Friday, July 20, 2007

My Niece & BARK


In the middle is Recon. He is the one in the middle, sitting on one of Saddam's thrones this spring. He is one of my niece's work dogs.

You can read more about what he (and my niece) are doing in Iraq here at the Collier Citizen website.

I have just tagged other entries here with "niece," if you want to see more.

Was She Wicked?


[a memory evoked by Sunday Scribblings]

I was 9 years old and in 4th grade public school. We had a young teacher, Miss B, who was relatively new to teaching and only in her 1st or 2nd year at our small school.

In our school district we were introduced to instrumental music in the 4th grade. Those who were interested in continuing were then encouraged to join the band starting in 5th grade. The established method was for the entire class (about 20 of us) to learn to play flutophones.

What's a flutophone? Think "cheap plastic recorder." I remember ours as being all black. A web search turned up some models like the one below, the current price seems to be $4. They are touted as easier to play than a recorder.

Having started piano lessons a year or so earlier, I was bored silly. In fact, I think I was probably bored for most of 4th grade. But the music you played by blowing into something was new for me, so it was better than math, science, reading, health, or social studies.

Each of us in the class had one of these. I think our names went on the boxes and after each session, we slipped the flutophone into the box and Miss B put them away until the next lesson.

We learned to read music out of of little books. They were probably something like this:

These were collected into a pile after each lesson and re-distributed randomly. You would think that would work out okay.


It seems that some kid was even more bored than I was. Someone with scissors. Someone who managed to cut a small square out of the middle of a page, miraculously missing all of the notes of the songs on BOTH sides of the page. Although the act of cutting was idiotic, the missing of stuff was stupidly brilliant.

Miss B had no appreciation for this and felt the act needed to be punished. The problem was that she didn't know who had done the deed. Miss B decided to give the guilty party the opportunity to confess. You will not be surprised to hear that no one was jumping at the chance to say "it was me!"

Miss B then decided that the miscreant might be more willing to confess in "private." We were each directed to pull out a piece our standard-issue 8-1/2 x 11-inch ruled notebook paper. We were to fold it in half, then in half again, and to tear it along the folds into quarters. Next we were to write our name on one piece, along with a "yes" or "no" indicating if we used the scissors on the flutophone music book. Finally, we were to fold the paper once, and then the paper was collected by her.

Miss B took them to her desk, opened each while we sat quietly, then had us do it all over because no one had confessed.

This routine took the place of our afternoon recess. And the next morning recess. We were allowed to go outside to play at the noon recess, at least for a couple more days. But by the end of the week, we were not allowed to play during any recess, we just had to endlessly write our names and "no" on pieces of paper.
Peer-pressure was not doing the job.

Even those of us who thought it was wrong to cut out anything from a book lost all respect for Miss B at this point. We were tired of the "punish the whole class" approach, and it was getting her nowhere. I think the siege ended when some of our parents complained. I don't think the mini-vandal ever turned up, although we had our suspects.

Was she wicked? At the time we thought so.

But Miss B did have one redeeming habit. She read to us aloud from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. That simple act every day enchanted us, even during the "flutophone episode."

Some of us went on to play in the band, most did not. We all moved on to 5th grade - no one flunked or was "held back."

It seems that the year had taken its toll on Miss B. She did not return to our school the next year and we heard that she decided to go back to school. I don't know if that was true or not, but I hope she learned about how not to conduct an investigation. And I hope she kept reading to her students.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007



Two more workdays, then I'm off to the vacation spot!

and counting...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Welcome, Folks!


I am delighted and honored to be Michele's Site of the Day. Welcome, everyone, look around and enjoy!

Meeting the Oceans


Something I've been working on for a while...

Meeting the Oceans

The first ocean I met was the Atlantic.

Off of Cape Cod

the water was cold

the sharp salty smell strong on the cool breeze.

It sent seaweed onto my beach,

a row of crunchy, dark green,

barring my path to the smooth pale sand at its edge.

We ate lobster and steamers,

and we enjoyed

the Cape Cod Atlantic's company

in the soft June sunshine.

The second ocean I met was the Pacific.

Off Oahu

the water was warm

the smell of the ocean competing

with the steamy, sultry tropical breeze.

It sent tiny animals into dark crevices,

daring me to discover the living creatures

tucked into tide pools in the dark lava rock.

We ate pineapples and papayas and lychees,

and the Hawaiian Pacific

was an excellent host that tropical December.

The third ocean I met was the Atlantic.

Off Delaware

the water was cooling

as we swam in the waves,

ignoring the ocean smell in the allure of the boardwalk.

We rinsed off the noise and bustle of the city,

being carried on the surf,

an afternoon's respite

from the rush-rush bus tour.

We ate cotton candy and taffy and pizza,

and the Delaware Atlantic

was a delightful playmate that late July.

The fourth ocean I met was the Pacific.

Off the Lost Coast

the water was tempting but unreachable

across the stretch of black basalt sand.

It smelled lightly of salt in the gusty wind

as I watched it with my crutches at my side.

It sang background music

to the family reunion,

and we were warned of its tidal strength

in case of an offshore earthquake.

We ate conversation and memories,

and the Lost Coast Pacific

presented a charming backdrop that California June.

[don't worry - the crutches were temporary and long-gone now.]

Sunday, July 15, 2007



[Inspired by Sunday Scribblings]

Here's a story I have been told about me.

When I was little, my mom cut my hair at home. I had a simple hair-cut, a page-boy, with my straight dark hair cut above the shoulder and with bangs in the front. Even when I was little, I could sit still long enough for Mom to do it, though probably not much longer than that.

I, in turn, would comb and fix the hair on my dolls. I wasn't in school yet, so I was younger than 5 years old. I had a lot of dolls, although not as many as the 50-some that I counted when I was about 10. I had to have at least 10.

I was a quiet kid, all-in-all, and I was able to entertain myself without a lot of parental guidance. I had a lively imagination. Sometimes, that play was done in my room. I had my own bedroom, with pink carpet, pink-patterned drapes, and a lot of other pink in the room for what my dad called his "little pink princess."

One day while cleaning my room my mom discovered hair under my bed. Brown hair. Not a lot, just a bit, but it had definitely been cut from something. Mom asked me where the hair came from, fully expecting to hear which of my dolls had a new and shorter hairstyle.

Imagine her surprise when I showed her where I had cut off some of my own hair! I guess my hair was so thick that she hadn't yet noticed!

I was very clearly instructed not to cut my own hair in the future, and not to cut my dolls' hair either (while we were on the subject). In fact, I'm guessing that my access to scissors was greatly curtailed for some time after that.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Onion Tears


Onion Tears

The onions make me cry - twice.

The first tears come

as I slice their solid flesh

into curved white fingers.

I know that a candle flame

will burn away volatile oils

released by the sharp knife

and rising toward my eyes.

But I forgot

and now it is too late.

I can only stop the tears by

finishing the task.

I wash my hands,

and splash cool water into my eyes

rinsing away the tears.

Then I stir the onions

over low heat

with a little oil

and a dash of salt

(this time not from my eyes).

I let them cook

while I turn my attention

to foods of a friendlier persuasion,

only occasionally

giving them a stir

as they turn from

bright white

to a duller hue


becoming more yellow

then darker

around the edges,

their sharp smell


as they cook,

until finally

their soft, squishy

earthy-bronze color

tells me

they are


the sweet



that brings me

tears of delight

when I eat them.

[inspired by the task of "melting" onions to put on a rustic onion tart for this weekend's potluck.]

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pondering in July


A couple of quotes from Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins
"The laws of Congress and the laws of physics have grown increasingly divergent, and the laws of physics are not likely to yield"
Attributed to author Bill McKibben

"While it is unwise to believe in any one environmental projection of the future, it is important to bear in mind that nature bats last and owns the stadium."
[the title of the post is, of course, based on Brain's question, "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"]

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Greased What?


[a memory evoked by Sunday Scribblings]

I figure most Americans have heard of a "greased pig" contest, even if they haven't seen one (and fewer have participated). Having grown up in a part of the country where lots of hogs are raised, I did see a number of greased pig events. For those who have never had the honor, allow me to describe. A young pig is, yes, greased up and set loose in an enclosed area. A number of contestants, usually also young, enter the enclosed area and the one who manages to catch and hold onto the slippery beast wins. It sounds simple enough, but holding on is so much harder than you can imagine.

I never tried it my self.
I did, however, participate in a game that is even more rare.

As a teenager, I worked at a small summer camp. One summer the camp moved to a site that we had never used before. The counselors, junior counselors, and counselors-in-training (CITs) arrived a couple of days early for introductions and to set up cabins, to unpack materials and acquaint ourselves with the new-to-us facilities before the campers arrived.

Unlike the previous camp that had a lake to swim in, this one had a pool. We were, unfortunately, the first group to use it that year. The pool was a mess. You couldn't see the bottom, even in the shallow end. Needless to say, we could not let anyone swim in the pool in that condition, it would not have been safe.

A number of us spent a lot of time mucking out the pool during the first few days. We pulled out more leaves than you can imagine, we made sure the filters were kept clean, and we ran the pump 24 hours a day. Eventually, we started to see progress. We kept using the pool vacuum and skimmer, and finally we could see the bottom in not only the shallow end, but also the deep end.

The counselors-in-training, those of us who were 13 and 14 years old, had put in a lot of hours toward making the pool usable. The camp director arranged a treat. We were to be the first to use the pool. We'd have a pool party one evening, with a cook-out and a promise of something special. We were very excited.

Released from our duties helping out with the younger campers, we got into our swimsuits, threw t-shirts over them, and headed to the pool that evening. While one of the supervising counselors fired up the grill, the "surprise" of the evening was announced. We were to have a greased watermelon.

A what? I'd never heard of a greased watermelon.

It turns out that it was a game. It is part "greased pig" (see above), part water polo, and part rugby. We first divided the CITs into two groups: those who wanted to take part in the insanity, and those who were either too timid or too smart. I was part of the first group and we sorted ourselves into two teams. I think there were about 5 or 6 on a side.

Into the deep end of the pool went both teams. Someone had been busy rubbing shortening over the surface of a large watermelon. It then joined us floating in the deep end. The goal of the game was for to get the greased watermelon to our "goal" on one side of the pool, while trying to stop the other team from doing the same.

Cue the chaos.

It was a blast, but it was very, very, very, very tiring. And in the effort to stay afloat, one has to kick. When we all converged on the watermelon, we unfortunately kicked each other as much as the water. And although the watermelon couldn't wiggle the way a pig can, it also had no appendages to get a grip on. It was just big and round. And very, very slippery.

I don't remember much about the game other than that it was a lot of fun. I think one team eventually scored, but it didn't matter which one. We were ravenous by then and happy to call it quits.

A great time was had by all. And there was another, unadulterated watermelon that had been held in reserve. It made a delicious dessert.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Couple of Books


I recently finished these books:

The Dragon Charmer

by Jan Siegel

2nd in a trilogy of books that started with Prospero's Children

purchased in March 2003, read in its entirety in June 2007

Once I started this book, I remembered that it took me some time to warm up to Prospero's Children. So I gave the sequel a while to get going. But. It. Took. For. Ever. I was so tired of the characters that at several points I didn't really care what happened to them, I just wanted to finish the book. The sentences are lovely. The descriptions can be intense and even evocative. The story just isn't there. And I am not willing to give book 3 in the trilogy a chance. The characters can just play it out on their own.

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins

purchased in May 2000, started reading it in summery 2000, finished July 4, 2007

... in which the authors show how companies that operate in ways that prevents net loss of natural resources not only make money, but do so with an edge over companies that waste natural resources. In addition, that the principles necessary to save natural resources also work to improve the human condition and local economies.

This was a good book - I'm just not a regular reader of non-fiction. It took me forever to get through it because I kept putting it aside for months at a time. But I did learn from it and have some interesting facts rolling around in my head. Some may eventually come out as blog posts.

The good news?

I'm going on vacation later this month and during those 2 weeks I expect to read more than a dozen easy-read novels, some by authors tried-and-true in the craft of entertaining me. I can't wait!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Astrological Consideration


[inspired by Sunday Scribblings]

There are many types of astrology, I have only passing knowledge of western sun-sign astrology such as found in the daily newspapers, and Chinese astrology, introduced to many of us on our restaurant place-mats.

Astrological Consideration

When I contemplate my luck,

am I lion or a rabbit?

Is my Leo side out front?

or is the Chinese hare my habit?

Horoscopes in newspapers

explain to me my fire sign.

Charismatic leadership,

appreciating all things fine.

The noble Leo seeks the stage,

knowing that I'm always right.

Defusing crisis situations

with my creativity and might.

The Rabbit born in water yin

is more a background kind of role,

creating peaceful atmospheres

to block the world out, on the whole.

Water Rabbit loves solitude,

but communication skills are great.

Quiet, reserved, a delicate soul,

confrontation is what I hate.

Both lion and rabbit are excellent hosts.

They appreciate details and the arts.

Luckily, it seems my whole

is greater than the sum of my parts.