everything. Hooray for convenience food!

Fast-forward to party day. I went to pick up my hors d’oeuvre. The Body Part Guy proudly pronounced my prize “a real nice one” and pulled back a piece of foil, and there, on a plate, was a slightly roasted man’s hand. To this day I can’t type this without shuddering. It was a decapitated hand with fingernails and little hairs and everything, and I was so horrified that I awoke with a gasp and couldn’t get that picture out of my head.

I eventually realized the dream was meant to be what it was: a hefty little wake-up shove from my subconscious mind…in this case about some parenting issues. It’s easy to get lazy as a single parent. Parenting is hard work even when there are two of you. With one, you really are forced to work twice as hard to do a good job, yet there’s no one to back you up. And the great paradox of single parenting: if you make a mistake, it’s your fault for trying.

What I realized was that I was allowing my teenaged son to do something only because some other parents I knew allowed it, but that didn’t make it right. (I can’t remember now what it was. Nothing major, but child-rearing is never a truly minor thing, is it?) That dream was the equivalent of my subconscious mind asking me if I would jump off a cliff just because some other parents were doing it. And would I serve human body parts as food if that were the latest craze, too?

I tell you, single parenting…bites. Because you could always use an extra…hand. Ack! Do you have a really weird dream you’d be willing to share?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #24

Have you ever had a week that simultaneously dragged and flew? That describes my week and my body, come to think of it. I’ve felt like a really fast zombie. School started like gangbusters, and no one seemed prepared…including my immune system.  I promptly caught a cold. Plus months ago my daughter and I decided her graduation party would be more of a bon voyage party right before she and her friends set sail on the winds of their various futures. Which turned out to be this weekend.

So…am sorry I’m so behind on your blogs this week, but I hope to get caught up now that I’m almost over the hump. Till then, thank heavens for caffeine and Book Blurb Friday, a meme in which our delightful host, Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff, posts a picture of a pretend book cover. The challenge is to write an accompanying blurb of 150 words or fewer to sell the book. Mine is a petite 80 words. 

~Embracing Nice~

Carolyn Sweeting was nice. And nice, of course, is practically synonymous with nerdy. Nice is the oatmeal, the mouse brown, the canvas tennis shoes of virtues.

But Carolyn’s not-so-nice husband gave her the only real gift of their lives together: the realization of what it was she valued most in this world. So when the children moved out, she divorced him and left behind her former soccer mom life in order to move to…where else? Nice. Nice, France.

It was only when Carolyn embraced nice that she found sometimes…nice can be a lot more exciting than anyone ever seems to think possible.

“Just like your mother, you’re unfailingly kind—a trait people never fail to undervalue, I’m afraid.” ~Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Improper Poll: Haggaday

They say it as I’m leaving Costco: “Haggaday!” Bank tellers say it, too. “Haggaday!” I just heard it again as I was leaving the grocery store: “Haggaday!”

I’m not making fun of them; the words are bound to slur together when people utter the same sentence hundreds of times a day. The thing that makes me giggle is the logo that always pops into my head:

Do you ever hear a silly pronunciation?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #23.

Time for Book Blurb Friday, a meme from Lisa Ricard Claro’s Writing in the Buff.   We are challenged to use the picture for inspiration to write a book jacket blurb of 150 words or fewer that makes potential readers feel compelled to buy the book.  Mine this week was 77 words.

~Rain, Rain Go Away~
By Rob R. Duckie
We feared it would rain down on us as bombs.
We feared it would rain down on us as plagues.
We feared it would rain down on us in the form of poisonous gasses.
We even feared it would rain down as poisoned food and water supplies.
What no one foresaw was that it would rain down on us…as rain.

Rain, rain go away,
Come again another day
Or we’ll all die in a horrible way….

(This is kind of ironic since we are currently getting the first significant rain we’ve had in ages. I actually danced a little jig of hooray-I-don’t-have-to-haul-the-hose-out happiness. A real-life rain dance!)

“Why?” ~Purported last word of Rebecca Schaeffer right after a stranger ambushed and shot her

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Senior Sex(less) and the City: More Single Women!

Chatty Cathy
I got stuck next to her during a single’s event where very few people showed up. Thing I learned : don‘t ever, ever sit on the end at a single’s event where you know no one, because on the end, you might only have one person seated next to you, and then you’re trapped.

“…cousin, who’s friend is a professional hairdresser….”
“…next house had only two bedrooms….”
“…was a drunk, and so was his brother….”
“…vet. So I picked up Fluffy….”
“…go, ‘No way!’ And she goes, ‘yuh huh,’ and….”
“…Wicked Witch of the West! No kidding…."

I kept zoning out and coming to, wondering things like how she breathed and so forth, so that I just heard fragments. It didn’t matter, because there wasn’t enough of a pause to allow me to respond, anyway:

“…shift starts at 9:00, but I always….”
“…from cirrhosis of the liver….”
“…houses down? Or was it three….? Anyway, he goes….”
“…barked. It was the cutest thing! So….”

I finally got “sick” and had to leave. She probably still hasn’t noticed.

From Modern Family:

Phil [about their son, Luke]: He’s one of those kids you get him a gift and all he wants to do is play with the box.
Claire: One year we just got him a box, a really nice box.
Phil: And we made the mistake of putting it in a gift bag.
Claire: So he played with the gift bag.
Phil: We can’t get it right.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Improper Poll: When Memory Serves

Along the lines of “when I am old, I shall wear purple,” I’ve decided that I shall buy mismatched plates to use according to my mood. And in an uncharacteristic stroke of luck, I recently ran across a china pattern that my late grandmother had. On sale.  I took it as a sign.

I bought two place settings. Every time I see them, I get a little giggly thrill because I’m instantly transported to my grandmother’s house. The emptier those plates are, the fuller I feel.

Her birthday would have been this week. Or would you say, “is” this week, since the day still exists even though she doesn’t? Go figure—that wasn’t even my question, though I would love to hear how you’d phrase that.  Also, for me the photo is creating the optical illusion that the center part protrudes rather than recedes.  Is it just me?

Anyhoo.  My question is: Do you have something that reminds you of a loved one and just makes you feel good inside?