Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Better Late Than Never

The Very Nice Man hosted a Monday post of childhood pictures and I signed up to participate. But, life just happens and I didn't get my pictures posted on Monday...or Tuesday. So, here I am, finally, on Wednesday.

I'm three years old sitting on Granny's sofa in my pajamas with my favorite teddy bear. Mom used this picture as a Christmas card. I can't remember my bear's name, but I do recall that he was blue and white.

Ten years old and posing at the piano in my Christmas recital dress. Love those shoes and socks!

Back to age three...almost four. Sitting in a row of Granny's daffodils along her garden fence in my cowgirl outfit minus my boots. My hat and my shirt were red.

Fast forward to age fourteen. Taken with my boyfriend at a school Christmas party.

My formal senior picture pose at age seventeen.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Must Read?

I just have to share this editorial from my local newspaper.

"Women without husbands

All right, ladies, the gig is up. It's time for all of us to get married, including you. I refer to The New York Times' recent report. After sorting through the U.S. Census data, The Times determined that for the first time in American history the majority of women, 51 percent, are living without a husband.

The story tore through the media like a lightning bolt. A slew of 'I am woman, hear me roar' stories hit the airwaves. The storyline was clear: women are finally free and independent now, and the last thing they need is some sloppy spouse who leaves his socks lying all over the house.

Well, nuts to that. Look, ladies, deciding not to marry for your own well-being is one thing, but it is we you're not marrying in the process. Your decision is killing single men--literally.

Single men partake in more risky behavior than married men. We eat badly, smoke more, and avoid doctors' offices. We die younger. And we're far more likely to wake up in a pile of crumpled newspapers still clutching the tequila bottle we began sipping from two days before.

The reason why is not complicated. We are social animals. Men and women are very different creatures, but we were made for each other. The Catholics call it complementarity--a man and woman, in union and harmony, round each other out.

Men need to be rounded out, too. Take dust. Because our brains take in less sensory detail than a woman's, we don't notice dust the way women do. Thus, married men tend to live in orderly, dust-free homes, whereas single men, says P.J. O'Rourke, clean up their place about once every girlfriend.

Though it's not like single women are faring much better.

The Times article quoted independent women raving about their freedom and flexibility. a 32-year old woman had already lived with two boyfriends and said that if she ever did marry, she might opt to keep her own place. Another said she likes being able to sleep on either side of the bed.

Oh, just admit, ladies. You need us, too. Sleeping next to a burping, snoring lug of a husband may not be the stuff dreams are made of, but it sure beats sleeping alone. And when you hear a prowler rattling the door knob in the middle of the night, whom do you send to investigate? Your cat?

I know The Times is eager for a more progressive society to take hold--one in which the stodgy traditional marriage is kicked to the wayside--but the fact is marriage, imperfect though it is, is good for us.

Married people are happier, says the Pew Research Center. They enjoy life more--they enjoy sex more, too. Children raised by married couples fare better. Society fares better. Successful civilizations are built on the stability that traditional marriage brings.

But despite these simple and obvious truths, we keep trying to reinvent our nature. We keep trying to prove there are better ways to fulfill our simple needs--keep trying to leave every option open, so that we can be 'free' and 'independent' forever.

And we end up alone.

I can't imagine what old folks homes will be like 40 years from now. There will be an unprecedented number of elderly single people living alone. No children or grandchildren will visit them--no spouse will care for them. I wonder if The Times will do a front-page piece on that trend, too.

All I know is that my life would certainly be better if I woke every morning in a full home in which my children are laughing and my wife is smiling, rather than the way I often wake now--with a throbbing noggin' because my single friends and I over-enjoyed our freedom and independence at the pub the night before.

Like I said, it's time for all of us to get married."

Well, how about it all you single women out in blogland? Anyone want to put this guy out of his unmarried misery? I certainly won't fight you to be first in line...or second....or third....come to think of it, I'll just pass. I think he makes a very convincing argument for remaining single.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Welcome to Third Grade Music!!

In today's lesson, we will sing an African American spiritual, learn about the Underground Railroad and ride on our own rhythm train! Our musical vocabulary words are: beat, rhythm, spiritual and tempo. Let's begin with reading the paragraph at the top of page 44 in our music books.

"Many African American spirituals were used to send messages along the Underground Railroad. What message does the song below send? LISTEN to 'Train Is A-Comin.' SING the song and learn all the verses."

Before we listen to the song, who can tell us what the Underground Railroad was?

That is correct! The Underground Railroad was actually a network of many people who helped runaway slaves escape and helped them through their dangerous journeys from one point to another until they reached their final destination and freedom.

(Play the recording of "Train Is A-Comin'." Discuss the words and their message. Have the students sing the song with the recording and learn all the verses. Then ask them to sing the song from memory.)

Now it's time to ride on our own rhythm train! Remember that beat is the steady pulse felt in music and who can give me a definition for rhythm? Right again! Rhythm is the pattern of long and short sounds found in music. Today's new vocabulary word is tempo. Our tempo will be very important as we ride our rhythm train because tempo is the speed of music.

Our rhythm train has five different colored stations. Each station has a rhythm written on it and an instrument for you to play when your station color is called out by the conductor. I am the rhythm train conductor. I will set the tempo by keeping a steady beat. You are the train and you will move around the track as I say the rhythm train chant. Don't forget to play each rhythm twice keeping a steady tempo and beat!

Chugga, chugga, choo, choo, movin', movin'
Chugga, chugga, choo, choo, clickety-clack.
Chugga, chugga, choo, choo, movin', movin'
Ride the rhythm train on down the track.

Stop the train, it's time to play.

Find a station, don't delay.

Blue train box cars, lead us now,
Play your rhythms, you know how!

(Repeat the rhythm train chant at different tempos calling a different color station each time until all students have a turn playing a rhythm. As a grand finale, have all train box cars play their rhythms together.)

What a great job you did playing your rhythms! It's time for our rhythm train to move on back to your regular classroom. As I call your station color, move to the tempo and beat I am clapping and line up at the door. Pamela, you will be the engine and Swampy, you will be the caboose. See you all at our next music lesson!


Sunday, January 21, 2007

The View From My Front Door

Here it is!! The view from my front door. Not the world's greatest photography, but certainly not the worst either. The top picture is what I see when I stand in my house and open the front door. I have a screened porch that runs the entire length of my house so you are looking through screen, not a dirty window. Looks real green outside for January, huh? What you are seeing is pine, cedar and a lot of honeysuckle vine. The little willow gate in the center of the photo says "herbs" across the top. My porch is crammed full of collectibles. I have wind chimes hanging from the beams all across the front of the porch. That is a hickory tree on the right and you can see one of my three bird feeders outside on the left.

This is the view from the front door of my screened porch. There is the backside of my snowman banner, my storage shed, my very wet drive and lots more pine, cedar and honeysuckle vine out in the woods. I tried to get my dogs to pose out in the drive for you, but they said, "Are you crazy?!!! It's raining and too cold!"


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Water Music

King George I assumed the the crown of Great Britain and Ireland on August 1, 1714. He was the first British king from The House of Hanover. George supposedly could not speak English and his ministers could not speak German so right away one can see that the political climate surrounding King George I was not too serene. He was an extremely unpopular monarch. He was perceived as too German and his subjects did not hesitate to make fun of his "uncouth German ways". King George had his wife imprisoned in a castle. She was denied access to her children and forbidden to remarry. She was endowed with an income, establishment and servants. She was allowed to ride in a carriage outside the castle, with supervision, of course. While poor Sophia was locked away, George made merry with a succession of German mistresses. Yes, George was evidently quite the party animal and one of his favorite pastimes was to take pleasure in London's Thames river. You guessed it.....King George had a party barge.

Now in the 1700's, monster sound systems were in short supply and, surprisingly enough, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards weren't born yet, so King George I had to make do with what was available. He had the popular German composer, George Frideric Handel, write some music and get an orchestra together for a big party to be held on July 17, 1717. The party was described by yet another German, Friedrich Bonet: 'At about eight in the evening, the King repaired to his barge. Next to the King's barge was that of the musicians, about 50 in singers. The music had been composed specially by the famous Handel....His Majesty's approval of it was so great that he caused it to be played three times in all, twice before and once after supper, even though each performance lasted an hour.'

Robert Dearling writes that "The Thames was crammed with boats whose occupants wanted to catch a glimpse of the royal party. From Whitehall the flotilla sailed majestically to Lord Ranelagh's residence at Chelsea where the party alighted and took a choice supper at 1 am. Two hours later it made it's way back, arriving at St. James's about 4:30 am. A leisurely trip, and time enough to enjoy Handel's music, even if Thameside residents may have found it a little unsuitable for small-hours listening."

Handel took enormous pains in composing Water Music. He wrote music to suit every eventuality the evening might present including quiet floating music, ceremonial fanfares, sounds to aid digestion, loud music to announce the king's passage along the river and so on and so forth.

Can you imagine witnessing this spectacle? The women and men in their ornate Baroque clothing and wigs. The banquet of food, the wine, the fireworks, the clandestine and not so clandestine liaisons, the intrigue..... all accompanied by Handel's magnificent Water Music.

If you are unfamiliar with Handel's Water Music, I strongly suggest you take the time to listen to it. I recommend the recording by Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. You might recognize a few of the tunes as they are frequently used in weddings, the Olympic ceremonies and various other modern day events. There are twenty separate movements in the orchestral work so the listener is sure to find some bit of music that suits his or her fancy.

As the music floats through my headphones tonight, I think of the word 'effervescent'. And, though perhaps not historically accurate, I imagine the bell-like tones of crystal goblets filled with champagne as they meet in a toast to the pleasures of life.


Monday, January 15, 2007

I'm Just Saying......

Tonight the thermometer on my screened-in porch reads just below 20 degrees, but for most of the winter we, in western Arkansas, have had spring-like temperatures. It was this cold for about four nights the first full week of December and that was it. Until tonight. In fact, it didn't get above freezing all day today and that was a first for this winter season.

I've been looking at ice and snow pictures across the blogosphere and....there's no other way to put it....I feel left out. Not that I want catastrophic weather events or anything like that, but I would like some real winter weather. I don't want my daffodils to bloom in January, but if Old Man Winter doesn't stick around this time, I will be posting flower pictures soon.

Anyway, I decided to post some pictures of The Ice Storm that hit this area in 2000-2001. I'd never seen anything like it when the storm arrived and, honestly, I don't want to see anything like it again. I like cold weather. I love a good snow. The ice can stay in Antarctica.

This is my drive. I couldn't go anywhere because there were trees completely across it. I couldn't go anywhere anyway. All the roads were covered with ice! Eleven days with no electricity. I had gas for heating and cooking, but no water. I didn't spend the entire eleven days in my house though. My sister lived in town and her electricity was restored before mine so I spent part of the time at her house.

Trees along the road bedecked with their ice jewels.

This is the road running west at the end of my drive. I live about 4 miles from the Oklahoma border. Doesn't this shot make you feel a bit claustrophobic after looking at Vicki's wide open spaces?


Friday, January 12, 2007

This morning I found a lunch charge envelope decorated with hearts in my high school mail box. In the envelope was the following letter:

"This is sloppy! My bad! Hello, Mrs. (my name),
I have decided to get my's probably not the best thing, but this is what I need! I just wanted to inform you that it was your class; 1st hour choir that kept me going this long! Ya know just wanting to come to school so I could sing is kind of crazy! I know I can sing, but I'm just shy :( ! That's what I love doing is singing, dancing and art stuff is pretty much me! I just wanted to say I loved your class and the people in it! I'll miss you and the class! I (heart) you! (student name) !!"

I read this letter at least ten times throughout the day. How grateful and honored I am to know that my choir class touched this girl's life in such a positive way. How saddened I am to lose her smiling face and beautiful voice. How frustrated I feel that a sixteen year old fell through the cracks of our educational system. How strongly I hope that this young lady will stick with her goal to obtain her GED. How fervently I pray that she will have the strength and determination to rise above the personal circumstances of her life and seek positive changes for her future.

Letting them go is so very, very hard.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This One's For Betty!!

I found the perfect illustration for Betty's recent rant about Medicare.


Monday, January 08, 2007

It was the summer of 1977. In early July, I flew to Montreal where I hooked up with my college roommate. Our plan was to spend several weeks at her parents' home on Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, New York, then we would begin the long drive south to Monroe, Louisiana, where we would begin our sophomore year at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe. We would spend a couple of nights on the road making it to Bolivar, Tennessee, on the third day of our journey south where we would spend two days with my roommate's grandparents. The next leg of our journey would be the drive from Bolivar to my parents' home in Arkansas. We would spend three or four days there then move on down Highway 71 to Shreveport and across Louisiana on Interstate 20 to Monroe.

It was to be a summer of many 'firsts' for me beginning with Montreal. I had never left the boundaries of the United States before. My roommate's parents were firm believers in the cocktail hour before dinner and I developed a definite taste for a gin and tonic with a twist of lime. We explored Vermont and New Hampshire, beautiful states that I had never seen before. We visited a ski resort in Vermont whose name I have forgotten. We drove to Au Sable Forks, a village in New York, and spent some time at Au Sable Chasm. My roommate's parents owned a large sailboat and I went sailing for the first time. I absolutely loved it. We bought live lobsters at a market and cooked them for dinner one evening. We celebrated my birthday on July 29 with a prime rib dinner then toasted marshmallows in the fireplace. I had to wear a coat outside on my birthday. A definite first for a newly turned nineteen year old from Arkansas. We stood in line for hours to get tickets for Star Wars. All in all, it was an amazing vacation filled with so many new experiences that I have probably forgotten more events than I remember.

In fact, I don't remember very much at all about our long drive back to Louisiana. I do, however, remember one thing quite clearly. We happened to be driving through Memphis, Tennessee, on August 16, 1977. I don't have the clarity of memory to tell you exactly what time it was or what my roommate and I were talking about, but I can recall that we heard a bulletin on the radio telling the world that Elvis Presley was dead. We didn't stop. We didn't drive to Graceland. We did drive in silence for some time. An American icon was gone. We were stunned.

If Elvis Presley were still alive, he would be 72 years old today. He was a poor Southern boy from Tupelo, Mississippi, and he became one of the most famous people in the world. When Elvis first entered the Sun recording studio he was asked, "Who do you sound like?" The eighteen year old Elvis replied, "I don't sound like nobody." And, now, even 30 years after his death, people are still trying to sound like Elvis. It doesn't matter if you like his music. It doesn't matter if you respect the humble and generous person that he was. You have to admit that Elvis Presley was a true example of the democratic ideal. He was a revolutionary musician and his life is a legacy to freedom and the unlimited possibilities of the American dream.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ava Bell
Ava Bell was my Granny W. She was born in 1897 and didn't get married until her early twenties which made her an "old" bride in that day and age. She also married a younger man by two years. She had eight children without ever stepping foot into a hospital. Her youngest child was my mother who was born when Ava Bell was 41 years old.

Look at that pretty dress and those shoes!! This picture was taken sometime during the 30's when my grandparents moved from Arkansas to Turkey, Texas, because there were better jobs there during the Depression years. Look at their two oldest sons being pranksters in the background. Don't you love those caps?! You can't see the details, but Grandpa is wearing a plaid tie.

Granny W. was one of the most influential people in my life. She was a devout Christian and was one of those lovely people who never had a bad word to say about anyone. No matter what a person had said or done, Granny always found something positive to say about them. She had her share of hardships and sorrow in her life, but she was rarely unhappy. She didn't talk about her troubles, she talked about her blessings. Her philosophy was that no matter how bad things were, there was always so much to be thankful for.

Ava Bell loved birds. Cardinals were her favorite. She would make an extra pan of cornbread to crumble up and feed "her" birds. She could identify birds by their songs. The pages of her bird book were as frayed and worn as the pages of her Bible. She also loved flowers and her house was always surrounded by a profusion of blooms.

Granny was a great cook. She canned vegetables, made jelly, baked bread and pastries, made sweet and dill pickles, canned a vegetable soup mix that was out of this world good and cooked so many other delicious foods. I remember her doing all this with a gas cook stove. My mom remembers when Granny did it all with a wood cook stove. Granny also made sauerkraut and she had a little Daisy churn that she used to make butter. Her kitchen was always full of wonderful things to eat. My mom and I have often talked about how all of us bring food to our big family holiday dinners, but when Granny was alive and we had those dinners at her house, she did all the cooking. Her daughters and daughters-in-law cleaned up and washed the dishes, but Ava Bell was The Cook.

Ava Bell was a very modest woman. See how she made sure her knees were covered before I took this picture? I can just hear her fussing at me for letting people see this picture because her slip is showing just a bit. When Granny got her Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs in the mail, she would sit down to look through them with a pen in hand. She didn't put an 'x' by things she wanted, she colored in the midriffs of the models wearing two-piece swimsuits. If a skirt was really short, she might add an ink ruffle to it. If I wore a dress that Granny considered too short and too low cut in the neckline, she would politely compliment me on my nice, wide "belt".

Oh, there are so many other things I could tell you about Ava Bell. Her life is as full of intricate pieces as the the beautiful quilts she stitched by hand. But it is late tonight and I have school tomorrow so I will have to post more about her another time.


Monday, January 01, 2007

A New Year, A New Book
I began the New Year by finishing a really great book, "Dead Watch" by John Sandford. I literally couldn't put it down. It is a political thriller set primarily in Washington D.C. and Virginia. I don't want to tell you too much about the story in case you decide to read the book, but it does involve the kidnapping of a former Senator. The main character is a man named Jacob Winter who specializes in what he calls forensic bureaucracy. Winter is an Army Intelligence veteran and when something goes wrong, he probes and pries until he finds out what really happened. The Democratic White House is his main client and Winter is asked to locate the missing former Senator. There is quite a bit of violence in this book and one rather gruesome murder. So if you don't like thrillers with dead bodies, then this book isn't for you!

Jacob Winter is a new character in John Sandford's writing. Sandford has written sixteen books in the Prey series, so called because each book has 'Prey' in the title. The main character in the Prey books is Lucas Davenport, a cop (and so much more) in Minneapolis. I own all of the Prey series. They are all good thrillers, too, and, just to let you know, they all contain violence.

John Sandford is actually a pseudonym for John R. Camp. Camp was awarded a Pulitzer prize in 1986 for a series of newspaper articles titled "Life on the Land: An American Farm Family". The series was written during the mid west farm crisis. You can find out more about Sandford/Camp here.
Tomorrow is my last day of Christmas vacation so I have to put away good books and get my lesson plans prepared for the second semester of the school year. I had a great break and I'm ready to get my choirs shaped up for the next flurry of performances!