Still Life

In my grandparents, home
There was a painting of a bowl
Brown, with cream swirls,
Uneven and tilted, spilling its
Red apples and green grapes,
Oranges, too, though,
Simply orange, but
In shades that differ
Ever so slightly,
Onto a table set for one
It takes a sharp eye to see
The tiny dimples and
Wrinkles, curves, and lines
Of the woman outside the
Still, life is life.

Love, Mom, and the Cabbage Patch Kid

Today is my mom’s birthday. How old would she have been? Well, let’s see, she turned four years old on the day that the Japanese launched a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor launching our country into World War 2. That year was 1941, so Mom was born in 1937. She’d have been 77 today. Sadly, Mom passed away in her mid-50’s, a victim of cancer.

I miss her every single day. I’ll never forget when it hit me that Mom was gone. Many days after her funeral, Studly, the kids, and I were back in Kansas, and one of my students said something funny to me in class. When I got home that afternoon I picked up the phone to call Mom. I even started dialing her number before I realized that I’d never be able to do that again. That’s when I cried until I thought my head would implode.

Now Mom and I were often at odds. As much as we look alike we had very different approaches to life. Mom was a perfectionist, and she never quite understood my haphazard ways. She had the subtlety of a sledge hammer, so even when she thought she was correcting me in gentle ways her message came through like a bullhorn in a closet. But, and every mother and daughter will understand this: Mom was my best friend.

My fondest memories of my mother:

Anytime I was sick my Mom was the very best nurse–she should have been one, but circumstances prevented that from happening. Instead, she worked for doctors for most of her life. There was nothing quite as comforting as having Mom lovingly placing cool cloths on my forehead when I had a fever or cradling me when I had a bad cold. Honestly, sometimes I played sick just to get the attention.

One Christmas, I think I was 7, my California cousins came for a visit. My cousin Gail was a year older, and we were great friends. On Christmas Eve we were excitedly discussing our presents while snuggled into the twin beds in my room. I said I couldn’t wait to see what Santa would bring. Gail told me, in no uncertain terms that there was no Santa, and that parents who told their kids there was a Santa were liars.

My sobs brought Mom in from the living room where the grownups were enjoying an adult beverage or two. I told her what Gail had said, and Mom told me the truth–that parents did provide the gifts from Santa, but that Santa, would always be in our hearts as long as people did good things for one another. I could live with that, and I still believe it was the best Santa explanation ever given.

One of the very best times I had with Mom was the December we camped out all night at a local retailer in order to secure a Cabbage Patch doll for my daughter. I’d gotten a tip from a co-worker that a store in Amarillo was getting in a shipment of 100 of those much coveted dolls. Casually I mentioned to Mom that I was thinking about getting up extra early to try and get a doll. She immediately went into action and said she’d go with me. She packed a bag like we were going into battle: Thermos full of coffee? Check! Two warm blankets? Check! Cushioned seats? Check! Reading material? Check! Extra heavy gloves? Check! Snacks? Check!

We arrived at the store at midnight thinking that we’d be able to sit in the car for a couple of hours, but there were already 20 or so people in line. As we watched, a few more joined the queue, so we quickly grabbed our supplies and staked out our spot. I can’t remember everything we discussed that night, but we talked non-stop. I’m pretty sure most of the world’s problems were solved. Thanks to my mom, we never got cold or hungry, and we each ended up with a doll–one for my Ashley and one for a friend’s daughter.

I’d love to have that impromptu camp out one more time. I’d make sure Mom knew just how much she meant to me, and how much I loved her.

Peace, People. Please let your family members know how much they mean to you. Right now.

Below: Mom and Dad circa 1957.
My daughter Ashley, Cricket the doll, closed-eyes me, and Mom.



Mom with her family, from left, her brother Jackie, my Grandaddy Carl, Mom, and my Nanny Grace holding my Aunt Nedra.


Color Change Blues

Yesterday I was blonde
(You know she was blonde)
Today I’m a ginger
(What happened to blonde?)
My eyes get a shock
(A real nasty shock)
When I look in the mirror
(Don’t look in the mirror!)

I’ve got those low down
Hair color blues
(Have mercy! Have mercy!)

I asked for a change
(Oh say it’s not true)
You know that it’s true
(Yes, oh yes it’s so true)
I just didn’t think
(You always should think!)
I’d end up with this hue
(And oh what a hue!)

I’ve got those low down
Hair color blues
(Have mercy! Have mercy on her!)

Those stinkin’
Low down
Nasty clown
Hair color
(Oh yeah!)

Garrett’s Day

When Studly and I decided to have grandchildren we didn’t waste any time. Our Dominique was born on September 13, 2002, and our grandson Garrett followed just short of three months later on December 6.

Garrett wasn’t our first grandchild, but he was our first grandson. He restored symmetry to our family. From the beginning our Garrett was a fascinating kid. He started talking very early and his curiosity was boundless. He questioned everything from the moment he started talking, and that continues to this day.

He taught me all the ins and outs of Thomas the Tank Engine, such as the names of every engine and how to lay down a good track. When he outgrew Thomas and Friends Garrett became a Lego aficionado, a true master builder who once told me that every set must be built according to the directions at least three times before the pieces can be used for other purposes.

Nowadays Garrett is a spelling hotshot. He practically eats words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After winning his school’s spelling bee as a fifth grader, he went on to place in the top ten at the regional bee. He’s also a budding oboist AND he can ride a motorcycle. Pretty well-rounded kid. Oh, my favorite thing? He still says, “Nana, I love you.”

There is something he’s not fond of doing–math homework, so awhile back I wrote this little story.

“Garrett Battles the Math Monster”

No one knew about the monster in Garrett’s bedroom except for Garrett. He’d almost told his parents, but he didn’t think they’d believe him. He thought his sisters might be scared if he told them, so he kept it a secret.

As monsters go this wasn’t a particularly awful one. It had but one purpose in life–to prevent Garrett from completing his mathematics homework. The monster didn’t care about English, science or social studies assignments; it just didn’t want him to tackle math.

When the monster first moved into his room Garrett thought he could just ignore it and it would go away. He could see the enormous beast from the corner of his eye as he worked on assignments. It had silver scales, almost like mirrors that winked merrily as long as Garrett practiced spelling words or memorized state capitals. But as soon as Garrett pulled out his math textbook, the scales turned blood red and began pulsing with a menacing intensity. The monster would snarl angrily and poise for attack. Quickly Garrett closed his book and watched the monster mellow out.

“Ok,” thought Garrett. “No math, no problem.”

But there was a problem. Garrett’s math grades began to slip. Then to slide. Then to plummet. Things were serious. It was time to banish the math monster.

Every afternoon Garrett entered his room with the intention of driving the monster out. First he tried to reason with it.

“Hey there,” he said. “I’m in need of a break here. Do you think you could go mess with someone else for awhile?”

The monster showed his fearsome teeth and howled.

Next he tried fighting his scaly nemesis with fists. All Garrett got out of that idea were bruised knuckles and a black eye.

Maybe the monster was afraid of animals. Garrett brought in his cat Lucy to test his hypothesis, but Lucy took one look at the monster, screeched and scampered upstairs to hide under the sofa.

Nothing was working. Then Garrett had an idea. Maybe he needed to attack the math monster with words.

“Hey, Scale Breath,” said Garrett. “Can you spell extrudable?”

The monster looked perplexed. “How about excruciating?”

The monster started growing smaller.

“What kind of monster are you if you can’t handle a little spelling contest?”

The monster shrugged.

“Try this one,” continued Garrett. “Esophageal.”

The monster’s scales began to lose their luster.

Feeling more confident, Garrett said, “Spell Feuilleton.” The monster grimaced and seemed to shrink even more.

“Stichomythia!” Garrett crowed. The monster’s scales were now a dull brown and he was half the size he’d been just syllables ago. “Knaidel!” Shouted Garrett, and the monster shrunk again.

Sensing victory Garrett asked, “What do you have against math?”

The monster hung his now tiny head and said, “I didn’t want you to be good at math. You’re so good at everything else, I just thought that if I could keep you from being a star math student that it would make me feel better.”

“And did it?” asked Garrett.

“Not really,” admitted the monster. “But I did enjoy hanging out in your room.”

“Look man, you can hang out here. Just don’t interfere with my homework anymore. You’re making me look bad.”

“Ok,”said the monster. “Could I ask you a favor?”

“Sure,” said Garrett.

“Teach me to spell?”

Happy birthday, Garrett! I love you! Don’t let the Math Monster win!

Below: Spelling bee stud; Big boy sliding; Hanging out with Dominique




Favorite Things

Julie Andrews sang about her favorite things in “The Sound of Music.”

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Granted, songwriters Rodgers and Hammerstein were trying to rhyme, but there’s no way schnitzel with noodles would’ve made favorite things list. Truthfully, only the kitten whiskers would make it into my top ten.

So, what are my favorite things? And, can I rhyme them?

Nana’s Favorite Things

Folks with kind faces and grand kids with kisses
Star Wars on TV and zombie near misses
Wine poured in crystal and the joy that it brings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Tex-Mex with salsa and hot melted cheeses
Football on Sundays and trips to the beaches
Going to Vegas and laying down kings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Reading a good book and napping on weekends
Fire pits in autumn and dinner with good friends
Old jeans with edges frayed into strings
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the scales say
What do you weigh?
When my wrinkles show
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so low!

“Seriously? Schnitzel? Noodles?”


She’s a fearsome broad–
This headache.
Trapped within the narrow
Confines of my skull.
Pounding her knobby fists
Whump! Whump! Whump!
Against my brow
Inside out.
Kicking her gaudy stilettos
Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!
Into my cheekbones
Upside down.
I’ve made an offering
Of peace.
A sacrifice of two orange
Gel-filled caplets slugged back
Shot style.
Hurry, relief.


Naked Bathroom Jogging

Several days ago I suggested in a Facebook post jogging naked in front of the bathroom mirror as an instant mood lifter. My friends seemed to think I was joking or speaking metaphorically, but I was dead serious. Hey, if Prancercise can be a thing, then so can Naked Bathroom Jogging. Granted, it needs a better name before I shoot the video and start marketing it. It might need a less jiggly, younger model, as well.

Naked Bathroom Jogging, or NBJ, is easy to do, requires no equipment, and serves both the physical and emotional needs of the practitioner.

Do make sure that the bathroom floor is dry, or plan on jogging on a rubber-backed rug. Strip completely. Maximum effectiveness is only achieved if one is totally naked. I find it best to practice NBJ just before showering. Stand facing the bathroom mirror. Laugh as needed. Then admire all the good stuff, and trust me, no matter what you weigh or how that weight is distributed there is some good stuff.

Now jog in place. Start out slowly to determine which body parts need corralling. The last thing you want is to give yourself a black eye or whiplash. Be prepared to support these body parts. Gradually increase the speed of your jog. The best benefits seem to occur when I’m going full speed.

The first time I did my NBJ it was just a goof, but I laughed so hard and so long that I knew it had to be a good thing. So now I’m into a daily routine. If I could just find a videographer I could start filming. Volunteers? Anyone? Bueller?



The Perils of Luckenbach, Texas

Many years ago, back when I was expecting our first child, Studly decided he needed to take a major motorcycle trip. Apparently he was feeling the old ball and chain growing ever more cumbersome as my due date neared. So in the eighth month of my pregnancy I went to stay with my Nanny Grace for a week of coddling while Studly and his brother-in-law, Don, took off on their bikes for a tour of the Texas Hill Country.

Don, an avid hunter, wanted to check out the Llano River, famous for its plentiful deer, and both guys were curious about Luckenbach, Texas, the little burg made famous back in the 70’s by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Their song, lyrics below, made Luckenbach sound like an oasis of good, honest country living.

Studly, on a borrowed Honda CB 750, and Don on his XS 650 Yamaha left the Texas panhandle early one sunny April morning in 1978 intent on enjoying a good ride with no womenfolk or children around. Now keep in mind I didn’t personally experience either of the adventures I’m about to share, and there’s a good chance that Studly might have embellished a bit, and/or forgotten some of the tale, but it’s become a part of our family folklore over the years.

Late on the second day of their trip the pair made it to a KOA campground on the banks of the Llano and set up their pup tent about 30 ft. from the river. As Studly tells it, their campsite was situated in a beautifully wooded valley, with huge oak trees shading the area and the river providing a soothing soundtrack to their evening. Unfortunately, neither of the guys had remembered to pack tent stakes, but they were committed to camping out that night, so they tied nylon rope to the heftiest river rocks they could locate, thus securing their abode.

Dusty from the road, the guys walked up to the communal shower. On their way back to the tent they heard a low roar. Looking over their shoulders, they saw a towering wall of dirt heading straight for the campground. What had been a leisurely stroll turned into a trot, and they made it back to the campsite just in time to see Don’s motorcycle blow over, followed immediately by their tent going AWOL.

While Don righted his bike, Studly retrieved the tent and they re-erected it fighting against 40 mile an hour winds. Time and again that night the tent tried to go airborne as the winds blew straight through until morning. A wife would’ve insisted on finding a good hotel room, but those two stubborn guys toughed it out, sleeping for much of the night in a pile of collapsed canvas. The winds finally subsided around eight the next morning and the bleary-eyed duo resumed their journey on to Luckenbach.

As towns go, Luckenbach doesn’t have a lot going for it. Basically, it’s a post office, a dance hall and a bar. Studly and Don drove past the place several times before they finally spotted a little hand drawn sign on the side of the road. The intrepid travelers realized they needed to backtrack and finally they pulled up at the bar only to realize it was closed. They were a little bummed, but decided to ask some locals they spotted just down the street if the bar would be opening soon.

Studly took the lead as they stopped to make their inquiry of two guys who were standing next to an old Ford farm truck. David used his kill switch to kill the bike, but didn’t turn the key off. No sooner had he asked about the bar hours than one of the gentleman strutted over and straddled the front tire of the Honda, grabbing the left handlebar. Now, this is not something a well-mannered person would ever do. One does not touch another’s bike without permission.

This presumptuous guy, who happened to be exceedingly inebriated, informed Studly in no uncertain terms that, “We don’t like no stinkin’ long-haired motorcycle ridin’ motherf*****s around here.”

Now Studly used to be a scrapper, and he and Don probably could have handled the two guys standing there, but no sooner had the drunk guy delivered his soliloquy than, and I quote, “A Walking Mountain” climbed out of the truck’s cab wielding a cedar fence post. Casually he slapped the fence post against his palm as he walked menacingly toward the bikes.

Without waiting to see what happened next, Studly flipped the kill switch, hit the starter, gave it full throttle, popped the clutch and forced the straddling drunk into an awkward spinning dance to avoid being castrated by a 750 Honda. Don followed closely behind and soon they were safely on the main road. Several miles down the road Studly and Don stopped by a little bubbling creek. Still hopped up on adrenaline they called those guys a few choice words and replayed the event until they had settled down.

The rest of the trip back to their respective homes went by without incident, but they returned with a whopper of a tale about their close call in Luckenbach, Texas. Now, Waylon and Willie probably didn’t foresee such occurrences when they sang the song, but they’d have gotten a big laugh out of it.



Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love)

The only two things in life
That make it worth livin’
Is guitars to tune good
And firm feelin’ women

I don’t need my name in the marquee lights
I got my song and I got you with me tonight
Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love

Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys

Between Hank Williams pain songs
And Newbury’s train songs
And blue eyes cryin’ in the rain
Out in Luckenbach, Texas
Ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain

So baby let’s sell your diamond ring
Buy some boots and faded jeans and go away
This coat and tie is choking me
In your high society you cry all day

We’ve been so busy
Keepin’ up with the Jones
Four car garage and we’re still building on
Maybe it’s time we got
Back to the basics of love

Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys

Between Hank Williams pain songs
And Newbury’s train songs
And blue eyes cryin’ in the rain
Out in Luckenbach, Texas
Ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain

Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Willie and Waylon and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys

Between Hank Williams pain songs
And Jerry Jeff’s train songs
And blue eyes cryin’ in the rain
Out in Luckenbach, Texas
There ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain

Send in the Clouds

My family has a long history of misunderstanding song lyrics. For example:

A line from The Eagles song, “Lying Eyes” as heard, and sung, by Studly Doright: “She is headed for the cheapin’ side of town.” When I asked him to explain the meaning of the lyric, he said, “you know, she went cheapin’!” Alrighty then.

A line from the 1985 hit, “Every Time You Go Away” by Paul Young as sung by our then five-year-old daughter, Ashley, “Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you.” To be honest, I like Ashley’s lyrics better. We never quite convinced her that she was wrong.

Back in the days of my youth, I thought that Judy Collins was singing about clouds instead of clowns in her 1973 hit “Send in the Clowns.” Conversely, I thought that Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now” featured the lines, “I’ve looked at clowns from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow. It’s clown illusions I recall, I really don’t know clowns, at all.” I’m sure if I had a therapist she’d draw a few conclusions about my psyche from my misinterpretation of cloud/clown references.

Some misheard lyrics are so universal that the artist incorporates them into his/her act. I saw John Fogerty in concert several years ago and he sang the line, “There’s a bathroom on the right.”

Check out this website dedicated to misheard lyrics:


Happy listening!