Monday, April 30, 2007

Female Bonding in the Olden Days

When I was a girl, May Day was special in my home town. Teachers rustled up all their vases out of the closet, because they were gonna have a deskful. Even the BOYS brought some. But after school was a woman/girl celebration that I now know was celebrated in some towns and not others. In my town, on May Day, the girls made construction paper baskets, filled them with flowers, and hung them on the doors of the women they most admired. It might be a teacher, a friend of the family, a grandmother. We knocked or rang the doorbell. Then we ran like crazy to hide on the side of the house out of sight. The door would open. A woman's voice would murmer, "Oh! How pretty!." Then she would call out, "Thank you." And the door would close. Sometimes no one was home, but the woman honored always managed to work her delight over the surprise bouquet into the next day's conversation.

May Day bouquets weren't just about living where the flowers bloom. I have met women from the Midwest aware of the custom, and women from the South who aren't. I don't know when the custom died out, but it's been a long time, I think, since a young girl slipped a small basket of posies on the door of a woman she admires and rang the bell. Shame about that. I think it was a rather special female bonding gesture.

Mother would pick up me and my best friend from school and we would go home to work on the baskets. It's not that we had legions of women we wanted to give them to (for which my mother undoubtedly gave thanks and probably guidance in that direction), but there were usually four or five. Or six. The baskets were easy--cut a strip off one end of the paper for a handle, and roll the remaining paper into a cone and glue it. Glue on the handle. While the glue dried, we picked the flowers and put them in a 3-lb. coffee can with a little water. Then we transferred the whole mess to the back seat of the car so Mother could drive us to each designated house (being a small town, everyone knew where everyone lived) and we could fix up our fresh bouquets as we went. She would park around the corner or down the block so our car wasn't spotted. Sometimes we reconnoitered the bushes around the house for hiding places to duck in when the getaway would take too long. Fun stuff.

I don't remember doing it much after oh, say seventh grade. That became baby stuff for the younger girls to do. But the women never tired of the bouquets, often saving wilted, bedraggled specimens in vases and glasses for days. One teacher received six one year. She was so overwhelmed she almost cried. It WAS a big deal. We girls were telling these women, "You are someone I like. I respect you. And I would like to grow up to be something like you." That was quite an accolade.

Funny thing about that. My mother was an extremely popular teacher. Kids loved her. But in all those times of her lugging Sarah and me around, I don't remember whether there were bouquets on our door when we got back home. There must have been. But I really didn't notice.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Writing for Its Ownself

For 26 years, I was a professional writer. Writing is a pretty big part of who I am. Then I went into social casework, and for another 13 years, no one but my supervors, judges, attorneys and a few parents read anything I wrote. Most of the writing was objective, in third person, though I did write the occasional op ed piece.

I am enjoying the writing of this immensely. It feels like practicing scales and occasionally, attempting a melody. Writing is a type of music, I think. Strong writers have a cadence, a rhythm to their writing that adds to the enjoyment of the narrative. Just as we can train our ears to recognize Beethoven from Mozart, we recognize the melody of the writers we read the most. I find the ones I re-read the most tend to have the most music in their arrangement of words. Anne Rivers Siddons has a beauty to her narrative that almost transcends the content. But then there's Robert Parker, whose spare, staccato prose also pleases.

I don't think I'm going to find a particular niche or genre for awhile, if ever. The "When I was a girl" pieces are something I've been thinking about for awhile, not only to collect old family stories for my grandchildren, since no one else in my family is left to tell them, but also to try to paint small pictures of life many years ago. It is so different from today. I keep thinking how to explain to my granddaughters what a hot water bottle was--or still probably is, though I haven't seen one for years. The description must not be cumbersome, but evoke a picture of something they have never seen. (I remember my youngest son seeing a Scripts ink bottle with the well in the top in a museum, for God's sake, and asking me what it was and what it was for. When I was in elementary school, I turned that ink bottle upside down every morning, filling the well, then filled my ink pen before going to school. In a museum? He didn't know what it was?)

Some years ago, I read a quote that struck me: by our late 50's, we have all become the curators of our personal museums. It's pretty true. I don't want to get stuck in the past, but at times I choose to remember parts. I want to write about the present and the future, as well. All over the place. (sigh) Mostly, I want to see if I can get some of my music back. I suspect a direction will present itself, or perhaps not.

My blog is Green Chiles and Roses for several reasons: Green Chiles are evocative of New Mexico. My father was a tremendous--and prodigious--rose gardener; we had more than 60 around our home. I was named for a rosebush introduced commercially in 1942. I'm delighted to say it is a rosy pink tea rose. Despite the elegance of roses, I've been pleased roses also can protect themselves--they have thorns. And they smell glorious.

I've been surprised and delighted by the plethora of well-written blog sites I am descovering. I've seen a lot of writing by college graduates--even mult-degreed college graduates--that makes me weep and cringe. But as I begin to surf the Web, I am reassured. There are so msny thoughtful, literate writers out there. Some good thinkers, and great humorists. So many different kinds of lives. People watching is one of my favorite things, and the Web is one more way to do it.

So I pick my way, tentatively putting words down on a page and trying to find some way to make the words sing for me. Once in a while, they do.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Moving forward about 25 years.....

My son read my post re 1951 and reminded me of a time when I wouldn't let him ride his bicycle on the street with his friends--he had to ride through the yards. He remembers his parents said there were people who might want to hurt him.

Since we moved houses a year or two later and he started riding his bike to school, I think I know the specific time he referred to, and his recollection makes me feel rather proud. I think we handled it pretty well, considering.

At that time, we lived in a small community where almost every other woman on the block stayed home with the kids. I worked. I was a newspaper reporter married to a D.A.'s investigator, and in our household there was a knowledge of things going on that my neighbors didn't know.

Once a week or so, the women on the block would bring out our ice tea or sodas and we would sit on the side of the bar ditch and visit for a half hour or an hour. I enjoyed that so much. But I listened as they talked about how safe the neighborhood was and they didn't even lock their doors. This conversation came along about the time I was experiencing something entirely different.

The D.A.'s investigator was working a record-breaking rape case, which may also have involved murder--don't remember. He was taking on one of Texas' most notorious motorcycle gangs, known for their brutality and viciousness. I may be wrong, but I think at the time he was working on this case, no one else in the state had made a case stick. The gang members had gotten away with literally, murder. Or very close. And they were mad as hornets that someone was coming after them so effectively. So they did what scum always do, and they threatened his family. What caught his attention was that they seemed to know he had a wife and son.

So, safety strategy time again.

We decided our son could still cut across the yards to his best friend's house. I would call before he set out. He had to call when he arrived. His best friend's mother was informed he couldn't go with her sons over to the neighbors unless an adult was watching. Sheesh, she said. You sure are getting strict. Yup, I said, but them's the rules. And the rule about riding bikes. And I think I restricted him from playing in the front yard at all. Had to be in the back yard.
It was still a fairly free, smalltown atmosphere. The neighbors felt sorry for my son's new restrictions, but being good Texas neighbors, they didn't interfere or fail to follow the restrictions we set when he was at their homes, so far as I know. Fortunately, being a small neighborhood where we knew each other, everyone would notice strangers. I asked frequently and casually. No strangers had been noted.

And I was thoroughly briefed on the use of his semi-automatic rifle in the coat closet. I paid very close attention. This was before 911 systems were established, we were in a rural neighborhood with help minutes away at best. He figured if the gang did come after us, they would probably come in a group.

Of course, they never came. The miscreant was convicted. There was a lot of snarling and growling by the scum, but they dwindled and went away. And we slowly relaxed our rules.

I'm not sure we ever mentioned this outside the two of us to anyone. I remember being concerned, and angry, but not too frightened. I knew the time to be scared would be if a few motorcycles roared up to the house. Let's face it--it wasn't too likely, but we had to deal with the possibility.

I'm glad we said no more to our son. I think too many people say too much to their kids, even day to day. Of course the world has dangers. It doesn't mean we need to rear our children to be fearful, or to be afraid to act when peril threatens. They DO need to know how to follow rules which involves developing self discipline.

FYI, Son, I think you are doing a great job with your daughters.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Pedophile I Never Met in 1951

When I was a girl, about seven or eight, there was a flutter among the grownups. Lots of animated conversation I wasn't allowed to listen to. I came upon my mother on the phone, telling someone, "I admire her, I guess. Talk about for better or for worse."

After completing 20 or 30 years in prison, the town's convicted pedophile was coming home.

His wife lived quietly alone in a house with a large yard and garden, where she worked regularly. My daddy was a gardener. I loved pretty flowers and sometimes stopped on the walk just to look at all her beautiful plants. Her home was two houses from the middle school.

She gardened, and worked in her church and shopped, and otherwise stayed to herself. Always a smile and pleasant word. Always a cool dignity. She had earned the town's respect. She was left alone. By now, she and her newly freed husband were elderly, well into their 70's.

So my parents, who had always had some safety rules for me, sat down to reinforce those rules, even as they had taught me how to avoid the rattlesnakes.

It was a given that school children could walk all over town unaccompanied. But, my father said sternly, looking me straight in the eye, he KNEW I sometimes broke the rule about not taking shortcuts through the alley. I dropped my eyes guiltily. Did he know about yesterday? That, he said sternly again, had to stop. There are men who like to hurt little girls, and to do so they have to catch them alone. So I was always to stay on the street. No more cutting through the alley. I nodded, but I remember thinking, "Not even when---" But they went on. They talked about taking candy from a stranger, which sounded far-fetched, or approaching a car to give directions. I was to do neither. I nodded. If a strange man got out of his car, I was to run like the wind for the nearest office/home/store. That sounded exciting, but it had never happened, so it probably wouldn't. When we were out, say, at the county fair, and they told me to stay close, I was not to rebel and go running clear across the fair grounds to "run free." That sounded a little boring, but I agreed. And they said they would point out a sweet-looking, frail old man whom I was never to approach or to speak to. That sounded rude and I was puzzled. My father explained the old man was one of the men who liked to hurt little girls, and a long time ago he had done so. And now he had paid his debt to society, but I wasn't to go near him. And, they finished, if I went to one friend's house to play, we were not to go anywhere else without asking an adult for permission. That was a little harder, because there were about a dozen boys and girls my age in the block where my grandmother lived. We tended to move from yard to yard with only a quick yell to the nearest Mom, "We're going over to Sue's to climb trees." "We're going to play ball in Robin's yard." But I sighed and agreed. My wings were getting clipped a little. But just a little.

I would see the couple from time to time, walking slowly in the grocery store or down the street. He was always in a suit with a starched shirt, she in her slightly formal dresses with her hair in a bun, just as she had always dressed . She always smiled and nodded pleasantly to people she knew, who smilied and nodded back. I never saw them pause to talk to anyone. I never saw anyone be discourteous. They were simply isolated, pariahs. He went to church with her on Sundays. I assume they went for walks, but never when the school children were coming or going. I think I felt a little sorry for them. Nonsense, my parents said briskly. He had acted, and these were consequences. His wife had chosen to stay with him, her choice. And she knew the consequences when she chose.

And life went on. I was growing up, so I was learning about more dangers in the world. It was probably another 10 years before "pedophile" registered with me and I knew what one was. My parents told me there were men who liked to hurt little girls and how to avoid such men.

That's all I needed to know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tragedy and Aftermath

Horrendous tragedies reasonate. As the facts at Virginia Tech slowly emerged, I remembered the UT tower shootings 40 years ago. As an oldtime reporter from that time yesterday reminesced, "SWAT teams didn't exist yet. As the information came out, Austin citizens with rifles showed up to shoot back." Boy, howdy. A different time. I remember that so vividly. A friend called me about noon to ask if I knew what was going on. I didn't. I followed the story for the following hours. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter named Jerry Flemmons was on leave in Austin, but maneuvered to walk up to the tower with medics after Charles Whitman was presumed killed. Whitman was killed in the afternoon on the east side of the tower.

I will never forget his news story the next day which began, "Charles Whitman lay in the shadows of his final afternoon...." Great writing. Straight writing, in no way sympathetic to the shooter, if you twits are jumping to conclusions. He was recording impressions. He included facts as were known. It is difficult to cover emotions and facts and chaos. This was all of that. It wasn't sound bites. It was great writing.

Yesterday, the news talk show folks I listen to wondered about the slow response of media to this story. Are we jaded? they wondered at first. No, the media just had to figure out a major story had occured in WBF and then get out there. They are there now.

The Virginia campus is a gun-free campus, as is the law in Virginia. Obviously the shooter, as all skofflaws, ignored this. And of course, we already have had the national Position declared that we need to tighten up on guns....funny thing though. The program I listen to is not politically skewed one direction or another. Texans started calling in asking if the campus might have been safer if it was not so gun-free. They admitted if there were no guns in the Luby's at Kilgore, Tx. back in 1991, then who knows what might have been available? We like to think someone can fight back, but in the emergency, many don't. Or can't. Apparently campus security is not armed. Town police responded in two minutes. By that time, 30 were dead, 12-15 more injured.
I don't know enough about guns to know how good a shooter the assassin was to do this deadly damage with 9mm and .22 calibre handguns. But listeners were vociferous that gun-free is basically their idea of sheep in the field for the wolf to come. Lots of fields of sheep. Few wolves. But how delicious for the wolves.

Did Virginia Tech mess up? Could they have handled it better? Almost surely. Handsight is a great teacher. I'm sure things will change. What bothers me is the control freaks that seem to think if we only screw down the rules one more ratchet, we will all be safe. Not free, not comfortable, but safe. And of course, they are wrong.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Take Me To Your Leader! Uhh, Who's That?

I got out of my car at the elementary school the other day and idly glanced at the car in front of me. The car had a nice, shiny, bright bumper sticker stuck inside the back window. The bumper sticker read "Dump Bush." I did a double-take.

Uh, folks? Is there something you should know?

Maybe it's been there since '04, but then I would expect some wear and tear, some fading. What in the world?

I assume they know Bush is the president. That's good. Heard on the news today that fewer Americans than ever before know the name of the American president, vice president, or the governor of their own state. I'll test my fifth-grader on these tomorrow. She and her classmates are so busy training to the TAKS tests she has to pass to get to sixth grade (despite her straight A and B classroom average) that I hear teachers no longer have much, if any, time to teach current events.

I may need to get back on my Prozac. I have looked forward with satisfaction to the waning months of Bush's term as president, but as I look at the teeming hordes of politicians on both sides jockeying for position as viable candidates in '08, I am overcome with gloom. The field does not shine with promise. With more citizens unaware of who the president is, or apparently, when his term ends, outcome seems a little grim.

Surely things will get better. Surely.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Iconoclasts, Unite! But then Iconoclasts wouldn't be Iconoclasts.

When do you tip at a restaurant, and when do you not? They're discussing this on the radio right now. If the restaurant is going to pay servers the minimum $2.15 or whatever it is now, are you obligated to tip so they get a living wage? There are states and townships that believe so to the point they have passed laws requiring the customer tip. (Cartoon: one prisoner to another in the holding cell: "What are you in for?" "I didn't leave a tip for my hamburger.")

The specific argument in question is whether you tip the person who brings the food to your car when you don't tip the person at the drive-through window. As a point of clarification, the carhop who serves you gets $5.15 plus tips in this area. Does that change things? What about the Chinese buffet (or any other kind)? If you are seated and get a glass of water, do you automatically leave a dollar? More? None? Do refills matter on the answer?

And do you want the government legislating the answer? Apparently a fair number of people actually would prefer to have this decision made for them, since laws on this have actually passed. They are in such angst over which of 50 salsas, 100 soft drink or water bands,or beers, American Idol votes, etc., to choose from, they just don't have attention left over for this stuff. Or maybe it's their kids who are getting paid and they want them to finally move out of the house on their own.

Someone has to pay for this, don't they?

There's grumbling among Dallas police this morning. Chief Kunkle has announced that any of his officers--or the firefighters, for that matter-- responding to a non-emergency call will be fined like everyone else for running a red light camera. The city now has 30 cameras. Next month they go to 60. $75 a pop, which is why the Texas legislative muzzle has nosed into the trough and now is demanding half from the cities installing them. Officers protest that in the middle of the night when they are responding to non-emergency calls, they frequently ease through a red light when there is no traffic. Stopping at a totally empty intersection for a red light will slow response times, they say. It will, too. The chief responded that he doesn't want the public perception to be that his officers are above the law. Well, that's an honest observation, too. Still, does it seem to you that more and more we are going with perception instead of reality?

The common theme is "What are we supposed to do?" and, perhaps, the waning tolerance that people with common sense can make up their minds their ownselves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Love in all its Forms

I have a married friend. Her husband is very devout. She was divorced, so not a virgin when they married. He was. He loves her very much and grieves that she will go to hell if she does not convert. She has her own beliefs, and feels she cannot. She is Christian. He is Muslim. And they love each other. Just want to say, Christians aren't the only ones who think non-believers can go to Hell. And that despite desparate beliefs, love can thrive.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Remembering Books Fondly

Ok, I'll try this game. Boy, are there a lot left off, but I have senior moments. May not remember to add them. Since my boldface also malfunctions,I will use check marks. Thanks, AD, for a freebie.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) (this got to be such a cause celebre, I went counter-culture on it.)
2. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austin) X
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) X
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) X
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien) X
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) X
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkx ien) X
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) X
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) X
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) ?
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling) X
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) ?
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling) X
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) X
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) X
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Rowling) X
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) X
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) X
The Silmarillion
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) X
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) X
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) X
25 . Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) X
The Restaurant at the End of The Universe
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) X
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) X
The Chronicles of Narnia X
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) X
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) X
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) X
34. 1984 (Orwell) X
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) X
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett) X
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) X
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) X
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel) X
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella) X
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible 1/2 X
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) X
48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) X
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) X
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb) X
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) X
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) X
53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) X
54. Great Expectations (Dickens) X
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence) X
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) X
59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood) X
60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) 1/2 X
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) X
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy) X
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) X
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) X
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) X
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) X
71. Bridget Jones' Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell) X
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) X
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay) X
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith) X
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving) X
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence) X
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White) X
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck) X
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier) X
84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen) X
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams) X
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) X
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields) X
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) X
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) X
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) X
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum) X
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
Rumble Fish
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford) X
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) X
100. Ulysses (James Joyce) X

Okay. so I read a lot. A lot of these I read before I was 21. Where's "Man's Search for Meaning"? Where's Shakespeare--forget his human insight. Do you know the man once wrote a SEVEN-LEVEL pun? Dr. Seuss, for God's sake. But "shopoholic" is included? pure dreck. Actually, I would include a couple of John MacDonald, and several Robert Parker's (such as "The Widening Gyre" ) I think Sara Paretsky is very literary.
"Women of the Club" " was written by a septogenerian who captured two whole previous generations of women with bullseye accuracy. My Grandfather's Eyeglasses" is written by Dr. what's her name, and I have her earlier book, "Kitchen Table Talks" ready to start. Poetry. Edna St. Vincent Benet. The guy--Oh, I can't think. He lives in Atlanta and I love his poetry. He wrote the novel that was made into the movie with "Dualing Banjos" in it. Sorry. senior moment. "Deliverance?" Didn't read the book. Love his poetry. I even like Emily Dickinson. Anything by Anne Siddons. My favorite is "Hill Towns." Asimov's "I, Robot". Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" and especially the elegant "Dandelion Wine".
Nuff said. The rest of you live quite a little. It appears I --just read.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Food for Thought at Easter

Thought I would write about something else today, but tomorrow is Easter.

My father was the Sunday School teacher for the high school students when I was young. He said if he had some guys, the girls would come, and they did. And so, we had the first Easter sunrise breakfast. The kids had to go to the Sunrise service, then come to our house for breakfast.

It wasn't just any breakfast. Mother borrowed linens and china and silverware from all over town. We were poor, but Dad got florist centerpieces and ordered mouth-watering Danish. We decorated the tables on either side of the flowers with pastel marshmallow eggs (the only candy I was allowed at Easter and I still like them).We put out bowls of applesauce. Dad had Canadian bacon ready to heat, and he and Mom cracked the farm (our farm) fresh eggs into a big bowl the night before to make scrambled eggs. They made cocoa. Cloth napkins. Good china. Good linens. And the kids came.

About 1 dozen that first year, which was fine, because our house was small. The required Easter finery was there--girls in their new Easter dresses, boys in their suits. The "Bunny Hop" had just come into being. My parents played the song while the teens made a Conga line--Da-da-da-da-da, da da da, da-da-da-da-da, bump, bump, bump. Kick right two times. Kick left two times. Jump back one step. Jump forward three times. The teens were laughing and having fun. Some had never been to a breakfast meal with linens and flowers and good food, and none of them had experienced it just for them.

My folks got a photographer to take a picture. Someone came out every year to take the picture. My folks always had it published in the newspaper. I bet a lot of those kids still have that old newsprint somewhere.

Then my father expected them to go to Sunday School and church. And they did.

My senior year in high school, they were still doing Easter breakfast. By then they needed help. Five other couples showed up. It was still fine linens, good china, and cut flowers. Same menu. There were 85 kids. I still have that photograph someplace.

So Easter, risen again, and breakfast are all tied together for me. Tomorrow, I will get up at 5:30 a.m. to be at Sunrise service, even if it is a shuddering 32 degrees. Then partake of Easter breakfast in the church, where my friend Blake oversees for the last time before going to Oregon. Many years ago, my husband and I revived the Easter breakfast tradition, downsized, in our church with pretty paper tablecloths and plates. But we started with my parents' old menu, and the breakfast tradition grew and spread until, now huge, the church automatically has some breakfast snacks every week and of course decorates and feeds hundreds on Easter. Such a small thing, overall.

Happy Easter, y'all.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

And Once More Into the Navel--Whoops! Mind the Lint


I was talking to an old friend --she's my age and we go back to high school--a few weeks ago, and she snapped at me, "Stop being didactic. I hate that." I fell all over myself to humanize my conversation and quit lecturing, if that's what I was doing.

But I'm thinking about it. Even Googled definitions of didactic. Some I quite like. I don't think my friend meant those. This was in the same week another friend told me I was strongly assertive, but she didn't mind it.

The day I was didactic, if I was, I had earlier become really furious for possibly the first time in a number of years. Sometimes I get irritated, or get frustrated, but I usually don't get really angry for several reasons. It's exhausting and it's time consuming. I know people who can just vent, spew all over the place, and then 5-10 minutes later they are just fine. Refreshed, even. Neat trick. When I get to the furious stage, I stay there for awhile. Can't help it. I smolder and give off toxic fumes for hours as I slowly cool off, and the residual coals may reheat if I'm not careful for a couple of days. No, I don't emote. No Dark Aura warning people off. Nope. I look and act mostly normal. That's the danger. I fully understand the country-western song where the woman sings, "I just want to stay angry for awhile." I don't really want to, I just can't seem to help it. Generally, I try to hold onto my logic and my manners by my fingernails. Sometimes I don't, and then there's hurt feelings on both sides that have to heal. What good is that?

In my opinion, getting really angry is seldom worth it. Hate isn't even in the ballpark. I honestly hated a former boss once and it took me 10 years to get through it. Awful experience. For eight of those years, we weren't even in contact. Near the end of the decade, I heard on the radio that this person had gotten a major award. I was driving in my car. The windows were down. I became aware people walking on the street were turning around and looking at me strangely. That's when I realized I was screaming at the radio. Whoops. Big waste of emotional energy, maybe? People say they hate this politician or that and from what I've seen, some of them actually do. I can't stand George Bush, but that's a long way from hating him. So far as I know, we still have the freedom of the patriotic but loyal opposition attitude, although sometimes this seems in doubt.

But sometimes, a furious anger can clean the pipes. And sometimes I have to deal with furious anger because I never saw it coming.

So what does anger have to do with didactic? In an effort to maintain equilibrium, my first defense when anger threatens is to go strongly into the cognitive. I was in anger recovery that evening, easily stirred. I think I was didactic because my friend and I were discussing some things with which I not only disagreed, but which made me emotionally uncomfortable. I retreated into the cognitive and went straight to lecture. She didn't like that, but she really wouldn't have liked it if I had gone into my "strongly assertive" mode, which I deliberately did not. Years as a caseworker had, I thought, taught me to mask my attitudes and opinions to a great extent.



Wednesday, April 4, 2007


I was just writing about a remarkable 10-year-old I know and how hard she works to read. She is dyslexic. She is also smart, organized and determined. She has taught me so much this year about the illogic of English. Any rule you can come up with for pronunciation or spelling, you can find an exception, usually on the very next page.

And then my mouse froze. Hm. Seems I remember vaguely something about Cont-Alt-Delete. Too late. I just closed out and lost the whole thing. Now I am wondering if my post will work. But I was wondering anyway.

You see, we didn't FIX my blog. I didn't do anything different. So I don't know WHY, and since age four, I've had this burning desire to know that. But I don't know, and I don't know where to go to find the answer. I hate that. One reason I keep stumbling around on the internet is the incredible amount of information if I can just figure out how to get to it, and increasingly I'm getting there. (I still don't know where you find chat rooms, or how they work, or what the etiquette is.) Thank GAWD for Ambulance Driver and his wide array of listed blogs. He has enlarged my reading sites immeasurably. Always, of course, after reading his first (fawn, polish, obsequious flattery.) (But he really is good, and I used to get paid for writing, so maybe I'm an Expert.)

This keeps circling back to the dyslexic 10-year-old, I see. Every day she bellies up to the books not understanding WHY the words work the way they do, but determined to conquer them. She looks for patterns. She applies the rules so far as they work. (like the word like. See the silent E. That means a long I. That's the rule. Except rule violates what I just said. Mule doesn't.)

So she struggles with her words for her survival, and I struggle with computer writing for my pleasure, and because we struggle, we both wonder WHY so much more than if it were easy to assimulate and just accepted.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Karma Sharma, This is not either a Dumb Machine. It is irrational and magical and I always knew it. Ha!

Doctor! doctor! we just had a pulse! can it be? here's an old, failed, post to try....

"For some reason, I haven't been able to post to my blog, but my incredibly helpful son can. (Gosh, he's a great guy. I'm lucky to have him as my son. Smart as a whip, and always there for his mother. And so handsome. Modest, too. He would NEVER admit how talented he was, but that's what a mother's for, I guess.)

We're trying to figure out just what the problem is...

--N.L.W.'s staff,

Gee, who wrote this? Not me-e-e.

Holly's Histrionics recently published an account of the family going target shooting together. In the last couple of weeks, I've bonded with my sons over trouble-shooting. On MY computer, of course.

This was the week I was going to step up my writing to atleast three-four a week, then tried for 21/2 days to post, only to have each and every one print the title and subjects, but no text. Finally, the incredibly smart, handsome, humble son seems to have fixed it. I tremble as I wait to see if this posts.(Later. It didn't. But ever cautious, I copied this first.)

Last week my other incredibly smart, handsome son undertook to fix the lack of an address box on my internet toolbar. He hauled up a search engine and began to instruct me step by step what to do. Unfortunately, I didn't always understand the instructions with my primitive computer skills and non-linear logic. Took about 11/2 hours. At one point, he roared, "You should not even be allowed to OWN a computer!"

He slammed the phone. Two minutes later, he politely called back, apologized and went on patiently instructing till we succeeded. Whew. Exhausting. Now if I can only remember why this is such an advantage to have and how to use it.

Both sons are bemused that I manage to do anything on the computer with my primitive skills. Kind of like observing a driver with a couple of driving lessons miraculously not getting crunched in rush hour freeway traffic.

I'm thinking of taping a sticky note above the screen that reads, "I am not dumb."
This is true, but so long as I continue to attempt to utilize and/or widen my computer skills, rampaging ego will not be a problem.

It really is a good thing I do have two handsome, intelligent sons who are willing to help their mama. I am a fortunate woman:).

Yes, I still live, and my Titles have a Pulse. GCR's helpful staff keeps muttering I must be doing something wrong.

Hello? Hello? Did my burnt offering work?