“Kathy and the Cats” or The Power of Praise

I remember when I first wanted to be a writer. I was a second grader in Mrs. Gregory’s class at R.C. Andrews Elementary in Floydada, Texas. The class was assigned the task of writing a story based on a series of pictures. Those pictures remain imprinted on my mind:

Frame 1: a little blonde girl stands on her porch looking at a kitten
Frame 2: the little girl gives the kitten a bowl of milk
Frame 3: more kittens come to the porch
Frame 4: the little girl gets more milk
Frame 5: more kittens are on the porch
Frame 6: the girl’s hands are in the air and she looks distressed

Mom saved the story and every so often I find it tucked away in the pages of an old scrapbook. I must have just become familiar with the idea of using a period because they are everywhere, especially where they don’t belong. After a brief battle with autocorrect I’ve successfully copied the story below. Note the spelling of “hungry” and the use of the word “fixing.” For your reading pleasure:

“Kathy and the Cats”

One day when Kathy was going for a walk. to look for her lost kitten Frisky. She had just walked out the door when she spotted her kitten. Then she said I bet Frisky is hungery. So she brought him out some milk to drink. She was just fixing to go in when. She heard something. When she turned around she saw more kittens. So she got more milk. And fed them. Then more and more kittens came. Then finally she threw up her arms and said I have more kittens than milk.

Mrs. Gregory, who really did not like me very much, had written “S+ Very-very good” in red ink across the bottom of my paper. Mom said, “You did such a good job! Maybe you will be the writer in our family.”

Now, for all I know, Mrs. Gregory might have written the same praise on every student’s paper, but at that moment I decided I was going to be a writer. I just had no idea what that meant. And, I had no idea how to find an audience once I was out in the world. Thanks to the advent of web logs (a.k.a. blogs) we can all have an audience.

So, I credit Mom and Mrs. Gregory for putting this writing idea in my head. And I thank you for being my audience.

Peace, People!

It’s the Little Things

Like…

Finding an episode of Criminal Minds that you’ve not seen before

Having fresh guacamole made to your taste right at your table

Opening up a fresh loaf of soft bread

Discovering a new author whose books speak to your soul

Listening to a song that lifts your spirits

Identifying with a character in a novel

Having that aha! moment when working on a project

Completing a less than fun task in a fun way (you should see my toilet cleaning technique)

Singing in the shower and sounding like a pop star

Clicking through the channels and finding “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” already in progress

Getting an old-fashioned letter in the mail

Snuggling with a kitten

Kayaking with my Studly on the lake behind our home

Getting surprise calls from my youngest and oldest grandchildren on the same day (thank you D and Ninibelle)

Having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine on the patio with a good friend

Dancing

Finding peace within myself if only for a moment

Having a good dream about loved ones I’ve lost (Mom, thanks for your “visit” last night)

Hearing the words, “I love you, Nana!”

What are your little things?

Peace, People!

In This Corner, Weighing in at…

Have you ever felt like you just needed to beat the stuffing out of something or someone? I’m pretty much a pacifist, but right now I’m not feeling the love. And I have no idea why I feel this way.

It’s as if a cloud of seething, buzzing anger has gathered round me. Maybe it was on its way somewhere else and I got in its way. Wrong place, wrong time. I’d tell this anger cloud to run along, but really, that wouldn’t be fair to its next victim either. Nor to the victim’s victims.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could put on some light boxing gloves, step in the ring, and go toe to toe with someone? Just work everything out in a three minute bout. Any takers?

Unfortunately real life doesn’t work that way. So, I’ll keep plugging along, and I’ll try to figure out the source of my anger and deal with it. I feel a little bit better just having written about it.

Peace (Really!) People.

All Good Things

After three months off, this week I begin working again. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand I’ll be bringing in the big bucks. (It was hard to type that with a straight face.) On the other hand, I’ll be giving up my life of leisure. No more midday naps! No more dressing in tank tops and flip flops. And, I’m going to have to talk to real people. Let’s hope I remember how that works.

Seriously, I am thrilled about continuing my relationship with the Florida Council for Reading Research (FCRR). This year we’ll be working with second graders in five counties, and I’ll be coordinating the efforts in Gadsden County.

I taught for several years, and I’d like to think I was good at it. The truth is, I probably was mediocre at best. I loved, loved, loved the kids, but I stunk at the organizational skills a good teacher needs in order to be effective. And, I was moody. That’s a hard truth to face, but it affected my ability to be a calm, caring professional.

There is a performance aspect to teaching, and I thrived on that. I never sat down, never relaxed, never fully settled in to the art of teaching, which should be more about the child than the teacher.

The position with FCRR is all about the kids. After conducting individual assessments, we engage small groups of students in targeted literacy interventions to help them develop the skills necessary to become competent readers. At the end of the semester, we will conduct post-testing to measure the effectiveness of the interventions. I was part of this program last spring, but came into it towards the end, so I am excited now to see the process from the beginning.

So, I’ll forfeit the naps, dig into my closet for blouses with sleeves and shoes that don’t flip and/or flop, and charge headlong into doing something I really enjoy. It will be nice to feel productive again.

Peace, People!

Dancing With My Grandaddy

There are people in our lives who we realize early on are so central to our well-being that if we should lose them we would struggle to go on. My Grandaddy was one of those people. He was a tall, straight-talking Texan. Square of jaw and handsome in the John Wayne mold, he was the first man I ever loved.

When I was very young, my mother and biological father divorced and she and I lived with her parents, my Grandaddy and Nanny, for a time. I know this was a very difficult living arrangement for Mom, but for me, it was heaven. As the only grandchild I was spoiled rotten by three adults. Yes, pure, unadulterated heaven.

I remember tagging along with Grandaddy to early morning coffee. We’d sit with the local farmers, ranchers, and assorted businessmen who gathered daily at Leonard’s Cafe to solve the problems of the county. Standing up in the booth beside Grandaddy, I thought I was a grown up. He’d ask my opinion and listen with respect. After coffee we would go to the Fina station he owned, where I manned the counter and tried to stay out of the way. I’d go with him to the bank and he’d let me make the deposit. I really thought I worked for him.

Grandaddy smelled like Cigars and Old Spice. He smelled like home and safety and love. There was no place on earth like his lap.

Eventually my mom remarried giving me my Daddy, the second man I ever loved, but that’s a tale for another day. My brothers came along, my mom’s siblings had children, and soon I was no longer the only grandchild. But here’s the best part. Grandaddy’s lap could magically accommodate as many grandchildren as were present. And he managed to make each of us feel special.

I asked my brothers and my cousins to volunteer their favorite memories of Grandaddy:

“I remember when he had a comb-over and got caught in a gust of wind. I thought that was the funniest thing. He and Nanny, along with the chamber of commerce came to Houston, Jack brought them all to Gilleys. We had so much fun. That’s when I discovered how hip they really were. We went to lake Sommerville, his car broke down and Bubba fixed it. From then on he thought Bubba hung the moon. I think about him all the time and wish he was here to see all our grand babies. What a legacy he started!”. –Crystal.

The smell of his tobacco, his wisdom, his wit, sitting in his lap when i was little, the way he only had to look at me with those Jarrett eyes and I knew i better think twice before i did what I was thinking..lol, so much more….but most of all.. when he and nanny came to houston with uncle jack, Richard, mom, and a few more, we were somewhere that had a dance floor, and Granddaddy and I danced (waltzed) to “Waltz across Texas with you”, something I will never forget! He was a great man and I miss him and Nanny both everyday of my life. –Trena

When he and Kelly and I went to Ruidoso and stayed in the trailer and I fell in the creek and was afraid my “dollars” wouldn’t be any good anymore!! And as Trena said his smell!!!! I miss that most I think???Brent

He let me “drive” his gas truck. By drive, I mean he let me sit in his lap and hold the steering wheel while he drove but I sure thought I was driving! –Kelly

I never did get to dance with my Grandaddy. I wish I had, but for some reason, the opportunity never arose. We thought we had forever with him, but then he was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. He fought for eight long painful years, but the cancer stole his spirit long before it took his life. In those last years he was just a shadow of the strong, larger than life man who’d held each of us on his lap.

The Grandaddy of my youth still visits my dreams now and then. In them he is robust and handsome, and he smells like cigars and Old Spice. When he asks me to dance, I always say yes.

Peace, People.

(Un)Reality TV

So-called reality tv might just be the end of civilization as we know it. Who comes up with these ideas and why haven’t I been approached to star in one? I thought it might be fun to brainstorm some truly realistic programming. Feel free to add your own.

1) Real Couch Potatoes of North Florida
In this gripping show we’ll follow several middle aged women as they trek between bedroom and den and back again while simultaneously surfing the internet for shoe bargains. Look for spinoffs in places such as North Texas and North Dakota.

2) American Cat People
Assorted cat lovers will go through a series of auditions demonstrating their extreme interest in felines. Once the field has been whittled to 12 participants, viewers will vote each week until a winner is declared. First place gets a million dollar’s worth of catnip and an industrial strength pet hair removal tool.

3) Honey Muumuu
Follow the hilarious exploits of hula prodigy Honey Muumuu and her wacky family as they travel from one luau to another in a quest for fame based on an absolute dearth of talent and good taste.

4) American Tickers
Two guys with pacemakers go door to door looking for old microwave ovens.

5) Pawn Bars
Set in Las Vegas, New Mexico, this show highlights a pawn shop owning family in The Land of Enchantment as they drown their sorrows in a variety of local drinking establishments. Underling Bum Lee is especially captivating as the lovable loser with the wit and wisdom of a discarded gum wrapper.

6) Millionaire Matchmaker
I know, there’s already a show with this title, but in this iteration folks with a net worth in excess of a million dollars will actually be forced to work in a factory and learn to make matches.

7) Gassed and Proud
A group of strangers, all suffering from excessive flatulence will drive cross country in a 60’s era Volkswagon van to publicize, and potentially eradicate, the stigma of farting in public. At the end of their journey, the van will be auctioned off for charity.

8) Undercover Boss
In this version of the popular tv show, randomly selected employees discover that they’ve actually been sleeping with their employer for one entire pay period. Performance reviews take on a whole new meaning.

9) Judge Moody
Litigants will face off in a courtroom presided over by a judge suffering from extreme PMS. Expect judgements favoring decapitation and death by strangulation for even the pettiest of crimes.

10) Celebrity Knife Swap
D list celebrities feign interest in all things knife-related in this blatant attempt to jump start their dormant careers. Knife throwing and sharpening contests liven up this rather dull offering.

If any of these get picked up by a major network I’d like to volunteer for numbers 1 and 2 and to nominate Studly for #7. He’s a shoe-in.

Peace, People!

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.