Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pink on Pink

When the children were young, our daughter and her best friend were forever playing with makeup and fingernail polish like little girls will do. Older brother wouldn’t have anything to do with that “girl stuff.” But the youngest son found himself being used somewhat like a rag doll or an extra large stuffed animal. One day we saw him come out of the back room shaking his head. Before he went to wash off his face, he came in to show us the latest creation. He had these huge black eyebrows that went all the way across his face, a mustache, sideburns, and Elvis hair (blonde, however). I don’t know what the girls used to make his hair stick back that way, but it took two shampoos to get it out. And he had a faint mustache and a large line across his face for a couple of days.

The girls both grew up to learn how to use makeup in moderation. And now there is another little girl in the house. Her Paw Paw has never been used as a guinea pig before, but he now has bright pink toe nails and light pink and bright pink striped fingernails. The stripes were managed by a base coat of light pink and then some blobs of darker pink over that. Some parts of his fingers were also pink well beyond the fingernails, but my guess is that she will get more accurate with that stuff as she ages. Meanwhile, Paw Paw found that fingernail polish washes off in the swimming pool—thank goodness!

A trip to Wally World saw a couple of old folks discovering an entire package of little fairy dolls and a cat coloring book. I don’t believe that such little cartons of fairies were available when our children were little, but I can guarantee the coloring books were not nearly as kid-friendly as this cat book was. And the best part was that the crayons were only 22 cents for a large box. That was especially nice after Harley B managed to eat most of an orange crayon before we caught him. He probably would have nibbled on a fairy, as well, but he was relegated to the office while a girl and her Paw Paw colored cat pictures and had fairy affairs going on.

The dog would not have been in the house at all, but the latest hurricane brought another driving rain up our direction along with the usual thunder and lightning. Harley looks as if he could eat a mailman for breakfast and spit out a water meter reader for lunch, but he is all looks and plenty of friendly licks. Even so, little girl has not yet discovered that he is the proud owner of ten more toe nails to polish pink. Poor Harley! And the cat just looks at her with one of those “don’t even THINK about it” stares. So far she has dressed OliverTwisted in a cute little dress, but I don’t think finger nail polish is ever going on those nasty claws of his. HE is the one who would be happy to attack the mailman. Now if a girl can just figure out how to paint whiskers . . .

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Giggles, Grins, and Goofballs

My students came in tonight with a case of giggles. One of the students had a bet going that I would not be able to remember her name. Well, that was an easy bet! But I enjoyed listening to them giggle. THEN I got an e-mail from our daughter's father-in-law. It had a link in it that led to a board thread about lost luggage--or, in this case, leggage.

My sister-in-law lost her luggage when she came home from Okinawa with her baby girl and her two-year-old son. Well, let me be sure that I got that clear--SHE didn't lose it. The airlines lost it for her. She flew all the way from Okinawa with a tiny baby, a little boy, a diaper bag, and her own little bag that she had all her papers, passports, etc., in. By the time she got to DFW, she was ready to collapse into her parents arms, but the baby was hungry and crying, the little boy was hungry, tired, and crying, and if I remember correctly, she may have been crying by that time as well. No luggage at DFW. No luggage EVER. Oh, they gave her some money to replace all the stuff she had lost. Whoopee big doo. Ever tried to keep a baby clean with a few dollar bills? They just don't make very good diapers.

I guess we have all lost something at sometime or other, but it really does take some sense of humor to be able to giggle about it. And that might depend on what a person lost. It seems some athlete was not allowed to take her fake leg on an airplane as a carry-on. You guessed it! The airport lost her leg and the people who made her leg for her were hard put to get one ready for the competition that she entered. It might be pretty difficult to trust an airline with your body parts after that kind of an experience.

I read some of the comments to my class tonight about the lady whose leg was sent all over the country by several different branches of different airlines--I know that sounds a little "different," but each airline has appendages--maybe that is why it was so easy for them to LOSE someone's appendage! Anyway, I sat there and read and giggled while my students were trying to do their work. Turn about fair play! Some things just have to be shared to be funny. Losing a leg to the airlines has got too many possibilities for funny. I followed that thread until it became toe jam and foot jokes--and then the original author wrote that two different airlines were attempting to get them to claim some more baggage. That's ONE way to clear out the lost and found! Oh boy!

One last thought--if we really wanted to lose something, could the airlines do it FOR us? I know a few illegal aliens we could drop off at the baggage check....and there is even a "boss" who could be gift wrapped before dropping him off....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tax Free Status of the Church

Now, anyone might think that politics and God are two important ideas in my life. One of those ideas is definitely important--the other is just part of our life. Guess which is which...

I read things that interest me, and I found something good today that I want to share with those I know who read this mess--er, blog. It doesn't really mean that what I read is accurate exactly, but it amused me to think that there is a term that describes some of my political tendencies.

The following is from an e-mail that I get called Leadership Today from

Where I grew up in the South, the three big holidays on the church calendar were Christmas, Easter, and Fourth of July Sunday. Now I live near Chicago, where many churches let Independence Day slip by without a word from the pulpit. There are, no doubt, historical and theological reasons why Christians in one part of the country (or in one denomination or another) are more inclined to link the church to the state in its worship. But in my experience, people simply don't give the issue a lot of thought; they just do what they've always done.

That's why I'm excited to introduce the Church and Politics Quiz, a tool designed to help you uncover your assumptions and blind spots regarding the role of the church in politics. How should the church relate to the state—as chaplain or prophet? Is it appropriate to display flags in the sanctuary? In the spirit of the Hermeneutics Quiz from earlier this year, there are no right or wrong answers. Rather, we hope this tool will help you think critically about the church's role and responsibility in this historic election year.

I took the quiz embedded in this e-mail and found that I am a "Thumpin' Theocrat." I am still laughing at myself.

But lest anyone feel shortchanged by the title of this blog post today, I will just say this: If churches plan to be a political arm of the nation, they need to be prepared to give up the tax-free status. We are responsible to God as individuals. When like-minded people associate, that association can be called a church. But the minute these individuals start building mega structures and set out to influence the social conscience and political leanings of a people, they are no longer congregating for the purpose of being an example to those around them. They are actively trying to change others or impose their beliefs on others.

While I am on the topic, let's just say that it is obvious that a building is not a church. Having a minister does not make a congregation. Having beliefs does not make one religious. And Christ was NOT a Christian--He is God. He showed us HOW to behave, how to treat others, how to influence others by serving them. When I see those criteria in place, I will know that I have seen followers of Christ.

Meanwhile, I will pay my taxes as necessary.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Latest in Olympic Events

I have seen some funny routines on ice and rodeo clowns around bulls, but this one on the balance beam is good enough to inspire some ideas for future Olympic contests. Let's see now--we already have synchronized sinking and double dip dunking, what else could we desire for spectator sports? We already have too many lip synching politicians and assorted "stars" out there with their mouths open wide as if to x-ray those non-existant spines. Well, how about an Olympic cat washing routine. Not how many cats one can wash within a given time, but how happy the cat is during the event would be the judging criteria. I just LOVE the expression on OliverTwisted's face when I give him a bath. Oh, another event--photographing the expressions on the cats' faces and on the "washers'" faces during and after the events. I can see this event being nationalized and made into a world series situation. After all, there would be plenty of blood and bodily injuries involved. Even referees would be in danger, depending on whether the cat got away from the holder.

Oh well, no one would ever pay for the commercials to see these events. I can't see a Budweiser advertisement with a cat on the bar looking for another little sip of suds...

Maybe we can just enjoy the comedy routines that are already established for Olympic events. YouTube is wonderful. Enjoy!

Considering how much of the Olympics we've all watched, this balance beam routine is the best one yet.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Give It Up!

Living in Texas has always been something of a challenge, but probably no more so than in any other state. Life can get oversized no matter where one lives. But for the people in Nebraska, one less worry may have been semi-solved. Got a wired teenager who is out of control? Give the little twerp up to the state of Nebraska. Dump his/her fanny out at the local hospital and no one will even say anything unless you have been leaving bruises on that fanny trying to keep the kid on the straight and narrow.

So far no one—as far as I know—has taken them up on the offer, but it may just be a matter of time. I really think that this is a little like the part of the Old Testament that says that if the parents can’t control their child, they may bring him/her before the elders and state their case. Then the child can be stoned by one and all. Pretty drastic. But then so is the Nebraska law.

Had I lived in the time when stoning one’s child was considered the last resort, I would have been ashamed to think that I was not enough of a parent to love and correct the ornery kid into some semblance of orderliness. I suspect that the parents in Nebraska may have the same thought patterns. At least a child would be safer in state custody than with parents who have totally lost all perspective on family—or human—relations.

Then there is still that little speck of interest I feel toward the parents in Harrold, Texas. According to the news, the parents feel that their children are safer with a few gun-toting teachers than with someone coming into the school to take care of a grudge. And today a friend of mine reminded me that he was deputized by a city in New Mexico so that he could arrest unruly students way up on the mountain where he taught years ago. Now John is so soft spoken that it would amaze me to see him angry enough to raise his voice, but he assured me that years ago he could swing a paddle pretty well. And kids back then carried guns in their trucks.

Ok, take the ornery ones from any state and dump them off in Nebraska, and then guard the borders of all the other states with guns when the folks from Nebraska start shipping them back to us!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Grandmommy Dearest?

According to the news, a lady chose to have a baby for her daughter and became her grandchild’s surrogate mother. It is very admirable, I think, to be willing to give your love to a family so completely that one is willing to give life to a child for another person. One of my students did that for her sister because her sister would never be able to have a child. The women were very close and both loved the child deeply. Other young women I have met were willing to give their babies up for adoption because they were too young or too involved in the messes life sometimes hands us to be able to raise a child.

Still, this grandmother was 61 years old! As I sit here thinking about the many pregnant women who walk the halls of our schools, I see in my mind’s eye young women holding their backs and rubbing that protrusion that sticks out like a # 2 washtub. Then I think about a woman who may already have arthritic problems, glasses, maybe an upper plate, and swelling in her hands and feet. Put a nine month pregnancy on top of that and it sounds like sheer madness!

Of course, she won’t have to worry about getting up for those 2 a.m. feedings and the umpteen diapers that will need to be changed in the next few years. It’s probably a good thing that she won’t be responsible for caring for the child. It’s hard to imagine putting the baby down somewhere and trying to remember where!

It makes me wonder if the grandmother has a husband at home. Sitting here imagining what Fang would think if he had to sleep with a pregnant woman at our age…. Big evil grin! And SO glad that it would be impossible!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Time at Band Camp

Tonight I laughed until I gasped for air and then laughed some more. That doesn’t happen very often, but then I seldom have an uninterrupted conversation with my daughter. Not that this one was entirely uninterrupted—two cats, three dogs, and a boy’s worth.

I was about to tell her about the time when Benny Tucker stepped . . .and that is as far as I got. She said, “at band camp” and started laughing. After she explained the reference, we were both laughing. I believe the name of the movie was “American Pie,” but she assured me that anyone her age would throw in the “at band camp” if I started a story out with “there was this one time . . .”

Our conversation got around to rats, mice, and snakes and she related that she wouldn’t go swimming in the lake at night on their last camping trip. Her husband and friends kept insisting that she should come in with them, but she told them that if a snake came out and wanted to play with them, it wouldn’t enjoy her company. About that time she saw a small snake near the shore and had a hissy fit. When the others saw the snake, they were impressed that she would even watch for such things. They just did not grow up on the lake with all the snakes around like she did.

Then we talked about her stepping on the dead snake and running all the way back to the house while her brother and Jimmy were shouting at her that it was dead and her shouting back that she didn’t care—it was a snake!

Our children knew to watch where they put their feet and watch what was moving around them. I suppose that is one of the funny things about Benny’s story. He went rabbit hunting with my brother and Dad. The rabbits were just thick that year and must have thoroughly enjoyed Granddad’s latest young wheat crop. But the “hunt” took the three guys out into tall grass near the bottom of a draw. Not a rabbit was jumping up to run out of the grass—until they suddenly heard a rabbit squealing as if something had caught it. They stood still and looked all around, and the sound was too close to be out too far. Then Benny picked up his big foot and the little rabbit took off. That rabbit was saved by laughter!

Then there was the time that our oldest son went to look for more cucumbers in the garden. The children never went out that they were not reminded to watch for snakes—and it wasn’t just because I was afraid of snakes. But that day the reminder was just a little off. When something moved in the cucumber patch, the child panicked, got tangled up in the vines, fell face first into the cucumber leaves, and came eyeball to eyeball with . . . a big toad. That’s the kind of “snake” I like.

Raising children can be pretty rough sometimes, but when they are old enough to share some of the memories, it makes all the rough times more than worth the effort. And if they have an uncle who will teach them to fly a kite to drop parachutes and use cardboard boxes to slide down the stairs, well, the possibilities are almost limitless for good stories to share with THEIR children. It’s true that we learn to admire our children with our minds, but we always love them with our hearts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Grace and Blessings on HIS People

When I was a kid we read the Bible—all of us—kids, parents, teachers, and preachers. I don’t know about the reading habits of the town bum, but I know that he was the recipient of the generosity inspired by God’s love. The local café where we ate on some very rare occasions always had a bowl of soup for the old man I thought of as our town bum. The café owner was just as kind and respectful of him as he was toward us. I never saw the café owner in the church where we attended, but back then I thought everyone believed in God even if they weren’t Baptist.

At one point in my mentality, I thought that the Jewish people had it made because of the benediction that God gave to the priests in order to place His name on the people of Israel:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

I knew the scripture that I translated into my own words: If God is on your side, who can be against you? In my estimation, those Israelites had it made. And then I read Exodus by Leon Uris. Oh boy! I never knew that such horrors could be perpetrated upon man by his fellow man. And then I began to doubt that I had any understanding at all of God or what He meant by blessings.

Growing up we all thought that the United States was something special—still think that way. But I wondered why we succeeded in whatever we did when other nations seemed to have a hard go of it—more so than we did, at any rate. It seemed to me that God was blessing us despite the droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other assorted “acts of God.” WE seemed to have that PEACE that was mentioned in the blessing even when we had men in Korea and Vietnam. Our physical nation between the two oceans seemed to be doing pretty well. Oh, we had our problems. An uncle sent his children to our parents from their home in Little Rock in order to keep his son out of trouble. Teenagers driving cars to the beat of Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser” was not conducive to confidence in many a parent back then. But our world expanded and the nation was blessed.

Today I can mention something from the Bible to my adult students and only those who are closer to my age show even an inkling of understanding. The young women and men coming to my classroom are not blessed by knowledge. Oh, they know how to use an iPod or who the latest celebrities might be, but they don’t know the things that matter. If a messenger from God came into the classroom on Monday—assuming that any of the students bothered to show up—that angel of the Lord could hold up a hand and give the same benediction that God gave to the priests of Israel, and these kids would not have a clue.

Maybe I will never understand God or the blessings He has given to us. But I know those blessings come from Him and not from something we have done to be special. I really am glad that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts. We are too shallow and forgetful. And HE never forgets. He always loves us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Can We Improve Education?

For years I have seen money being thrown at problems as if it would make a difference--only to see the same old thing over and over again. We bought a copy machine. Wow! No more blue copies. Whoopee big do. We bought new computers for each classroom--one per class, then maybe two per class. Time on the computers was eeked out in little parcels or given to the favorite students for good behavior or some such nonsense. Now each school has more computers and even some laptops to take home for some schools. But have these changes made a big difference?

As long as we have "benchmark" tests that grade children on certain standards for certain grades, we will not really improve our system of education. Each person learns differently. I could read before I started school and even say the multiplication tables--though I had no idea what they meant. It was just a rhyme in my head. But words meant something to me. Not the spoken word--just the printed word. How strange. I had to see words for them to make sense to me. I think that makes me a visual learner.

Since we already know that there are at least three ways to learn for most people, why not make good use of our resources and try to match computer programs to learning styles. We have super geeks who could design systems just for the kinetic learners--those ADHD kids who can't be still and focus. Computers can be mobile too. A helmet hooked up with goggles and video could teach better than a teacher who is constantly distracted by a young person's excess energy.

I read an article today that says we need to reform our educational expectations--on the same day that I read about one of the Olympic athletes who was/is ADHD. The athletic accomplishment is wonderful, but wouldn't it be fantastic if we could put that much energy into coaching our children to be better educated people?

See the article at the link below:
Our educational system needs an overhaul (and how can Intel help?)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

George W.'s War

I have no idea who wrote this, but it sounds so familiar and so like today's situation. Again, it irks me that the media can so dreadfully change national opinions without regard to the grief their words can cause to our soldiers and the parents and families of those men and women.

My thanks to the person who wrote this and to the friend who sent it along.

No one likes war. War is a horrific affair, bloody and expensive. Sending our men and women into battle to perhaps die or be maimed is an unconscionable thought. Yet some wars need to be waged, and someone needs to lead. The citizenry and Congress are often ambivalent or largely opposed to any given war. It's up to our leader to convince them. That's why we call the leader 'Commander in Chief.'

George W.'s war was no different. There was lots of resistance to it. Many in Congress were vehemently against the idea. The Commander in Chief had to lobby for legislative approval. Along with supporters, George W. used the force of his convictions, the power of his title and every ounce of moral suasion he could muster to rally support. He had to assure Congress and the public that the war was morally justified, winnable and affordable. Congress eventually came around and voted overwhelmingly to wage war.

George W. then lobbied foreign governments for support. But in the end, only one European nation helped us. The rest of the world sat on its hands and watched. After a few quick victories, things started to go bad. There were many dark days when all the news was discouraging. Casualties began to mount. It became obvious that our forces were too small. Congress began to drag its feet about funding the effort. Many who had voted to support the war just a few years earlier were beginning to speak against it and accuse the Commander in Chief of misleading them. Many critics began to call him incompetent, an idiot and even a liar. Journalists joined the negative chorus with a vengeance.

As the war entered its fourth year, the public began to grow weary of the conflict and the casualties. George W.'s popularity plummeted. Yet through it all, he stood firm, supporting the troops and endorsing the struggle. Without his unwavering support, the war would have surely ended, then and there, in overwhelming and total defeat.

At this darkest of times, he began to make some changes. More troops were added and trained. Some advisers were shuffled, and new generals installed. Then, unexpectedly and gradually, things began to improve. Now it was the enemy that appeared to be growing weary of the lengthy conflict and losing support. Victories began to come, and hope returned. Many critics in Congress and the press said the improvements were just George W.'s good luck. The progress, they said, would be temporary. He knew, however, that in warfare good fortune counts.

Then, in the unlikeliest of circumstances and perhaps the most historic example of military luck, the enemy blundered and was resoundingly defeated. After six long years of war, the Commander in Chief basked in a most hard-fought victory. So on that historic day, Oct. 19, 1781, in a place called Yorktown, a satisfied George Washington sat upon his beautiful white horse and accepted the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.

Weather Words

Ah, sleeping in the rain! Well, at least we sleep in the rain until the animals get nervous during the thunder and lightning and the wind whips the elm tree out front making it whoosh and clatter as small branches rain down upon the roof. This makes us feel for those folks who are just waiting for Fay to make landfall down around Florida. That has to be nerve wracking.

Today a great clap of thunder accompanied the loss of electricity at our school. My students just sat there and then looked at blank screens when the lights came back on. No one really got too upset when they discovered that Microsoft Word had saved their work. It was just one of those glitches that come along in life. So much of life is like the weather: if you don’t like it, just wait around long enough and it will change.

Somehow many of the events in our lives are surrounded by weather that takes us back in memories each time we feel those circumstances again. It was a crisp, hot day the day we brought our first son home from the hospital. Fog and cool winds remind me of my second horse. Tornado weather makes me think about our daughter and her fear of storms. And snow reminds me of the year the lake froze over and the children built a snow man “as big as daddy.”

When we aren’t feeling well, we say we are a little under the weather. If we are feeling particularly sophisticated, we are feeling “cool.” A minor temper tantrum can be “losing our cool” or “getting hot under the collar.” Doubts of any possibility become “a snowflake’s chance in July.” Oh, we blame the weather for a great many things.

When the weather became cool and crisp in the fall, the cattle would kick up their heels and the horses would “feel their oats.” We are all definitely affected by changes in the weather. And then there is the grass. Yesterday the grass became green while it rained. If any sun comes out tomorrow, it will grow at least four to nine inches. When the ground dries out enough, it will be time to get out the tractor and mow the stuff.

Time to get off the computer! The lightning feels as if it is coming in at the back door. Wonderful weather—for sleeping!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

That Forgetful, Distracted Problem

Somehow we manage to get along in life without too much trouble, but it does seem that we have a tendency to be more forgetful than we once were. Or is it possible that we just have time to sit down and remember what we forgot? Let’s think about that one for a minute or two.

I can remember losing my keys when I took the kids downtown to tumbling classes at the Y. The keys were locked in the car, so they weren’t really lost. But I did forget to put money in the parking meter and got a parking ticket. Keeping up with kids CAN be enough to distract a person. Anyway, we had another set of keys and the parking ticket didn’t cost too much.

Locking the keys in the car—both sets—got to be a bit of a problem at a Little League game one day. We were BOTH at the game and I wanted to lock my purse in the car. I had the car locked before he could turn around and get his keys. Oh boy! That time it took someone with the right tools to get the car unlocked. And no, I didn’t do THAT again.

The kids have been grown and gone for years now, but both of us are still easily distracted. He cleans out the tool shed and blows out the vents on a motor of some sort. Then he dumps the leaf blower and forgets to turn off the air compressor. During the evening it sits there and does its little tune and goes whump, whump, whump, shhhhhhh. When I remind him that he left the compressor on, it irritates him. So I either go turn off the compressor or do my best to ignore it.

It seems that some tendencies are more inclined to be noticed in women. His grandmother used to live in our back yard. When she got ready to move in with one of her daughters, her daughter told us to clean out Grandma’s cabinets and keep the food. Grandma always had given me her grocery list to fill whenever I went to buy groceries. When we cleaned out her cabinet there were fifteen cans of green beans. So, I didn’t feel so bad when I noticed that I had bought another box of instant rice and had also picked up another box of soda. These things come in handy. But FIFTEEN cans of green beans!

And then there is the parking problem. Now that we have a handicap license, it is usually not too difficult to find his truck. But if I go anywhere by myself, I have to try to remember WHAT I drove and WHERE I put it. We both laughed just the other day as we were walking into Wal-Mart. A mother and her “tween” daughter were coming out of the door and we heard Mom say, “Now, do you remember where we put the car?” As we started laughing, the mother said something about being so distracted. I just nodded my head. I knew perfectly well what she meant.

Since our kids rode the bus home from school, I never really had to remember to go pick them up—until the year that the middle child worked as a crosswalk guard. She didn’t do it every week, and I would forget which week she worked—and forget to go pick her up. Several times that year I got a phone call from a little voice, “Mom, did you forget to pick me up?”

We forget doctors’ appointments now, but so far we have neither one forgotten to pick the other up if we are both supposed to be somewhere. But now that I think about this forgetfulness thing, I have decided that it is blown WAY out of proportion. That, and I have ALWAYS been this way. It is just that now it is easier to forget which day of the week it is, which doctor we are supposed to see, or which one of us is supposed to be going. Oh well. One of these days we will be so forgetful that we won’t remember to be concerned about being forgetful. Until then, I think we should just forget about it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Annie, Get Your Gun!

Today a friend of mine from another part of the country asked about an article she had read concerning the Harrold District and the decision to allow teachers to carry guns. She thought that it might just be a mentality caused by the Texas love affair with guns. Nope. It is more likely the feeling that the teachers should be at least as well armed as the students!

That is pretty sad. But this has been a problem now for years. I haven’t done any sub work in umpteen years, but one of the first times I visited one of our city’s high schools, the call came in late and I quickly dressed and went to the school. The principal took one look and exclaimed, “They sent a WOMAN! And dressed like THAT!” I had no idea what class I was to teach, but I knew there was nothing wrong with my dress, shoes, hair, etc. Why it worried him that I was a woman was beyond me. THEN he handed me a two-way radio with the instructions that if I got into trouble, I should push the red button and the police officer would be there right away. I was beginning to REALLY get worried. It turned out to be a class of young men who were supposed to be separate from the rest of the students because of their “lack of social skills.” Translate that to “they are a danger to themselves and others.”

I was supposed to teach sex education to these kids. HA! I took one look and changed the lesson plan. Those guys knew more than I would ever want to know. I teach English, so I talked to them about writing things in a descriptive manner. I asked them to describe for me their very worst day or night. EVERY one of them wanted to do that assignment! Yes, I had to spell some of the simplest words for them, but each paper was definitely descriptive. I read them aloud so that the papers were anonymous. And they were each as pleased as if they had won a prize. Someone was paying attention to something that THEY had to say.

That was MY introduction to some of the problems our teachers were facing. While I was there, two of the young men decided to get in a word spat and looked like a couple of young roosters all bowed up in the neck. About that time, the aide who was supposed to be with the class came in and chewed them both up one side and down the other. Even I would not have wanted to mess with this woman. And she was maybe five foot tall!

Our daughter went to another of the high schools in our city and that school had a police officer roaming its halls as well. Eventually they had metal detectors at the front doors, and they had drug dogs walking the halls.

At one of the junior highs in another part of the city, I was supposed to teach an art class. Two girls, one Mexican and the other Black, got in a knife fight in the middle of my class. One of the students ran for help and about four teachers and the principal got there in time to keep anyone from getting killed. I was sent to a reading class while the police took statements. The principal told me that I didn’t see anything. Sad to say, I really didn’t even know who was who, much less what was going on, until the girls were already armed and at it, so what the principal said was essentially true.

Now, as to arming our teachers with guns—I don’t THINK so! From personal experience I can say we have teachers who have no common sense, bad tempers, lack of respect for students, and are just bullies with a teaching certificate. Give the PRINCIPAL the right to carry a bat maybe, and get the parents to allow “licks” for punishment. But, no, we don’t need any kids slaughtered in the schools by adults who actually need anger management classes. And frankly, the same goes for tasers. Some idiot killed a man who was already in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car by tasing him NINE times. That kind of treatment is reminiscent of the Gestapo.

Honestly, if my children were in a school where guns were carried by the teachers, my children would be at home in a heartbeat. Homeschooling is definitely better than a funeral.

I told my friend about some of the situations where we have wetbacks coming in and getting into fights with other Mexicans who already live here. Both groups have problems getting along with the Blacks, but this type of problem has been around forever. In some places in Arkansas there are entire villages of Mexicans imported by the big poultry producers. Those people have difficulty assimilating into the society there, but the other racial problems they have include difficulties with the Hmong tribes (Asians similar to the Chinese) and even the American Indians who feel that they shouldn’t have to deal with either of these races.

As a young person, I carried a gun, but I did so to keep my parents from worrying about my safety. They knew I could shoot straight and accurately, but I have no idea if I could have pointed a gun at another human being. Frankly, I don’t want to ever have to do that. I certainly don’t want to wear a gun in the classroom. Like my friend said, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back to School?

Many of my students have planned to buy school supplies this weekend and clothes for their children because it is "tax free" weekend in this part of Texas. That means that school clothes are supposed to cost less--if not the other school supplies.

One of our teachers recently went to JCPenneys and made the rounds of the clearance racks. She was able to buy her tween daughter several neat little tops to go with some of those short pants that we used to call "peddle pushers." She paid less than three dollars per top and found the pants on clearance as well. She said that she didn't want to buy the child slacks when she knew that two or three weeks from now the girl would look as if she had been wading high water.

Sitting here remembering how I bought my boys' pants three sizes too long and rolled them under and whipped in a loose hem. If I was careful to wash them in only warm water, we didn't get the fade lines and were able to just keep letting them down as the legs got longer and the year progressed.

Still, going back to school can be pretty expensive when each one of those notebooks costs maybe $2.50 to $5. It is just amazing to me that these things are so expensive. And some things simply cannot be substituted for what the teachers want. Even so, I read an article in ParentDish about how some parents were trying to make what they could not afford to buy. I wrote a comment to include on the board and have included it here.

Simple things can be fun for the kids if THEY make them. Instead of "making do," they get the fun of "hand making" things. It is a matter of perspective. Lunch bags one of the forgotten items before school? Find one of the gift bags left from Christmas and make that lunch REALLY special--especially if it is a NEAT bag to begin with. Forgot to buy ink pens? Have a "treasure hunt" through the house for pens and pencils. (It is more fun if there is a "prize" involved.) Need a pencil bag? The bank gives away money bags at many banks. Not only do they zip up neatly and have plenty of room, but they are more durable than anything you will buy on the school supply aisle. Just use some imagination and praise the kids when they come up with like-minded ideas.

Each year some of the teachers at our school will buy up a bunch of school supplies and put them where the students can get what they need for their children. No one asks and no one says anything about what is there or who needs it. We do the same thing with a food pantry that supplies things that the students can eat for lunch or take home to make a meal. Occasionally--though it happens infrequently--one of us will lose weight and hang up some dress clothes for which we have no further need. A nice résumé is much more impressive if the woman is dressed in something with a little style and neatness.

It is difficult to be a parent--don't think that it has EVER been easy. My dad's parents had to shuffle around to provide him a horse to ride to school. And how they were able to dress him is another wonder. One of our old friends told us years before when he watched our little ones going off to school that our kids were blessed. He had had to wear his sister's old dresses because there simply was no money for him to have pants until after he started school. Now THAT is poor. But Henry learned to sew as a boy and even made his own clothes until he left home and had a real job.

When I was young and my parents were trying to keep their bills paid, Mom would almost cry when she had to come up with another nickel for one of us kids for a notebook required by the school. And when I started college, my Uncle Buddy brought me little boxes of Tide from his oil lease pumping job for my laundry while I was away at the dorm and an entire box of pens and pencils that he had collected from different places. So I had some of the essentials, and I was even well dressed. Mother made my entire wardrobe except for the shoes and undies. No, it wasn't easy being a parent then either.

Pretty soon the PTAs and PTOs will start their fund raising activities. They will try to peddle over-priced cookie doughs, candles, room deodorizers, and other nonessential goodies for whatever project they may deem necessary. And some of the children won't be selling those things because their parents will be doing well to keep them in shoes and socks. Sometimes I think it is amazing that more parents haven't decided to home school simply to live a more realistic lifestyle. For the price parents would pay to buy school supplies and new clothes for three children, they could buy software and a new computer with educational programs. Hmm. And they wouldn't have to worry about a car pool. I wonder now what I would have done if I had known then what I know today. Probably what our children are doing--sending those kids off to school week after next!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Texas Blessing

Someone sent me this Texas Blessing. It is so appropriate right now since the love bugs that nibble on the Western Soapberry fruit have multiplied to inordinate numbers. I suspect that next year will be an impossibility for bugless living. Our youngest son used to work for an exterminator service. He told us that love bugs don't hurt anything. But it doesn't matter. NOTHING will kill them. Well, we have a grandson who proved otherwise. He used a magnifying glass and burned up a few, stomped several, and then washed away a passle with the water hose. But that still didn't make a dent in the bug population. Sigh.

Bless this house, or Lord, we cry.
Please keep it cool in mid-July.
Bless the walls where termites dine,
While ants and roaches march in time.
Bless our yard where spiders pass
Fire ant castles in the grass.

Bless the garage, a home to please
Carpenter beetles, ticks and fleas.
Bless the love bugs, two by two,
the gnats and mosquitoes that feed on you.
Millions of creatures that fly or crawl,
in TEXAS,,, Lord, you've put them all!!
But this is home, and here we'll stay,
So thank you Lord, for insect spray.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Remodeling

A few years ago we started to replace a window and found dry rot. Oh boy, did that ever start something! We ended up three years and about seven thousand dollars later with a totally rebuilt house--except for ONE room and the hall. We STILL haven't finished that one--although we did install a new floor and a brand new window.

I thought we were getting pretty bad when we noticed that the folks at Sutherland's lumber yard started calling us by name. Still, it could be worse. Yes, really.

Here is WORSE:

Signs You've Gone Overboard with Home Improvements

You've built a drive-thru car wash in the second slot of your 2-car garage.

You'll use any excuse to add a new room onto the house, including needing more space for the newest addition to the family -- your daughter's goldfish Buffy.

Even Martha Stewart has deemed your multi-level, hydraulically-operated kitchen is “a bit overdone.”

You've converted the standard stall shower into a “bathing waterfall,” complete with tropical plants.

Your rear-projection, surround-sound TV room can comfortably seat 43, and you're trying to make arrangements with Universal for first run films.

Your dog has a duplex doghouse out back, even though he sleeps in bed with you every night.

The local building department says you can't add a fourth floor to a house that was originally zoned as a single level dwelling.

You bought and demolished your next door neighbor's house to make room for an Olympic size swimming pool.

You've installed a small freight elevator going to your attic.

You've built an FAA-approved helipad on your roof.

No, we WILL get that room finished someday. But right now I need to rest. I think I may have sprained my finger on this computer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Revealed--for Real!

We have decided that of all the dumb laws that are written to regulate all the things in our lives, we might as well have one more. Don’t think I can’t see people shaking their heads at that idea! This is a good law—well, it would be worth some curiosity anyway.

Every time we take a drive down 287, we see trucks with weird looking bundles covered in great big tarps or whatever. And even the ones that are not covered are pretty mysterious. How about a big sign on each truck: Under the tarp—glass for windows, motor or generator for oil field, pipe bender for pipe line, tool and dies for manufacturing. And on those great big trucks that have the huge chunks of something, the labels should read: wind generator propellers, jet engines, Army personnel carrier, oil field generator and dog house, water tower pipes, cement barriers for highway construction. Yes, everything should be neatly labeled in letters large enough to be read from the opposite lane going down a four to six lane highway.

And then there are those wonderful “scientificized” books that claim to have the answers to every problem from indigestion to toe ginny. And the answers are nearly always in our kitchen cabinet! Ok, so bicarbonate of soda will kill cancer tumors and bladder cancer. And vinegar will get rid of . . .um, I forget what it will do now. But it has got to be something wonderful because so many people have been cured of something by it.

And have Hugh Downs and maybe Priscilla Presley to be the spokespersons for this book. It reminds me of Rodale books that always have a claim of cure or alleviation of symptoms for wood bores, mange, and vitamin deficiencies. Oh, and whatever we do, we have to stay away from eating polar bear livers to avoid vitamin A poisoning. Shucks, and I just had a real hankering for polar bear liver…YECK!

It would really be wonderful if we could find simple ideas to solve complex problems. And truly, those simple answers may be just a brain wave away. But someone will want to sell a book or some kind of chocolate covered berry before any answers are given away. It makes me wonder how much Louis Pasteur made from his ideas.

Someday my curiosity may be assuaged in some areas of life, but the big trucks will just keep on hauling strange bundles down the highway. And all those books with all those cures will sit on someone else’s library shelves. I will just have to be satisfied to live with my simple ideas and let someone else be concerned with the complex problems. I’m not sure I could handle all that revelation—or reading—at my age. Besides, it would just irritate me to find out that the answers were there and were for sale—and no one could have the answers without buying—and reading—the books—ALL of them.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Corn Flakes

Someone sent us an e-mail containing a picture of a box of Kellogg’s corn flakes with pictures of many of the recent political contenders on the front. The label said, “Same old CORN different FLAKES with more added NUTS this time.” Oh boy! How true!

Someone asks every so often why we can have 50 contestants for Miss American and only two—maybe three—presidential candidates. After listening to some of the remarks made by various political candidates, I am not too sure, but I do believe the Miss America contestants would be just about as capable as some of the candidates. How sad.

My parents were astounded that one candidate has rounded up 90 million dollars this year for his campaign. That’s pretty big money—even in Texas. And then the parents started sniffing around to see if they could find the major funding source. Well, I don’t believe everything I read on the Internet, and there probably isn’t any law that says that people outside the USA can’t contribute to our candidates. Still, at least one candidate probably won’t be getting any funding from the Middle East.

Somehow our country needs to come up with a better plan for finding qualified people to fill positions of responsibility. If we had a draft system for Congress instead of these impressive pay packages and perks, I suspect that we would find ourselves with an entirely new generation of “draft dodgers”! If every lawyer had to spend two years serving in the criminal justice system or in a court where nothing except stupid lawsuits were heard, we might have lawyers with an entirely new outlook on law.

The same technique that is sometimes used to make alcohol distasteful to alcoholics might work for people in other situations. For instance, all these egotistical doctors who think that they know it all should spend at least two years as bedpan jockeys on rotation in mental hospitals, rest homes, and in rural hospitals. Each principal should spend two years teaching a semester each in pre-K, junior high, high school, and one of the “alternate” education sites for juvenile offenders.

Some of the high schools have a program that supplies babies—or something as delicate as a baby—for students to carry around for six weeks. The really sophisticated “babies” have to be changed, fed, and put to sleep and record those interactions. But whether it is an egg or a five-pound sack of flour that the kids carry around, it just doesn’t really prepare them for that nine-month pregnancy, morning sickness, child birth, and sleepless nights. About two summers working in a day care center should help them learn the ropes—and some of the responsibilities that go with parenting.

We might as well take this idea to another level: people who want pets should have to work at least six months in a local shelter for homeless dogs, cats, and other animals. Let us think, too, about bankers and others who extend credit to people who cannot possibly ever pay back loans. Could creditors be licensed only after they have worked in a homeless shelter for six months?

Oh, teaching people to be responsible for themselves isn’t going to happen in any of these ways. And we will keep on getting “leaders” who lack much of what one old neighbor used to call “gumption.” America developed a strong will in people who were already intent on making their own way. No one person was responsible for building this nation, and no one person can lead or change an entire nation. We will probably keep having a few flakes sprinkled around for another four years or so. But when we get tired of corn and flakes, maybe we will find someone with a bit more gumption to help this country find its source of common sense again. Shucks (another corn pun ;-), I still like Mitt Romney.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sticks and Stones and Cow Bones

People collect all sorts of silly things: stamps, coins, toy soldiers, ex-husbands, cars, houses, sports junk, glass doodads, figurines, and even rocks. Yes, I confess: I like rocks. Now, I don’t want any of those boulders sitting out on the corner of the lawn—even if the street department DID dig it up out of our yard. They dug it up; they can haul that sucker out of here. No, I like little rocks. Not the kind people wear on a chain around their necks or in a ring on their fingers. I just like pretty rocks that sit out in my front yard and do nothing but appeal to me.

Apparently it is a genetic tendency. Mother-in-law liked rocks before she lost all her marbles. [I collect those too.] Her oldest granddaughter took a trip to California and brought back a suitcase filled with rocks. The men who had to load those suitcases every morning kept griping and saying that they were surely getting heavier. We just looked heavenward and never said a word. But we weren’t the only ones collecting pretty rocks on that trip. Old Town in Albuquerque has some shops that cater to silly people who want their rocks in the shape of eggs. And yes, we bought some.

Down Highway 287 around Decatur, an old man has a collection of hub caps stacked neatly around and all over the front of his property. For all I know, he may have those hubcaps for sale, but it never ceases to amaze me that his collection just seems to grow each time we see it. His neighbors probably just love him. Ahem.

Years ago a man collected “junk and stuff” at the corner of Highway 79 and Old Lake Road where everyone who traveled south got to wonder about all the goodies out there on about five acres of grassy land. I think we bought an old three-gallon jug from him and maybe a few other things. He kept cats and dogs to manage the varmints, but he never mowed the grass. He didn’t live in the city limits, so no one could say anything about his “mess.” He didn’t have neighbors, either, so it was a wonder that anyone noticed when he died. I don’t know who cleaned up the collection of miscellaneous stuff from the property, but the house and all the good stuff are gone, and a boring four-lane highway took its place.

When mother-in-law moved to the rest home, her daughter and a granddaughter began the process of going through the years of collected memorabilia and assorted old tax records—plus all the quilting scraps and threads that can accumulate in umpteen years. It took several trips with a truck and a van to haul off her collections. And she was a very NEAT person who didn’t keep all the junk some people do.

Anyway, the experience of seeing her things removed and dispersed taught us something about collecting things: WHO will want those things? My rocks aren’t going to be a big deal—the marbles either. But THREE book cases full of books? And VHS tapes, assorted straw baskets, and clocks out the kazoo! And that does not even touch the china sets, the dozens of “special” pans that will probably never be used again.

Then there are the tools! HA! Bet no one would think about anyone collecting tools! Well, think again. We have every tool known to man and Harbor Freight—PLUS all the huge wrenches and pry bars needed to work on those big Caterpillars—the diesel kind, not the little furry ones. There are THREE tool boxes full of greasy (ok, oiled!) tools and all kinds of saws, hammers, nailers, air thingys, and assorted jacks that are big enough to pick up one end of a house. No, mechanics are collectors. But their collections don’t usually take up house space. Usually the remodeling stuff goes right back to the shop by the next day, so we don’t have THAT collection in the house.

Anyway, it tires me out to just think about trying to get rid of some of this stuff we have collected over the years. I wonder how many of the grandkids it would take to haul it all off someday. Maybe we should have a “collection” sale and get rid of a bunch before they have to do it for us. Let’s see: which of these books do I really want to keep?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Folk Phrases

One of my fellow teachers laughed the other day when I mentioned that some incident really “frosted my flakes.” That is just something I say instead of a mildly offensive description of disgust that can begin with “just chaps my . . .” Some things are better left unsaid or rephrased in my estimation.

Mother-in-law has made some comments over the years that just floor me or make me laugh aloud. When asked how she is doing, her reply tickles my funny bone: “Finer than frog’s hair split eight ways with a grubbin’ hoe.” She used to talk about something being as scarce as hen’s teeth. And she was so well off that she felt she was “in high cotton.” Of course, I knew that chicken didn’t have teeth, but never having picked cotton, that one made me stop and think. She was kind enough to explain why some things were not any better than a “tinker’s dam” or no bigger than a “pewter fizzle.” These old sayings were once just as much a part of people’s vocabulary as “show me the money” and “talk to the hand” are now.

Granddad once told me that his mother always had him hide her sewing needles when the gypsies were anywhere in their community because “gypsies will steal a needle from your pocket.” Needles were not an easily obtained commodity in those days. Loss of a needle was a big deal. It made me think of why they used the saying “like looking for a needle in a haystack.” Most floors were covered with straw or hay in early cabins with dirt floors. Imagine losing a needle in all that hay! And imagine the distress of the poor woman who lost her needle.

We may never know the origins of some of the sayings we have heard or used throughout our lives. I once asked my dad why Grandmother used to say, “J Y, you lie” when someone would tell a tall tale expecting us to believe it. Apparently they had a neighbor when dad was young who liked to drink. When they went in to the big city on Saturdays, he would buy TWO pint bottles of whiskey and drain one completely. Then he would take two swallows out of the other. When his wife would catch up with him after her shopping, she would berate him for drinking, and he would show her the pint bottle minus the two swallows and try to convince her that he hadn’t been “drinking.” Melba would exclaim, “J Y, you lie!” So, when our family doesn’t believe someone’s tall tale, we will drawl out, “J Y, you lie!”

In much the same way, our youngest son asked about where he got the saying of “drunker than Cooter Brown.” Apparently that one came from the mother-in-law and someone she knew as a kid. I don’t suppose old Cooter Brown will be a famous as Job—as in “poorer than Job’s turkey.” But most of the younger people I meet lately don’t recognize any reference to the characters of the Bible. Maybe that is why Texas is beginning to teach the Bible as literature and history—so our children will know why David was impressive when he slew Goliath or why Samson was spectacular when he used the jaw bone of an ass.

We used to hear the term “as solemn as a judge.” I wonder how things will change in the next generation. Maybe there will be “as pitifully poor as a politician” or “as criminally inclined as a congressman” or “as hard hearted as an HMO.” We all know the meanings of “gas guzzlers” and “cell phone junkies” or “tree huggers.” Someday we might expect each area of life to have its own little catch phrase: schools will be information stations; banks will be credit repositories/suppositories; motion lotion parlors will provide fuels; and medical facilities will be body shops. Somehow I just can’t imagine one change, however. It will always be Wally World.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


One of the students jokingly asked what wild plans we had for this weekend. I just grinned and said that only my bed would tell. Snort! It would indeed! It would have to say that the alarm didn’t go off until Monday morning; no one would get out of it until after the sun came up; and it was often visited by two old sleepy grouches at intervals during any given day.

If we were to throw a wild party, only the cat would notice or mind. How in the world did we become so ordinary and stable? That’s STABLE, not stale. And it does not mean a place to keep horses or other long-eared beasts of burden. I prefer to think of us a steady, dependable, reliable. Somehow I suspect my students think of us as predictable, a little slow, and unnecessarily repetitious. Or maybe that last part is just because I hear them saying, “You mean we are going to talk about verbals again?”

Once upon a time a weekend meant time to do something unusual. It was crowded with things to DO. Now I think of weekends as a time to just BE. Be still, be quiet, be happy, be at home together….

Oh, we still get excited once in a while. Sutherland’s had a sale on storm doors. That was pretty exciting. We didn’t really feel like putting one up at the time, but it was really nice of them to put the doors on sale. We will let them keep the doors until we feel up to installing one. Then we will probably buy one after the sale is off. Rolling eyes.

Our youngest son’s dog is staying with us. He gets pretty excited sometimes. He is as tall as I am when he stands up, and if I take him out to sniff around, he jumps into the back of the pickup flatfooted from the ground. He really would like to go for a ride. It gets pretty hard to convince him that he doesn’t need to go anywhere. So far we have not had to leave him in the back of the truck more than a few minutes before he gives up. He seems to know when it is the weekend—he doesn’t give up as easily.

Isn’t it funny that we look forward so much to time away from work when we really don’t do much with our time when we aren’t working? Oh, the house and the yard get cleaned up or the vehicles washed and the oil changed. Somewhere in the past few years our perspective on time got a little warped. Maybe when we both “retire” we won’t even keep a clock, much less a calendar. Oh, but by that time we will have appointments with doctors or dentists or . . . but NOT on the weekends. Weekends will always be “free” for something . . .We are definitely going to have to develop some hobbies so we will have something to escape from on the weekends.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Greatest Thing in the World

Did you know that ONE granddaughter equals three grandsons? At least that is the opinion of ONE grandfather. I’m not sure about that equality thing. But the granddaughter can run circles around those three boys. She is only four and two of the boys are eight and the other one eleven, but they would have to get up pretty early in the morning to get into as much mischief as this little girl.

Boys like mud and geckos, lizards, and big slobbery dogs. Little girls like containers of “things” that tickle their fancy. It might be just some old wooden blocks or even older wooden thread spools, but little girls can invent castles and kitchens out of just about anything. And old ceramic kittens and puppies are MUCH better than the real things. However, at least one little girl we know has fallen in love with a granddaddy’s tractor that has a horn and a bucket that lifts up and down. She isn’t the least bit mechanical, but she can make the horn beep and the lever on the tractor moves that bucket for her just as well as it does for someone who knows what he is doing.

Our little granddaughter likes having the boys around part of the time, but she really prefers to have the adults to herself. The boys are noisy, dirty, and well…they are just boys. They can’t walk through a room. They are an event moving through the house. They are a noise looking for a place to happen. Not our little girl. She is questions and opinions, curiosity and delight, more questions and a few requests for our attention. If she plays with her Leapster, she wants someone to watch her and give her cheers when she does something special—or even just sit next to her.

A day will come when all our mud daubers and our Miss Queen Bee will grow up, but right now they are so much fun to watch growing up. We can look back now at the days when their parents and their uncle were little and remember how much fun we had back then too. One child was Mr. Responsibility and was so obedient and sweet that we would have thought we were the perfect parents if we had stopped right there. Then Miss Kinetic Energy was born and our lives were never the same again. We didn’t know that a butterfly and a hummingbird were so similar until we raised our daughter—she was part of each of those with a beautiful smile thrown in for good measure. THEN we chose to have one more child. By the time this one was four, he was already a teenager—or thought he was. Little League—again—Scouts, ski trips to Colorado, a job at the Humane Society, friends in California—and then he was gone from home.

Some people mention the “empty nest syndrome” and softly sigh. For us the nest had been dumped repeatedly through these three children. It was time to gather our flying feathers and help them move from place to place and see them through the first few years “on their own.”

We wonder now if we will be around to see these three boys and this beautiful little girl out of their nests. And we wonder if they will still come and stay with us for a week after they get old enough that mud and blocks no longer hold any wonder for them. I suspect that they will always hold a wonder for us—these reminders of three wonderful children.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

No Job for Goof-Offs!

If you have ever been responsible for teaching someone else how to explain something to another person, you might have some idea of how I feel tonight. My students got one night of instruction--the first night they came to class. Then I felt I had explained to the instructor what was supposed to be taught. So much for "feeling" I had done my job!

When an instructor has students asking questions and can easily answer them (seeing the understanding on the face of the student), it feels pretty good. But then there is the situation when an instructor hasn't a clue. Ideally the instructor goes to someone else and gets an answer and then teaches the student. Ideally.

Tonight I did not have to teach any business math--good thing. I haven't had time to go over the chapter! But I can guarantee that if I don't understand something, I will be Johnny on the spot to go to our accounting teacher for a math lesson. She KNOWS her stuff.

I still don't think I can ever make a form work in VBA for Microsoft Word, but I can make the stupid form work for the one lesson in the book we use. Shaking my head and wondering when I would ever use VBA. But my point is this: If I don't understand something that is necessary for the students, I LEARN what I need to know. Anything else would feel like extreme laziness and irresponsibility.

Teaching is NOT just a job. It is duty, passion, perfectionism, professionalism--whatever. It is not about money and time spent sitting at a desk playing on the computer. It is interaction and helping someone else learn something that matters. Today I assured my English class that they would learn English. I threatened my keyboarding students (gently) into believing that they HAD to learn to touch type. And tonight I assured these keyboarding students that Microsoft Word is their friend and helper. I also assured them that I am THERE to help them. I wish I could know that all teachers would feel this way about their students--about their jobs. But this is the real world. I guess there will always be goof-offs. Sigh.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Today we returned to school and looked at our schedules—both students and instructors get new schedules every five weeks the way our enrollment is set up. Most of the new students have to be shown where their new classes will be and introduced to their teachers. Most of the instructors know ahead of time what they will be teaching and which room will be used for their classes.

Today was a surprise. As of Tuesday night I will be teaching business math for the very first time. Oh joy to the world. [Read with heavy sarcasm…] Even though I can balance a bank statement, I prefer to have Quicken do it. Insurance and long term loans with interest? Not if I can help it! SO, tomorrow in my “spare” time I will brush up on the chapters we will cover in class on business math.

When I was hired on to teach at a business school, I taught keyboarding, transcription (medical, office, and legal), filing, and then WordPerfect. Now I teach keyboarding, advanced Word, transcription, English, and, apparently, business math. Oh well. It is always interesting when the instructor is as busy learning how to do the work as the students are.

While I had time to think about teaching this new subject today, it occurred to me that I have taught many subjects in the past with just as little preparation as I have had this time. For instance, I taught “How to open your mouth and swallow” to three little people. We even took that subject farther by going into advanced vegetables and meats. Then there was “learning to share,” “learning to walk,” “learning to ride a bicycle,” and other assorted subjects.

My students were a captive audience in a way. They had to live with me. And worse, they had to eat what I cooked until they learned to cook for themselves or got old enough to drive to McDonalds by themselves. They learned to be pretty independent in their “classes.”

That independence was pretty hard on all of us. They could do their own laundry and keep up with their own books, but they also wanted to go places that didn’t include their teacher. One of them went to the University of Texas at Arlington for “advanced” classes. He learned that some of the lessons he had picked up came in pretty handy. The day he ran downstairs from the room he rented, picked up the owner’s mother, and carried her outside while the house was burning was one of his better reminders of lessons learned. Sometime in his youth he had learned to care about others.

Then there is the daughter who learned to be a caring friend who allowed her home to be filled with the friends of her children—all over upstairs and down. When she is outside with her boys, children seem to come out of the woodwork to come play in her yard. I suspect she remembers her yard at home being filled with children from all over the neighborhood when she was a child.

Finally we chuckle over the most ironic lesson that we see being learned by our youngest “student.” He is helping raise two teenagers. Rolling eyes and shaking head with a big evil grin on my face. Yes, indeed! He is “paying for his raising”! Learning discipline is never easy, but having to discipline a teenager is even more difficult.

Yeppers. Business math should be a snap.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Shack

Reading has always seemed to be about as necessary as breathing to me, but once in a while I will pick up a book that I want to read again and again. The Shack by William P. Young has made me want to hold on to it and just flip back through its pages to some of the remarkable thoughts that have suddenly illuminated my beliefs.

Sometime back my parents called and asked a very direct question of us about our beliefs: Is there any way except through Jesus? Well, no. All the different religions and beliefs are ways that Jesus can get to us, I suppose, but our path to the One God is through Jesus.

Yes, I know: I was going to avoid sex, religion, and politics in this blog. Well, it’s fairly easy at our age to avoid sex; politics feels a little like being invited to swim in a sewer these days; so that pretty much leaves religion. And somehow I don’t feel that loving God is the same thing as religion. In fact, it’s been several years since I sat through one of those interminable sermons that were filled with guilt, hell fire, tithing, and duty. For some reason I would rather give one of my students money for gasoline so she can come to class rather than pay the electric bill for a church building. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about that.

In The Shack the author deals with the “if onlys” that we knew when our daughter died. He looks at the realities of forgiving ourselves—and of forgiving others. And he speaks of reconciliation—not revolution: “Instead it will be the quiet daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, then everything matters.”

I have often felt that faith and love should be about relationships. And our identity should NOT be what we do as much as whom we are in the lives of others. A mother, for instance, may not live to see the huge differences in the world that her children will make. But she rocks the cradle of civilization with loving eyes and heart. She lays the foundation in quiet words and in hugs while her husband builds walls of safety and love around the entire family.

When I was a girl, Mom suggested that I read books by Gene Stratton-Porter and Lloyd C. Douglas. The first was a romantic naturalist and the latter someone who saw the human side of those who had walked with Jesus. Both had a profound effect upon my view of nature and of what it meant to follow Christ. I suspect that for this generation, The Shack may have a very important effect upon their view of religion, of relationships, and of God.

Today I saw a video of a man who was born without eyes who is able to paint and draw with perfect perspective. The Shack makes me pray: “If only we had eyes to see . . .”

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Who's Driving Now?

Years ago we became a two-car family. Well, actually we had a good car and an old truck. The children loved the old truck because once in a while they got to ride in the back or were allowed to “help” drive it. Between a lawn tractor and the old truck, all three children learned to drive well at a fairly young age.

When our oldest came home from college one break, he informed his dad that the youngest son really needed someone to give him driving lessons: “He drives just like a little old lady!”

We thought the boy was doing pretty well. After his brother’s marriage ceremony, he had driven his old Mustang back from San Antonio to Arlington. We had taken the time to have a standing prayer before he headed back to Arlington, but we never expected to watch the answer to our prayers. Following him, we noticed what we considered pretty erratic driving. His brakes went out at the intersection of Little Road and Highway 287, and he managed to get the car pulled over and stopped without hitting anyone or anything. Thinking of that night still sends chills down my back.

The daughter learned to drive and even learned to change a tire in Driver’s Ed class. The day after graduation, she drove from Texas to Alabama. And no, we were not happy about that at all. But children grow up and do their own thing—just as we did before them.

After our daughter married, she said she thought we should take the dash out of her old car and frame it somehow. When her dad asked why, she said that it would always remind her of how Mom had left her finger prints on the dash and almost stomped out the floor boards trying to use the brakes on the passenger side of the car.

Today the oldest son took us to the local pizza place for dinner. I was telling him where to go when he reminded me that he had been driving now for 20 years. Sigh.

The next thing will be the grandchildren driving the “old folks” around town the way we used to take our grandparents and occasionally now our own parents. Oh, our turn is coming—unless we take up driving those scooter things or a golf cart. Come to think of it, we still have the lawn tractor and a trailer! Now if we can just find a dashboard and a brake pedal for the trailer . . .

Friday, August 1, 2008

Just How Hot IS It?

Unlike some of the countries in the Middle East, we don’t expect temperatures to ever go much over 110 degrees. Tempers, however, are another situation altogether. When it gets hot in Texas, normally courteous women fight for the shady parking places in the mall parking lot. The cows head for the nearest tank to go up to their bellies to cool their undersides. Get in their way at your own risk!

Today my dad ventured out from under the air conditioner long enough to cool his dogs off with the water hose. On his way back to the house he saw two lizards fighting over a canteen.

Dad tells some tales once in a while, but when he was a boy during the dust bowl days, one of his jobs each day was to go down to the metal stock tank and skim out the rabbits that had jumped in to get a drink and had never made it out again. The cows weren’t too fond of rabbit stew, but they had no other place to get water. That old stock tank was still down below the house when I was at home, but Granddad had dug a good stock pond on the place by that time.

One year we had grasshoppers so thick that they ate every green thing in sight. A walk through the dry grass sent up little clouds of grasshoppers every direction. And we finally found a good use for them. The fish in the pond just loved grasshoppers. Pull the hoppers off a few insects, pitch them on the water, and watch the fun! Even the turtles wanted in on that feast. It just doesn’t take much to entertain some people.

Years ago a flock of turkeys or geese would help a farm almost as much as a hired hand by getting rid of bugs and grasshoppers. Add the job of herding turkeys to my dad’s résumé. He told us that turkeys weren’t the brightest birds in the world. Left out during a rain storm they would look straight up at the sky and drown standing flatfooted in the yard. Now that has got to be dumb! But a boy in those days had plenty to do while he herded turkeys. The willow trees on the creek made good whistles from small green branches. Dad taught the Boy Scout troop that little trick when my brother became a scout. They also learned about mountain boomers—the fringed lizards that lived in the rocky hills above the farm.

Both of the parents lived in a time before homes had air conditioning. The best most people could do was open the doors front and back and pray for a breeze. For the longest time out on the farm, they had no electricity and no running water. Only when the rural electric co-op took lines to the farms was there a way to pump water from the well to the house. And it wasn’t any cooler in summer time back then than it is now. Mother said that hand fans were a necessity rather than a decoration.

We sit here and pray for rain and wait for cooler weather. Then I remember these others: our parents and grandparents and those who settled this country come heat, hail, or high water. And then I think about the men and women who are serving in the armed forces so that we can sit here and grouse about the price of gasoline and electricity. Whether or not we approve of the places our soldiers are sent, we owe a debt of gratitude to anyone who is willing to serve this country. May they be blessed by cool breezes and clean waters!