Monday, June 29, 2009

School Daze

Why, you might ask, would someone who loves to learn as much as I always have, hate first grade so much? But I despised it.

I went to 6 schools in my 12 years, 4 of them in the first 5 grades. But that didn't affect first grade, of course. I suppose I was too young emotionally to handle the full days, though. Usually children begin with half-days in Kindergarten, and so far I was no exception. But my afternoon Kindergarten classes lasted a grand total of 2 weeks. Ten sleepy afternoons, following swimming lessons, a few teenage girls attempted to acquaint my wide-eyed classmates and me with the foreign concepts of sitting quietly in our chairs until called upon, raising our hands to speak, and writing our names on simple coloring pages. There may also have been singing. I only wanted a nap. Then, at the tender age of 5, I began the full days of first grade. But the work was no problem. Upon hearing that I was to go to school, I insisted on being taught to read. I felt it would be the height of embarrassment to show up at school unable even to read. I was highly motivated - my mother says I learned by osmosis.

Unfortunately being able to read actually became an obstacle to my happiness in school, however, because the other kids were constantly asking me questions, for which answers I would incur the wrath of the teacher. And the teacher was my real problem. I was positively terrified of her. In this particular school there were known to be 2 first grade teachers - the nice one and the mean one. In what was to become an unfortunate pattern in my school life, I got the mean one. I was only slightly apprehensive because I tend to get along easily with people and I felt perhaps she'd been misunderstood. Alas, she had not.

I can't honestly say I was singled out for her sharp words. I don't recall her liking any of us. We all got in trouble if we talked; but it didn't matter why. When confused classmates whispered desperate pleas for help and I tried to explain something, we both were called down sharply. Finally I learned to put my head on my desk when I had completed my work, shutting out the whispers and the tugs on my shirtsleeves.

The constantly sour attitude and sharp rebukes made me nervous enough, but had it ended there I might have adjusted. One day something occurred that cemented my fear and made every day an anticipation of disaster. We were finally at lunch, to be followed by recess - every child's favorite part of the school day. My friend and I were at the back of the lunchline, which was very long and very slow, and we began looking around us, and fell to daydreaming. Something brought my eyes back around to my friend, and with a start I realized the line had long since left us behind and we were standing alone near the door we came in at. "Go!" I commanded my friend, giving her a little push to emphasize my words.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, seeing how far back we were, and she hurried forward. As I lifted my foot to follow her, I was suddenly snatched up by both shoulders and shaken very hard. My head flew back and forth, tender baby teeth clashing together, feeling much like I imagine a field mouse must when an owl snatches it from the ground. As the violence of the shaking diminished, I could see the angry face of my teacher close to my own frightened one. "Don't push people," she screamed. Eyes wide with shock, I attempted to sputter out an explanation. Unfortunately I began with the words, "I wasn't-" and before I could get another word out, the shaking began again, much harder than before, as she yelled furiously that I was not to lie to her! "Ok," I gasped and she released me. I stumbled forward to get my lunch, stunned and rattled. Leaving as quickly as I could to go to recess, I discovered that the treasured plaything I had carefully placed in the toy cubby had been absconded with. Discouraged and unhappy, but afraid to complain, I went and sat under a tree. My mother was furious when I told her what had happened, and she tried in vain to get me transferred to the other class. She did discover that my teacher was very ill and that's why she was so tense.

Following closely on the heels of this incident was another, adding to the feeling of uneasiness because of the unnerving quality of it. I was sitting in reading circle with the sun streaming in, a little sleepy with the dull business of listening to other first graders stammer out their reading lesson. Suddenly the quiet was shattered by a shy, timid girl, who leaped to her feet, screaming. She danced frantically, slapping at herself and emitting little shrieks while we all watched in horrified fascination. The teacher rushed to the girl's side, trying to discover the problem. Just as she reached her, the girl burst in to tears and the teacher hustled her out of the room. We all stared in amazement at one another, totally at a loss as to what had just occurred. We were later informed that the girl had been stung by a bee that got inside her sweater. This episode did not make me fear bees, but my fear of my teacher became a bit mythical as I associated her with the bizarre episode.

One weary, dreary Monday morning, I dragged unwillingly in to school, weighted down by a very large, heavy cast on my aching arm, shattered in 3 places in an unfortunate incident at the Jaycees picnic over the weekend. It was my right arm, too, so all the careful work I'd done so far in learning to write had been completely undone. When I arrived, it was not my teacher who waited for me. We had a substitute, a very pleasant looking lady named Mrs. Whited. She explained that our teacher was going to be out for some weeks due to surgery and recovery, and she, Mrs. Whited, would fill her place as best she could. While feeling sympathy for the sick teacher, I can't say I was sorry to have relief from the constant dread of the school day. Mrs. Whited was as pleasant as she looked and I thrived under her smile like a flower in the sun. She was patient with me when I had trouble doing my work because of my broken arm, and she laughed when she found that rather than raising my hand for attention, I was just resting my heavy cast on the back of my chair. We got along famously. The crowning touch was the school-wide Student of the Month competition. I craved going forward in assembly in front of the entire school to receive the certificate and accolades given to the favored student. But our teachers had to nominate us. I had given up hoping, so I was genuinely surprised when my name was called. I went forward, beaming, and saw my new favorite teacher beaming back. Not long after that our regular teacher returned. Everyone in the class mobbed her to say welcome back. Well, everyone except me. I was over with Mrs. Whited having a tearful farewell.

There wasn't much of the school year left by this time, and perhaps our teacher was feeling better after her surgery, because there were no more particular incidents. As long as we stayed silent, and didn't complain at recess about the bullies, things weren't too bad. We even had an art project one day, and I enjoyed it so much that I remember it still. The owl I made is preserved as magnificent in my memory, the actual work of art not having survived to contradict my visions of grandeur. The owl art project done on black paper was the single good memory I had with that first grade teacher. She was almost nice to me that day! I've had a fondness for owls ever since.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Update on Gates

My friend, Karrie, continues to post here about the adoption of her little son from China. After many obstacles, Paul is in China right now, patiently plodding through all the many steps of officially adopting his son. They have a Skype account set up, so Karrie can see her new son as he plays. He's adorable! She asks for continued prayer for the process, the trip home, and Gates' acclimation to his new family. Thank you all for your interest and prayers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Are Bugs Pretty?

No one thinks flies are pretty?! I'm shocked. I mean, look at the little guy, with his huge red goggles, his shimmery blue-green hide, and his little hook to hold on with! Though, to be honest, if he had been on my kitchen counter I'd of whacked him without a second thought. For me the demarcation line is inside versus outside. I've always been an outdoors girl, and I marvel at the beauty of all kinds of unusual things. Snakes, for instance. My mom says there's something heathenish about my fascination with snakes. But have you ever really looked at, say, a coral snake? They are really gorgeous. We have large indigo snakes here too. Once my young son was leaning against a tree by the pond and felt something on his leg. He looked down and there was a 5-ft. indigo climbing him! He did a frantic little panic dance and the startled snake dropped off. Evidently he'd never seen a tree behave like that.

I find many spiders and other unpopular creatures to be beautiful too. My sister and I loved ants when we were little and were always trying to make homemade ant farms, with moats around them. An awful lot of ants drowned themselves rather than stay with us! Maybe it's from growing up in Florida where you either get used to things or stay nervous a lot. We always did a lot of camping, so when we went swimming or canoeing, it was usually in a pond or lake, and there were often alligators nearby. Mostly they leave you alone, especially if no one has been feeding them. Unless they've been fed, alligators are pretty shy of people. I did get to swim with a manatee once, back before it was illegal to touch them. They have hides like elephants and faces only a mother could love. We have oodles of lizards and frogs. We watched quite a drama in our bathroom window one day. We heard what sounded like a girl screaming and ran to find the source. There were 3 frogs on the outside of the screen, but there was the glass of the window kind of trapping them. They were what was screaming! A snake was crawling up the screen, wanting to eat them. While he was trying to pick out the juiciest looking frog, a tiny spider started sidling sideways toward him, ever so slowly. Finally he reached the snake's head, climbed on and bit him right between the eyes! The snake jerked, then fell from the window. So the little spider saved all those frogs! Sort of made me think of the story of the mouse saving the lion.

I love watching all the little dramas unfold as long as the creatures are outside where they belong. Even birds, which are so beautiful and fascinating flying free, I've had no luck with inside. Once we had a parakeet named Midnight. It was basically psychotic. I figure it was because it was caged. Another time we came home to find a peach-faced lovebird clinging to our screen door. Someone's pet that had escaped, we thought at first. My son made a pet of it, and at first it was adorable. It would sit on his head and sing and act all innocent. Soon, though, it became an attack bird, refusing to allow anyone in to his bedroom except him - and then, it turned on him too. We came to realize that it had probably been booted out by it's original owner in self-defense! I use to like squirrels, too. Until one got down inside our bedroom wall! So, if any bugs could read this, the moral of the story would be - stay out of my house! The bugs in the pictures I posted were all found outside and left to live and let live, except the red and black one that I trapped in my kitchen! He was left in a jar to be admired until he expired.

(This was first posted when I began blogging a year and a half ago; Dishy's post about her daughter's little fly friend reminded me of this, so since almost no one was reading back then, I thought I could re-post it without boring anyone too much. All of these photos were taken outside of my house (the jar one was inside).

Monday, June 8, 2009

For Your Amusement...

(I've had this skit script since we performed it as a radio play in high school, and thought you'd enjoy it. I did not write it but it is possible that -
the author of the skit is a semi-retired pastor by
the name of Warren W. Wiersbe of Lincoln, Nebraska. He wrote it decades
ago while a youth worker with Youth For Christ. It tells about it in his
autobiography, "Be Myself." He's written about 100 books and been on
radio for years.
I haven't been able to confirm that yet. It is pure silliness and very "punny." Enjoy the melodrama!)


Announcer: The makers of Fatrical present (MUSIC) –Frontier Mortician…

Are you skinny and run down? Are you so thin you have to wear skies in the bathtub to keep from going down the drain? When you turn sideways and stick out your tongue, do you look like a zipper? When you drink strawberry pop, do you look like a thermometer? Then you need Fatrical—the drink that adds weight to you. Fatrical is not a capsule, it is not a solid, it is not a liquid—it’s a gas that you inhale. Fatrical comes in one delicious gas flavor—mustard. It costs only $4.95 a case, and the equipment for inhaling it costs only $5,678. This includes a 10,000 cubit foot tank, 300 feet of hose, three pumps, two filter tips, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Now for our story—Trigger Mortis, Frontier Mortician. The scene opens in the residence of Sam Alamode, wealthy rancher and owner of the Bar B Q ranch in Sparerib, Texas. Sam is dying and is talking to his lovely daughter Piney Alamode, whom he lovingly calls Pie…
Sam: Pie, honey, I’m dying again. Go call Trigger Mortis, the frontier mortician. Have hearse, will travel.
Pie: What’s wrong with you, daddy? What’s your ailment?
Sam: I swallowed the thermometer and I’m dying by degrees.
Pie: I’ll go call Trigger Mortis right now…
Announcer: Unknown to Sam Alamode, his head foreman, Joe Silver, is hiding outside listening to the conversation. He’s a full-bloodied Indian. And Sam always called him his faithful Indian companion, Silver. Sam doesn’t hear Joe speak…
Joe: Let old Sam die. I wish he would. Then I can get the ranch and be set for life. He’s always got some fool disease. Last week he swallowed a dynamite cap and his hair came out in bangs. Before that he swallowed a hydrogen bomb and had atomic ache. He’s suffering from flower disease—he’s a blooming idiot. Hey—here comes Pie Alamode’s stupid boyfriend, Arnie…Poor kid…he’s an orphan…little orphan Arnie. I’ll just sneak away…
Arnie: I haven’t seen my girlfriend Pie Alamode for two weeks. Boy, she has lovely eyes—one is brown and the other two are blue. Last time she rolled her eyes at me, and I picked them up and rolled them back. I remember the first time she kissed me…it made chills go up and down my spine…then I found out her popsicle was leaking. I’ll knock at the door. (KNOCKS)
Pie: Who is it?
Arnie: It’s me, honey—and I call you honey ‘cause you have hives.
Pie: Oh, my cookie…and I call you cookie because you’re so crummy.
Announcer: We interrupt this love scene to bring you a message from Peter Pan makeup. Use Peter Pan before your pan peters out. This is the makeup used by the stars—Lassie, Gentle Ben, and Phyllis Diller. Listen to this letter from Mrs. Mergatroid Fluglehorn from Liverlip, Mississippi. “My face was so wrinkled I had to screw my hat on. Then I used Peter Pan makeup and I don’t look like an old woman anymore—I look like an old man. I had my wrinkles tightened up, and now every time I raise my eyebrows, I pull my socks up. I give all the credit to Peter Pan.” You can be beautiful, too…Now back to Frontier Mortician. Trigger Mortis, the frontier mortician, is answering his telephone…
Trig: Oh, it’s you, Miss Pie Alamode…You want me to come to see your father? Well, my hearse has been giving me trouble—I think I blew a casket. I’ve got to quit using embalming fluid in the gas tank, because the motor keeps dying. Yes…yes…well, I have to finish my breakfast. I’m eating Shrouded Wheat and Ghost Toasties…Well, I’ll hurry right out. Goodbye – I must be shoveling off.
Announcer: Pie Alamode hangs up and goes to meet her lover, little orphan Arnie, in their favorite meeting place…the family graveyard.
Pie: It’s so romantic here in the graveyard. There’s the grave of my Uncle Earnest. Look…there are some maggots courting in dead earnest.
Arnie: Darling, may I have your hand in marriage?
Pie: My hand? Oh yes! In fact, you can have my arm, too.
Arnie: Here, I’ll put this ring on your finger.
Pie: Awwww, your face is turning red.
Arnie: yeah, and your finger’s turning green…after all, we’ve been going together for twelve years now.
Pie: So what do you want—a pension? Let’s do tell my father.
Announcer: This program is brought to you by the Double Insanity Insurance Company. Mothers, do you have children? Then protect them with a double deal policy. We pay $100.00 if your son is killed by a herd of white elephants going east on Thursday. If you lose an arm, we help you look for it. If you get hit in the head, we pay you in one lump sum. We have a double indemnity clause, too. If you die in an accident, we bury you twice. Now, a report from the National Safety Council. It is predicted that 356 people will die in accidents this weekend. So far only 135 have been reported. Some of you aren’t trying. Now back to our story. Joe Silver is plotting to kidnap Pie Alamode and hold her for ransom. He thinks Sam Alamode is dying, but he really isn’t. Trigger Mortis, frontier mortician, is on his way to the ranch…
Trig: Well, here I am. When you are at death’s door, I will pull you through.
Sam: Good to see you, Trigger…Can you give me a good funeral?
Trig: I’ll give you a good funeral or your mummy back. Could I interest you in our new layaway plan?
Sam: I’m a sick man, a sick man. The doctor told me to drink some medicine after a hot bath, and I can hardly finish drinking the bath.
Trig: You need some of my Whistler’s Mother medicine – one dose and you’re off your rocker.
Sam: Trigger, I can trust you, can’t I?
Trig: Of corpse, of corpse…have I ever let you down?
Sam: I don’t trust my faithful Indian companion, Silver. He has a sneaky look.
Trig: I happen to know, Sam, that Joe Silver wants to kidnap your daughter and keep her from marrying little orphan Arnie.
Sam: Trigger, we gotta do something. Think of a plan.
Announcer: Will Trigger Mortis think of a plan? While he thinks, here’s a word from Honest John Pendergast, the used car dealer. Honest John has bargains in used cars that you can’t afford to miss. Here’s an 1887 Essex—this is a revolutionary car—Washington drove it at Valley Forge. The tires are so beat that you not only knock the pedestrians down, you whip them to death. This car has low lines—in fact, it’s so low it doesn’t have doors—it has manhole covers. This program is also brought to you by Glum, the toothpaste that gives your bad breath the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Are your teeth like the Ten Commandments--all broken? Do you have a Pullman car mouth—one upper and one lower? Then use Glum…Glum contains eucalyptus oil, flown in from Australia…this eucalyptus oil is the secret of Glum. Millions of users say, “Man, you Clipt us.” Be true to your teeth and they will never be false to you. Now, back to Frontier Mortician. Sam, Pie, Arnie, and Trigger Mortis are trying to figure out how to get rid of Joe Silver.
Sam: I have a splitting headache.
Trig: Have your eyes ever been checked?
Sam: No, they’ve always been blue. Trigger, why don’t we put Joe in one of your coffins and ship him out of the state?
Trig: A tisket, a tasket, I’ll put him in a casket. I was in love once, so I know what Arnie and Pie are going through.
Pie: You were in love?
Trig: Yes. I was stuck on a girl who worked in the glue factory. She had a schoolgirl complexion…with diplomas under her eyes. Her lips were like petals—bicycle pedals. Those lips…those teeth…that hair…that eye…
Arnie: Hey—here comes Joe Silver. Get your coffin ready, Trigger.
Pie: Daddy, lie on the bed and act like you’re dead.
Announcer: Sam lies on the bed and holds his breath. Trigger takes off his shoes and everybody holds their breath. At this breathless moment, we bring you the daily police calls. Calling car 15, calling car 15—Happy Birthday, car 15, you’re now car 16. Car 56, Car 56, rush to the Bungling Brother’s Circus. The fat woman has hay fever and is crying so much three midgets are about to drown. Car 23, car 23—return the 10-gallon hat bought for the mayor. He has an 11-gallon head. Car 19, go to the corner of 6th and Main. The Chinese cook has just committed chop sueycide. Back to the story…Joe Silver enters Sam’s bedroom as the other people hide.
Joe: So I finally caught you, you scoundrel. You’ve cut my check so many times I have to endorse it with Mercurochrome. I want to marry your daughter, Sam, and nobody’s gonna stop me. Sure, I’m tough…I’ve been sent up the river so many times I get fan mail from the salmon. The last time they caught me I got ten years in jail and two in the electric chair. Even when I was a baby people were pinning things on me. Now, I’m gonna get you.
Sam: Get him, Arnie.
Trig: Quick, I have the casket opened. Push him, Arnie.
Joe: Help! Help! You’re pushing me! (MUFFLED SOUNDS)
Trig: That takes care of him. Now I have to run for a body. A fellow in town swallowed a quart of shellac and died. He had a lovely finish.
Arnie: How can we thank you? You’ll come to the wedding, won’t you?
Trig: Yes, I plan to give you a tombstone for a present, but don’t take it for granite.
Sam: Thanks, Trig. By the way, stop over and we’ll play golf someday.
Trig: Don’t ever play golf with an undertaker—he’s always on top at the last hole.
Arnie: Now we’re alone, Pie, my love. Someday you’ll have my name.
Pie: I never did find out—what is your last name, Arnie?
Arnie: My name is Arnie R. Square.
Pie: What a lovely name I’ll have…Mrs. Pie R. Square.
Announcer: And as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we leave the lovers as they plan their future. Tune in tomorrow for a new adventure, brought to you by Bleeties, the cereal for old goats. Bleeties contains 55% iron, 22% copper, 78% steel, 14% bronze and 11% zinc. It doesn’t snap, crackle or pop—it just lies there and rusts. Bleeties isn’t the breakfast of champions—it’s for people who just want to get into the semi-finals. In closing, be sure to visit your local dime store where they’re having a monster sale. Haven’t you always wanted to own your own monster? We have vampires at special prices and they‘re excellent for curing tired blood! These are experienced vampires who all worked as tellers in blood banks. Now, tune in tomorrow for the first episode of the new story, “I Was a Teen-Age Spinster,” brought to you by the gardener’s magazine, Weeder’s Digest.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Happy (Slightly Late) Birthday, Youngest Son!

Twenty years ago last Sunday our much-anticipated youngest son arrived. Fun-loving from the start, he has also loved books apparently since birth, and is very well read. He used to enjoy acting, doing all the different accents spot on. He has always been fond of the water, swimming and boating, and playing soccer. He is a graphic artist volunteering in missions work. He can play a mean game of pool, since he is ambidextrous, but is also formidable at Chess, good at both offense and defense in the same game. Sometimes I wonder if his mind is also ambidextrous! He's talented, fun-loving, cheerful, serious, a great conversationalist, intelligent and a joy to his family.

I would have wished him a Happy Birthday earlier, but I'm having a little trouble with the concept of having no more teenagers. I keep having this dream where I am walking down a long, winding path, pushing my youngest son in a stroller. As we walk, he grows, until when we finally reach our destination he is a grown man, crouched in the stroller glowering at me, angry because I won't let him out. Of course, we all know what that means - time for grandchildren!

Seriously, though, I do wish him a Happy Manhood and since he's just as cool as he always was, I'm sure I shall enjoy this phase of our lives as well!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gates Waits

A close friend of mine is in the endless process of adopting a child, nicknamed Gates, from China. The paperwork and red tape has been relentless, and now, at zero hour, the swine flu has thrown another huge cog in the wheel. Karrie could really use your prayers and support. I am linking to her blog here if you would like to read about her struggle and her beautiful, waiting child.
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