Tuesday, January 30, 2007

suds in a bucket...and my finger's in the ringer!

When the crowd jumped to its feet at the Shrine Mosque a few nights ago for the third song in her set, I knew it must be a good one. Sara Evans started talking about growing up in New Franklin and doing the chores most Missouri farm girls had to do, and the crowd immediately knew she was leading up to her Suds in the Bucket song.

At first, I thought the song was going to be more about remembering childhood chores and sharing them with your brothers and sisters. But who wants to reminiscense about hanging the laundry and bringing in wood for the fire? Instead, this song is about the growth of a young woman, who, when it's time, leaves her chores behind and heads out when the jet stream blows through town (aka...prince charming in a white pick-up truck.)

But of course, I am a reminiscenser (if there is such a word--and I'm sure there isn't)...and when the song started, I began to think about my own version of suds in a bucket when I was a child growing up in Missouri.

When my parents built their first home in Gainesville, it came with all the bells and whistles, including new appliances in a 1975 shade of green I'm not sure exists today. But while they were loving their up-to-date fancy washer and dryer, I snuck around the corner and down the road to the neighbor's house and learned what an outhouse was and how to make fresh fruit fried pies.

Bonnie and Delbert were always good to let me bother and annoy their everyday life. And when I was around, they never let me get in the way of whatever they were doing.

Bonnie used to play a trick on me. She had an old ringer washer out the back door of the tattered screen porch and inside the run-down smoke house used for a shed. When she first showed me how it worked, she jumped and screamed yelling "my finger's in the ringer!" and I glued my eyes to the rotating ringers waiting for a flattened finger to shoot through with Delbert's underwear. I visualized its flatness to the likes of Wile E. Coyote's mishaps with falling ACME bricks, and I was sure we could pop her finger back into its proper position.

Sadly, her finger never made it through (I'm not sure how grotesque that actually is that I wanted to see her finger come through), but I was mesmerized by this piece of equipment and jealous of its existence at her house. And no matter how much my mom and dad loved their modern Maytags bought brand new from Sears, I wanted that ringer washer. Once she showed me how it worked, Bonnie would often let me send the laundry through the ringers and dump it in the basket to be hung out to dry (which of course, was not my favorite part of laundry day at the Luna's.) But I was willing to help do anything as long as I could work the ringer washer.

Unfortunately, less than a decade later, the ringer washer became a back porch planter when Bonnie and Delbert upgraded, bringing in a pre-fabricated doublewide with all its bells and whistles...and adding brand new appliances to their newly modern home. And although Bonnie couldn't play the "my finger's in the ringer" joke anymore, she found plenty of other amusing ways to scare, shock, and terrify me.

Monday, January 29, 2007

happy birthday caron!

I remember the day you were born....okay, no I don't. Nor will I ever.

But I remember the day you chased a rabbit through the field and couldn't catch it even though you were hopping along behind it mimicking its moves.

Have a good one! :)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

so i lied...

When "want dt. coke" comes across my text message on Friday mornings, I know Melanie's waiting at McDonald's drive-thru and is in urgent need of the answer. This morning I text back, "decaf--two splendas."

When my coffee arrives, we head to the lounge to steal Coach Rodgers' News-Leader from his mailbox and read the Weekend Events section. This weekly Friday ritual is an enjoyable time to check out local musicians, see what's on at the Moxie, and find a new place to eat in town. And today was no exception.

While Mel scanned the paper, I was busy at the computer answering e-mails and working on lesson plans, half-heartedly listening to her weekend event chatter. But then a gasp.

"Ohmygosh--Sara Evans is in town!"

I looked up.

"Want to go?" Melanie adds with enthusiasm. "She's at the shrine?"

Now the Shrine Mosque has always been good to me. My mother used to take me there for the Shriner's circus when I was a child, and I'm almost sure that's where I rode my first (and last) elephant. My sister took me there to see my first(but most definitely not my last) Dave Matthews concert with, of all bands, Toad the Wet Sprocket (sheesh...). Brian and I spent a WHOPPING five bucks to see the Wallflowers AND Lisa Loeb (now that was a musical bargain!) More recently, Bob Dylan graced his presence on the shrine stage for one of the most eclectic crowds I've ever seen at a concert. But Sara Evans? Who is she?

"Sure." (I'm always up for a concert--see Rock Star Tour '06)

"Do you listen to her?"

Yikes. Shouldn't I know her? What do I say? Looking back at my work, I reply, "Sure, I've heard of her."

Within seconds she was out the door to find her credit card and cell phone. Later this afternoon a note was left on my computer screen: "Sara Evans...tomorrow night...woohooo!"

Well, yes. Now I know. Sara Evans sings country songs. And if you know me...well...I don't do country very well. I'd rather listen to a piano man who sounds like Kermit the Frog singing Rockin' Robin over showing up decked out in a cowgirl hat and ropers at a Country Western concert.

On a miserably hot July afternoon at an Arkansas softball tournament in 1989, my high school girlfriends begged me to see Alan Jackson with them that night. At that time, the only country singers I knew were Waylon Jennings and Conway Twitty--and I'd only heard their names. I agreed, and fake sang my way through "Way down yonder on the Chattahoochie," and "Don't Rock the Jukebox," (which I highly disagreed with being a Rolling Stones fan) and it was here I learned it didn't take long to pick up on the melody and the lyrics of a country song. Once I collected the verses in my short term memory, I belted them out just like the rest of the 10,000 people wearing ropers and pancake-sized belt buckles, which are mighty uncomfortable for those of us with an extra roll around the waist.

Last summer at Sheryl Crow's concert, her opening act was a country singer...and gee, I can't remember his name. According to the people next to me, he had a top country hit the week before...and most everyone was singing to his songs. I knew none of them, but I do remember one he sang, a ballad, about his daughter Ava. It was a beautiful song that didn't place him on the charts, but did make an impression on me--although not enough for me to buy his album.

I finally confessed to Melanie. She giggled with delight and cannot wait to introduce me to Sara's beloved songs..."And," she assures me, "you'll be an instant fan!" She's bringing the CD's "so you can get a feel for her music" on the drive to Springfield. So not only will I get two hours of country music, I'll get another dose on the drive there.

But afterwards, I'm in charge...and we just might end up at Ernie Biggs, where the piano man will sound like Kermit the Frog and pull us onstage for a nice round of Bobby Day's Rockin' Robin (Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

who is in your circle of the wise . . .

"The next best thing to be wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are." C.S. Lewis

Of course you can't be a Willow teacher without being Coveyized. And Stephen Covey writes a great deal about your Circle of Influence. But when I came across this C.S. Lewis quote a few days ago, I flipped my thoughts to who is in my "circle of the wise." Rather than influencing, who am I gleaning information from? Who is influencing me? Who is in my circle of the wise where I can find understanding, knowledge, even acceptance of my intellect and desires?

My friend Joe in my writer's group told me a story the other day about legendary rocker Jerry Garcia. As the Dead were touring in the 70's throughout America's southwest, Jerry would often, after numerous shows, find the local hangout where local bands were finishing up their gigs. Interrupting a set, Jerry would ask to join in, following the lead guitarist and vocalist rather than taking center stage. A talented musician, Jerry could play just about any stringed instrument. His new friends stayed up all night performing impromptu jam sessions with him and when asked about this, Jerry said, "I want to be surrounded by people who love music and who make me a better musician...and this is where I find them."

Connecting with and to those who have positive influences on you can enrich your life and engage you toward leading a more productive lifestyle, no matter what path you choose.

Jerry Garcia's circle of the wise encouraged creativity and the pursuit of pleasure in doing what you love. And that does make a difference!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

i see her in my hands...

but I lose her in my green eyes. My family says I act like her rather than look like her.

Today she would be 59 and I wonder what her online identity would have been? What cellular service she would have chosen; what tv programs she would watch.

She never used a microwave or even a VCR. Her car ran without GPS and seatbelts.

She posted on her "blog" daily: what we ate, what we said, what we felt. Why the pancakes burnt and how the syrup spilt. Ten years of my childhood laid out for my memory in a daily record book after Noxema cleansed her face at night and Oil of Olay replinished the shine. She lotioned her hands and watched Johnny Carson and waited for my father's 4:00 p.m. shift to end. When she finished writing, she'd pick up a crossword, much like my sister does today at the beach, in the bedroom, at the airport.

She never had time to mess me up. Only a decade to nurture. Only a decade to laugh. Only a decade to wipe away tears and apply a kiss and a band aid when a rock stuck in my roller skates on the rough edge of the concrete and stung my shins and blistered my palms when I fell hard.

I don't cringe when someone says, "You act just like your mother." I don't need counseling because she made me feel inadequate. I don't need therapy because she lowered my self-esteem through my teenage years. I don't need a psychologist to tell me it's not my fault and that I am the way I am because of my condescending mother with disapproving looks when I left home in a too short skirt in my boyfriend's convertible.

It's been 24 years and I do miss her. I wish for what I didn't have with her and what my friends don't have with their mothers, because of course, if she were alive today, we'd have the perfect mother/daughter relationship. We'd share stories about our day and then meet for coffee to talk some more, although I never saw her drink a cup in her life. We'd eat lunch at teahouses and swap our most recent essays. She'd complain about dad and I'd laugh and say, "Mom this is too much information!" She'd tell me secrets about life and secrets about love. She'd listen intently, and quietly, to my complaints that the weight of the world seems to be on my shoulders, and she'd know that I really wasn't complaining, but venting in the moment. And she would agree with me, but artfully slip in a word or two of advice . . . and then . . . transcending . . . we would find cotton candy, buy the pink one, and rest on a park bench eating until our fingers were sticky and our tongues were liquid sugar. We would shop for baby dolls and Barbies and stop by the supermarket to buy the necessary ingredients for homemade sugar cookies shaped like stars and Santas. And then we would go for ice cream, and outside the Tastee Freeze we would look up to remind ourselves and whisper outloud: "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. Wish I may, wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight?"

Saturday, January 13, 2007

There and Back...with a year-long coffee break

After three years of teaching, I was ready to join the ranks of the statistics and leave the professional world of education forever. Bogged down by papers to grade, biweekly deficiency slips to complete, and committee meetings or after-school conferences to attend, I soundly realized this "teaching" thing was not boiling down to my idea of a career. With no classroom, I was tired of rolling around my cart and taking up residence in the teacher's lounge. I found life as the copy doctor, the coffee maker, the custodian, the parking lot patrol, and the lunch room duty attendant less than appealing. I felt as if I was doing everything but teaching. Surely, I thought, there's a better job out there than this? Consequently, I took out what little retirement I had and at 25 became a retired Missouri teacher. Knowing, as just about all retired teachers know, that I couldn't live on my retirement, I rolled up my sleeves and became a Starbucks Barista at the local Barnes and Noble. I now spent my days filling out orders for caramel macchiato's and iced mocha's and working full time on a master's degree. Life was bliss.

And then somewhere between an Irish creme latte and a non-fat breve, Manley called.

...and you'll get the rest of the story later. :)

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Rock Star Tour '06...

I have to say 2006 was my Rock Star year! From Bob Dylan to Blues Travelers, from Queens of the Stone Age to Reverend Horton Heat, from PeteYorn to Art Bentley, from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Sheryl Crow, from Sarah Benck and the Robbers to the Three Bad Jacks, from 8th Plague to Nickleback, from Tiger Army to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy…I had a rock star year. I don’t think I’ve been to as many concerts in ONE year as I went to in 2006. And this list doesn’t include opening acts of ANY of these because I simply can’t remember who they were. (And it also doesn't include the numerous local bands I saw in West Plains and Springfield...and of course Willow Springs and Mountain View.)

I don’t have a favorite; none of them reach my buddy Dave’s concerts--whom I sorely missed in 2006. But, I’d have to say I certainly enjoyed the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers…enjoyed the atmosphere of Sheryl Crow…and enjoyed my company at Tiger Army and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. ;)

These concerts took me to Nashville, Springfield, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Wichita, St. Louis, Jonesboro, and Council Bluffs.

Let me just say I am so blessed with friends and family who love music and who always have tickets to concerts…and who always think of me. God has been very kind to me.

Don't get me wrong, so many, many other blessed things happened in 2006 for me.

In January, my sister celebrated a milestone birthday with a proposal at a surprise party at Maria's downtown. The ring was passed under the table (before the proposal) and then around the table afterwards. It was a fabulous night ending with Dustin and myself and Caron at Ernie Biggs' with a continued celebration.

In February, I once again took a few days off to help out over Valentine's Day at the flower shop. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do that since Grandma sold the shop in July. We, of course, sold every last flower left in the shop...even finding blooms on the floor for the late comers who arrived at 5:00 p.m., forgetting the mad rush of Cupid's day. I think we sent out over 4000 roses....And I had most of them made up over the weekend. I spent the evening with a friend of mine at Fox's local pizza joint relaxing from chaotic day.

March brought in Spring Break....which meant a trip to Vegas, baby. Mel, Valarie and I enjoyed some time away from students and Missouri relaxing in the sun, spending a few dollars, and taking in some of Vegas' numerous activities. Of course, three single ladies couldn't get into much trouble way out in Nevada! ;)

April, a birthday. I've officially lived longer than my mother.

May, senior projects domintated, along with senior trip and graduation. I don't think I can get any busier in my job than I am in April and May. But it's all worth it. I so enjoy the students those last few weeks of school because they are starting to get sentimental on me. Don't worry, they cannot wait to graduate...but it's a lot of fun chatting in the classroom about the last 12 years of friendships, teachers, music, movies...memories. They think it's the end of their world....little do they know it's just the beginning of life.

June was spent with my sister and brought in another trip to Vegas. We started the initial planning stages of her wedding at the Las Vegas Raquet Club and fell in love with the Secret Garden. Rooms were booked at the Silverton Lodge and Casino (whose anchor store happens to be Bass Pro...and yes we tried to avoid it but the rooms are nice and the price is right!)

July...? Wow, I cannot remember my July. I'm sure some memory will come up at some point. OHHH! July...now I remember. I spent a week at a conference in Orlando and the following week with my sister on the beach in Daytona. Where, incidentally, we were offered a FREE upgrade on our rental car. I don't know about you, but a 4-door Ford Focus with leather interior, sunroof, and six CD changer really made us feel like we got the royal treatment! ;) (And no, I have NO idea what we had before, but my dad assumes it must have been a golf cart.) We've laughed about that story for months now. It seems Caron and I always find mischief one way or another, from London to DC to Daytona, it follows us.

August in Chicago is hot, but the music was good at Grant Park and The Field Musuem let us sneak in to see King Tut at the last minute. Was I ever disappointed. The sarcophagus stays in Egypt, meaning now I have to go to Cairo! Oh well, if you know me, you know my philosophy on life...If I have to eat dinner tonight, it might as well be in Paris...(or Cairo...or Rome...) :)

Oh yeah, August also brought back volleyball and school.

In September the team won the Cabool Tournament and worked themselves into having a winning season.

October, my students and I watched Beowulf at Juanita K.'s, ate lunch at McAlister's and spent the afternoon browsing the shelves at The Library Center on S. Campbell. It was an amazing experience for the majority of my students. I don't think they realized what a "real" public library offers.

November was a whirlwind. I met two Pulitzer Prize winners (Frank McCourt and Elie Wiesel) at formal invitation only dinners and missed an entire week of school when DESE asked me to present Senior Projects at a state conference and NCTE chose to offer my presentation on authentic group work at the national convention in Nashville. It was a great month....and when Thanksgiving rolled around, I relaxed at my dad's in Ava beating him at every possible card and board game we could find. (lie! he always wins!)

November also brought my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary. What a couple!

December allowed my me final opportunity to teach History vs. Hollywood at Willow Springs as I have passed this research paper on to our sophomore English teacher. It is certainly a joy to watch the students evaluate film as text and try to determine historical authenticity within. Some of the best presentations were on Apollo 13, A League of their Own, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Walk the Line. The way students present themselves when they know their information is fascinating. I like watching them explain things in which they truly feel as if they are the expert.

So, 2006, I enjoyed you.

2007, I look forward to you.

new year in the bahamas!!...

What a great way to start 2007! The Caribbean Island Band rocked the boat until the wee hours of the morning. Champagne toast for all aboard and dancing ‘til the sun peeked over the horizon.

I started the first full day of the New Year napping to beat of the ocean waves on the twelfth deck of the Majesty of the Seas and relaxing in the spa, making for a luxurious afternoon!

Goals for this year??…?? Same as always…and they are still posted my fridge. Most of them come from Proverbs. (And I’m always reminded of 21st verse in chapter 19: People make plans, but only the Lord’s plans will happen.)

The Caribbean breeze blew away my heartache from 2006. It comforted my spirit with thoughts about things I want to do for my family, things I want to do for others, things I want to do for my students, and things I want to do in life.

Friday, January 5, 2007

sunkissed and relaxed...for a nominal fee

Eight: days of vacation
Seven: drinks by the pool (and on the beach)
Six: new friends from around the world
Five: rolls of film
Four: days of shopping in four cities
Three: books read
Two: spa treatments
One: relaxed teacher

All for a nominal fee.

I love that line and plan to use it often. Every time I checked into anything on my cruise, it was always followed by "...for a nominal fee."

And I was willing to pay some nominal fees for a few extras...like those delicious spa treatments and beautiful daiquiris. But for others, like cellular service and Internet...no thanks. :)

Of all of my travels around the world, never have I desired to go on a cruise. From sleeping in train stations and on overnight train rides to sleeping on the floors of hostels and coffee tables in airport lounges...I've pretty much done things on the cheap. The last few years, at the urging of my worried family, I have upgraded to hotels downtown or campgrounds with real showers and safety officers. :)

But never did I dream (or even think about for that matter) I'd be on a cruise ship in the Bahamas for New Years, basking in sunlight sitting between the waves of the Caribbean and the waves on the pool deck... followed up by lounging on my private stateroom deck before dinner.

Aaah...the life.

But alas, I must thank all the little people for getting me there. Which in this case would only be two: Dave and Mary. Their generosity paid for my week and gave Janet and I a chance to enjoy each others' company and spend some quality time in R and R.

I journaled 'almost' daily, so I'll soon be posting more tidbits about my excursions, my new friends, and all the tall tales I can make up about cruise life and pirate ships on the high seas.