Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fun on the wrong side of the tracks.

I sincerely, genuinely wish that I could share all of the photos from last night's Trailer Trash Party, but my book club friends would kill me dead. DEAD. (The clothes were tacky, the jewelry was over the top, and there was a WHOLE LOTTA skin.)

Instead, please enjoy photos of our really bad food. (Oh, wait...correction: Libby's strawberry shortcake, from her mother's recipe, was DELICIOUS! God bless Eileen Rea.)

Preparing the table with pork rinds, Pringles, nuts, Moon Pies, Slim Jims, and other culinary delights.

Ben, hoping for a dropped Slim Jim.

Spam and spray cheese!

Spam bites.


Curiously, no one opened the sardines.

Moon pies and Vienna sausages. (You can't hide money.)

Playing after the party was over. Finally allowed to tumble and bark and misbehave. In fact, Dolly & May Bee tore apart the beloved bison when Falisha and I turned our backs...doggone it!

Everyone loved Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle, and *some* of us loved Still Alice. Next month, we're up for Three Cups of Tea. (Book club details to be arranged, and it's a sure bet that tea will be served. We are NOT wearing burkas, though. Period.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

HOPE floats.

By Emily Dickinson

HOPE is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune—without the words,
and never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
and on the strangest sea;
yet, never, in extremity,
it asked a crumb of me.


"Despair looks for excuses not to act and always finds them. Hope, its opposite, always chooses to act. It's in for good and whole hog. Even if the odds seem insurmountable and the resources inadequate. If all it has is five loaves and two small fish, or five smooth stones, or a wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak, it will use whatever its got.

To hope is to act, and to act is to hope. As someone once wrote, hope 'never stops at all.' "
--Fred Clark, "The Sin of Despair"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Law and sausage.

“To retain respect for sausages and laws,
one must not watch them in the making."
-- Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898)

This quote runs through my mind every single time Dolly and I go for a walk because I think Bismarck accidentally neglected to mention dog-training. To be honest, it hurt to watch Dad teach Dolly to heel as they walked together in Virginia, and I thought, at the time, that he was too harsh. (Every time she got a smack on the chest for lunging a step ahead of Dad, I winced and thought there just had to be an easier, more gentle way to train a dog.) There’s no denying the results, however…she is the best-behaved dog in the family and a PLEASURE to take to the park!

Apparently, watching dog training and child-rearing are along the lines of von Bismarck’s laws and sausages—NOT for the squeamish or faint of heart. It takes a firm, fair, and consistent hand to train a dog or a child “in the way she should go”…and forgiveness, too, for when mistakes are (inevitably) made. Well, I’m not firm, fair, consistent, OR forgiving so it is all a mystery to this clueless spectator; watching Dad train Dolly and Karen raise kids is all Laws and Sausages.

Karen has the unenviable job AND enviable joy of being two parents at once. (Now that Houston has found an apartment and two good roommates near Blinn College, her job is slightly less daunting, but still a Herculean task!) She has to be breadwinner, mentor, chore overseer, disciplinarian, bedtime story reader, taxi driver, spiritual leader, nutritionist/physical trainer, activities coordinator, cheerleader, secretary, cuddler, cook, financier, bookkeeper, medic, and so many other roles I can’t even remember at the moment—and she has to do them all simultaneously, without nights or weekends off…and—here’s the kicker--she only gets ONE shot. They will be grown and gone, like Houston and Bethany, before she knows it. (Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the mistakes I made raising Bethany…the things I could have done better, the things I forgot, the things I said, the things I neglected to say…and how I wish parents could have a second chance!)

Karen, you are doing a great job! Keep up the good work and don’t take your hand from the plow…you can sleep when you’re old. You are doing the Lord’s work here, and though motherhood is often a thankless task, you will reap the rewards someday as you watch your children become good people who do kind things and raise your grandchildren with compassion and enthusiasm! Here are two quotes to encourage you:

“There was never a woman like her. She was as gentle as a dove and as brave as a lioness. The memory of my mother and her teachings were, after all, the only capital I had to start life with, and on that capital I have made my way.”
--Andrew Jackson

“Nothing can compare in beauty, and wonder, and admirableness, and divinity itself, to the silent work in obscure dwellings of faithful women bringing their children to honor and virtue and piety.”
--Henry Ward Beecher

"Silent work in obscure dwellings of faithful women" sounds about right, and it's happening in obscure dwellings all over this country. We all need to do more to help out the single moms we know (me, me ESPECIALLY...because I remember what it was like and how grateful and appreciative I was for assistance when I was doing it all alone). God bless single mothers!


Hey, here’s a von Bismarck quote for Kirsten, from an 1888 speech: “We Germans fear God, but nothing else in the world.” (Like that one, Frau Buchwurm?)


P.S. Speaking of laws, sausages, dog training, child-rearing, and other things you do NOT want to see, a bird flew into the side of the school about an hour ago. I tore into the hallway to see what in the world had crashed or fallen, and it looked like someone had thrown something against one of the large glass windows. Although it looked like vandalism at first, it’s a Sunday…in the middle of the day…and that glass panel is inside a padlocked courtyard. Then I saw a stunned dove, blinking in the grass. (NOOO! Why do they do that?)

One positive note: the dove has since moved itself into the shade to recover. There are some loose feathers on and around him, but it looks like the only thing he left on the glass was poo and feathers…no blood that I can see. (His crash actually knocked the poo out of him…and nearly scared the poo out of me! His collision with the glass was so forceful and so violent, it’s hard to believe that he’s still alive at all...)

He's been eating FLAX-sicles!

Still alive...just trying to collect himself!

One thing that is NOT alive and NOT at all what you ever want to see is the dead cockroach on the table in the hallway, about ten feet from the Bird Explosion on Glass. He is a big ‘un, about four inches from stem to stern.

(Cockroaches are as revolting as sausage-making or policiticans!)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

He said it.

After my mom heard a 2007 NPR interview with Rafe Esquith, she called me *raving* about him and telling me to look for his book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56. After checking the reviews, we bought the book for our Professional collection...and regretfully, it's only been checked out once or twice.

Well, everything changed recently when our WONDERFUL principal decided to give 6 hours of Alternative Staff Development for staff members who will read this book over the summer. It now has a hold list of people who want it next!

Oh, and it's good, too. Here are just two of the four quotes I've written down so far:

"Reading is not a subject. Reading is a foundation of life, an activity that people who are engaged with the world do all the time. It is often exceedingly difficult to convince young people of this fact, given the world in which they are growing up. But it is possible, and when you consider what is at stake, the effort is worth it. If a child is going to grow into a truly special adult--someone who thinks, considers other points of view, has an open mind, and possesses the ability to discuss great ideas with other people--a love of reading is an essential foundation."

"Parents need to take their kids to the library...We are trying to establish a set of values in our children; it helps when they are surrounded by others who share a fervor for reading. At the library, children can browse and make discoveries that wouldn't be possible online; at the same time they can interact with readers of all ages...The best way to combat the indifference that surrounds our children is to take them to places where intelligence, enthusiasm, and a joy for reading are standard operating procedure. The library is the best place to begin."

Parents and teachers will love this book. Recommended. (Kirsten, you get it next; I'll get it to you tomorrow!)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On July 8, 1776...

...the Liberty Bell called citizens to Independence Hall for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence...

...and rang "its last clear note" to mark George Washington's birthday in 1846, when experts finally proclaimed the crack too large to continue use.

(And in 1990, a little girl from Texas told everyone she met that she reached out and touched the "crab" in the Liberty Bell.)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

What a beautiful word...


God bless our country. God bless our troops.

God bless our schools and Scouts and churches and newspapers and people who do volunteer work and Conservatives and Liberals and Middle-of-the-Roaders and EVERYONE who votes and all those who show up for jury duty and for pet owners who "pick it up" in public parks and everyone who is grateful to live in this blessed country and God bless Garrison Keillor...and all those who take his advice and serve homemade potato salad today.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

God bless Houston!

Houston is going off to college today, hoping to beat the rush for jobs and apartments. (Karen is a whirlwind of Maternal Emotions, as you can imagine!)

As the aunt watching from the sidelines, all I can do is wonder where the last thirteen years went. It seems like just yesterday I snapped this photo of Captain Kindergarten as he and Bethany went off to their first day of school at Twin Springs Elementary in Danville, Virginia.

God bless you, Houston.
Work hard. Study hard. Pray hard.