Sunday, December 23, 2012

12/23/2012 Lost Wages Tomato Aspic

Lost Wages Tomato Aspic
1 Big can of V-8 Juice
1 Small jar cocktail sauce
1 Big box of lemon Jello
1 Pound shrimp of some sort
4 Ripe avocados (don't stall out buying them because they won't be ripe!)
1 Overpriced can of sliced olives unless you are ambitious enough to slice some
Fresh celery of some kind

Put the V-8 & cocktail sauce in a microwave bowl until it boils
Pour it in a baking pan of some sort
Add the Jello and stir it in really, really well
Stick it in the fridge for about a half hour, maybe more
Pull it out and lay in the shrimp and cados and celery bits & olives
Refrigerate overnight with a Keep Out sign on it
Cut in squares and put on little plates
If you are fancy, put a leaf of lettuce underneath!

My mom always made tomato aspic for Christmas.
I sure miss her.
This recipe always makes me feel close to my mom
even though she has been gone a long, long time now.
She only put in a little bit of celery.
She always put a teaspoon of mayonnaise on top. Ew.

I changed it up a bit to taste like a shrimp cocktail.
Shrimp cocktails always remind me of Las Vegas,
which Brenny calls Lost Wages,
hence the silly name.
When I eat it and it tastes like a shrimp cocktail I feel like
a young flight attendant again
on a layover in Las Vegas.
The thrill of seeing slot machines when we
stepped off the plane.
The anticipation of hitting the casino buffet with my
Buddy-Bidder Theresa,
and eating huge, cheap shrimp cocktails!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

8?15/2012 What IS That Brown Stuff?!

I sat on the pool deck preparing
to inflate my air mattress even fuller.
As I looked down through the clear plastic
I could see some brown liquid inside.
"What IS that brown stuff?!" I thought to myself.
Only air goes inside an air mattress.
I sniffed the valve.
Chewing tobacco juice!
I couldn't believe it.
I look at my husband in the pool
and said, "Ew Honey, that's gross."
"How did that get inside my air mattress?"
He had the good grace to look apologetic and said,
"It was an accident."
I love my husband, but there are a few
habits of his that really gross me out.
I've survived my marriage by always trying
to focus on my own behavior,
but sometimes it's hard.
People are going to do what they are going to do.
Besides, chewing tobacco isn't his worst bad habit.
Trust me, you don't want to know...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8/14/2012 You're NOT My Grandma!

The little baby sat happily on her beach blanket
playing with her toys.
Her limp beach ball was her run-a-way favorite
and I swear it looked like she kept trying to
blow it up.
Heloise was only six months old, with dark blue eyes
and light brown wispy hair.
She had on a blue checked sundress with
matching bucket hat that covered her little head to her chin.
There is a gap when your children are grown,
before you get grandchildren, that can make you crazy.
All of a sudden that old biological clock
starts ringing and you crave babies.
Smart design we have, reinforced by mirrors
showing every wrinkle, that create a desire
for immortality, through grandchildren.
Terry started it by mentioning that the people in
the cabin next to us had a really cute baby.
The day before I had seen three baby raccoons,
three baby sea otters and one spotted baby deer.
I was in a baby frenzy after that.
I saw the young couple walking to the resort viewing bench
and grabbed a cup of coffee and
non-chalantly followed them down there.
I admired their baby, and casually mentioned
had two children, was a school teacher,
had been a scout leader for years...
Anything to sell my trustworthiness
because I wanted to babysit!
The next day as we left for a bike ride
I stopped at their cabin to see
if they might like to take our canoe for a spin
to see the seals and their pups in the bay up close
and of course I could watch the baby right there
on the beach where they could see her at all times.
So back to the beach.
Heloise played with her beach ball, then four different rattles
and we were having a wonderful time.
She could even say, "Goo!"
After a half hour I leaned over to pass her the pacifier.
Quick as a lightning she snatched my sunglasses
off my face and stared into my eyes.
Her deafening howl said
"You're NOT my grandmother!"
Luckily, her mom and dad were on their way into the beach
and I only had to have my ears pierced for five minutes.
That Eloise!
She is one smart baby.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

7/9/2012 Digging Ditches in 1977 or Are You a Woman?

This was definitely the deepest ditch I ever dug.
I was in the bottom and the top was near waist high!
I had already done the top edge
but the darn ditch was so deep I had to do
the sides with a top-down chopping swing.
It seemed to me like a safety hazard
to have this mini Grand Canyon in front of
Nathan Hale high school.
I was vaguely missing my inside job
as the custodian for the Poncho and
Bathhouse theaters. What had started out
as a cool summer job in 1977 for the
City of Seattle Parks department had led
to this giant mud-pit of a predicament.
Mayor Wes Ulhman had gotten a memo from
the feds that he needed some Affirmative Action
in the city departments that were mostly male.
Those jobs at the time paid double what
the city secretarial jobs paid and
I sure liked the sound of that.
My park department supervisor told
me about the new program and I went
downtown to the City of Seattle Engineering
department, near I-90, and took the
test for a Street Maintenance Worker job.
Fancy name for ditch digger but it covered
the other fun jobs like filling in potholes
and cutting brush etc. etc.
It was September and pouring cold rain
as I went inside and sat down to fill out
forms. I looked at the other applicants
and wondered what else we would do besides
the written application. We were all around
twenty years old and the other six girls
had on dresses and high heels.
I felt low-class and stupid in my
blue jeans an boots and flannel shirt.
Until the test started. No one had told
us about that before we got there.
They had set up a mini obstacle course
outside in the supply area and we had three tasks.
It was raining cats and dogs as I shoveled a
fifty pound pile of sand into a wheelbarrow.
You might not know it, but when sand gets wet,
it gets much, much heavier.
Next, I had to steer the wheelbarrow
around orange cones set up to simulate God knows what.
Finally, it was time to do some timed brick laying.
My fingers were numb with cold as I
laid the bricks in climbing rows
from a pile on the ground.
When I finished, my fingers we smashed
and bloody but my mini-wall looked really good.
With my sodden jeans clinging to my legs
I walked towards the door as the next
applicant came out.
She was wearing a silk dress, spiked heels
and a cashmere sweater and I felt
sad for her.
So back to where I was standing in the bottom
of the mini Grand Canyon trying to finish
this huge ditch with the rest of the bull gang.
1977 was the first year women in Seattle
got to dig ditches professionally and
we were a bit of an oddity even to our coworkers.
Despite the cold I was hot and sweaty after
digging two hours and was down to my
white tee-shirt like the other four diggers.
A big maroon car slowed down and a
middle-aged white man noticed me out his window
and drove a few yards and stopped.
I looked up and noticed him slowly
backing up to where I was digging
and he came to a complete stop and gawked at me
and yelled, "Are you a woman?!"
I stood tall and pushed my big round white hard hat
back from my face and thrust out my chest a little
and gave him a big smile,
"Why yes, I am a woman!" I shouted back.
Good thing it wasn't raining that day.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

6/23/2012 I Think Grandma Dropped That On the Floor

When Teddy hit six feet tall last year,
it dawned on me that he was fairly grown up.
So I did what most mothers do when they
are looking up at the baby in the family.
I quit cooking.
I'll haul out a pot or pan
for holidays but that's about it.
My family is still hostile about this
latest development,
but, oh well.
Everyone loves home cooking,
myself included.
I used to think it was odd that Brenda
would gush over my cooking.
I would think,
"Don't all women cook all the time?"
I'm not saying I hate to cook,
I like it.
It's the shopping, prepping
and clean up I hate,
and since no one was fighting to
set or clear the table,
I am over it.
So when I reheated the yummy pot roast
my mother-in-law Suzanne left behind
as she and Troy and Cassie went to
frolic in New York,
I was surprised that Teddy
wasn't digging in.
"Why aren't you eating?" I asked.
He stared at the platter and said,
"I think Grandma dropped it on the floor."
I looked at him and said,
"Why on earth would you say that?!"
He told me that he had found a leaf in
his dinner the night before.
I looked down at my plate and plucked up
a Bay leaf.
"You mean like this?"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

6/19/2012 My Cat Hat

"Why is the top of my head so warm?"
I thought as the wisps of dreams
evaporated slowly from my brain.
I reached my right hand to my ear
and felt kitten paws.
I reached my left hand up to my ear
and felt a second pair of paws.
Oh, right. The kitten.
I was fully awake by now so I reached
up to the top of my head
and sure enough, there was a soft, fat tummy
draped over the top of my head like a knit hat.
Cloudy. Teddy had named her that because she
is gray with cloudy patches here and there.
She has knee high boots on the back
and anklets on the front.
Already a coffee cup sized
fashion trend setter.
It is not unusual at all for Troy's friends
to dash up to the house every few months
with an armload of sweatshirts he has left
in their cars for drop off.
I was just sitting on my front porch
minding my own business when a car
parked next to the bike trail
and one of his friends popped up
with an armload of clothes.
No surprise there until I stood up
and noticed the clothing was moving.
A pile of sweatshirts was thrust into my
arms with a tiny kitten on top.
"Here's Troy's clothes and kitten."
His friend said.
I certainly wasn't prepared for that!
I carried her in and handed her to Teddy
who cuddled her while I went downstairs
to reactivate the litter box
in the back of the utility room.
Teddy carried the kitten downstairs
and handed her to his dad.
Terry cuddled her up to his beard and started
talking to her in his high-pitched baby-talk voice.
I said, "Teddy wants to call her Cloudy, but I want to
call her Misty because it's more girley."
Terry lifted her up and said,
"I like Cloudy too."
So, hello Cloudy.
Thanks for waking me up all night.
At least I woke up with a warm head.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Beware of Boys With Lazy-Boys

I was driving down 73rd towards
the highway from work last spring
and glanced over at St. Vinny's.
It looked like two boys carrying a huge chair
down the sidewalk and I smiled to myself thinking
"That's something Troy would do."
Then I looked again and realized
it was Troy!
He and Devin Gniot had found an enormous Lazy-Boy
that someone had ditched in front of the store.
He spotted me in the mini-van and started yelling,
"Mom! Wait! Bring the van! MOOOM!"
I panicked and the light turned green
and they started chasing me
with the chair.
I stepped on the gas and flew home.
Close one.
They showed up a half hour later chairless
and furious at me for not stopping
to give the chair a ride home.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

6/6/2012 Boys With Knives in 2003

Beads of sweat popped out on my brow
as my ten Bear Cubs laid their
brand new pocketknives on the tables
in front of them.
The moment every den mother dreads
had finally arrived:
The third grade carving unit.
I was feeling slightly dizzy and faint
at the bloodthirsty expressions on their little faces
and wondering what had happened to my innocent little tiger cubs.
There was not a trace of that toothless,
round-faced, babyish look about
these potential killers.
And that was what scouting was all about wasn't it?
Trying to civilize these little demons
into law-abiding productive citizens, right?
The boys shifted from foot to foot impatiently,
surreptitiously grinning at each other
like they we ready for starring roles in
Lord of the Flies.
Geez, I was so worried, that I could feel my
blood pressure rising by the second.
And why on earth did Carlos have buck knife?!
I watched the boys finish the cub scout promise and
I introduced the unit.
I stared with gratitude into the eyes of the moms and dads
that stood stoically next to each boy.
With my pockets full of bandages,
I passed out the bars of Ivory soap that
I had traced bears on
and mumbled a prayer for no injuries.
And there were NO INJURIES!
Everyone was delighted with their tiny bears
and it was fun to see how different they all looked.
I could predict which bears would be carved in 3D
and I knew Troy's would not be one of them,
but I smiled knowing that there would be some clean boys
at Kenmore Elementary the next day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

6/5/2012 Do You Like Butter?

When I was a little girl
living in Holly Park,
whenever we saw a buttercup
we would pick one.
Then we would ask,
"Do you like Butter?"
Then we'd continue with,
"Let me check."
Next,we would hold the flower under each others' chins
and if we saw yellow, we'd say,
"Yep. You like butter!"
Buttercups grow in wet areas
so there are plenty all over Seattle.
Plus there was a swamp between our project house
and the Wig Wam store on Rainier Avenue and Othello
and it was chock full of buttercups!
There was another saying that I'm not sure about
and I'll have to ask my sister
but it went like this:
Whenever you'd say something at the same time we'd say,
"Pins and needles,
needles and pins.
What goes up the chimney?
What comes down?
Santa Claus.
Apple core Baltimore,
Whose your friend?"
That is as far as I remember
but years later when we moved to North Seattle
there was the addition of:
One, two, three four,
I declare a thumb war!
Do you remember these sayings?
Do I have them right?
The other one that was popular was:
"Step on a crack,
break your mother's back.
Step on a line,
break your mother's spine."
We didn't have many sidewalks in South Seattle.
Did you have other childhood sayings?

Friday, June 1, 2012

6/1/2012 The Really Big Fart

I was sitting in the front of the classroom
on small a chair passing out name-tags and
having the first graders tell me their
favorite thing to do.
A tiny six year old boy
came up and leaned over
so I could put his name-tag on him.
As I shook his hand, I said,
"What do you like to do?"
He was leaning in
so I could put the name-tag on his shirt
and he said, "I like to..."
and he let out a giant fart.
We couldn't stop laughing for five minutes.
After we all calmed down a bit,
I looked at him seriously and said,
"So, besides farting, what else do you like to do?"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

5/24/2012 The Get the Worms Out of my Hair Dance

I was so excited that the sun came back today
because my birds would be out and about to stare at.
The Wild Bird furnishings store at Lake Forest Park was out of
meal worms when I got off work so I thought I'd
give Maser's a try.
So nice to see Marissa at work with her pretty red hair.
I was her substitute at Arrowhead back when she was in fourth grade.
The lady in line behind me asked her how much her specialty
dog food bag would be and when Marissa told her fifty dollars.
I was thinking the price was pretty special too.
So as I paid for my ridiculously over-priced worms,
I could feel the excitement building up inside me.
I picked up my favorite strawberry lemon icy drink
at MacDonalds and prepared for some serious bird-watching.
I was trying to give my nest-sitting chickadee some meal worms
on the railing of her birdhouse when she flew out and
startled me and the container flipped through the air
over me and landed on my head.
The next thing I knew I was doing a serious
Get the Worms Out of My Hair dance!
I probably looked like that Tasmanian devil from
the old cartoons.
Ew, ew, ew.
Lesson learned: When trying to treat wild birds to live worms
stick to the birdfeeder, not birdhouse.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

5/24/2012 My Favorite Traffic Jam

As I slowed down my minivan,
I could see something with my peripheral vision over the lake.
All the cars came to a stop at the Lake Forest Park light
so I could look up in the sky.
Four eagles, two adults and two big babies,
were playing.
I had never seen anything like it!
They frolicked and did cartwheels
and dropped through the sky,
then zoomed straight back up.
It was the coolest thing I've ever seen.
Right up there with the time an orca came up
near my feet when I was standing on the rocks
that jut out in the water at Lime Kiln park.
It's been a struggle leaving my bird sanctuary
all week and worrying that my baby chickadees
would hatch and be cute while I was gone.
It's impossible to be depressed when
you are watching birds splashing in your birdbath.
Why just last week a towhee jumped in and did a dance
that reminded me of the Funky Chicken
that we did in 1967.
I felt so happy.
And for the first time in eight years
during teacher hiring season,
I'm not worried.
Because I know that being jobless
is not the end of the world.
Not when I have my feathered friends nearby.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

5/17/2012 I Wish I Had a Chickadee Suit

I'm totally obsessed with my bird sanctuary.
I hate leaving my house now for fear of missing
any activity.
A few days ago I found a website with bird calls in a loop.
My sister was taking her afternoon walk
and saw me staring at my trees
and came up for some ice water.
"What are you doing now?" She asked.
I showed her my laptop precariously balanced on the railing
and she listened to the chickadee song looping.
What a great sister.
We stared at the trees together and the chickadees
started showing up.
One landed on a branch right above us
and stared back.
With the laptop next to me he was confused.
I said to sissy, "I wish I had a chickadee suit."
She just laughed and said,
"You ought to make tiny plexiglass signs for the other
bird houses that say For Rent."
We spent ten minutes thinking of what our real estate signs would say:
Custom built 16 Square Inches
Close to feeders
Territorial View
Great School District
What else would attract birds to the eight empty houses?
Geez, then I read on the Cornell website to add brush pile.
I spend more time on that brush pile
than I do cleaning my house.
No surprise there.
My dog-walking pal Camille stopped a few days ago
with her adorable ankle biters and I showed her my latest
additions to my sanctuary.
She said she had the same small brown birds return every year
and told me about fledglings falling from the nest to the ground.
I was so worried the last two days about my chickadee fledglings
injuring themselves that while I was blabbing with Brenny on the phone
this morning, I raked all my Photinia leaves under the bird house.
I keep waiting for the babies and it it taking forever!
I already have their names picked out:
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo and Foxtrot.
88 Clear

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5/16/2012 The Young Thief

The darling first graders had finally settled down after recess.
They were quietly reading their books at their desk
when I felt a tug at my elbow and a tiny voice whispered,
"Mrs. Nixon, my lunch money is gone."
I got up quietly and helped the little girl go through her desk,
her sweater pockets and her cubby, making sure she'd triple checked
her tiny blue jean pockets.
After subbing in first grade for eight years,
I've found that most things brought to school
will get lost unless handed over to a teacher for safekeeping.
I sat down at the desk and thought long and hard.
I reflected back to being a child and having teachers
make a class wait for items to be returned.
I remembered children that had been labeled thief
and that whenever anything turned up missing
for the rest of the year, everyone turned and stared at the thief.
I said to the class, "We have missing money.
I want everyone to put your arms on your desks and
lay your heads on your arms and close your eyes really tight.
If you peek, you will be sent to the principal's office."
That was an idle threat, but sometimes a dash of fear
goes a long way.
I went on to say, "When I walk past your table, put the money
in my hand and no one is going to know."
It did not work.
Then I said, "No one gets lunch until the money is returned."
I quietly walked around the desks and a tiny hand held out
a wad of bills.
I tossed it on the teacher table and said,
"Oh look, I must have found it and dropped it here and forgotten."
The little girl walked over and unrolled the bills and said,
"Mrs. Nixon, I had four dollars and this is only two."
I knew who the thief was so I glanced at her as I said,
"This is the last time. We need the last two dollars."
I went straight to her and took the cash she held out.
The rest of the class was still in fear of going to the principal's office.
I said loudly, "I found it, line up for lunch."
There were murmurs of dissatisfaction going through
the room and I knew the kids were itching to find out
who the thief was.
I will never tell.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

5/13/2012 Why is Dallas Running Down My Road Dressed as a King?

My eyebrows rose as I slowly drove towards my house.
I recognized most of the cars on either side of the road
as belonging to Troy's friends,
but what I couldn't figure out was why
Dallas was running down my road dressed as a king.
I backed my mini-van in the driveway
and got out and walked over to where
the kids were mingling around.
At six foot five and two hundred and forty pounds,
with dark wavy hair and bright blue eyes,
Dallas makes a very impressive-looking king.
I greeted him and he responded with an English accent,
"Here yea lady, I am Dallas, King of Kenmore."
I tried not to laugh as I knelt before him in the road.
One of the kids had a movie camera and I realized
it was part of the Inglemoor high school videography class.
It was a blazing sunny late afternoon and long shadows were
darkening patches of the road.
From the driveway burst Troy and the other knights
all dressed in their garb,
but instead of swords they were carrying toilet plungers.
He yelled at me, "Aw mom, go in the house!"
I never fail to embarrass him so I trotted over to my house
and went inside.
As I entered the living room I was stunned
to see Devin bound and gagged with a black blind-fold
kneeling on the carpet.
I turned and peered out the kitchen window
in time to see Teddy being plunged by the King.
I didn't see any blood so I went downstairs
to my pink girl cave to relax.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

5/10/2012 I Don't Want to BUILD a Ham Radio

I opened my manual and stared at it with dismay.
It read: For waves in air or space, the formula for meters
is the length in meters is 300,000,000 meters per second
divided by the frequency in hertz or cycles per second.
I did not know what a hertz was.
I was in BIG trouble.
Our nice teacher, Robert Grinnell had started going
over the second chapter and at the end
I raised my hand and he called on me,
"I don't want to build a ham radio,
I only need to learn to operate one."
He just chuckled and gave me a look that said,
"By the end of eight weeks you'll be dying
to build one of these babies."
It has been seven weeks now and I STILL
don't want to build a ham radio,
although when I wake up every morning
I have a strong urge to rewire my house.
Two months ago I got an e-mail from the
Kookmore fire chief requesting people
to take the ham radio operator class
to get licensed to work at the new fire station
on the emergency radio net in case of a 9.0 earthquake.
Well, I thought as a good citizen
it was my obligation to my community
to help out.
What a can of worms I opened!
For some reason I had never studied radio,
electricity or FCC regulations in school.
It was like starting Chinese at fifty-five years old.
When we did classroom introductions,
I learned 90% of my classmates were retired people
taking the class for "giggles and kicks."
Except for William, who at eleven, seemed
to understand all this stuff better than I did!
At the end of our last class Monday night,
a lady raised her hand and asked Kerry,
"When is the class where someone shows
us how to operate our radios?"
We all burst out laughing since we were
all thinking that exact thing."
Turns out once you get your license,
you have to join a club to get up and running.
Kerry ended class with, "Study hard!
I'll be watching to see gets 100% on their test!"
I turned to Robert Grinnell and asked,
"What if I get a bad test?"
He smiled and asked me,
"You mean the one with the thirty-five questions
that you didn't study for?"
That was exactly what I was asking about.
Turns out they'll have four versions of the test
and we can keep taking them until we find one we pass.
Since it is $15.00 a pop each test,
I have been highly motivated to study hard.
Two days ago I took my first online practice test
and missed nine-teen out of thirty-five.
I only missed three on the next one.
So I was right! There are bad tests!
I can only pray that come Monday night,
I get a good test.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cutting Class the First Day of Kindergarten

I had missed the November first deadline to be five to start kindergarten by two weeks
so I was always one of the older kids in class.
By the first day of kindergarten
I was nearly six and had figured out what
was fun and it wasn't going to school.
At five and nine-tenths I knew for a fact
that skipping school and going to the playground
would be super fun.
So as our kindly old day care lady
walked us down the grassy hill from Holly Park
day care center towards Van Asselt elementary,
I tugged at my friend's arm and whispered,
"Follow me and we can have fun all day."
We were able to carefully maneuver ourselves
to the back of the three dozen kids
and as we passed the azalea bushes,
we slid behind them.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
We decided that to be safe that we should
wait inside our clump of bushes for an hour
before beginning our adventure of a day
of bliss without supervision at the playground.
After an hour we could hear a group of
adults walking past our bushes discussing
the day care center.
We started giggling and got busted.
We were hauled up to the day care center
and unceremoniously rolled up in the
scratchy World War Two army blankets,
with our arms pinned to our sides
and safety-pinned inside like burrito fillings.
God I hated that!
I spent half my time at that day care center
for five years rolled up in those scratchy blankets.
But I learned a lot from that.
Talk at the right times
and TRY to follow the rules.
A few weeks ago I walked into a school for a sub job and a friend
of mine yelled, "Here comes Trouble!"
To which I replied,
"Shhh! I'm trying to get a job here!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

5/7/2012 The Crazy Bird Lady

A few weeks ago I was working in my yard
in the late afternoon when my neighbor Darcy
walked by with baby Alex.
I motioned to her to come down my sidewalk
to see my latest project.
She looked up at my dozen new birdhouses
and feeders with surprise and said,
"Um, Gretchen, you better slow down with this
or they'll be calling you
The Crazy Bird Lady."
I just laughed and the faces of several people I
knew that might be considered the
Crazy Cat Ladies popped into my brain.
Yes, my new hobby could easily give me
the designation of
The Crazy Bird Lady.
I don't care.
Every morning that I don't have a job,
I slip out of my slippers and into my clogs
and merrily fill a milk jug with warm water and
trot down the sidewalk in my penguin pajamas
to hang it to drip over my birdbath.
Then I get a scoop of sunflower seeds from
the big bin on my front porch and sprinkle
them under our giant cedar tree for
the squirrels and towhees.
I love all my little chickadees and nuthatches
and juncos and I like my fat little squirrels.
I don't care if Brenda hates them
and calls them designer rats.
I do get sick of them stealing the feeder seeds.
Last week I coated the feeder with Crisco
and when I got home from work I could see where some
of my furry friends had slid down the tube feeder
and taken a nice drop.
It's all soft dirt underneath but I wish I
could have been home to see that!
Funny how when you are unemployed
and have too much time on your hands
how much of that time you'll invest on a hobby.
My little bird sanctuary has been very therapeutic.
I read bird books and listen to bird calls on the
Cornell University website and read all their tips.
Right when I had my 1980 fake smoked-glass Tupperware
chip tray in my latest St.Vinny's box on the porch,
I read the birds preferred a shallow in-ground
bath with a dripper overhead.
I see the juncos splashing around in the afternoons
but no one seems to appreciate the warm steaming
water I put out every morning except me.
Since I always have cold hands and feet,
I expect the birds to also.
I've been called a lot of things over my lifetime,
some good, some bad:
Gretchen, Gretch, Greta, G,
Lollipop, Ginger Snap.
The Crazy Bird Lady
is fine with me!

Friday, May 4, 2012

5/4/2012 Teddy's Driving Lessons

I owe my ability to give Teddy driving lessons
to my hairdresser, Janet Ferris.
There is no way I could cope with that
amount of white hair from fright
on my own and I wouldn't try.
How a kid gets to fifteen so fast is beyond me.
I must have blacked out all of Troy's
driving lessons three years ago
because I don't remember a thing
except for feeling like a bobblehead doll
and at the stop sign at the end of our road.
So, six weeks ago, I took Teddy to get
his permit. Of course neither of us had read
the small print that we needed his
original birth certificate!
We got the permit without it but no
photograph but that was okay.
He is bald as a billiard ball
since he ended up with a "hot chick"
hair cutter at Kenmore Great Clips
and must have wanted to prolong the experience.
So, we got the permit and I drove him
in my green minivan to the Park and Ride
lot behind St. Vinny's in
downtown Kookmore.
I hadn't seen him look that nervous
since his 7th grade choir concert at KJH
when he looked like he was going to
be sick the entire show.
He got out of the van and did a safety check.
Then he got inside and did all the pre-drive checks.
He started the engine and slowly crept down the
slope and to the stop sign.
That was when I noticed I had stopped breathing
and I gave a a big whoosh as I started again.
He circled around and up the slope and shut
down the van to begin again.
Again, and again and again.
On his third start up,
Kenmore sheriff chief Sether pulled up
on the side of the lot and was having lunch.
Beads of sweat popped out on Theodore's
forehead as he slowly drove down the slope past the chief.
I smiled and waved and he hunkered down for
some lunchtime entertainment.
He had a big smile and I imagined he
had given his kids driving lessons.
Poor Teddy. He did not expect an audience,
but he bravely made loop after loop,
practicing his steering and parking skills.
Over the last six weeks,
we have been on roads and the highway a few times.
I love the gap between when they get their permit
and license and I get to be chauffeured around town.
Of course I trained him early on how to drive
to the most important destination.
The McDonald's drive-thru so I can get
a cup of really good coffee.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

5/1/2012 R&R Doughnuts

It had been a rough flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale
the night before.
Lots of turbulence
and a lot of that weird dropping feeling on the plane
like when an elevator drops fast.
In between services I was on the back jumpseat
with my head hung over my barfbag,
just trying to survive.
Once at the hotel
I climbed in bed and curled up in a little ball waiting for
the room to stop spinning.
Yes, I did get airsick a lot as a flight attendant.
I just didn't care.
I wanted to see the world.
The next morning, we were in the lobby at O'Dark hundred
in Fort Lauderdale and I had only slept a few hours.
I felt like crap.
On our way to the airport
our first flight attendant, Christy, who was in charge,
asked the van driver to stop at R & R Doughnuts.
He pulled over and she turned to me and said,
"Gretchen, it's your turn to help
me carry the doughnuts."
I was so sick and tired I could barely move,
but I hauled my sorry self from the van and
limped listlessly after her.
I'm a team player unless dead.
As I followed her through the door
it seemed odd to me that it was nearly dark inside.
I noticed the cigarette machine
and choked on the smokey air.
There were five young men sitting at the counter
and the doughnut server had his back to us.
Seemed odd he wasn't wearing a shirt.
Christy shouted out, "We need the usual!"
it wasn't a man.
It was a VERY topless young woman
with huge bazookas holding a tray of doughnuts.
I looked down at the floor and studied the
peeling linoleum and sheepishly took a box of doughnuts
and tried to smile at her face without noticing
her lack of uniform beyond a tiny G-string.
I don't think she got the memo
that modesty is a virtue.
We got to the van and my face was very red.
Christy couldn't stop laughing
and the pilots joined in.
My pal and buddy-bidder Theresa looked at me and said,
"Um Gretch, you don't look so good."
I probably didn't but at least I had clothes on!

5/1/2012 First Grade How-To Manuals

A few weeks ago during a first grade writing unit,
the lesson was on how to write a How-To manual.
Here is what one little sweetie wrote:
How-To Go To School
1 First, you put on your clows
2 Then you go down seris
3 Next, you eat brekfist
4 Then, you go put on your backpack
5 Finally, your dad will drive you to the bus

Monday, April 30, 2012

4/30/2012 Getting Lost With Ruthie

For Pete's sake!
I knew I was on the road to Camp Brinkley!
I had only NOT found it when I needed to
a half dozen times
when I had a van full of yelling, poking cub scouts.
So, of course, I went right to it when lost
trying to find Denise's house.
I took my friend Ruthie,
who is the former owner of my ex-dog Susie,
that I met through my former co-worker Vera,
at my ex-job at Bothell Post office
who was Ruthie's former neighbor,
to see her former neighbor Sheila's new house.
She is the mom of Troy's future college classmate Dallas
and Teddy's current football team mate Dom.
She lives near Camp Brinkley in podunk North Monroe.
My scouts loved running up to cubmaster Joe
every year at camp and shouting,
"We're late because Mrs. Nixon got lost! Again!"
(In front of 500 men and boys)
So, I guess it was natural to find the camp
but not Sheila's, despite her directions
and mapquest maps.
Whoever plotted the roads of North Monroe
and Snohomish musta gone to the Ed Roning
school of road sign placement.
Ed was my trainer at the City of Seattle Engineering
department in 1977 who taught me how to drive
the salt and sanding dump truck with
the priority instruction,
"ALWAYS start at the Lockspot tavern
to pick up your six pack of beer."
After asking a kid where we were
(beyond lost in a forest)
I found out we were exactly ten miles East
of where we were supposed to be.
Ruthie just laughed and laughed.
At ninety-two years old she entertained me
during our back-tracking with stories of
early Ballard and Golden Gardens.
She is swell.
We admired all the cows and horses and sheep
on the beautiful sunny day and our route
was covered with yellow dandelions,
meandering along creeks and ponds and fields of rural beauty.
I knew I was getting really warm when
I saw the cows that looked familiar.
I turned up a long gravel driveway
and our jaws dropped open at the palatial haceinda
with swimming pool overlooking the valley.
I circled the driveway and admired the half dozen
antique cars being washed and polished in front
of a garage big enough to house Kenmore.
Of course it wasn't Denise's house,
and if I was alone I would have shouted down the owner
to hear the stories of the cars.
I LOVE old cars and can't wait to visit
the biggest car museum in the world in Dubai.
So, we looped down and around to the NEXT gravel
road and I could tell we were getting hotter.
Finally! We came over the ridge
and saw the house, perched on a hill.
Sheila came out to greet us
and I can't repeat exactly what she said
due to our late arrival,
in a G rated story.
She took us on the grand tour of
dream home and basically Ruthie and I
followed her with our jaws dropped open (again)
at the beauty of her home and the majesty
of her birds-eye view of Mount Pilchuck.
We scratched our heads simultaneously
at the height of her bed.
Seemed like you'd have give a running start
and jump likw Nadia Comenichi to mount that puppy.
Ruthie and I were in full awe until a
terrarium came into view and I walked over
expecting some harmless hamster to look
at me, only to be face level with an
enormous white and yellow snake with a
head the size of a football! Ugh.
Nothing like a shot of adrenaline to build up an appetite!
We a nice lunch in her Rachel Ray-style kitchen
with her horse shoer, Glenn and then
we went down to the pasture and visited with her horse.
We took a stroll in her forest to see her skunk cabbage patch.
It was dark and spooky and Ruthie and I kept our eyes
peeled after Sheila told her about the bears and bobcats
she had seen around there.
It was just about the most exciting visit
I'd ever been on
and almost a let-down not getting lost
on the way home.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

3/7/2012 First Grade Anatomy Essays

I go all over the place as a sub
and in my travels I see some very cute essays:

The Body (First Grade Author Unknown)

My brain helps me thac
and helps me moov my bode.

My hearth is purfakt.
It is the most impartit orange
and it pumps bluod.

Your lungs are inportint
abd if you sotp brething you can diy.

All peloews eyes are
difenit coloes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

3/6/2012 I Was a Stupid Clown

The little freckle-faced girl looked up at me
with a serious face.
"What do you do?" She asked.
I smiled down at her and said,
"What do you mean what do I do?"
She looked at me with concern and said,
"You know, tricks and stuff."
It dawned on me right then and there
that a clown suit does not a clown make.
I was a stupid clown.
I had no tricks or talents,
just a nice old, faded orange and yellow clown suit.
Since I had worked on making new games for the 2000
Kenmore Elementary carnival,
my name had been passed on to the Bothell fire department
to provide carnival games for the
Northshore Cities League Safety Carnival.
I roamed around smiling in my clown suit with my bright yellow
wig tucked around my old City of Seattle engineering department hard hat,
and made sure the kids were having fun at the games.
The fire and sheriff departments from
Bothell, Kenmore and Woodinville had brought
all kinds of interesting home safety displays
and when Terry showed up with Troy and Teddy,
they ran to the smoke sheet set up
to teach them how to crawl under smoke.
So, looking down at the little girl
and not having any clown skills
made me feel really stupid.
I frantically dug into the deep pockets of my clown suit
and found a tiny rubber hand from a prize bin and she smiled.
The next day I found a friend to teach me how to make balloon animals
and I embarked on a five year career as Lulu the Clown.
I made balloon animals at all the local school
carnivals in exchange for free tickets for
Teddy and Troy for all the carnival games.
I'd send them off to find their favorite games
and report back to me so I could replicate them
for my Kenmore Elementary carnival.
My favorite were the little cars from
All Star Fun rentals. I saw them at the Arrowhead carnival
and knew I had to have them!
For the next ten years, when the cars showed up
at Kenmore elementary for the carnival,
I liked to take them for a loop around the parking lot
before taking them to their designated spot.
I'm such a liar!
My real favorite activity was the speed pitch radar.
Not the activity as much as borrowing the sheriff's car
and driving that around town.
Chief Sether showed me how to attach the radar gun
to the battery in the trunk and set up the display box
and I had to sign a bunch of forms stating that I wouldn't
give any of my neighbors speeding tickets on my way to the school carnival.
Yes, I was a stupid clown at first.
But I did get to drive the sheriff's car
and yes, I did want to write tickets,
but I restrained myself.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2/29/2012 That Was the Best Slug I Ever Ate!

The flames from the bonfire seemed to lick the black sky
with only the outlines of the huge fir trees illuminated.
I had never seen such a huge campfire
and was slightly worried one of the smaller boys
might fall into it.
Camp Brinkley.
After a long year of organizing units
to move the boys along in their scout ranks,
it was my time to relax.
The dads took over at camp and spoiled me rotten.
Every morning I could hear them yelling at the kids
to get them up and dressed and organized for meals
at the longhouse and I just laid in my toasty sleeping bag
on my deluxe Fred Meyer's cot,
and gazed dreamily at the canvas ceiling of the platform tent.
Our first year there together was particularly fun
because our boys were only seven that year.
Joe and Clark had found out that we had one of the only
resident scout camps for the little boys
and asked me if I wanted to go.
I had been leading day camp for pack 622 for five years
by then with Troy and it sounded so much more fun!
With my dark green mini-van full of cubs
driving out of Monroe,
I had managed to get lost and we were hours late to check in.
I was in awe of the beauty of the camp,
nestled into an old-growth forest
and with a tiny, pristine lake in a picturesque meadow.
We found the sign-in area and got our our gear into the carts
and our camp guide, an older boy scout led us to our campsite.
Teddy and my group were greeted by the other twenty boys and dads
with much yelling and hallabalou.
"Mrs. Nixon!" The little boys yelled at me,
"We found you a secret campsite!"
I followed my dear little den fellows about fifty yards
from the rest of the campsite,
up a tiny hill overgrown with salmon berry bushes to my
hidden platform tent.
All the boys were in a "first time at overnight camp" frenzy
and since both sides of my tent were tied open,
they raced through and around my tent at breakneck speed.
All I could do was laugh and relax.
I had had to be the bad guy a few times and scold them during
the year to get them to settle down enough to pass their
advancement requirements, so it was blissful to just enjoy them.
After an hour of running through my tent,
the boys discovered an enormous stump on the hillside
just past my tent.
It instantly became a huge sailing ship
complete with a brig down in the underside cave
formed when the tree fell over and the roots exposed it.
Oh the fun of camp:
knives, guns, bows and arrows, arts, crafts
and swimming and boating in our private lake.
Three times a day we'd march to the long house
for meals and I'd endure the shouting as the lines
of 200 boys and dads did their competition for the
loudest group of campers. The loudest ate first.
But at night,
the real magic of camp began.
We'd round up our troop and fish around for flashlights
and hike to another pack's campsite for friendship fire.
I sat in my low-slung canvas chair
back a bit from the fire as the songs and skits
and snacks commenced.
Our hosts offering to us was slugs on a stick.
They were made from the biscuit dough in those little
metal tubes and wrapped around toasting sticks.
"That was the best slug I ever ate!"
I exclaimed to the tiny red-haired tiger cub from the other pack.
I knew exactly what I was doing.
As soon as one of my ten wolf cubs heard that,
the competition between the scouts began.
I must have eaten twenty slugs, fifteen s'mores
and washed it down with a gallon of apple juice.
The competition was fierce to garner the praise of
the only mom brave enough to join them at camp.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2/28/2012 That Wasn't Quite the Hollywood Kiss I Was Thinking Of

Sunday night Terry and I were sitting in his dark man-cave
watching the NBA All Star game holding hands.
It was slightly romantic.
There were so many commercials that he was surfing
to the next station so we could watch
'The Holiday' at the same time.
There is one scene where that adorable Jude Law
takes the equally adorable face of Cameron Diaz
gently between his hands and says something mushy.
Then he gives her that tender,
"I'll cherish you forever" kiss.
Only in Hollywood, I thought to myself.
And in Harlequin romance novels.
The women in romance novels are forever
getting their faces held and kissed gently.
I thought about that a for few days
and decided to test my theory.
Last night as I was sitting in my warm, pink girl-cave,
reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,
I could hear Terry come in from work.
He was in the basement banging around
in the wood stove a few minutes before he
came to take his shower.
I said, "Honey, could you please hold my face
and give me a kiss like in the movies?"
He walked over and leaned down
and I saw with horror that his
fingers were covered with black soot
from the wood stove,
but it was too late.
He was giving me exactly what I asked for!
His fingers were ice cold and stiff from work,
covered with soot,
and he curled his fingers like crab pincers
and grabbed the bottom of my jaw bones
and gave me a little peck.
I started laughing and couldn't stop.
I should have known that the man that gave
me Gortex clothing and camping gear for gifts
wouldn't really study what Jude Law was doing
with any degree of educational transference.
It wasn't quite the Hollywood kiss I was thinking of.

Monday, February 27, 2012

2/27/2012 My Non-Career as a Zombie

I was very disgruntled last night
when I was watching my new favorite TV show.
All the zombies pouring out on top of Rick
were young thin guys.
Talk about discrimination!
Like all the zombies would be thin.
It is not like Atlanta had endured
a food shortage before the infection.
Sure I'm eating sour grapes.
I really wanted to be a zombie on that show.
Even Troy and Teddy think I'd be a good zombie.
I spent a whole hour a few months ago
applying for a zombie position.
I was going to hop in my van,
drive to Atlanta
and live in a parking lot
until my zombie self got killed off.
I wanted to be a zombie school teacher.
Picture this:
Rick and Shane creep up to a school
and get ready to peer inside a classroom window.
They hear old scratchy music wafting out the window.
They are in town scouting for those winter supplies
Rick was talking about last night.
They stand up slowly to look inside the dark, creepy classroom
and there I am.
Zombie teacher!
Doing the Hokey Pokey with zombie children!
Ooooo that is so scary.
I mean seriously,
they need more fat zombies
to make that show more realistic.
And kid zombies?
That would be so horrifying!
Yikes stripes.
I hope I don't give myself nightmares again.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2/27/2012 Let Me Help You Back to the Passenger Area

I like cold water.
Really cold water.
The stuff that comes off the Cascade mountains
and into my glass at my kitchen sink.
Yummy yummy.
There was a big problem for me on the MS Jewel
cruising from New York down to the Bahamas every week.
Our refrigerator was broken in our cabin.
No cold water.
So after working my ten or twelve hours
with the kids and my wild coworkers
in the Splashdown Youth Center,
I'd put on my nightgown,
collapse in my bunk
and want water.
Cold water.
I'm a spoiled cold water baby.
Every single night,
I'd climb back out of my bunk
and throw my housecoat over my nightgown,
put on my slippers,
shuffle down the hall
and around the corner to the drinking fountain.
It was one of those huge refrigerated models
and I LOVED that machine.
I surprised the hell out of my Philippino deck neighbors down there.
My roommates and I were way down below the decks of most
of the cruise staff
with the cleaners and food workers
and they just didn't get old white ladies down there.
I was nearly three decades older than my coworkers
and I forgot my name-tag most nights.
If I had a dime for every time I heard,
"Let Me Help You Back to the Passenger Area"
I'd be a millionaire right now.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2/25/2012 My Mom in London

As I sat in the food court with Theresa in Croydon,
my face became redder and redder with embarrassment.
I looked over past ten empty tables
and there was my mom,
looking at the garbage on the tables and said,
"Oh God Theresa! I can't stand it!"
She looked over at my mom and started laughing and said,
"Calm down buddy, she's having a blast.
You know if the world ended tomorrow,
your mom would probably be the only one to survive."
Her praise of my scavengering mom calmed me down
and I nodded my head in agreement
and mentally thanked God that the lunch rush
was long over and we were the only ones
left there in the food court.
Our Continental Airline layover hotel was in
Croydon, which is on the outskirts of London.
Theresa and I had job-shared with some
Senior Mommas to work the trips to London
for the month of November in 1990.
Mom came back with her purse full of
god knows what and
we located the department store we had come to find.
Mom happily was happily browsing the tiny figurines
of the Beatrix Potter stories.
She loved all that English stuff and the story of
of Peter Rabbit.
After securing her latest round of treasures at the hotel,
we were off on the bus to Windsor Castle.
My favorite place on this planet.
Not that I have been to another planet or anything.
Mom wanted to investigate by herself
so she could chain-smoke frequently and we
designated a meeting place.
Two hours later,
Theresa and I sauntered down the hill past the Beefeaters
and I spotted my mom.
She was standing at the corner
with a cigarette in one hand
and poking her other hand around in the top
of a garbage can.
I turned to Theresa and said,
"Pretend you don't know her!"
Theresa walked away from me up to my mom and said,
"Are you having fun Joyce?"

Friday, February 24, 2012

2/24/2012 Scouting at St. Edward Park on Veteran's Day 2002

Shocking that the trail was dry on November 11th
since November is one of the rainiest months in Seattle.
"Look at the ocean Mrs. Nixon!"
Shouted my little wolf cub Robert Rosenberg.
"I think they call that Lake Washington Robert."
I said back to him.
Of course they did.
But I always tried to let the cub scouts
feel as smart and capable as possible
as their den leader.
We had a huge group from Pack 622 hiking
through the old growth forest that day.
About forty boys with their dads hiking
and a dozen mom's up above fixing a picnic lunch.
If you can find a dry November day,
it is the most awesome time to hike that park
because the maple trees provide knee deep leaves
to crunch through.
We hiked down to the lake and along the lake,
and through the forest and up the trail,
on and on and on
in our quest to tire out the boys.
Didn't happen.
Scouts and tired aren't allowed to be in the same sentence.
As we reached the top meadow at the old apple orchard,
the leaves got thicker and thicker.
We hiked the last mile over to the grotto
for our Veteran's Day ceremony.
I passed out the tiny American flags to the smaller boys to hold
and they stood shoulder to shoulder along both sides of the path
as the older boys proceeded with our large pack and American flags.
They solemnly walked to the stone alter and turned around.
The memory of 9/11 the previous year was still fresh for the adults
and I got a bit choked up as one of the WEBELOS
read the Veteran's Day poem.
The little boys didn't understand our observance
but some of the older boys did.
That in America, we love freedom
and we honor those make sacrifices to protect freedoms.
It was a short ceremony and then back to business as usual.
The business of having fun.
The lunch wasn't quite ready when we got back
so I told the boys to make some nests in the leaves.
Well, next thing I knew
the boys were gone.
They turned into a bunch of four foot high leaf mounds.
One of the mom's shouted for lunchtime
and out popped their little heads
like so many gofers from their holes.
After the feeding frenzy that is a hallmark of scouting,
it was free time.
The sun shone brightly against the blue sky through the bare trees.
The boys ran wild and played games and rolled in the leaves.
I am a very patriotic person
and I love America.
Scouting allowed me to indulge a bit in my patriotism
and it was the best time of my life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2/23/2012 The Goldmobile

I looked down at the enormous hood
of Terry's old XR-7 Cougar with dismay.
The gold spray paint had seemed like such a good idea.
When he had noticed a few rust spots the previous week
I had helpfully suggested we paint it.
Did you know that batches of automotive spray paint
from different Shucks auto centers
had a slight variance of color?
They do!
Add to the fact that the colors weren't identical
that both Terry and I are not patient people.
What that means is that,
where the rust was most prominent, Terry held the spray can
closer, which led to four inch wide gold stripes
up and down the hood.
After we exhausted the gold paint supply at Bothell Shucks,
we cruised down to Kenmore and relieved them of
their last six cans.
I said to Terry, "All we have to do
is hold these last six cans back a ways
and it will evenly hide the stripes."
So, we went to work.
The snag was,
the Bothell paint had an orange tint to the gold
and the Kenmore paint was four shades lighter.
So now we had a hood with close to ten shades of gold
depending on how close we had each held the can.
To make it easier to work,
we had split the hood down the middle
and I think my side looked slightly better,
but not much.
When we stood in line at the time clock the next morning
at the Bothell Post Office,
one of the gals came up behind me and whispered in my ear,
"Did you see Terry's car?!"
I whispered back, "I Know.
Can you believe he tried to paint it himself?!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Blue Kid on the MS Pride of America Cruise Ship Spring Break 2011

I stared at the blue kid with dread.
My blue slime was four times darker
than the slime being poured by Scuba or Goldfish.
My grandmother's voice rang soundly in the back of my head,
"Haste makes waste."
It wasn't so much that I'd been in a hurry
making my slime for Slime Time Live
on the pool deck as just plain excitement.
I did pay attention as Goldfish showed me
how to fill my bucket with water
and add the cornstarch
and blue food coloring;
I just thought it would look cooler dark blue
so I added a bit more.
Well, the snag with food coloring is that it is
easily absorbed into the skin.
I knew that from a lifetime of dying Easter eggs
in my sloppy, excited manner.
What didn't occur to me was that I could potentially
end up with a blue kid.
Running poolside games with the other youth staff
was one of the most exciting parts of my job.
They had live music rocking oldies from
my teen years and it was near-impossible not to dance.
The Pride of America cruise ship job
was the best job I ever had,
except for the chronic seasickness.
There was an hour at the start of every program
where the kids had free time to choose
from dozens of different games.
I loved playing Candy Land with the tiny tots
and Jenga or Uno with older kids,
but nothing compared to those outside pool games!
We ran all kinds of funny trivia games for families
and the Slime Time Live was usually just two kid teams of four.
We had already done the poopy diaper eating contest,
which was really chocolate pudding in a Huggy eaten
with their hands behind their backs;
and we had done the trivia section with tri-boards.
So the winners were standing in a small inflatable wading pool,
and we were pouring blue slime over their heads
as their parents snapped away with their cameras,
and I was thinking my kid was far too blue!
Thank God the kid and his parents thought it was funny
and that after the poolside shower he was pale blue.
I really liked that job and didn't want to get sent home
before my contract ended in two weeks.
When I got to work for the evening shift
and took a good look at my kid,
you could barely tell he was blue.
He shouted, "Lollipop! Lollipop! Look at me!
I'm blue!" I looked at him and so did my supervisor
Goldfish. She just rolled her eyes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2/18/2012 The Ugly Vase

I can just barely make out the tiny whiteish heads
of the pussywillows down the swamp behind our house.
The first sign of spring in Seattle
that gives us hope for warmer weather.
When it finally hits fifty-five degrees here
we all scramble for our shorts
and sunglasses
and prepare ourselves for the odd sunny day.
My older sisters, Jan and Pam, had a big plan
for my mother's thirtieth birthday in 1962.
We were going to go through the whole neighborhood
selling pussywillows to buy her this
pretty vase at the Rainier Avenue Wigwam store.
It was rare that my sisters let me tag along for anything.
As a kid one of my names was
So off we went to the huge swamp
that was located between Holly Park
and the Othello and Rainier Avenue shopping center.
We picked armloads of pussywillows
and hauled them home to our porch.
We assembled them in small bouquets,
tied them up with kite string,
and walked along the sidewalk to the
first housing unit.
Pam and Jan put their heads together
and Pam said, "You're the youngest
so you have to go to the door."
With my slavish, youngest child devotion
I went up to the door of Aunty Dot,
one of our neighbors that we weren't really related to.
She opened the door and smiled down at me and I said,
"Would you like to buy thom puthywilloths?"
(I had no teeth in at six.)
She bought a bouquet of ten long stems for a dime
and we were off and running.
Money was tight in the project houses
so Jan had priced them right.
Ten cents for ten long stems and five for the short ones.
It took us all day to reach our goal of one dollar.
We were so excited when we went into the Wigwam store.
We had visited it many times previously
and Pam and Jan had picked out our target weeks ago.
An eight inch high oval shaped vase of orange
with pale yellow vertical stripes and then
covered with blurry white spots.
I was in awe of that vase.
I followed my sisters, full of admiration for them,
as they presented the vase to the checker
and then we went home.
On February 19th, my sisters gave my mom her birthday present.
They had wrapped it carefully in funny papers.
She cried and cried when she opened that oddly-shaped package.
Being a single mom raising three kids on welfare
was probably not what she had planned for herself.
But we loved and admired her so much.
The ugly vase sits on a high shelf in my kitchen.
Funny that I ever thought it was the most
beautiful vase in the world.
My mom sure did!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2/16/2012 The Power of Gum at Inglemoor High School

I leaned on the Inglemoor office counter with blurry eyes
trying to focus on the lovely pink sub folder
to make sure I picked up the right one.
I am NOT a morning person
and how I envy those who are.
Getting up at 5:30AM
and arriving to work at 6:30AM in the cold and dark
is a real challenge for me.
My son Troy is a senior at Inglemoor this year
and for the first time five years
he said he didn't mind if I subbed at his school.
As long as I didn't embarrass him.
Tall order.
I peered sleepily at the substitute folder and
flipped it open to make sure I had my attendance sheets
and there was something inside.
A small yellow, post-it noted square.
On the front in fancy writing it said,
"Thank you for chewsing to sub at Inglemoor."
I picked it up and peeled back the corner
and there was a green packet of Extra chewing gum.
My jaw dropped down in astonishment and I looked up
at Vicky and Barbara and said, "Is this for me?!"
They both nodded and gave me big smiles and went back to work.
Now, I'm prone to be a petty, jealous person
when it comes to full time teaching jobs.
For nine years I've subbed everywhere under the sun
and around Christmas and Valentine's Day
looking at those teacher shelves
piled high with presents and treats
would make me downright envious.
So, yesterday when I got my chewing gum
I was as happy as a clam at Kalaloch
during the off-limits season.
My gum was about the best thing that had
ever happened to me signing in for work.
Plus, I drink coffee which gives me bad breath
and I hate to stink out the students.
When I got in my classroom,
I swilled down a cup of coffee
and got ready for the day.
When I reached down for my sub bag of supplies,
I saw that gum and took out a piece to chew.
Spearment, my favorite.
It was then that I noticed that there was writing on the back too.
It said, "You always give a little EXTRA when you sub at Inglemoor."

Monday, February 13, 2012

2/13/2012 The Stinkiest Place I Ever Ate Lunch

It was pretty exciting being promoted
from the bullgang to the dump-truck.
Okay, it really wasn't so much a promotion
as a rotation with everyone else,
but as I looked up that orange
City of Seattle engineering truck,
it looked about two stories high
and darn exciting.
Not that I didn't like digging ditches
out of the Haller Lake office.
I certainly didn't have to count calories
or do my Jane Fonda tape!
I had to eat like a horse just to keep
big enough for those long days of endless ditches.
So after three months,
I was finally assigned a dump-truck
with my buddy Debbie.
We had both been recruited from the
City of Seattle park department
custodian pool to the engineering department
because in 1978, Seattle mayor, Wes Ulman,
had been given the federal mandate to put
women in traditional male jobs.
The male jobs paid better than most
of the secretarial jobs and many of us
women were ready to get dirty
for the big cash.
When Debbie and I were assigned the same
dump-truck, with Jim, we were delighted!
We took turns riding shotgun
and from way up high in that truck you
could SEE EVERYTHING for miles and miles.
Our week rotated daily with Monday and Tuesday
being odd job days.
We'd stand in the Haller Lake hallway
each morning with our driver and the boss
would hand him our orders
and off we'd go!
We could be picking up sod from the bull-gang
ditch diggers, or filling in potholes or hauling brush
to the transfer station...
The transfer station!
The Wallingford transfer station was a place we visited
most days but rarely got out of the truck.
Jim would just back in and make the dump.
But every Wednesday, we had a LONG garbage run
that ended in Wallingford.
We'd start in Ballard at 15NW and 85th NW
and sweep all the sidewalks.
Then we'd cruise down the hill to Golden Gardens
park to the flat section below the bluff.
Debbie and I walked that entire meadow
from the north to the south end
with those long-handled garbage spearing poles
and trash sacks while Jim waited in the truck.
Then we'd pick up all the trash from the park restrooms
and do the shoulders around the
Hiram H. Chittendon locks.
It took about four hours and then we'd hit the transfer station
for lunch. Jim had twenty years at the City
so he wanted to eat lunch with all his cronies.
We'd climb down from our huge truck and
follow him across the huge building
and up the stairs.
Now a transfer station is where all the garbage goes
before it is loaded up in containers
to be hauled out to the dumps in outlying areas
and they smell BAD.
Debbie and I would follow him up a long staircase
to the upper level where the lunchroom was located
and sit along the tables with the garbagemen.
They were always excited to us
because we were the first women ever hired for that job.
We were strong and buff from months of work
and Debbie and I were both genial people.
We were a good crew for Jim because he was
one of the most jovial people I have ever worked
with in my entire life!
Those garbage men were so friendly and funny
but boy did they smell bad.
I mean really bad.
Even inside the lunchroom with the door closed
that lunchroom just reeked like garbage.
It took us a few weeks to learn how to
eat and not smell at the same time
and then we looked forward to
bullshitting with our new friends every Wednesday.
It was the stinkiest place I ever ate lunch.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2/11/12 Mimicking With My Mini Me

I was pretty sad that Troy didn't want me to go to
his senior high school solo singing competition
down at Eastlake High School yesterday.
Seems like a minute ago
he was in the seventh grade choir at Kenmore Junior High
and was singing in the solo competition
in Italian.
He loved having me there with him at thirteen.
Then at fourteen, he went to the dark side
as boys are prone to do around that age.
I was no longer the wonderful mommy,
but becoming the embarrassing old lady.
So it surprised me when he came home in his tuxedo
after singing all morning and sang for us.
In Gaelic of all things.
Teddy and I were sitting at the dining room table
opposite each other and as Troy started singing
we started swaying.
Happens anytime we hear music together.
One of us will start swaying
and then the other begins an automatic sequence
of mimicking movements that I believe
only only a genetic link can explain.
So, Teddy started swaying
and I started swaying
and Troy started singing louder
and faster and I started pounding the table
and Teddy was pounding the table
and Teddy started clapping
and I started clapping.
And then Troy stopped
and Teddy stopped
and I stopped
and that was that.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2/11/2012 Evacuating Planes, Ships and School Buses

I was carefully putting all the lesson plan materials
in order out at Crystal Springs Elementary the other
morning when I heard the announcement on the PA.
"We will be having a bus evacuation drill in ten minutes,
all available personnel please assist."
Well, in nine years of subbing I had
never seen a school bus evacuation drill
so I was pretty excited to go check that out.
I went to the front of the school where the buses
were lined up and introduced myself to the driver
that didn't have anyone helping her.
She gave me the assignment of standing between
the buses and directing the kids to line up against the wall
after she had popped open the rarely-used side door
and helped them down to ground level.
I did my job and felt a sense of relief
that the school districts do these drills.
School bus evacuations are very rare
which makes them all the more important.
I went on with my day of teaching reading and math
and got home and thought about that drill.
I couldn't help but remember being inside the
airplane mock-ups during flight attendant training in 1987
and having to shout the evacuation commands
and then running down a dark cat-walk
and pulling the red handle to release the tail-cone of the DC-9
so the slide could pop out.
Yikes, that was scary.
The only thing I would do differently if I was a school administrator
would be to train some ABAs in case the bus really did need
evacuating. An Able Body Assistant is the civilian
sitting next to the windows on a jet that is briefed
to open the window in an evacuation.
I'd have the 6th graders trained to open the door
if the driver was knocked out and how to
command the younger students to safety and keep them together.
But that's just me.
I'm still mad at the cruise ship captain that jumped ship
after he ran it aground last month.
At Coast Guard training last year in Honolulu
we were all trained for evacuation jobs
that all depended on the signals from the captain.
Norwegian Cruise Line does way more safety training
than the other cruise lines
but the bottom line is:
Know matter if you are on a plane, ship or bus,
know where your emergency exits are
and how to operate them.
Think about safety.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2/7/2012 When Willard Lived in Kenmore

Pam and I were picking fat juicy blackberries
on a hot sunny day in September down in the swamp.
She said, "Hey, look Gretch, there's Betty's old shed.
I walked over to where she was
and could just barely make out the outline
of the shape of the shed through the brambles.
I said, "I thought the county tore that down
when they bought this property for the park."
I edged in closer and could see the door
and said, "Come on sis, maybe there is some cool farm stuff inside."
We slowly pushed the old door open
and she followed me in.
It was pitch black and we had come inside
from the bright sun and we temporarily blinded.
We could hear them before we could see them.
The ceiling and walls started moving
as hundreds of tiny scratching feet
took off running in all directions at our entrance.
"RATS!" I screamed.
I nearly knocked sissy down
trying to get out of that shed.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Christmas Tree That Fell From the Sky

In 1998, two years after Teddy was born, money became a little bit tight.
To invest in frugality, my sister Pam and I hatched a plan to pick up
artificial Christmas trees.
It was a cold sunny day and we were cruising out 522 towards
the Woodinville Ernst store, which was having a big sale on fake trees.
I was driving my little navy blue Ford tempo when Pam shouted,
"Gretch! A tree!"
I saw it and pulled over next to the highway and couldn't believe my eyes.
A seven foot tall gorgeous noble fir that would have been fifty bucks at
Yakima Fruit stand, was lying at the side of the highway.
I raised my arms high to the sky and shouted, "THANK YOU JESUS!"
Then sissy and I spent ten minutes wrestling the tree into
the tiny trunk of my car and tying it down.
Just as we had climbed in the car, a small tan pick-up truck
came roaring up the highway behind us and
a middle-aged woman with wild long blond hair jumped out and
started shouting,  "My tree! My tree!"
We got out and apologized and untied the tree and helped her load it
into the back of her little truck. She was so happy.
Pam and I bought our artificial trees but when Terry got home
from work he said, "Take it back! I hate fake trees!"
So I took it back with much chagrin that he
didn't appreciate my rare attempt at serious long-term frugality.
Five years later on December 15th,
Terry turned to me and said, "Where did you put that fake tree?"
I stared at him with open-mouth disbelief as he said,
"We could save a lot of money if we used that."

Friday, February 3, 2012

3/3/2012 Losing Weight With Noodle on The Pride of America Cruise Ship

I couldn't wait to get up to Rascals kid club
for Mystery Morning!
Of all the themed programs on the ship
nothing could excite me more
than pretending to be spies.
Ever since David McCallum captured my eight year old
heart on the TV show, Man From U.N.C.L.E in 1964,
I wanted to be a spy and go on missions
with Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.
So, now I got to.
I met Noodle in the Rascal room on deck 12
and we had six kids left behind for Port Play
as their parents explored Kona and the surrounding area.
Noodle, my fellow Washingtonian, from Spokane
was what my grandmother used to call,
"One long drink of water."
At six foot four with bright blond hair and
sparkling blues eyes he was adorable and
had a fun-loving personality to boot.
Noodle and I divided the work and I helped
the kids make their "official" spy badges
and write their spy code secret messages
while he took the all the ransom notes
and hid them all over the ship.
When Noodle came back he "noticed"
that some evil person had kidnapped
Charlie the Seahorse.
Now Charlie was a blue, much-loved over-sized
vinyl covered stuffed rocking seahorse
that lived in the padded toddler play area.
Who could be so evil as to kidnap the
most beloved toddler friend as Charlie?!
Our spy team was going to solve the mystery,
and with the two twelve year old boys
finding the first ransom note,
we were off to save Charlie!
The snag for me was that Noodle
had decided to depart from the standard
search of ransom notes to "mix it up a bit."
Noodle followed the oldest kids
and I (Lolliopop) brought up the caboose of six and eight year
old kids as we searched the entire ship for clues.
Ten clues that were spread the length of the 965 foot ship
and up and down six decks, five times each.
I don't normally need a calculator to write stories
but we covered 4,825 feet and 50 staircases that morning.
My favorite part of going through the ship as spies
was that we had all kinds of secret codes to follow.
Whenever we'd run into passengers in the hallways,
we needed to be invisible so we'd do a Code Red,
and crab walk stealthily against the walls
and of course crossing the large reception area
unseen necessitated Code Black
or crouching down and tiptoeing silently.
All good fun for when we finally got
back to the Rascal Center and the final note,
which led us to the baby-diaper changing room
where we "rescued" the "prisoner" Charlie.
By the time we finished, the parents were
waiting to pick up the kids for lunch.
Most people on a cruise ship gain weight
foraging through endless buffet lines,
but I lost ten pounds each contract
and five that one Mystery Morning.
Thanks Noodle!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2/1/2012 Pant Shopping Between Classes

I can't believe it was eight years ago already.
I was convinced
that the best way to be a great elementary school teacher
was to go everywhere and experience all levels of classes.
So I bravely went to substitute at Shorecrest High School.
I had just finished my third period English class
and decided to write my name higher up on the white board.
I wasn't tall enough
so I climbed up on a chair
and wrote my name
but then two things happened at once.
I started falling off the chair and decided to jump down.
As I was falling/jumping,
my slacks caught the sharp metal corner
of the eraser tray underneath.
I felt a sharp pain
on my backside
and heard an ominous ripping sound.
When I straightened up I felt my rear end
and nearly fainted.
My thin, thrift store navy pants
had torn in a giant L shape
that would have covered eighteen inches if measured.
I got dizzy with fear.
Teenagers thrive on hazing substitutes.
It was late spring and hot outside
and I didn't have so much as a sweater
with me to tie around myself!
I looked at the lesson plan
and thanked God for giving me
a one hour planning time added
to my thirty minute lunch.
The snag was,
how to get from the room to my car out front.
I grabbed my purse and locked the door.
Unfortunately for me,
I was on the back side of the building near the portables,
as far from the front of the building as possible.
I knew the students
didn't look at old people
and that no one would notice me
if I was nonchalant.
I stepped out of the room and waited for the
bell to ring.
Once the hall was flooded with hormonal teenagers
bouncing around wildly,
I crab-walked down the two long halls to the office.
I told the secretary
that I had a small problem
and needed to leave the building
for my lunch break.
When she asked what my problem was
I told her it was too embarrassing
and she said, "It can't be that bad."
I told her I had a small tear in
my pants from jumping off a chair
and she wanted to see it.
She came around her podium
and I rotated away from the wall
and she started howling with laughter
and grabbed the office manager
who joined in with her.
I took that to mean I could leave the building
but I knew I could not make it to Kenmore
and back before the next class started.
I ran backwards across the parking lot to my car
and raced to the Lake City Value Village.
By then I didn't care if anyone saw my butt.
I was around a size fourteen
at the time but didn't want
to take any chances and grabbed the first
size sixteen pants I saw and
dashed in the dressing room.
My blood pressure finally came down
as I zipped them up and tore off the tag
and paid for them.
Back safely in my classroom,
I grabbed my copy of the attendance sheet,
took a few deep breaths
introduced myself to the students
and looked forward to
another dramatization of
Shakespear's 'Hamlet'.

2/1/2012 Making Lava, From Rice

For most women,
the true ability to multitask
often arrives with that second baby.
I thought I could multitask
before I had kids,
but I was wrong.
The level of responsibility
for their little bodies, brains and hearts
is pretty overwhelming.
Add to that the knowledge
that adults blame all their problems
on their mother
and you are in one big pressure cooker.
Most young people today have never seen
a pressure cooker,
but if you were born in the forties or fifties
you'll remember the heavy pot with
the small tower on the lid
that would rise and show
white rings as the steam pressure
quickly cooked the contents.
Old school quick cooking before the microwave was invented.
One day while Troy was in third grade and Teddy was in first grade
and they were both at school,
I was racing around the house,
doing laundry,
getting ready for work the next day,
looking for food to make for dinner,
the usual
try to do five things at once mode.
I had forgotten to eat lunch
so I tossed a plate of rice in the microwave oven.
I set the microwave oven to two minutes.
I set the microwave oven to two hundred minutes!
I was downstairs folding laundry when I smelled smoke.
I ran upstairs and the entire kitchen was engulfed in smoke
and the smoke alarms were going off.
I knew what it was.
Wasn't the first time
I'd ever burned anything.
I ran around opening all the windows and doors
and fanned at the smoke with a magazine.
It smelled so awful
that I dug in the back closet for a fan to clear the smoke out.
After a half hour,
I carefully opened the microwave.
Black acrid smoke hit my face
and I coughed.
I gingerly pulled at the serving bowl
and saw lava.
Honest to God lava!
I carried my lunch out the kitchen door
and placed it on my deck table
and waited for it to cool off.
While I was waiting,
I saw my walls had been covered
in a black oily film
and I began to scrub them off
hoping the hideous smell would go with the grime.
I heard thundering steps on the front porch
and knew Troy and Teddy
were home from school.
"Phew mom! What's that smell?!"
Exclaimed Troy.
Teddy came in and hugged me and asked,
"What's for snack mom?"
I led them to the back porch and said,

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1/31/2012 The Thrill of Frog Catching on Cougar Mountain

Around 1962, my auntie Jean decided
my cousin Carolyn and I were mature
enough to take my cousin Elizabeth
around on our walks.
We were six that year.
I think my visits with my same age cousin Care
had something to do with my mom and auntie Jean's
Toni home-perm schedule.
The spring break visit was a doozy.
Early in the morning mom would load my older sisters,
Strawberry and Pam and me
into her baby-poop colored '57 Chevy
and away from Holly Park housing project
we would go.
Over that exciting floating bridge
and up Cougar Mountain.
Mom's car Brownie could just barely
get to the top where they lived.
After their beagle Moochie
was done chewing up my small corduroy
Reddy bear, and I was done crying,
and the Toni perm care kits were started,
the fun would begin.
Mom and my sisters would eventually take off
after dinner, leaving me for the week.
Spring in Seattle is cold and wet.
Too cold for the snakes to be out
and too wet to dig clam shell
fossils from the hillsides,
but perfect for frog catching!
That was more fun than climbing trees
because of the element of
Yogi Bear was a huge star that year so
Care and I decided that Boo Boo was a better name
for Elizabeth and she was such an agreeable child
that she didn't mind us shortening her name to Boo.
So, Care, Boo and I, would pull on our goulashes,
ditch Moochie and Ricky dog in the house,
and head out for some serious frog catching.
If my auntie Jean knew how far we went,
she would have had a heart attack.
We were not allowed to go past the top
of the long gravel driveway,
but Care had a great excuse for everything,
and, I was always up for anything.
So we marched our tiny six year old selves
with four year old Boo in tow,
past the top of the driveway
and a mile down the road,
almost to Mrs. Porter's shack.
The farm there had a low spot
along the property next to the road
that only filled up during the spring rains.
With nearly a quarter acre of swamp,
filled with reeds,
we were ready for our daily thrill.
The best technique for frog catching,
in my opinion,
was to set your bucket down close by
and yank up the leaning reeds over with your left hand
and grab the frog with your right hand.
We were champion frog catchers
and frogs are fast.
I loved the mystery of not knowing
where they were.
Unlike snakes that boldly sun-bathe in summer,
frogs are always hiding.
The thrill of never knowing where they were
or who would be faster,
you or the frog,
just added to our excitement.
We could usually catch a dozen apiece
in about an hour.
That gave us enough time to get back
down the long driveway,
and into their pasture and down to the smaller
swamp below their house.
For some reason there were never frogs
right there on the property.
We were always on a mission to right that wrong
and be up at the house
before auntie Jean noticed us missing.
Thank goodness she had mountains of laundry
keeping her busy
and trusted us.

Monday, January 30, 2012

1/30/2012 The Bright Side of Job Rejections

There is a bright side to job rejection.
I oughta know!
I was passed over dozens of times
for five years when applying for a
flight attendant job.
I overheard a postal worker
whisper to another one
while I was sorting mail one day.
"Gretchen is so stupid,
She never knows when to give up."
That may be true,
maybe I am too stupid to know when to give up.
The point is,
I didn't give up.
I'd get my rejection letters
and cry a few hours
and go back to carrying mail.
Then one day,
I was one of five in a cattle call of fifty
that had "A problem with my application."
I knew that was recruiter code talk
for being one of the lucky few to get hired.
It was in San Fransisco at the airport Hilton hotel.
Usually, when I made it past the cattle call,
I'd get a letter sending me to a second interview.
I had even made it to third, or final interviews, twice.
This time the five of us sat in a room
and got called out to smaller rooms right then!
Oh how I wished I hadn't gone through the
buffet trough like the pig I am.
When I stepped on the scale she asked
if I could lose my extra five pounds in three weeks.
I was 5'6" and one hundred and thirty pounds!
Seems tiny to me twenty-five years later.
But the important thing to remember
when applying for jobs,
is that you might be rejected.
I paid careful attention those five years to the people
that got picked from the crowd.
I noticed they had college degrees.
I got one.
I noticed they did lots of volunteer work.
I did that too. day came.
I got picked and had the most fun job in the world
for almost a decade.
Now I have been passed over for nearly
one thousand full time teaching jobs
by five school districts
over the last nine years.
Am I stupid?
The bright side of job rejections
is that they make you strong,
give you tough skin.
Most people don't get their dream job
first interview around.
When this happens to you,
don't give up,
you'll grow a tough skin
that will help you cope
with other problems during your lifetime.
Hang in there baby!
My skin is so tough you
can bounce a quarter off me!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1/25/2012 I'm Not Laughing At Those Ads Now

Last week, after a month with a sore throat,
I went to the clinic.
The doctor pressed the tongue depressor down
and asked me to say, "Ahhh"
and looked down my throat.
Then she said, "Looks like a problem caused by acid reflux,
very common for someone your age."
My age! Ha!
For years I'd laughed at all the old choker ads
on TV for acid reflux and other embarrassing products.
Ten years ago I saw the print ad in the back
of the Sunday Seattle Times for foam fannys
and nearly fell off my chair laughing.
Now I want one!
My butt is as flat as the clipboard I pack for subbing.
So, I'm officially a leaky old lady.
They have medicine for that.
Could be worse.
I could be an old man and have to
take the, "little blue pill"
and end up with a problem solved
that doesn't go down for four hours!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

12/24/2012 Singing Songs With Toddlers on the MS Jewel

"How do you like working with the two to five year old group?"
I could see the handwriting on the wall
as my supervisor Martine asked me the question.
The group I feared the most.
Sticky, germy, cough in your face constantly:
Feared above all others
and ready to infect me with global bacterias.
"I hate that age group."
I answered honestly.
"Oh well, that is what you are scheduled for"
she answered with a smile.
Turns out it I never stopped laughing those
first two weeks until the infections
robbed me of my laughter and
replaced it with gut-wrenching coughs.
But, before I got sick
I had the time of my life!
I went to the MS Jewel to meet
people from all over the world
and I did!
Turns out that since most of the kids
out of New York City were American,
the toddler room curriculum
was in English.
Now, here is what cracked me up:
All the American nursery rhymes
have traditional melodies that I expected,
BUT when sung by someone from Peru or the Philippines,
the melody was often different.
I would be helping a two year old
putting on his shoes and hear all the
songs I grew up with sung
completely differently!
It was like being in a audio-fun house
where all the songs were off kilter.
Mary Had a Little Lamb, Wheels on the Bus...
Even the song "Dis is My Tinkerbonker"
when sung by the Canadian, Dexter,
had an entirely different melody.
As a former cub scout leader,
I was trained to sing loud
so the dozens of boys around a campfire
could hear and join in.
So here I was in the MS Jewel toddler room,
and Dexter and I are standing shoulder-to-shoulder
singing the Tinkerbonker song,
at the top of our lungs,
to two different melodies!
The cute little kids were mimicking
our movements and didn't even notice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lunch With Brenda in Hilo Hawaii

There's nothing I like better
than going out to lunch at
Pesto's Cafe in downtown Hilo
on the waterfront with my
best friend, Brenda.
We usually wait for a window table
so we can people watch out the picture window.
Today, we were too hungry to wait
and took a table in the middle of
the room.
People were staring at us.
Well, not me, Brenda.
She had taken some of the jade colored,
C-shaped jade blossoms from her tree
and hung them from the tops of her ears.
They looked like green, inverted Mr. Spock ears.
Mrs. Spock was what I was thinking.
I looked over at her and said,
"Has any ever said, 'You're so crazy!' to you?"
She told me she had heard that
all time her whole life.
I pondered her answer for awhile
and wondered why people
had said that to me so frequently too.
We left the cafe
and stood on the sidewalk out front.
She needed to go to the health food store
but I wanted to hang out in the sun
and warmth.
The woman street musician
was playing Hawaiian songs
and strumming her ukelele and singing.
She nodded at me to join her.
I stepped behind her to read the words
and joined in.
I'm not much of a singer but
it was one of those blissful moments
in a person's lifetime
when your heart and voice
meet and you wish you could
just bottle up the sensation.
Brenda stepped out from the store
and my song ended
and I fell in step with her to cross
the street to the beach.
She turned to me and said,
"You're so crazy."