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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Found Wisdom Written in Hot Pink Ink

Lost your pen = No pen
No pen = No notes
No notes = No study
No study = Fail
Fail = No diploma
No diploma = No work
No work = No money
No money = No food
No food = Skinny
Skinny = Ugly
Ugly = No love
No love = No marriage
No marriage = No kids
No kids = Lonely
Lonely = Depression
Depression = Sickness
Sickness = Death

and you thought I only picked up garbage from my classroom floor...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Peeps

Can you spell S-U-C-K-E-D-I-N?  How could I have gone nearly 60 years and JUST be discovering the intoxication of series?  This group of doctors has taken over my conscious AND subconscious life!  Heretofore I had NEVER wielded a scalpel in my dreams, but now I regularly resuscitate, intubate, retract, and reconstruct!  Medical school it may not be, but my dreams have given me great confidence that in the right emergency I could pull my weight.  STAND CLEAR!!  These doctors make me alternately cry, laugh, and gasp.  I am awed by their textbook perfection of always having the perfect difficult words to say to their patients.  Would that ALL life situations could be crafted by Hollywood scriptwriters before we actually have to buffalo our way through them...I recently finished Season 5 in a bit of a marathon thanks to an unexpected 24 hours marooned in a Phoenix airport hotel--snow in Denver and lots of it.  The finale was totally unexpected, although I had been forewarned by one of my students, Britnee, who just rolled her eyes and said, "Just you wait!" when I pumped her for details.  I don't know if I can face the day without ________________, but I shall surgeon on!  Cristina, Alex, Izzie, Meredith, McDreamy, Calliope (now where was THAT name when Shelly needed one??), Chief, Lexie, George, Miranda.  You are all off-balanced and emotional pygmies much of the time.  You don't sleep enough, wolf down bad sandwiches, fall in and out of love probably more often than you change your underwear!  You see it all.  You wipe away the blood, stitch up the gore, rally the survivors and seem to do it all without a perfect hair out of place.  I pause to applaud you.  And Bailey, hang in there.  Don't divorce Tucker.  You are my favorite.  You have redefined "snarky" for me.  With ________________ gone now, I need you to be strong.  Oh, and Hollywood.  Thanks for letting Matt (the football hero from Friday Night Lights--my LAST series) show up in the ER with kidneys all aglow.  Nice touch.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

As Good As It Gets Times 60!

Disclaimer:  This is my single most expensive vice.  I admit I have skipped school, crossed wide oceans, eaten beans for weeks after, and stood in countless lines to feed my vice.

Here is a list of 60 plays I've seen:  (note--I've only listed musicals I've seen on Broadway, at the West End in London, and traveling shows straight from Broadway in various cities across the U.S.)

Will Rogers Follies #
Tommy *
Swing! #
Starlight Express *
Secret Garden #
Music Man
Meet Me in St. Louis #
Martin Guerre (all-time favorite) *
Kiss Me, Kate
King and I *
Jesus Christ, Superstar #
Hello Dolly #
Forever Plaid #
Five Guys Named Moe #
Fame *
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Cats (twice) #
Porgy and Bess #
Camelot #
Buddy Holly *
Evita #
Menopause, the Musical #
Blood Brothers *
Beauty and the Beast (3 times)
Sunset Boulevard
42nd Street
Annie Get Your Gun
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Smokey Joe's Café
Annie #
Miss Saigon (twice)
Phantom of the Opera (twice)
Avenue Q #
Young Frankenstein #
Billy Elliot
Mary Poppins
South Pacific
Wicked (twice) *#
Dreamboats and Petticoats *
Wizard of Oz *
Chorus Line
Grease *
Lion King
Little Mermaid (twice)
Monty Python's Spamalot
Color Purple
Jekyl and Hyde
Sound of Music
Les Miserable (3 times)
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
Shrek, the Musical #

* West End, London
# Traveling shows in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Austin, Omaha, Washington DC, Las Vegas
All others  seen in NYC

Each and every play has a story--theatre mates, people met standing in line, circumstances surrounding attendance etc.  Like I say, it's my vice.  What's yours??

Leicester Square, London, where I have gotten the most incredible theatre deals of my life!  Ahhh...In a perfect world I would make an annual pilgrimage to bask in London theatre...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No Sweat

I'm actually not barking today--just popping in with a little follow-up story I mentioned in my post about jobs, although I have plenty to bark about--don't we all. 
Back in the late 80's me and mine found ourselves transported to a galaxy far far away in New Jersey.  It didn't take long for things to completely unravel, and unravel they did.  My goodness, I could really spin you some tails about THAT, but I shan't.  In an attempt to stick a finger in that dike, I ended up doing all manner of odd jobs--temp jobs.  One of the more fun ones took me to a Japanese company that made counterfeit money detecting machines a long walk from our home.  I worked with a spicy little gutsy Thai woman, Nancy, and when that temp job dried up, she put me in touch with a couple of men's shirt designers she knew in the garment district of Manhattan.  Joyce and Pierre were an interesting mix.  She was a former Chicago Playboy Club bunny, and Pierre (as you may have guessed) was straight from France. Together they designed and sold quite upscale  men's shirts.  I caught the bus into the city at a deli just down from where we lived in NJ at the time.  That bus wound its way eventually through the Lincoln Tunnel and spit me out finally at the Port Authority--the huge bus terminal on 8th Avenue.  This neighborhood metamorphosized during Guilianni's reign, but at the time it was aglow with homeless and trash which I maneuvered through.  My commute continued on foot south on 8th to a 2nd story walkup.  I spent the day kvetsching pleasantly with Pierre--Joyce was scarce.  Pierre piled multiple colorful bolts of silk and rayon on a large cutting table, and I cut out the pieces for the shirts using heavy cardboard patterns and stacked them ready to be sewn.  Then he'd run them down the hall to a bevy of little Puerto Rican ladies.  Somehow his French and their Spanish resulted in a finished product. On a couple of occasions I ventured down there.  That was a whole 'nuther world!  Babies, toddlers and some incredible cooking smells.  One day I spent sewing on buttons, and then the next Pierre and Joyce wheeled their rack of  wares to a trade show down the block at Madison Square Garden.  That was the end of my 3 week gig.  Did I sweat?  A little.  We kept the windows wide open.  That also added to the ambience.  Taxis honking all day.  New York streets are a dynamo of action--sirens, yelling, and the smells.  This was not my first taste of New York, but it was close to it.  If you've ever been intoxicated by that city, you need no further description.  And if you haven't you won't be able to picture this at all.   I saw a segment on a history of New York City on the history channel once about the shirtwaist factory that went up in smoke at the turn of the century--1900 something.  Those women were LOCKED into their workplace, so when fire broke out, they were sitting ducks.  Deplorable conditions.  80 years later I venture to say some things have probably not changed--especially if one looks at the garment industry globally.  I'm not making any political statements about the morality of that.  My experience was a mere slice.  I spent my days with a Frenchman (did I mention that Pierre was hmmmmmm...yeah he was VERY) who kept me in soda and could not have been nicer.  So sweatshop...probably just barely.

Monday, February 18, 2013


My "Pushing 60" project has sent me back to a Book of Lists I started on November 2, 1989 in West Caldwell, New Jersey.  How can I recall the date and place?  I very anally recorded that on the first page of the book.  There, now you know something that I have heretofore kept as secret--I have analities.  This book starts out with "Places I've Lived" (9 states, 21 cities) which really will most likely go on and on because the gypsy gene runs STRONG in me.  A few pages later comes "Best Friends I've Had", "Pets I Have Had", "Places I Have Visited", "Things That Say 'Yes!' To Me", and then romps right into all of my lists of 60 things to go, do, be, read, think etc. in the year between 59 and 60--which the astute reader will notice I have been alluding to but never really addressing directly on this blog.  Nestled right in between "Places I Have Lived" and "Best Friends I Have Had" is "Jobs I Have Been Paid To Do".  Because I have had to scrap my way through a good part of the last 60 years, that list takes up one and a half pages.  I thought I might share a few of those for the next couple of posts.  (Back to that astute reader--Have you noticed that once the resuscitation blocks were put to my chest, I have been a flurry of writing activity???)
Here's my list (in no particular order, but I suspect sort of chronologically):
  1. babysit
  2. pick raspberries
  3. movie theatre concessions/tickets
  4. busgirl
  5. waitress
  6. registration aid (B.Y.U.--think Fieldhouse)
  7. housecleaning
  8. catering
  9. filing
  10. seminary teacher
  11. bread slicer in a baker
  12. reader to the blind
  13. housekeeping for elderly (social services)
  14. sewing
  15. public school teaching
  16. tutor
  17. sales (Fuller Brush, Tupperware, Discovery Toys, JuicePlus, Sunrider, Pampered Chef)
  18. university library cataloger
  19. clown (twice--Shakey's Pizza, grand opening of Chad's Rainbow)
  20. secretary
  21. mentor
  22. advisor for Rent-a-Teen
  23. ski shop clerk
  24. attend classes
  25. inventory (Radio Shack) 
  26. housesit
  27. cut out shirt samples for trade show in NYC sweat shop
  28. edit
  29. sell  random things I've made, baked, or bartered
  30. Life skills teacher to at-risk kids
  31. MADD advisor, Natural Helpers advisor
  32. crash helmet assembly worker
  33. Good Humor temp
I concede that each and every one of these might be a lengthy post--perhaps even a chapter in a book!  My friend Lana says I was more interesting pre-Paco when I was constantly scratching and plotting how to get money.  That's probably true.  Nothing like security to bring on the yawns.  I should put all of these into a hat and draw one out a day.  I KNOW you want to hear about my 3 weeks in an NYC sweatshop, and I'd be unforgivably amiss if I omitted my clown gigs.  Furthermore, my waitress jobs were smashing as well as my "careers" in New Jersey when I was literally keeping the thin thread between life and extinction viable by baking and selling bread DAILY.  I think I'll start tomorrow with the sweatshop.  Come on back!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Yes, I Named My Son Tsunami! Wanna Make Something Out of It?

I have a smart phone now.  Yes, I know you're probably reacting like you would if I told you I'd finally retired my Woody!  My phone is sleek and beeps nicely.  It fits comfortably into my palm and even receives photos!!!--something my former dumb phone could not.  I can check my email, surf the net, press myself silly.  But my enamoration with it stops there.  What I CAN'T do is text or enter contacts in the keyboard!!!!!!!!.  I'm writing this to explain why some of my texts to you may read thusly:  "Sure" (when asked if I will be attending the hockey game on Friday) or "Sweet" (when sent a quite heartfelt Valentine's message) or "Check my goodreads accounts" (when my good friend asked for book recommendations prior to her trip to Hawaii--so so sorry, Elyse).  My frustration peaked this morning when I was trying to enter my son's name in my contact list.  Do I just have such abnormally fat fingers that I am incapable of isolating one key at a time??????????  His name is Tag (actually I would have written out his full beautiful name, but for my purposes "Tag" would have to suffice).  So here's what I could come up with:  "Tagain", "Tavern", and over and over and over and over and over (despite my feeble attempts to man the backspace key)---"Tsunami".  My second beloved child is now Tsunami.  Why would my phone immediately assume that what I was REALLY trying to write (Heaven Help Me...) was "Tsunami" when over and over again I put in the letters T and A?--is tsunami becoming mainstream in our vocabulary?  No one told me.  This might also explain why I had to settle for "Body She Ever" when I was really trying to enter Safe Haven.  I suppose at some point I will learn to read the code and just as cheerfully press "Gaudy Cheese Cover" for the name of my florist or "Funny Root Sliver" for my Young Women's Group.  But gosh darn it!  Why should I????? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Yesterday I apprehended a student attempting to copy another student's assignment.  World shattering news?  Not even.  It was a creative assignment (make up 25 of your own words using the 55 Latin roots.  Illustrate 10 of them and put the whole thing into a dictionary of your own making).  Good GRIEF!!  Passing someone's creative composition off as your own???????  School policy dictates that that kid receive a 0.  But what to do about the other gal...the one whose work was being exploited?  I took her out in the hall.  As I suspect, oftentimes schoolwork is not surrendered willingly to the thief. Such was the case this time.  We had a good talk about possible ways to fend off kids like that.  Sweet child.  My epiphany came as I continued my calm interrogation.  Without revealing anything personal (because sometimes my kids drop in here), let me just describe what happened.  As I looked into that young girl's eyes I was absolutely overcome.  You know those scenes in movies when the character has a flashback and about 50 scenes flash onto the screen in about 3 seconds?  I had one of those!!!!  Twenty four years of accumulated experiences with kids from 5 to 18 years old all came tumbling back, not only into my head (memory) but also my heart (soul), and I could call it all good.  Even as I write this I'm emotional once again.  I saw kids perched on my "editing stool" as we read their compositions together--laughing so hard that tears came, getting side-tracked, sharing secrets.  I saw moments in my classroom when the curriculum stepped aside so that REAL learning could take place as kids felt free to bear real feelings and frustrations.  I saw comradry.  I saw anticipation.  I saw little people in the palm of my hand for story after story after story.  Putty.  Two dozen years in a pretty mediocre pay scale in 3 different states from sea to shining sea.  I saw all the thousands and thousands of dollars I've given to universities to have that privilege--enough to buy 2 Subarus and take a trip to Kathmandu.  All leading up to that single fleeting moment yesterday.  I'm hoping death brings a similar experience depicting my whole life!  And I hope then too I can call it all good...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Big Tree

  Supposedly the sense that is most capable of conjuring back instant memories is our sense of smell--odors, in other words.  But for me today it was two simple words I read in a kid's autobiography--Big Tree.  Not The Big Tree or A Big Tree.  Just Big Tree.  This kid today was describing in his paper a beloved childhood destination easily reached on his bicycle close to his grandma's.  I too had a "Big Tree" in my past, and when I read those words I zoomed there in light speed.  When I was 7 and 8 we lived in a modest two story frame home literally "on the other side of the tracks" in Malad, ID.  We'd moved there from our "city house" to save on rent, I believe.  My mother was working at Morton/Thiokol (of space shuttle fame); my father had a new job with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture; my oldest sister was in love and almost graduating from high school; the rest of us were kids.  This little home was situated on some acreage and had some interesting outbuildings--an old chicken coop or two, a small orchard, a ramshackle garage, a swift ditch managed by the water master.  But its most interesting asset was a reservoir--think large body of water which inspired rafts, a little non-fishing, and general allure.  Beyond that lay a dirt road that stretched far and straight to the south.  And down that dirt road (about a better-pack-a-lunch length) was Big Tree.  Big Tree was just far enough that you didn't run down there after school.  You couldn't even really go there any time the urge seized you.  Big Tree took planning.  And as a 7 or 8 year old I most certainly wasn't brave enough to slip down there by myself!  Therefore, Big Tree was not really a destination--it was an event.  Going to Big Tree meant I'd fannagled some time out of one of the older kids.  What did we do there?  Throw cow pies.  Swing on the rope, Try to climb it.  Scoot up against the massive trunk and dig through a lunch sack.  Big Tree meant a long hot hike home with maybe a popsicle at the end, but most likely we'd have to settle for scraping some frost off the sides of the deep freeze with a kitchen spoon. How could THAT have possibly tasted good??  Going to Big Tree took something out of you--better plan on some prone TV time to wind down--Henry Aldrich, Mickey Mouse Club, Tarzan.  Nowadays ("There she goes waxing all eloquent about the good ol' days..."), I would hope ("Maybe she isn't going to!") that kids have some sort of destination point--a place to anticipate going to.  Not a Disneyland or a Raging Waters.  Just a Big Tree...with maybe a lunch and the captured attention of a sibling and the feel of a giant trunk rough and barky under your summer T-shirt.

The Last Leaf

Joseph F. Smith taught:  "Sometimes the Lord expands our vision from this point of view and this side of the veil, that we feel and seem to realize that we can look beyond the thin veil which separates us from that other sphere...and we would understand that those who have passed beyond, can see more clearly through the veil back here to us than it is possible for us to see them from our sphere of action.  I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings.  We are not separate from them.  And therefore, I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever, and their desire of our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves."  Today I have too much to say, and yet not enough.  The room is so full, yet so empty.  We gather joyful to see each other, yet still find ourselves looking around for the honoree of the day.
     Norma Foulger, in her younger years, would have been part of the kitchen guard today, crowd-feeding wizard, card dealer, sneaker of spoons, author of fun and good times.  She was the Christmas of our youth.  Her teacher gifts bounty filled our Christmas stockings.  Ice cream snowballs, nuts 'n bolts, cheeseballs.  100% of her nieces and nephews--great and plain--knew that her presence meant the Best of Times.  Not only the copious food from her "bewitched" dinner table, but the after dinner games and stimulating conversation.  Christmas, summer trips to Lagoon.  She worked so hard, the sweat running off the tip of her nose, pushing the hand mower, pruning, weeding.
     All of us have unique memories of her major role in our lives, but we all share the common ground of 932 23rd St. and all that that means in our heritage--warmth, security, comfort, anticipation, generosity, and tears of laughter.  Grandma laughing until tears ran and she said, "Oh, Shaw!"  We remember the day Grandma bargained with Uncle John.  She'd start a journal if he'd shave off his beard.  We crowded into the bathroom to watch the hair fall.  The magic of that old house--mystery drawers, back porches, complete apartments in the basement.  Those people--aunts, uncles, cousins--live so wonderfully in our deepest hearts.  And so we gather today to celebrate the life of the last leaf on that trusted solid tree.
     The Aunt Norma remembered by the next generation was a good old soul of BINGO, spoons, Rook, Manipulation, and Pop Shoppe sodas.  The years took her siblings one by one--the grandparents of our children.  We remember Aunt Norma on family cruises, trips to Mexico and Europe and all over the U.S., trekking across Central Park to the Met only to find it closed on Mondays.  Good sport?  Graduations, birthdays, weddings, blessings, baptisms, family reunions.
      Nearly 20 years ago my own mother died.  Aunt Norma and I clung to each other in our grief, and she took center stage in my life at that time.  Her friends became my friends, my friends hers.  We knit together, watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, shared stories, bottled fruit, sifted through thrift stores, bounced grandchildren, decorated her condo for Christmas, and filled the years.  I found her stubborn, strong-willed, opinionated, enigmatic, tireless, thrifty to a fault (many contents of her kitchen drawers need to go right to the Smithsonian Museum of American History!), thorough, and the sharpest thinker in my circle.
     Her friends over all the years were central and critical to her happiness.  How she loved them.  How they loved her for her keen ability to play bridge and make them laugh.  She served at church, in clubs, around her neighborhood.  Willing, prompt, capable.
     The years slowed her down a little.  She fell and broke a leg, got a few parts replaced, snarled her way through a month in a nursing facility, and came right back up, determined to walk, get out the door, and move on down the road.  At 92 she bought a new car, for heaven's sake!  25 years behind the gift counter at  Union Station.  If her till was one cent off, they said she fretted and threatened resignation.  I turned her station key in to Becky about a month ago.  How cool is that?
     I leave you with a final visual image of Norma Foulger.  Every day for as far back as my memory goes she worked crossword puzzles.  This is her crossword dictionary--pristine NOT.  Sometimes she asked me for answers.  I played along, occasionally pulling her out of a bind.  Modern experts recommend crossword puzzles, knitting, and travelling to fight off old age and dementia.  Take a note, dear listener...
      Aunt Norma, you worked the acrosses and the downs of your life.  You read the clues, processed the information, looked a few unknowns up in a book (which you have apparently worn out!).  Your pencils (perhaps older than many here today) are worked down to a nub.  Your eraser is smooth and brittle.  We are gathered today to send you off.  Bon Voyage!  At the risk of oversentamentalizing and giving in to our full emotions, may we just pause and thank you and wish you a glorious next chapter.  And here's a new word clue for your collection from my daily Merriam-Webster email a few days before your death:  cathexis--investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.  Thanks for "cathexis-ing" us and allowing us to "cathexis" you.  We love you.  Enjoy your journey.  Know that a part of each of us goes with you.  Our faith and the faith of our fathers assures us that you live on, unshackled, walking again--flying now.

Norma Foulger

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"I'm Not Just Another Pretty Face!"

And so says Mrs. Patmore as she confronts a spice salesman in her kitchen who compliments her cooking.  He was smooth.  His next compliment to her at the fair involved the words 'your blouse'--'just stepped out of'--and 'Vogue'.  We could all see where this was going, but did she????  Was she (as Mrs. Hughes accused her) picturing herself in another life?  One away from Downton?  But the old gal came to her senses, laughed off her foolishness, and drank tea as she and Mrs. Hughes nodded sagely.  Which brings me to the end of Season 3.  Don't get your knickers in a frenzy!  I'm not going to give it away!  Paco and I watched Episodes 5,6,7, and 8 on dvd in a bit of a marathon on Friday, courtesy of a good friend onto whom we had "inflicted" Downton Abbey in the first place, thank you.  She loaned it to us even BEFORE she'd watched it--qualification alone for sainthood.  Would it be spoiling to just say...hmmmm....what can I say..."umm...STINKING REALLY, BBC?????????????????"

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley