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,