Twirling Queen

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I was born with the natural grace of a three-legged bull moose and the athletic prowess of a potholder, sad truths I learned at the tender age of six when my parents enrolled me in a baton twirling class.

Back in the day, baton twirling was a big deal, at least in Floydada, Texas. One of my earliest role models was Suzanne, the head twirler in the Floydada Whirlwind marching band. She looked like a blonde goddess in her short spangled green and white outfit, and my Uncle Jack was married to her older sister which almost made us relatives.

Each and every Friday night during football season mini-me waited expectantly for the twirlers to make their halftime appearance. I copied Suzanne’s every move with my imaginary baton. Twist, spin, toss, twirl, march, mega toss, catch. I was breathtaking.

So captivated with the art of twirling was I that I convinced my parents that twirling was the most important thing in my life. When the high school twirlers started a workshop for potential twirlers I was the first in line. Fortunately, the initial investment was minimal. Batons were cheap and as I recall lessons were fifteen dollars.

I remember vividly my first class. Suzanne and the other high school twirlers lined all of the participants up on the out of bounds lines in the gym. Even at six I was among the tallest, so I was placed at the very end of the line.

First, they showed us how to stand at attention with our batons. And then we got to march around the perimeter of the gym, heads held high, knees snapping up and down, left, right, left, at 90 degree angles. I couldn’t quite get the hang of marching. This was all much easier with my imaginary baton.

Then we stopped and learned the figure eight move. I twisted my wrist and magically the baton moved as I willed it. Faster, faster, I twirled. I was a regular twirling dervish. Next we tried to march and twirl the figure eight. I could do one, but not the other, at least not simultaneously. Twirl or march, twirl or march, which was it to be? Still at the end of the line I would stand stock still and twirl, then quickly march to catch up, stop and twirl again.

Apparently, this was not the desired outcome. After the lesson I saw Suzanne approach my dad. They looked at me, and Suzanne laughed and shook her head. On the ride home Daddy said Suzanne thought I should try learning another skill. I’d suspected as much, but it still crushed my little six year old heart.

I never looked at the twirlers in quite the same way after that; although, over the years I continued practicing the one skill I learned. I can still twirl the figure eight like nobody’s business. Just don’t expect me to march while I’m doing it.

Peace, People!

Cleaning Stalls and Taking Names

Summertime for the pre-teen set has always been a balance between excitement and boredom, and growing up in a small town often dips the scale towards the boredom end. I grew up in Floydada, Texas, a farming community, population 4,000, circa 1970, a very small town, indeed.

My brothers and I were “town kids” and spent summer days traipsing across Floydada in search of some activity to ease the boredom. At least once a week we walked to the county courthouse where the library was located. Before heading downtown, we would scrounge through the sofa cushions and dresser drawers in search of loose change so we could purchase “baby” soft drinks at Arwine’s Drugstore in downtown Floydada. The baby size cost a nickel and was always a welcome thirst quencher after our trek across town.

Not all of my summer was spent in the company of my siblings, though. Often I had the opportunity to hang around with LA (not her real name!) who I envied desperately due to her status as an only child. LA and I spent hours fantasizing about The Cowsills family singing group and how she was going to marry Barry and I was going to marry John and we would live next door to one another in Santa Monica, California. Happily ever after had our names all over it.

But, even our fantasies grew tiresome on occasion, so as we rode our bikes around Floydada we decided to do something to better our community. We had nothing specific in mind, but we continued to chat about the possibilities when we weren’t mentally picking out the swimsuits we’d be wearing when first meeting The Cowsills.

The idea for our service project came when we stopped at one of the gas stations on the main drag to use their restroom. Now, this was before the time of the convenience store, and the ladies’ room was outside, accessible only by key. The condition of the restroom was deplorable. The sink was a mess, paper towels were strewn about the floor, and the toilet–ugh!

Truly I cannot remember whether LA or I came up with the idea, but soon, we were cleaning that bathroom. We decided that folks passing through Floydada needed to see its good side, and that included nice bathrooms. So, for several weeks LA and I pedaled from service station to service station tidying up the bathrooms. Scandalously, we even ventured into the men’s rooms where we glimpsed our first urinals. Heavens! We were now mature women of the world.

Eventually summer ended as did our community service project. When we told our friends what we’d been up to they seemed more horrified than impressed. But there was something satisfying about doing a job no one else wanted, or even noticed. To heck with germs and dirt and potential disease! We were rebels without a clue, cleaning stalls and taking names.

Peace, People!

Conversations With Studly

1.
Me: Did you hear that Mary and Ken are getting married next June.

Him: Hmmm

(One hour later)

Him: Hey, I heard that Mary and Ken are finally getting married.

Me: I know. I told you that earlier.

Him: Really?

Me: Yes. You never listen to me.

Him: Huh?

2.
Me: I think I’ll make chicken enchiladas for dinner.

Him: Why would you do that?

Me: Because I’m hungry.

Him: Huh?

Me: I’m making chicken enchiladas for dinner because I’m hungry.

Him: Oh, I thought you said you were taking cha cha lessons this winter.

Me: Why would I do that?

Him: That’s what I asked you.

Me: You never listen to me!

Him: Huh?

3.
Me: Let’s go to a movie this afternoon.

Him: Sure. What do you want to see?

Me: Either “Get on Up” or “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Him: I thought you wanted to see the one about James Brown.

Me: I do. That’s what “Get On Up” is.

Him: Then why didn’t you say that?

Me: I did.

Him: Did what?

Me: Aargh.

Him: You forgot to say I don’t listen to you.

Me: It’s true; you never listen to me.

Him: What?

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To Nap or Not to Nap

In my experience there are but two kinds of naps:

1) naps that leave one feeling refreshed
2) naps that leave one feeling numb

Today’s nap fell under the second category.

It’s a shame one cannot program naps in advance by turning a knob. Of course, I doubt anyone would choose the “numb” setting.

Come tell me a story to pull me back from the ledge of ennui. I’d jump, but that would require energy.

Peace, People.

Inside the Director’s Studio: Alfred Finchcock’s, “The Words”

Good evening and welcome to Inside the Director’s Studio. I am your host, James Lipton Onion Soup Mix. (Polite applause)
My guest this evening is the esteemed director, Alfred Finchcock. (Applause)

James: Mr. Finchcock, welcome to our program. We are honored by your presence.

Alfred: As you should be. (Laughter)

J: Tonight we want to focus on one of your most controversial films to date, specifically, “The Words.”

For those who have not yet had the opportunity to attend a screening of this groundbreaking work would you provide a brief summary of the plot?

A: I would be happy to oblige; although, I find it most difficult to believe that any within the range of my voice have not yet viewed this masterpiece. (Polite laughter)

In this story we find a worldly woman…

J: Played by the lovely Tipsy Headroom.

A: …who purchases a pair of weighty tomes, specifically Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus, as gifts for the sister of a handsome man she encounters in a San Francisco book store.

J: You cast Prod Trailer in the role of Mitch. Interesting choice.

A: Quite. I considered his dark good looks the perfect counterpoint to Miss Headroom’s blonde Melanie. Dark, light. Male/female. Tall/less tall.

J: So far, we have an endearing story about a pretty woman buying a nice gift for a little girl. Your genius is in turning the innocent into infamy.

A: When Melanie, an unmarried woman of a certain age delivers the books to Mitch’s island home the tension begins to build.

J: The special effects are so subtle, so subliminal in the beginning. For example, the word, “exacerbate” slips by in the water as Melanie rows herself and the books to Mitch’s home.

A: I am singularly surprised that you caught that. But, you are correct. It was my intention to slowly build word upon word until the audience was gasping at each verbal assault.

J: Please continue.

A: Melanie’s gift is well-received by Mitch’s sister, a budding young author entranced by words. And Melanie is urged to stay over for the weekend.

J: Perhaps this is what triggers the chaos?

A: I was not overly concerned by causation; however, the audience might very well construe the surge of suppressed hormonal urges as the basis for the initial attacks.

J: And, attacks are forthcoming.

A: Indeed. The evening of Melanie’s arrival a loud bump is heard outside the home. Upon investigation the word, “melancholia” is found lying broken in a puddle beside the porch.

In each successive scene the number and intensity of the attacks increase until there are too many to be discounted.

J: Mr. Finchcock, critics have said that your subject was too broad. That perhaps you should have focused on verbs or nouns or adjectives.

A: James, if one observed carefully one would note that I arranged each attack around a specific part of speech.

J: Please elaborate.

A: In the phone booth, Melanie was attacked by a host of nouns: “Umbrage!” “Castration!” “Misogyny!”

When the children in the schoolyard came under siege it was by adjectives: “Allegorical!” “Voluptuous!” “Incendiary!”

J: Oh, and the attack on the birthday! Those could all be verbs! “Manipulate, castigate, endeavor!”

My God! You pulled it all together!

A: Quite so. The climactic scene is one in which our heroine is rendered catatonic by battling a frenetic flock of adverbs. “Forcefully!” “Fanatically!” “Morbidly!” “Moribundly!”

But the denouement…

J: Leaves us with verbiage of all kinds, waiting in silence for…

A: Who knows? The trigger could be an exhalation or an obfuscation.

J: And that, sir, is why we worship your art.

A: As you should.

J: One more question before we must let you go. Tipsy Headroom, is she just another famous Finchcock blonde? Why couldn’t a brunette have played this role?

A: I do have a predilection for blondes, but in “The Words,” I intentionally wanted to dispel the stereotype of the dumb blonde. In order to have survived at all my leading lady had to have linguistic skills of the highest caliber.

J: Again, I tip my fictional fedora to you. Here’s to much success with “The Words.” Thank you again for allowing us to come Inside the Director’s Studio.

A: My pleasure. (Applause)

Fountain of Pancake Heaven

One of the best kept secrets in Florida is a restaurant called the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in DeLeon Springs. Located an hour north of Orlando and a half hour west of Daytona Beach, the Sugar Mill became one of our favorite places to take guests back when we lived in Melbourne, FL. Since returning to the Sunshine State we haven’t had an opportunity to revisit the place, but we are about to rectify that, and I’m ridiculously excited.

Now, I’m no travel writer, and I’m certainly not a food critic, but I know a great destination with great food when I experience it. The restaurant, in keeping with its name, is actually an old sugar mill built in the 1830’s. What sets the eatery apart is its unique style of service.

Each table has a built-in griddle, and once customers are seated wait staff bring pitchers of different homemade pancake batters for patrons to pour and flip right at the table. They also offer goodies to help customize the pancakes: blueberries, pecans, chocolate chips, etc. In addition to pancakes the menu includes traditional breakfast items like bacon, sausage, and eggs; although, those are cooked in the kitchen by the restaurant staff. One can also order from a selection of soups and sandwiches, but honestly, the pancakes are the draw.

Normally I hate to cook, and I’m really lousy at it, but cooking at the Sugar Mill is a hoot, and my pancakes always turn out perfectly when cooked there. It might be the location that does the trick. You see, DeLeon Springs according to legend, is the place where Ponce De Leon sought, and perhaps discovered, the Fountain of Youth. Ringed by live oak trees dripping Spanish moss, the spring does look as if it might hold the secret of eternal youth.

I plan on renting a tube and testing out the legend. Paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes are available for rental as well, but I figure I need to get as close to the water as possible to reap any benefits. Heck, I’m just going to dive right in. After I have another pancake.

Peace, People!

Praying for Eyebrowz: The Band

If you read my initial blog post, “Begin the Beguine” you know that the name of my blog stems from an encounter with an esthetician. She was a 60-something earth mother type with long frizzy red hair and clothes straight out of Woodstock. I don’t remember her name, so let’s call her Ditzy.

Ditzy accompanied me back to her treatment room and had me lie down on the table. She immediately got as close to my face as humanly possible without actually kissing me. My mind was thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I didn’t sign up for this!” Then just as abruptly she tsk tsk’d and pulled away.

Tsk, tsk? No one had ever tsk tsk’d at my face. Maybe I should have let her kiss me.

“What?” I asked.

“Well, I hate to tell you this,” she began, “Your skin looks really great, but your eyebrows.” Again, she tsk’d. “You see, your eyebrows are just too sparse.”

“Oh. Um, sorry. Is there anything I can do about that?”

“Let me ask you something of a serious nature,” Ditzy said.

“Sure, Ditzy,” I nodded cautiously, certain now that my esthetician might not be operating on all six cylinders. “Ask away.”

“Do you believe in a higher power?”

“Why yes, yes I do,” I said, wondering where this was headed.

“Well, then just pray. Pray for eyebrows.”

Alrighty then.

Now, I’m a big believer in the power of prayer. I pray nightly for peace, for an end to world hunger, for the health and well-being of my family and friends, but I’d never really thought about praying for thicker eyebrows.

So as Ditzy stopped tsk-ing and began giving me a lovely, relaxing facial, I contemplated asking God to bestow this favor on me. The thought made me giggle.

“Please relax those facial muscles,” said Ditzy.

“Mmhm” I mumbled, drifting away.

I knew I couldn’t ask our Heavenly Father for something like eyebrows. I liked the thought, though. Praying for Eyebrows. Change the spelling to make it edgy. Praying for Eyebrowz. Ooh, I liked that. That sounded like the name of an alt rock indie band. “Praying for Eyebrowz” featuring Nana Noyz on lead vocals. Our first single: “Ditzy Tsk.” It’ll be a hit for sure.

Peace, People.

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Ajax, Psycho Dog From Hell

Studly once brought home a dog from work, having offered to care for it for a co-worker. You can imagine my, ahem, delight when this large, white, furry ball of frenetic energy entered our home for the first time, jumped on my lap and began slobbering on my face. He then bounced about our living room like a demon dog on steroids, snapping at invisible enemies and licking anything that moved.

His name was Ajax and he really was a beautiful dog. His coat was a glossy white and his eyes a vivid blue. We thought perhaps he might be part Husky. According to his owner he was really smart and knew multiple commands. In Spanish. The only words Studly and I knew in Spanish were of a base nature, and they certainly weren’t words one would use to control a dog. His ears did perk up to phrases such as “por favor” and “adios amigo” but neither of those worked well either.

Fortunately we had a large fenced backyard with plenty of room for Ajax to run and play. I had no intention of having him live inside our home. He was just too big and too energetic. But we played with him every day and made sure he was well cared for.

Those days were really tough for our family, and for the country as a whole. I had gone back to college to finish my degree and Studly was working his butt off in a rather unsavory job at a hide tanning company, earning next to nothing. On top of that we had two small kids and a mountain of debt. All we needed was a bit of a break, a couple of years, and my diploma.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves in a huge financial bind and needed to sell our home before ownership reverted to the bank. So we staged the house for prospective buyers and listed it with a realtor. Every single morning before we left for our respective destinations we made sure the house was immaculate. And yet no one came to view our home. No viewers equalled no buyers. No buyers equalled no sale. No sale equalled possible foreclosure. We really were desperate.

One sunny Saturday morning Studly and I decided to take the kids on a day trip to see his folks in Hereford, Texas. We made sure the house was perfect, the dog was fed and hugged and off we went. Several hours later we returned home, tired, but happy after a much needed break from our routine.

I was the first one in the house. I stopped, backed out, shut the door, and looked at Studly in horror. “Someone has ransacked the house!” I gasped.
We had nothing worth stealing, so it was unimaginable that we’d been robbed, but that was exactly what it appeared had happened.

Studly cautiously opened the door while I stayed outside holding on to the kids for dear life. When I heard him say, “Dammit Ajax!” I knew our culprit had been found. Apparently Ajax became bored. He figured out a way to open the back door and then chewed a hole in the screen door. While we were away and blissfully unaware of his antics, he tried to pull everything from inside the house to his domain in the backyard. There was a trail of bedding, clothing, shoes, and athletic equipment all in various stages of transfer. We didn’t know whether to laugh in relief or cry in despair.

Until we noticed the realtor’s calling card on the kitchen counter. Then I cried. I cried and cried and cried as I tried to put the house back together. I was so humiliated that someone, multiple someones, had seen our home in that condition. Of all days for someone to come looking! Any hope I had that perhaps Ajax had done his deed after the realtor had left were dashed by the note she’d written on her card. It said something like, “Perhaps in the future we should call to make sure your house is in viewing condition.”

Eventually Ajax went back to live with his old family, and we never did sell the house. The bank foreclosed and it seemed like the world had come to an end. But in reality we emerged stronger, smarter, and more determined to survive together. Ajax, the psycho dog from hell was one really bad chapter, but he wasn’t the whole book. That’s still being written.

Peace, People!

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Finding Love at the Piggly Wiggly

Studly and I met on the condiments aisle of the Piggly Wiggly store my dad managed in Dumas, Texas. The year was 1974, the summer preceding my senior year of high school. Studly had recently started working for my dad, and I was new to Dumas, having just moved from the metropolis of Floydada, TX. Yep, Floydada. Look it up; it’s a place.

A provocative question began our romance: “Excuse me sir,” I said. “Could you please show me where the ketchup is?”

I felt a little flustered when he stood up and pointed to the neatly lined bottles of Heinz and DelMonte arrayed right in front of me, and I’m sure my face turned a bright ketchupy red. He was cute, but I was a geek, so I put him out of my mind. The variable I hadn’t considered, though, was my double whammy status as the new girl AND the boss’s daughter.

According to Studly he followed me around town all that summer. I had no idea, and that was a good thing. I was so awkward around members of the opposite sex that had I known of his interest I’d have certainly screwed up any chance of our ever dating. So, I remained happily oblivious until school started.

Call it destiny, karma, or luck, our schedules coincided to put us in the same second hour class that first semester. Studly started walking me to class. He even carried my books, something that was sweet and touching and slightly embarrassing all at the same time. He was funny and easy to talk to and pretty soon I was smitten. I’m glad he was smitten, as well.

Peace, People.