No Adult Thanksgiving

A friend of mine from school who is a few years my senior was telling me about her upcoming Thanksgiving. Her dad and stepmom weren’t coming in for some reason, and her brother’s mother and father-in-law weren’t coming in for some reason. As it turned out it was just going to be her with her husband and kids, her brother with his wife and kids, and her sister.

Upon discovering this, my mid-40-ish friend said to her brother, “Hey! There won’t be any adults at Thanksgiving!!!!” It was still hanging in a word bubble above her head when she realized exactly how that statement sounded.

Well, unbeknowst to us a nasty bacterial infection was plotting a No Adult Thanksgiving for us as well. My mother and father-in-law got REALLY sick during the night and were unable to come to Thanksgiving. . .which was supposed to be held in their home.

So it got moved to ours.

We had a great time. Victoria bedecked every non-moving surface with silk autumnal leaves, and I pulled out my inherited depression glass.

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My mother-in-law already had the turkey and stuffing ready to go, so she staggered to her kitchen and stuck it in the oven. Someone stopped and picked it up on the way. We all ate too much. We played lots of games. A couple of us got a nap. We were thankful for each other and the bounty set before us.

I love Thanksgiving.

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Random acts of Retail Kindness

So all of you shop-a-holic freakazoids who have participated in the day after Thanksgiving madness for years, I briefly joined your ranks today. I am one who likes to get my shopping done early or online so that I can enjoy my turkey/pumpkin/green bean casserole coma in the confines of my home the day after. But a deal was offered that was too good to be true.

My father-in-law has wanted a VCR/DVD/Burner combo for awhile now. It’s not something he would EVER buy for himself. We found one for a much, much more than reasonable price starting at 6:00 this a.m. Tony and siblings decided yesterday that they would go in together to make the purchase. I volunteered to go and get it since I didn’t have to work–and since my sister-in-law took my children home with her for the night.

I arrived at 6:02. And they were all gone. They didn’t have many to begin with, but they were GONE. But there were 6 over on the other side of town, and several of us who wanted them. The manager of the store we were in took our names, and the manager of that store said she would hold them for ONE HOUR ONLY.

The other side of town in this instance was about a 30 minute trip on freeways traveling 70 mph, but traffic was non-existent, so off I went.

I arrived, got mine, inquired as to whether they had any “extra” (they did not besides the ones on hold) and strolled around the store for a bit just looking. After another 30 minutes or so, I asked the manager if everyone had come to get theirs. Tony and I had planned on purchasing one for ourselves. One lady was a no-show, so I requested to buy hers as well. The manager asked me wait about 20 more minutes just in case, and then it was mine.

No problem–it wasn’t even 8:00 yet. I gave her my name then went to Shipley to get my FAVORITE cinnamon twist in the whole universe.

There was a line. It took a little while. I waited, then I arrived back at the store 24 minutes later.

The manager was busy, so I waited.

Then she went to get the box for me, and I waited.

Then the woman who HAD been a no-show walked into the store and requested her VCR/DVD/burner combo one hour and forty minutes after we’d all put them on hold.

The poor check-out girl got a haggard look on her face. “Oh no, here it comes. . .” is what I’m sure she was thinking. I just stood there for a minute to purchase some chocolate covered cherries, gave the Late Lady (who did not recognize me and did not know I was mere seconds away from purchasing her heretofore unclaimed item, nor did I tell her) directions to get back to our area–she had gotten lost on the way and that’s why she was late. I bought my cherries, told the checkout girl to tell the manager I said thank you and left the store with a smile on my face trying to be Christ the the folks at Retail Store. As I was walking to the car, however, I inwardly cursed my blasted cinnamon twist. It had cost me my conquest. Four minutes earlier and I’d have been on my way–electronics in hand–patting myself on the back for such a shopping coup and all before 8:00 a.m.

Then I thought, you know, that poor lady would have been sad–or worse MAD at the manager of that store. The manager of that store would have felt badly for selling the item mere minutes before the customer arrived. Tension does not go well with still digesting turkey. The only person who would have been happy was me. So I breathed a good, cleansing breath, then ate my cinnamon twist on the way home. Maybe God miraculously took all the calories out of it since I was a good girl. And I hope I made Late Lady, Checkout Girl, and Manager’s day a little more pleasant. We’re one VCR/DVD/burner combo short, but it PAYS to be nice.

Now I’m home in my socks and sweatshirt (it’s COLD here) and I’m about to wrap some Christmas presents. Hope you enjoy your day.

A Writer’s Voice

There are authors that I love–Joshilyn Jackson, J.K. Rowling, Harper Lee, and there are authors that I want to be. They are L.M. Montgomery and Natalie Babbit. Their voices rings so strong and clear and true that I find myself talking like they write after I’ve read a novel of theirs. Their books are on my list of favorites. They have written paragraphs that are perfection.

In the reader my 6th graders use, there is a short story called “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros. She writes SHORT STORIES that are perfection. This story in particular has the best explanation of aging and birthdays I think I’ve ever read. I don’t necessarily LOVE the way “Eleven” makes me feel. . .but I love that it can MAKE me feel that way. Her voice is not my voice, but her writing is such that as the main character goes through her experience, I literally FEEL what she is feeling. I can see it. I can taste it. I have lived it. There is another short story called “A Rice Sandwich” that I will put here soon. I discovered today as I was looking for a picture of her that she has several books–I think I need to get busy on those. And she also has some rockin’ boots.

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Eleven
by Sandra Cisneros

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are–underneath the year that makes you eleven.

Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

You don’t feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don’t feel smart eleven, not until you’re almost twelve. That’s the way it is.

Only today I wish I didn’t have only eleven years rattling inside me like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box. Today I wish I was one hundred and two instead of eleven because if I was one hundred and two I’d have known what to say when Mrs. Price put the red sweater on my desk. I would’ve known how to tell her it wasn’t mine instead of just sitting there with that look on my face and nothing coming out of my mouth.

“Whose is this?” Mrs. Price says, and she holds the red sweater up in the air for all the class to see. “Whose? It’s been sitting in the coatroom for a month.”

“Not mine,” says everybody. “Not me.”

“It has to belong to somebody,” Mrs. Price keeps saying, but nobody can remember. It’s an ugly sweater with red plastic buttons and a collar and sleeves all stretched out like you could use it for a jump rope. It’s maybe a thousand years old and even if it belonged to me I wouldn’t say so.

Maybe because I’m skinny, maybe because she doesn’t like me, that stupid Sylvia Saldivar says, “I think it belongs to Rachel.” An ugly sweater like that, all raggedy and old, but Mrs. Price believes her. Mrs. Price takes the sweater and puts it right on my desk, but when I open my mouth nothing comes out.

“That’s not, I don’t , your not…Not mine,” I finally say in a little voice that was maybe me when I was four.

“Of course it’s yours,” Mrs. Price says. “I remember you wearing in once.” Because she’s older and the teacher, she’s right and I’m not.

Not mine, not mine, not mine, but Mrs. Price is already turning to page thirty-two, and math problem number four. I don’t know why but all of a sudden I’m feeling sick inside, like the part of me that’s three wants to come out of my eyes, only I squeeze them shut tight and bite down on my teeth real hard and try to remember today I am eleven, eleven. Mama is making a cake for me tonight, and when Papa comes home everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you.

But when the sick feeling goes away and I open my eyes, the red sweater’s still sitting there like a big red mountain. I move the red sweater to the corner of my desk with my ruler. I move my pencil and books and eraser as far from it as possible. I even move my chair a little to the right. Not mine, not mine, not mine.

In my head I’m thinking how long ‘til lunchtime, how long ‘til I can take the red sweater and throw it over the school yard fence, or even leave it hanging on a parking meter, or bunch it up into a little ball and toss it in the alley. Except when math period ends Mrs. Price says loud and in front of everybody , “Now Rachel, that’s enough,” because she sees I’ve shoved the red sweater to the tippy-tip corner of my desk and it’s hanging all over the edge like a waterfall, but I don’t care.

“Rachel,” Mrs. Price says. She says it like she’s getting mad. “You put that sweater on right now and no more nonsense.”
“But it’s not–”
“Now!” Mrs. Price says.

This is when I wish I wasn’t eleven, because all the years inside of me–ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two and one– are pushing at the back of my eyes when I put one arm through one sleeve of the sweater that smells like cottage cheese, and then the other arm through the other and stand there with my arms apart like if the sweater hurts me and it does, all itchy and full of germs that aren’t even mine.

That’s when everything I’ve been holding in since this morning, since when Mrs. Price put the sweater on my desk, finally lets go, and all of a sudden I’m crying in front of everybody. I wish I was invisible but I’m not. I’m eleven and it’s my birthday today and I’m crying like I’m three in front of everybody. I put my head down on the desk and bury my face in my stupid clown-sweater arms. My face all hot and spit coming out of my mouth because I can’t stop the little animal noises from coming out of me, until there aren’t any more tears left in my eyes, and it’s just my body shaking like when you have the hiccups, and my whole head hurts like when you drink milk too fast.

But the worst part is right before the bell rings for lunch. That stupid Phyllis Lopez, who is even dumber than Sylvia Saldivar, says she remembers the red sweater is hers! I take it off right away and give it to her, only Mrs. Price pretends like everything’s okay. But it’s not.

Today I’m eleven. There’s a cake Mama’s making for tonight, and when Papa comes home from work we’ll eat it. There’ll be candles and presents and everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you, Rachel, only it’s too late.

I’m eleven today. I’m eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one, but I wish I was one hundred and two. I wish I was anything but eleven, because I want today to be far away already, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny “o” in the sky, so tiny-tiny you have to close your eyes to see it.
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Nostalgia

I am incredibly happy to be a card carrying member of the 21st century. I love air conditioning. . .IN MY CAR. . .and everywhere else. I think anti-inflammatory and fever reducing drugs ROCK. I appreciate a good round of antibiotics when needed. The internet boggles the mind and gives me information at my fingertips. Though unsightly and redudant, Wal-Marts and Targets come in very, very handy. I think soap that I do not have to boil myself and that doesn’t have lard and inordinant amounts of lye in it ranks right up there with sliced bread. I LOVE my hair conditioner. Advances in the appreciation of women and their brains and their roles in society have made my life and the future life of my daughter a lot easier.

But I have always been a sucker for the old-fashioned–the “good old days”–the antique. I love a wraparound porch–an enamel topped table–a galvanized wash-tub. Growing up on a farm in the country, I was surrounded by relics of the past. There were old hay baling machines and tractor seats and jars of preserves in a cellar we were warned never to enter for fear of snakes. Both of my grandmothers continued cooking with utensils that they had used most of their married lives. There were faint traces of scent left in old bottles and jars that had once held other things and were being saved to hold yet something else. I was taught early on the value of a good, sturdy box.

I don’t yearn for the inconveniences of those times, however. The hours of hand washing and line drying to stay clothed. The callous-making work of feather plucking and garden growing to stay fed. More than anything, I yearn to live in an old house–or at least a house that LOOKS old. I want two staircases–one in the front hall or living room and one in the kitchen. I want bay windows and alcoves and gables. I want wide wooden porches painted battleship gray with loads of rocking chairs and swings and broad steps on which to place pots of geraniums.

Recently my 8th grade students were reading a passage about kit homes of the early 20th century. Sears sold over 100,000 such homes. It was a way for the average joe to buy, build, and own a home. Literally everything you needed to build the house came in on the train: wood, nails, door knobs, leaded glass windows, breakfast alcoves, cabinet doors, modern miracle asphalt shingles, etc. Tony and I had seen something about kit homes on PBS, so I hopped on that trusty ‘ole internet and found the Sears site where the history of these home is written.

I will not lie. They made me wax nostalgic. They made me wish–in some part–for REAL ice boxes and clothes lines and new-fangled bare bulbs hanging from cords in the kitchen. They made me think back to what it must have been like to rear children in such a time. They made me realize that we have given up that second stair case for larger closets and two bathrooms. And, of course, the practical part of me knows my Granny would tell me to dream it, to appreciate it, but not wish it. She and my Nanny saw more than their share of hard times. They lost more than their share of loved ones who could have been saved by simple modern medicine. They never enjoyed the leisure we take for granted even when times were such that they could. Hard work and hand made were woven too deeply into the weft of their fabric.

I know from their stories that the “good old days” weren’t all that good. But, if you, like me, long for at least imagining “simpler” times (I don’t really call World War II simpler), take a jaunt to some of the links and look at the dreamy houses of the early 20th century–the dawn of modern times. And, ironically, they were called Modern Homes.

I cannot link directly to the homes that I listed below, nor can you make the pictures any larger by clicking on them–but if you click the link, then click the thumbnail on the Sears website, you can see the plans and read the descriptions. At first the writing is merely a listing of what comes in the kit, but later more persuasive language is used. They like to point out room under the cabinet for the “ice box” and how much light and air circulation the large windows will bring. Fascinating stuff, folks–at least to me it is. I fear it’s a sickness.

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Homes from 1908-1914 Scroll down to Model 113. Model 113 deserves a name of some sort. Any ideas? I love that it has the two staircases–like on the Waltons. You’ll notice that pretty much all of these have only one bathroom.

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Homes from 1921-1926 Scroll down to the Hathaway. It’s teeny-tiny. . .a cottage. . .but it’s so pretty–so cozy–so perfectly suited to some chintz chairs and floral print wall paper.

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Homes from 1927-1932 Scroll down to the Solace. This is the house that was in the story my kids read. I sent this to a friend and told her how excited I was that the ACTUAL house mentioned in the story was on of the roll over at Sears. That made is HISTORICAL fiction rather than merely REALISTIC fiction. I proudly showed my 8th graders the info and they were like, “Neat. *YAWN* How much longer ’til the bell rings?” I guess they were still thinking about Lil’ Tre’z party.

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Found

In my classroom.

A party invitation.

Typed as it was when found.

I give it a K for Kool.

Oh my goodness.

WuTz Poppin!!!!!!!
To the fellas-wuz up? n 2 da ladies- how u doin?
You have been invited to ya boy LiL Tre’z
Decade n 4 years B-Day Party!!!!!
I gave dis invitation 2 ya cuz u important 2 ME
Or
U kool PeePs
Food, Drinks and Dancing
Hope 2 c u
Da mo da betta!!!!!
No drama or violence- ya dig!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I need to go and read the dictionary now.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

From the time Victoria HAD hair to photograph, I’ve been snappin’ away. The main reason I did this was because, especially when she was younger, I got to see what my childhood hair looked like from behind. She and I both have this “s” wave–not curls that spring and bounce, but a sort of serpentine thing goin’ on. Her hair was also, before I began using real, live conditioner on it, very puffy like mine was as a child–with the “s” wave and the “shelf” that begins at the top of my skull. It’s hard to explain, but there is this spot where the wave begins and it forms this sort of shelf around my head like a crown.

I have always had this wild mop of hair. Hair with abandon. A Jungle of Hair. (That was Tony’s expression). As a child it was a MESS due to the fact that Momma didn’t think children needed “cream rinse”, and the only product that blessed my hair besides whatever shampoo was handy was a liberal dose of Dippity Doo and some pink sponge rollers on Saturday night.

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My hair is thick and coarse and takes on a life of it’s own most days. And that is just fine by me. I did some really horrible things to it, like PERM IT, in high school. . .along with the hotrollers in high school AND the beginning of college. Then I just decided to let it go. It grew long, long, long. . .down my back long. . .but after Thad was born there was too much of it with which to contend. So I found myself a gal who could (somewhat) tame The Jungle and set to. All my girls at school think I need to straighten it. I like it wild and zingin’ around. It suits me.

My child’s hair. . .well. . .it’s as thick as mine–same “s” wave–same shelf but a little more sobriety to it. It fans around her shoulders. It waves down her back. It is a myriad of hues from cornsilk to tawny to taffy to taupe. It changes in the light. It shimmers. It is an amazement to me.

Let’s Explore with Pink Ribbons: A Demonstration of 9 Year Old Hair Techniques
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Soccer Playin’ Ponytail Swingin’ Kinda Day
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My Mother Cut Off My Arms but Not My Hair
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(I may have to keep some nitro glycerin on hand for Tony. Everytime she has to wear that ponytail he heaves a huge sigh of dread over the years to come.)

We have had her hair one length and long all of her life. She, currently, really likes it that way and can never imagine having it cut differently. I kept the top part of it pulled back for the longest just to keep it out of her way. But when she was in kindergarten, she started requesting to wear her hair “blonde.” She meant all down with none of it pulled back. I would giggle everytime she said it.

And yes. . .her hair is blonde–but her brain is NOT. 🙂

Photopalooza Potpourri Buffet *NOW WITH PHOTO EDITING SKILLZ*

So Tony got a digital cameral through a science grant thing. It’s for teachers to use while out and about to take photos of science in action. He’s been doing that–and I’ve been doing some photo taking myself. We finally got them downloaded, so I give you. . .

Photopalooza Potpourri Buffet

The Man of My Dreams
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A Very Cute Boy Who is Proud of His Homework and Loves His Momma
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The Boy’s First Day of Kindergarten
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4th Grade Here She Comes
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Two Cute Kids and Two Chickens
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Two Cute Kids on a Couch
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AND That Bathroom That Becky Found so Amazing
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Speaking of that Bathroom, you WOULD NOT BELIEVE all the things that have taken place in stall number one this week. Oh. My. Goodness. I won’t go into details, but let’s say that permanent markers and cell phones were involved. Being RIGHT across from the bathroom is sometimes not all it’s cracked up to be.

TOMORROW: We will take a look at Victoria’s hair.

I know you canNOT wait.