Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Mending Wall"


Mending Wall
--Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."




Monday, June 29, 2009

Your Monday Morning Flower Delivery with Bonus Berries! Today's Special: Red and Pink


Unrest of spirit is a mark of life; one problem after another presents itself and in the solving of them we can find our greatest pleasure.
--Karl Menninger




When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.
--Helen Keller



Life is a pure flame,
and we live by an invisible sun within us.
--Sir Thomas Brown


The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions—the little soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment in the disguise of a playful raillery, and the countless other infinitessimals of pleasurable thought and genial feeling.
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mother's Little Helper

Just in case you have trouble following Betty's suggestions of yesterday to spend more time with your beloved children, here's some help in a bottle:






Happy Sundays to All!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Visiting Hours


"You don't want Mr. Stuffy?" I asked incredulously, pulling the stuffed bear out of the paper bag destined for Goodwill.

My son was only ten years old, but his answer came as swiftly and as curtly as a seasoned judge denying the twelfth request for a stay of execution. "No."

Mr. Stuffy looked up at me, pleading, his big swirly eyes crossed, and his wrinkled red bow tie askew. My son had made him in first grade as part of a class project. Together we had picked out the brown furry material at the fabric sore, spending an hour running our hands over bolts of fabric, discussing how a bear should feel and look. He had been so proud of Mr. Stuffy and I had been so proud of my him. Not every first grader could make a bear that displayed this amount of compassion and depth working with only fake fur, stuffing and 59-cent eyes.

I quickly looked at the shelf where Mr. Stuffy had last been to find a menacing action figure with an open mouth and a bloody sword. An angry rubber Tyrannosaurus Rex stood beside him, baring his teeth.

“Are you sure?” I said in a voice way too high and syrupy, holding Mr. Stuffy up and toward him, hoping those eyes would soften his heart. “I mean, we could just put him in the closet here and….”

He stopped me and in the voice he reserved for the poor idiot mother who must be dealt with, calmly but firmly said, I….don’t…want…that…thing.”

A few years after the Mr. Stuffy incident, I passed by his room and stopped for a moment to take it all in. The shelves that only a few years ago had held his soccer trophies, scout awards and his collection of Pokemon cards were now supporting blinking, humming metal boxes of stereos, speakers, CD players, the wireless networking system. A triad of computer components now governed his desk, the same desk that used to hold a Crayon lamp and a puzzle of the world. The squat monitor and the keyboard that rushed up to it like a wave sat beside the dominating red tower that blinked out like a forbidding lighthouse. It whirred instructions to its subordinates in a secret language. It had, appropriately, a small metal alien mask on the front.


When our children are infants and toddlers, their rooms confirm our God-like presence. We choose the soft colors of the walls and place copies of Good Night Moon and Pat the Bunny on their shelves. The sock monkey and the pale blue teddy bear sit atop the dresser. We feel proud and slightly smug as we survey the perfect environment we have created for our creations. It is his or her room of course, but our room too. Even the furniture reflects our shared existence—the crib for them, the rocking chair for us.

By the time children reach the ages of five or six, their rooms start to take on more of their own personalities and we are constantly invited, begged, to come and join them in their kingdoms. “Come play in my room!” they say, dragging us by the arms. We sit among their cherished possessions and resist the temptation to straighten, to categorize. Given time, they will explain that the giant cobra is protecting the plastic Snow White figure from the angry pink teddy bear. GI Joe is going to the store to get bananas for the four monkeys, recently escaped from the “Barrel of Monkeys” and currently hanging off his upraised arm. We sit on the bed covered with the Rugrats comforter to read Corduroy and Blueberries for Sal over and over again.

Through the years, the Barney posters come down, the X-men and horse posters are hung up. Animorphs and The Boxcar Children appear on the front of the shelves while Dr. Seuss gets pushed back. The planet mobile is put up one year and the taken down the next. Gel pens and mechanical pencils begin to sprout beside the bed. The top of the dresser fills up with pictures of friends and awards from sports and school. I-Pods and PSP's appear with them headphones and game cartridges.

And while we are happy our children are happy and thriving, it is hard for a parent to watch the girl who only wanted roses and wicker now choose the gleaming metal bunk bed with the leopard bedspread. A harsh halogen lamp replaces the lamp with the happy cowboy and pony. On the shelves “Chutes and Ladders” and “High-Ho Cherry-O” turn into “Clue” and “Battleship” only to be replaced later with slick computer game boxes, scattered on the shelves like dried insect husks. When we enter the room now, it is not to play but the check homework, remind them of chores they need to do, or, sadly, to complain about the condition of the room. “Look at this mess!” we say. “You need to get this cleaned up!”

When they do clean up, you may be surprised at what they are willing to abandon. The purple truck you spent hours rolling back and forth on the floor with him, the doll she slipped next to you in bed each morning before climbing in too, all are now fodder for the Salvation Army. We look at these items and suddenly feel such attachment to them, the passion, surprising and urgent. How is it that these possessions once loved so vehemently, now abandoned, by our children now become our beloved items?

We stand there with the Hop On Pop book, unwilling to put it back in the Goodwill bag. “But this was your favorite book” we say to the little pioneers who are busy lightening the load. We begin (pathetically) to recite the book from memory. “Hop. Pop. We like to hop. We like to hop on top of Pop.” No reaction. We look down at the bag and grab up the model car. “Remember how we worked on this car together?” Another dive into the bag produces the beloved sock monkey.
“Don’t you want to keep your sock monkey?” we manage to choke out. We stand with our hands full of the memories and look pleadingly at our children, but the tiny efficiency experts are busy stacking up their newest acquisitions, electronics unfamiliar to us, and search for more vestiges of childhood to shed.

Some mothers save all their children’s artwork. Others save locks old hair and have the first pair of shoes bronzed. I watched as one of my friends opened the box of her daughter’s toddler clothing. She smoothed out the tiny red velvet dress with the white collar and cooed as the original wearer of those sweet items stomped through the house in camouflaged pants, a chain belt and a nose ring.

I consider myself brutal when weeding out school artwork or old clothing, but show me my son’s tattered copy of Cars and Trucks and Things that Go! or the first Matchbox car my son ever owned and loved (a steel-blue eighteen-wheeler flatbed with twin gas tanks) and I turn into a mass of quivering gel.

When our children reach the teen years and we come to call, we are treated more like Amway salespeople than the honored guests we once were. (For awhile my son had a doorbell on his door that we were actually expected to ring before entering.) Now when they clean up, they are ruthless sea captains. They scan the horizon for anything that smacks of adolescence and are willing to heave it overboard lest it slow down their journey toward adulthood. And that is how rooms once devoted to nursery rhymes, stuffed animals, and wicker become rooms full of stereos, computers, and slick black furniture. And that is how you end up on the outside of the closed door with a box of worn books, teddy bears and an outgrown sweater.



A Mother’s Fantasy: I stand at the end of a long hall that is lined with numbered doors. One by one, I open the doors.

Door Number One: I walk into the room and there is my son, the one year-old, standing up in his crib, his arms held out, still groggy from his nap. I lift his solid body up and out to sit on my lap in the rocking chair in the afternoon sun. We rock and I hum to him and smell his sweet head.

Door Number Five: There he is: in the middle of his blue and red room, dressed for his first day of kindergarten. His blond hair gleams and he laughs and hold up his new Sonic the Hedgehog lunchbox to show me.

Door Number Ten: He is at his desk. His bangs are in his eyes. His Lego models are lined up on this dresser. His shelves display his rock collection and he picks up each rock and shows it to me. His fingers are long and slender.

Door Thirteen: He is standing with his skateboard under his arm, amid posters of basketball players and Star Wars characters. He is headed out to be with his friends, but stops to grin at me as I kid him about his spiked hair.

Door Sixteen: He is at his computer. He leans back in his chair as I enter the room. “What’s up, Mom?” he asks. “What’s up with you?” I ask him. “Just hanging out, you know.” His face is sharper, older, the voice deeper. I sit and look at him in amazement. His face is a blend of the little boy I know and the man who will be.

Door Eighteen: Boxes out on the bed. Suitcases on the floor. He is leaning over a pile of jeans and shirts, deciding which to take to college and which to leave. He smiles at me, apparently reading the expression I have tried to hide and says, “It’ll be OK, Mom.” He points to a stack of his high school papers, awards, albums, and notebooks. “You keep those for me, OK?”


It’s only a fantasy of course. And yet, the collection of details in my mind is intricate and diverse. I remember not only the detail of his room and what he looked like; I know the buttons on his first coat were shaped like ducks. His preschool teacher ‘s name was Rosalie. He has a scar from chicken pox high on his forehead. He used to laugh when we got to page seven of The Digging-est Dog.

He doesn’t remember these details nor does he care about them. So why have they found their way into the folds of my heart? And if I have them securely in my heart, why do I grab for the Mr. Scruffy and the battered toy car?


Our children’s rooms are constant, silent reminders of our sons’ and daughters’ unwavering march away from us and from the little boys and girls we once knew. Our children’s rooms and lives are not static, nor would we want them to be. Their rooms are not museums, but rather informal art galleries in which our children decide what to create, to present, to unveil to a select few.

If you are lucky enough to be admitted, step inside and absorb it all. Look around at the jumbled shelves, the crowded desk, the unmade bed, the crumpled clothing in the closet and memorize it.

Like all good art galleries, there are some displays that will please you, some that will anger you, and some that will confuse you—a tumble of textures and colors.

Hold your judgment, temper your opinions, and honor what is. Remember we are the guests here. Our children are the directors, the curators and the guards of these galleries.

Above all, visit as often as you can. The exhibits change rapidly and before you know it, visiting hours will be over.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Laundry Room Confidential: Saturday Night

I know I promised you all an essay today, but I am still working on it, so I thought I'd unleash some of the black and white photos I've been working on.

There I was, in a laundry room on Saturday night, just hanging out, you know, like people do on Saturday night. Here are the photographs I took while there. (Yeah, I had my camera there. What? Is that weird? Hey, it was the weekend; I wanted to document my time out!)

Alert! Bonus Thinkin' Questions Included At End Of Post!!

But first, we absorb the photos:














NOW! Bonus Thinkin' Questions for all you Students of Life:

1) Please compare the atmosphere of these photographs with the bright, obsessively-happy, color-drenched, amusement park-like depictions of doing laundry on television commercials. What statement might the artist be making by presenting these pictures in stark black and white?

2) In the third photo, please note and comment on the differing sizes of the "Quarters" slot versus the "Coin Return" slot. Note the seemingly contradictory use of the plural "Quarters" on the thin slot, vs the use of the singular "Coin" on the wide slot. What wider implications does this have? What statement does this make about the nature of mankind?

3) Please comment on the use of the word "Laundry" in the following statements,
"I am going to the Laundry." (a place)
"Have you done your laundry?" (a task)
"Tom Laundry was a great coach." (a misspelling and debatable opinion)

4) Examine the fourth photograph and analyze the possible ramification of the asterisk on "Small Loads." What might the corresponding footnote read? Is this a statement on the condition and status of single people in our society? Is this an attempt to shame those in our culture who may have "small loads?" Or, conversely, could the footnote be a congratulatory note for embracing the now popular philosophy of Simple Living?


That should keep you busy. See you tomorrow!

--Betty

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sonny Boy!

Sammy the Slug--Forced to stand in for the Birthday Boy*


Sonny Boy turns 21 today! Despite the fact that the boy stubbornly refuses to let me use his name nor post any pictures of him on this blog, (and believe me, he WAS and IS adorable) I send him good wishes and love.

Since he was our first child, it was up to him to teach us how to be parents. We were totally consumed by our new roles and we were fascinated by our son. He brought so many good things into our lives and continues to do so.

He turns 21 this year, legally an adult in every way. I see him, this lanky man and I understand that he is indeed grown up, but in my heart, I have stored all those memories of him as a child and they live there, protected and probably a little too polished, but stored safely nonetheless.

Tomorrow I'll post "Visiting Hours," an essay I wrote a few years ago It's about children growing up. It's rather long, so rest up and get ready.

Happy Birthday, Sonny Boy! We are proud of you. Thanks for it all.


*Sammy the Slug is the mascot for UCSC where Sonny Boy goes to school.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Crafty Betty


As a kid, I spent a lot of time in fabric stores, waiting for my mom to look through pattern books and pick out material. Alas, I did not inherit my Mom's talent for sewing, but all that time in the stores made me a connoisseur of good displays. My friend K and I went to a craft store the other day and I happened to have my trusty little camera. I had a great time taking pictures while she did some serious shopping. I got completely carried away, so you'll be seeing quite a few of these photos in the coming weeks.



I love the smell of fabric. It brings back so many memories of my childhood, my attempts at sewing, my mom buying yards of a cloth that I picked out. I loved the way the Fabric Ladies flipped out a bolt of fabric on the table, measured it on the table with the built-in metal yard stick, took their scissors, made a notch in the fabric and then simply and ran the open scissors through the cloth to cut it.

Whenever I enter a fabric store, I always fully insert my snout between the bolts, breathe deep and have a nice tea party in my head, inviting back all those memories, dressed in their Sunday best. Someday, they will probably throw the fabric-sniffing lady out of the store, but I'll get to take my memories with me.


My mom was (and is) a Master of Knitting. She stored her many metal knitting needles in a long glass celery vase in our house. I used to run my fingers through them and hear the faint wind chime sounds they made. I spent a lot of time examining them. I loved the colors, the thick, flat heads, the hollow, penny whistle sounds, they made when I slid them against each other. The bird-like clicking of knitting needles while being used has got to be one of the reasons knitting is so popular.

I don't knit, but am seriously thinking of buying some needles just to have around the house. I think they'd be lovely in a long glass vase, next to the couch where I could just run my hands through them whenever I liked, listening to their music, their cool metal against my fingertips.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: The Orange



The Orange

--Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Morning: Goodbye to the Mimosa Tree



Once HOB and I went to San Francisco to visit some older cousins. (They were around 71 years old at the time.) They wanted to take a tour of the Mormon Tabernacle in Oakland, so we went along. The tour guide took us around the building, speaking with great pride of the architecture, their traditions, and throwing in a healthy dose of Mormon history--selected history of course--but still history. We went outside and the docent proudly pointed out the olive trees at each corner of the massive building. "The olive tree is the tree of life and so we plant one at each of the four corners of the building symbolizing our beliefs." Someone in the tour group examined the tree closely and said, "It's the time of year these trees should be producing fruit. Where are the olives?" "Oh," replied the docent, "They make an awful mess on the sidewalks. We spray 'em so they don't produce any olives.

I remember how that remark tainted the entire tour (well, that remark and how later the same docent talked about how the women of the faith had "special" roles including making quilts for the poor. We viewed an exceptionally gorgeous one and I thought how some disadvantaged family would receive it, find warmth beneath it, and keep it as a family heirloom. I pointed the quilt out and commented how beautiful it was. The docent said with great pride, "Oh, yes. That one is going to Meadowlark Lemon.")

Well, I must admit the tree story is coming back to me this morning as we await the man who will cut down our lovely mimosa tree in the back yard. The gardener we called in for a consult said, "It's a good tree, but not for this space." The mimosa is beautiful at this time of year, but (and I feel old and pruney for saying this) it makes a mess in the yard nearly year-round. (I did research on the Internet and found entire communities there whose sole reason for existing is to express their hatred for this tree.)



The gardener who came over to survey the situation pointed out that the mimosa tree is keeping sunlight from the lemon tree, causing the lemon tree to get sickly. That made me feel a bit better.

Still, when we bought this house about fourteen years ago, the sweet couple we bought it from led us out back and showed us this tree, telling us they had brought the seed for it with them from New York and planted it here.

To make matters worse, Sonny Boy, who loves this tree, and whose love for it delayed this action for about six years, is home from college. As some of you may recall, he goes to school in Santa Cruz where many people sit in trees for the better part of their lives, devoting themselves to saving the aged creatures. I went out this morning and checked the branches carefully to make sure he was not up in them. He is not. The special medication I slipped into his smoothie last night seems to have made him very, very sleepy....

I took these pictures yesterday and thanked the tree for its service to our family. It gave us shade, and beauty and even provided a space for a treehouse.


I will be inside as it comes down, listening to the saws, convincing myself we are doing the right thing, hoping for the procedure to be over rapidly, but also feeling a little like a olive tree-spraying Mormon.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day to all the Lentils in My Life



It is a happy coincidence that our lentil recipes come on this Father's Day.

Just as lentils are a quiet, understated source of strength and goodness, so are the best fathers.

Lentils are a simple source of sustenance that have been with us from the beginning of time and they remain steadfast in their service to us, just as the best fathers do.

Seemingly simple on the surface, they are complex in rich and varied ways, just like fathers.

Lentils have even been called "a little bit nutty" as times, just like the best fathers who know that presenting all facets of your personality to your family is a great gift to them.


Today I send a thank you to my own father, now passed on, who loved me unconditionally.

I send a thank you to my father-in-law who had a absolute faith in the power of marriage and family and passed that on to his sons.

I send a thank you to my four wonderful brother-in-laws whose consistency has aided our family, who step up and fill any gaps and patch any holes, both real and figurative.

And of course I thank HOB--my husband, the father of my sons, the patient man who loves me absolutely and who loves his sons with unswerving devotion. He held them in his arms in the hospital, he held them up as they learned to walk and as they learned to ride their bikes and skateboards. Throughout the years, he has been there for them, lending a hand, always there to listen, there to help, and, most importantly, always willing to admit when he's made a mistake or has spoken too quickly. He shows our sons real men have many sides and always strive to be better people.


He truly IS the King Lentil of our lives. We love you, HOB!

Happy Father's Day to All! Let's celebrate with some good vittles.

My favorite way to eat lentils is just to cook 'em up (remember, don't overcook them) and then add some good seasonings, vegetables, maybe some nuts.


A fast, easy snack is to take some black or green lentils (cooked) and just drizzle some good balsamic vinaigrette over them. OH! YUM!!! I use the bottled Trader Joe's version, but you can experiment.

I found some additional recipes on the Internet and now pass them on to you.

Happy Eating!


French Lentil Salad
(From Wiki Recipes)


Ingredients
2 cups dried French green lentils
2 large carrots, shredded
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
olive oil as needed

Directions

1. Bring large pot of water and Lentils to a boil. Cook Lentils until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any excess water. Transfer Lentils to large serving bowl.
2. Add carrots, bell pepper, olives, parsley and garlic, and stir well.
3. Stir in balsamic vinegar and walnuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle oil over salad to taste.


Green Lentil and Bulgur Salad
--From The Splendid Table


1/2 cup green lentils
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup bulgur
3 tbs. lemon juice
3 tbs. olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 medium red onion chopped
1/2 cup unroasted red peppers
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Cover lentils with water and simmer until barely tender—about 15-20 minutes. Drain and cool.

Bring water to a boil and pour over bulgur. Cover until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, and cool.

Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice. Add minced garlic, onion, red pepper, and parsley. Add bulgur and lentils and fold together.

Transfer to salad bowl. Add tomatoes and feta.


Tasty Lentil Tacos


INGREDIENTS
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 cup salsa
12 taco shells
1 1/2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons fat free sour cream

DIRECTIONS
In a large nonstick skillet, saute the onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Uncover; cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Mash lentils slightly.
Stir in salsa. Spoon about 1/4 cup lentil mixture into each taco shell. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

June's Grain of the Month!



It's here! June's Grain of the Month! OK, OK, I KNOW lentils are not a grain, they are a legume, but let's face it: Half of you out there saying, "Lentils are not a grain; they are a legume" are saying it simply because you like saying the word "legume" and I totally agree that it IS a fun word to say. However...

June is the month of passion and exploration: vegetables are bursting forth in gardens following vines courtesy of nature's GPS, hand-in-hand, couples all over are leaping off the rim of the dating into the bowl of marriage, and in some supermarket somewhere, a timid woman reaches for her usual bag of peanuts and then eyes the cashews and thinks "why not?" Such is the power June has upon us all. So, my friends, we too extend our vines and reach for the lentils this month.

Ah lentils! Little lens-shaped miracles (only two seeds in each pod as they grow!) They are a delight to all the senses--the sight of all those small, perfect planets in the bag, the sound of the hard, glistening shells poured into a bowl, the feel of them as they dance through the fingers, the fragrance that wafts through the house as they cook, the taste as they hit the tongue.

And this info from our friends at Wikipedia: "Lentils are mentioned many times in the Old Testament, the first time recounting the incident in which Jacob purchases the birthright from Easu with stewed lentils (Genesis 25:34). In Jewish mourning tradition, they are considered as food for mourners,together with boiled eggs. The reason is that their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death."

Now I know my readers are a highly educated group and many of you are out there saying, "OK, Betty, you've dazzled us with this information, but before we get tattoos of lentils on our pectorials and make the commitment to BE Lentil People, we are going to need to see the fine print: we need the nutritional information." Ah, how discriminating! How prudent! I would expect nothing less from you, my faithful ones.

Lentils are loaded with iron and fiber. Need more? OK. They are packed with protein, having the third highest level of protein of any plant-based food. How about some folate and magnesium? It's in there! But wait--there's more! You'll also receive phosphorus, copper, thiamine AND potassium! All in a handy carrying case!!! These babies are powerhouses of nutrition and all at about 230 calories per cup. They fill you up, Buttercup! Yow!!!! Follow me! Pledge your allegiance to the lentil! Get some NOW!!!

Wait! I know I've got you all excited about going out and getting some lentils. Your hand is on the doorknob, your keys are in your hand, but before you run out of your house (BTW--are you really going in that outfit?) to go buy lentils please consider this:

Don't just go and willy-nilly buy the same old boring brown lentils. Your Betty Mission is to go out and find Black (Beluga) lentils or Green (Du Puy) lentils. You may have to search around for these, but I promise it will be worth it. Make sure the label for the green lentils has the AOC on the label--this certifies that the lentils truly come from the Auvergne area of France and have been grown in the volcanic soil of that region without fertilizers. It's this soil that gives these beauties their flavor. Do not be fooled by those labeled "French." (Betty is not kidding about this. She would never kid about this.)


Tomorrow we dine!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Miracle at Whole Foods


Over a year ago I went to Las Vegas with some gal pals for a conference on self-improvement, enlightenment, and focused thinking. Between listening to lectures and going to workshops, we made eating one of our major activities and since we were all moms/kitchen slaves, one of the rules of dining we followed was that we would go places where people brought the food to us. We, the servers of food 361 days out of the year, would be served for these four days. AH!!!!

Now, one of these feasts there featured a lovely, light lentil dish that had the four of us swooning around the table like Weebles after a good slapping by a group of three year-olds and making sounds most often heard in the Pinniped show at Sea World.

Oh my. The lentils themselves had a greenish hue and were firm and stayed separate from one another--not in a snooty Prom Queen kind of way, but in a self-assured, confident Smart Girl kind of way. It was one of those dishes that you eat every bite of and then talk about later. You may even find yourself in a room listening to a World-Renowned Speaker talk about the search for the Meaning of Life, Finding your True Calling and Fulfilling Your Destiny and you turn to your friend and whisper, "Man, those lentils were so good, weren't they? What do you think they put it there?"

I paid a lot of money for that conference only to discover my true calling was to search for these suckers.

I have always wanted to like lentils, but the brown ones I cooked at home were always mushy and had a muddy quality that reminded me of unpleasant camping experiences in many ways. (I won't go into these in detail, but think dirt/mud/overcooked food/port-a-potties.)

Then I discovered black, Beluga style lentils. OH. These were good--I mean seriously good, and believe me, there was a period of time when nothing emerged from my kitchen without a least a sprinkling of these on it. I threw them in salads, chili, on spaghetti, in casseroles, even vanilla ice cream. I should have been happy with my black lentils. They were good and nice and patient and yet...even when I was alone with my bowl of black lentils, the memory of those green lentils invaded my thoughts, filling me with longing. I knew I had to keep searching store shelves and Internet sites for the elusive dark green lentil of Las Vegas....


THEN, about two weeks ago, there I was checking out of Whole Foods, watching the little screen that shows the bill rapidly getting higher and higher like a candy thermometer on a batch of rock candy, when I saw the bag of lentils I had picked up whiz by. I thought I had picked up my usual black lentils, but, looking again, I saw it was a bag marked Du Puy Style Lentils. I looked at them suspiciously. Were they just a fancy form of the brown lentil? (An RV camping experience, but still a camping experience just the same.) I examined them more closely and detected a faint dark greenish/blue tinge. Could it be? I began shaking a bit. Apparently the cashier at Whole Foods was used to this kind of reaction at the register when the bill is totalled and just gave me an "I know..." look. Fearing a complete breakdown in the store, I waited until I got in the car to look at them again.

I paid the bill, and proceeded to my car where I peeked into the bag. There, sitting solidly in my bag, atop my three slabs of tempeh were the fabled green lentils. It was as though they had leaped into my cart, into my arms, into my world. I share this miracle with you now AND tomorrow as lentils step from the shadows to take their place of honor as Grain of the Month.*



*I know, I know. They aren't a grain. Just relax and go with it just this once.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Betty Doodle Dandy

My mighty attempt to stay focused during a recent work-related meeting.
As you can see I was working hard at it....



Scanning the Globe To Bring You The Latest News....

Bossy Betty's ears perked up when she heard the following piece by Alix Spiegel on NPR back in March.

Why?

Because Betty is a Doodler. A Big Doodler. A Proud Doodler. Her doodling takes on a focused, studious, academic air in department meetings that CERTAIN uninformed people have mistaken as distraction. However the following report reveals it is not distraction at all. Betty's brain is actually just a bit more active (read: "advanced") than the average person's.

But didn't we already know that?



Morning Edition, March 12, 2009 ·

Four years ago at Davos, the famous world economic forum, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared on a panel with Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and the rock star Bono. After the panel, a journalist wandering the stage came across some papers scattered near Blair's seat. The papers were covered in doodles: circles and triangles, boxes and arrows.

"Your standard meeting doodles," says David Greenberg, professor of journalism at Rutgers University.

So this journalist brought his prize to a graphologist who, after careful study, drew some pretty disturbing conclusions. According to experts quoted in the Independent and The Times, the prime minister was clearly "struggling to maintain control in a confusing world" and "is not rooted." Worse, Blair was apparently, "not a natural leader, but more of a spiritual person, like a vicar."

Two other major British newspapers, which had also somehow gotten access to the doodles, came to similar conclusions.

A couple days later, No. 10 Downing Street finally weighed in. It had done a full and thorough investigation and had an important announcement to make:

The doodles were not made by Blair; they were made by Bill Gates. Gates had left them in the next seat over.

Oodles Of Doodles

Gates is a doodler, and he's not alone. Lyndon Johnson doodled. Ralph Waldo Emerson doodled. Ronald Reagan drew pictures of cowboys, horses and hearts crossed with arrows. Most of us doodle at one point or another. But why?

To understand where the compulsion to doodle comes from, the first thing you need to do is look more closely at what happens to the brain when it becomes bored. According to Jackie Andrade, a professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth, though many people assume that the brain is inactive when they're bored, the reverse is actually true.

"If you look at people's brain function when they're bored, we find that they are using a lot of energy — their brains are very active," Andrade says.

The reason, she explains, is that the brain is designed to constantly process information. But when the brain finds an environment barren of stimulating information, it's a problem.

"You wouldn't want the brain to just switch off, because a bear might walk up behind you and attack you; you need to be on the lookout for something happening," Andrade says.

So when the brain lacks sufficient stimulation, it essentially goes on the prowl and scavenges for something to think about. Typically what happens in this situation is that the brain ends up manufacturing its own material.

In other words, the brain turns to daydreams, fantasies of Oscar acceptance speeches and million-dollar lottery wins. But those daydreams take up an enormous amount of energy.

Ergo The Doodle

This brings us back to doodling. The function of doodling, according to Andrade, who recently published a study on doodling in Applied Cognitive Psychology, is to provide just enough cognitive stimulation during an otherwise boring task to prevent the mind from taking the more radical step of totally opting out of the situation and running off into a fantasy world.

Andrade tested her theory by playing a lengthy and boring tape of a telephone message to a collection of people, only half of whom had been given a doodling task. After the tape ended she quizzed them on what they had retained and found that the doodlers remembered much more than the nondoodlers.

"They remembered about 29 percent more information from the tape than the people who were just listening to the tape," Andrade says.

In other words, doodling doesn't detract from concentration; it can help by diminishing the need to resort to daydreams.

It's a very good strategy for the next time you find yourself stuck on a slow-moving panel with an aging rock star and verbose former president.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happy Wednesday: Why Can't This Happen All The Time?

200 dancers had just two rehearsals to create this stunt that takes place in the Central Station of Antwerp. Keep watching! If you're not smiling two minutes into the video, check your pulse.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Welcome Morning"


Welcome Morning
                        
                            --Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Your Monday Morning Greenery Has Arrived.



“See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls.”
                                        -Mother Teresa



Why are there trees I never walk under but large and
melodious thoughts descend upon me?
                                               -Walt Whitman



It's amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn our backs on them. Life is a hungry thing. 
                                       -Scott Westerfeld



“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”
                                      -Hal Borland

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy Flag Day!

I Could Have Had a Bumpit!

What is this? I could have saved myself from the pain of blow drying my hair upside down?

I'm SO ordering a set of these!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Betty's Back Again

Two days later, I was still hobbling around, but I was desperate for some normal activity. Now anyone who has had back pain can tell you that having a sore, achy, tricky back can make you feel as though you have aged about twenty or thirty years. You move slower, you lean on things, you are wary of those annoying sprightly people around who might just bump into you. You have no dramatic bandages, no crutches, no cast to announce that you have a problem. What you should do is wear one of those red triangles like the Amish put on their buggies as they slowly move down life's highways with all the high speed cars racing by. Instead, you just walk at an angle, wince a lot, making high-pitched noises as you go, giving people the impression that you have problems far beyond the physical.


I decided my return to society and normality would begin at Ross--that purveyor of fine fashion. I managed to get into the car by actually sitting in the seat and lifting my left leg into the vehicle. It was an auspicious start. I drove to the store, unloaded my left leg again and was quite proud of my progress as I entered the double doors. I was back in the land of the living again. My first trip down the aisle began well, but after stopping at Better Designer Wear to lean against the rack to rest, then Juniors Woven Tops to bend forward and to try to stretch, then Women's Knit Tops to weave back and forth to alleviate the pain, I figured I had better do something before proceeding to the clearance aisle where I would most likely collapse and have a marked down sticker applied to my buttocks.

Then, as if from the heavens, it appeared: an abandoned shopping cart. I hobbled to it and felt the sweet relief as I leaned on the slick, secure and probably germ-filled handle. Ahhh...it was blue plastic and had a long metal pole reaching up toward the sky to prevent miscreants from trying take it out to the parking lot.

I pushed and leaned, pushed and leaned for a few minutes before I started to feel the familiar pain in my back. I was getting cranky now and starting to resent the small children running in the aisle. I leaned on my cart and wondered why they didn't have the sense to make the aisles wider, and what was that woman just standing there--exactly where I needed to go--thinking? Shouldn't these children be in school or locked up? Was that a sweater underneath my wheels? Who put that there? Who was that old woman, bent over the handle of her cart? She was in my way!

 Oh OH.
 It was a mirror.

Then it dawned on me:

I looked around the store, at all the old women pushing carts and glaring at everyone. I looked up to see a dozen or so metal poles floating around the store like little arrows on a GPS System, locating Elderly Leaners in my vicinity.

In the past I had been so careful to avoid this day at Ross. It was Tuesday, Senior Citizen discount day. Dozens of women, dressed in sweats and sneakers (like me!) were leaning on their carts (like me!) and glaring at anyone who caused a minor disturbance (like me!) Oh, it was time to go.

A voice cried out inside my head.  I was not like those women! I was young! I was fit! I was vibrant!  I immediately abandoned my cart/walker, hobbled to the front of the store where I made my way to the parking lot, my left leg dragging slightly.  I am a long way from being like those women I thought as I picked up my leg and deposited it in the car.  I headed home. 

Upon entering the house, I took some Advil, got out my heating pad, lowered myself onto the couch and turned on the TV to watch my friends at Food Network fry up crab cakes.

It was what any vibrant, young, fit woman would do on a Tuesday afternoon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Betty's Back


Warning:  Blow drying your hair can be hazardous to your health.  

It happened last week. There I was, happy and healthy in my fluffy blue bathrobe, blow drying my freshly washed and conditioned hair.  Determined to get that all-important lift at the roots, the puff that sets the well-coiffed apart from the common people,  I bent at the waist and and leaned forward with my trusty Ion Shine 1875 with Dual Temperature/Speed Controls and Optional Turbo Function only to feel a sharp, stabbing in my back on the left side. 

It was not a "twinge,"or just a "tweak."  No, it was a "there most certainly must be a knife handle  sticking out of my back because the blade is embedded deep within a muscle"  kind of feeling.   Then along with the pain, came the oh-my-gosh-I'm alone-in-in-my-robe-and-I just-may-die moments.*  I tried to stand up straight, but the knife went deeper into the muscle and started to slide down into left buttock.  I went back to my bent over stance and froze, a human allen wrench.

Now, no one wants to be found dead (or alive) slumped over his or her bathroom sink,  face in the bowl, with wet, flat hair.**  So with great effort,  I managed to turn, and became the amazing walking human allen wrench.  I inched my way over to the side of the bed where I stood for several moments.  Recalling the countless timelines of the evolutionary process I studied as a child in my fully illustrated Time-Life books, I  slowly made my way into the preferred advanced Homo Sapien stance.  However, as swiftly as the Board of Education in Kansas, the pain struck my progress down and it was all I could do to sit on the edge of the bed,  eyes focused upon the floor in pained concentration.  There I sat, like a tragic mime, mouth frozen in an astonished O, as though watching an invisible flower grow out of the carpet--my only audience, the cat who watched the carpet too until she grew bored and walked away.

Tomorrow:  I recover somewhat and go shopping.

*Like it or not, everyone wants to hear about how they found the dead person.  Think Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Heath Ledger.  While my robe really is a lovely shade of blue, regular readers of Betty know my bathroom sink is not the proper framing device for my dead head.  Anyone recounting how i was found would surely have to throw in details of the less-than-standard condition of the sink (i.e. the blob of caulk, the rusty faucets) thereby taking attention off me and my dramatic demise.  That would never do.  

**Speaking of 'do's, another thing that drove me away from the sink and into at least a seated position was the matter of my bangs and other aspects of my hair.  I can't help it:  I did not want to die with wet hair because the undertaker/embalmer/hairdresser-to-the-dead would not have a blueprint with which to work.  I have not had a picture taken recently and given the complexity of this cut and the texture of my hair, even professionals who have someone who can lift their own skull would have trouble.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blood Test Betty: Too Fastin': Too Furiousin'

Normally, Betty's got a fairly strict feeding schedule with regular meals and ample allowances to eat snacks pretty much whenever she wants.

However, this morning I am fasting for a blood test that will not take place for another two hours and am finding it hard not to think about food, glorious food, as my stomach sends messages to my brain to send down some shredded wheat and peanut butter pronto! The messages have been coming for about an hour now. I believe there may be exasperated tiny beings down there right now sending resorting to semaphore messages.

My original plan to have this test around 7:30 am or so, thereby putting me off my schedule just a bit but nothing I could not recover from. Silly me, I went to the lab itself to make the appointment. It's one of these really stark, white boxes of a building where people wait in hard plastic chairs, their paperwork in hand, staring at the blue carpeting, all thinking of the needles and praying for one of the the steady, sober, well-adjusted, non-demented phlebotomists.

Tip from Betty to Diagnostic Center: Let's work on that welcoming, warm environment! With just some simple chair arrangements and creative artwork, it's easy and fun to put your guests at ease.

When you take five steps into the office, there is a stop sign of sorts that informs you that you MUST wait behind the line--a sad, sticky line of red tape on the floor--until you are called forth to the stark white alter. The sign also commands that you have your doctor's paperwork and insurance card ready. The words "doctor's orders" and "insurance card" have been furiously highlighted in different colors several times by someone with an attitude and access to a variety of office supplies.

Normally, once you are granted permission to step forward, a young, sadly-maniacally-robotically-organized woman will take your paperwork, tell you what number you will be called by and then send you back to one of the hard chairs to wait until, once again, you are shown favor by one of the white-suited people and you are granted permission to come back, have another hard seat a get your warm blood taken out of your arm with a giant needle.

Well, since Happy Me was already in the neighborhood, I just dropped on by to make an appointment for my upcoming blood test. I waited behind the line, orders and insurance card in my hands and then stepped up, smiling, "I'd like to make an appointment." At that time, the robot worker recited Line #5 from her repertoire,"We don't make appointments in this office. Call this number or go online." She slapped a pre-printed sticky note with the phone number on my doctor's orders.

Like a good, well-behaved drone, I thanked the Mistress of Routine for her non-help and stepped aside. Thinking a phone call might be a bit more personable than going online, I called only to get an automated service--a SUPER-automated service with a woman's voice that had many, many different ways of "No" to me. She kept apologizing to me, "I'm sorry. I don't have that time." "I'm sorry. I don't understand that request." "I'm sorry. I did not get that." It began to sound like a guy I dated in college who was done with the relationship, but did not have the nerve nor interest to tell me. Finally, (it did not take me as long as it did in college) I got the message: she was not really sorry. I should take whatever appointment I could. She was done with the relationship.

So here I am, waiting for my appointment, granted to me at 9:30 by the disinterested Phone Woman. I am not trying hard not to think about pancakes or cereal, or peanut butter or toast, or orange juice or bananas.

However, my stomach keeps sending me messages via hunger pangs. Finally, I try the Phone Woman's apologetic techniques, I transmit back, "I'm sorry. I did not get that." "I'm sorry. I don't understand that request."

My stomach's not buying it though; it does not turn away, hang up, nor give up. I feel the semaphore flags waving madly. "Send Food. Send Food Send Food."




.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bossy Betty's Summer '09 Book Blast: What's Cookin'

Yummy!!

As my regular readers know, I attribute my wit, brains, beauty, abundant use of metaphors, and innate humble nature to the power of reading.  

In the past, books served as the macadam that led Betty from the farm to the city.  In her college days, they served as the golden paving stones that led her from ignorance to sophistication.  Today they serve as guides and sensors in her life.  Like Botts' Dots and little under-the-pavement thingys that Cal Trans uses to track the flow of traffic on the superhighways and freeways of Southern, they keep her centered, on track and aware of any overloaded or underused thoroughfares in her life.

Summertime is reading time and Betty has been swimming in a delicious pool o' books recently.  From the shallow to the deep, I've been making my way through the stack of books that has been by my bedside for a good time now.  Though they were ignored, neglected suitors, they still came to me when I beckoned to them.  They jumped in and shared themselves with me.  And even though a few of them were not as alluring as their covers, still I read them out of a sense of duty and shared respect.

I dare say Betty has earned a reputation for being a glamorous reading gal and is often asked by friends for suggestions.  This THRILLS Betty to no end.  

(In fact, I like to spout off suggestions even when not asked.  I am thinking of getting little prescription pads I can carry with me and whip out of my pocket when I see someone --friend OR stranger--who I sense needs a good book. I would stand, writing out my prescription on the pad cupped in my hand and and say, "Now, you'll need to sit down and read this twice a day for two weeks.  If you need something stronger, let me know.")

So, when Friend-of-Betty, Pam, called to get some summer reading suggestions the other day, it was not enough to simply toss out a few suggestions.  No, I got off the phone, immediately went to my book shelves, rolled up my sleeves and, like a great chef,  selected the ingredients for a satisfying and yummy Summer Reading Casserole just for her.  I started with a good, solid base of fiction, added a creamy girly-book, whipped in some nutritious non-fiction and ended with a spicy little mystery.  Like any eager chef, I made too large of a casserole, but that's OK.  She'll have leftovers.  She can share them with friends or save some for a snack this fall.

I will deliver it to her this afternoon.  Now, living up to the moniker of this blog, what Bossy Betty REALLY wants to do is to tell her in which order to read them AND to sit beside her as she reads them and watch her, monitoring her reactions.

However, I think that might be going a little too far.  

Or maybe not?  

Maybe just peek in her window as she reads?

Just one or two times?  Just at night?

OK, I won't.  I promise.  

I'll just do it during the daylight hours.


So, what's in your Summer Reading Casserole?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: Memo


















Memo--

You will have to
forgive me
for not
coming to work
today.
I intended to come
as I always do
And even went so far
as to slip into
those beautiful 
shoes
but last night
while I was away
the raintree
broke
into sweet yellow blossoms
and all day
I have been there
singing.
                   --Gordon Mossman




Monday, June 8, 2009

Your Monday Morning Flowering Tree Delivery!

The jacarandas are in bloom!  The jacarandas are in bloom!  Hurrah!  These beauties burst forth this time of year and it is required that we stop and stare in amazement.  They are truly spectacular.

I had never seen a jacaranda until we lived in northern California. One afternoon, a friend of ours insisted we drive about twenty miles just to see a tree she knew of.  We went along, not expecting too much but then we came upon a giant jacaranda and we just stopped and stared.  It was the first I had ever seen.  We stayed there, looking at it until the sun set. We ended the evening with applause, grateful for the show.


Now we are surrounded by these gifts.  There is a street near us that has about ten, all in a row.  You can walk beneath them and feel the blossoms fall on your shoulders.



They even make the carpet of ivy beneath them more beautiful.



Recently, we had guests from Mexico who told us that in Spanish there is an adjective derived from jacaranda.  The word is "jacarandosa" (hock-a-ron-dose-a) which means vibrant, beautiful, bursting, full of life.  

Here's to a jacarandosa week!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks (Part Two)

Sixth grade:  We had two teachers: Mrs. Weingart and Mrs. Langdon.    

Alas, once again I was in the older, more strict teacher's homeroom.  Mrs. Langdon was not amused by any of our actions, thoughts or deeds.  We were pretty much under lockdown in her classroom and, like all prisoners, we sought ways to relieve our stress.  One day she ventured out of the classroom and we started throwing wads of paper at each other.  It was glorious and we all knew we would have to pay for our five minutes of wanton fun but it was SO worth it. 

Two times a day, we lined up outside our classroom and then marched into the classroom across the hall, leaving the warden and going to Mrs. Weingart's classroom.  She was no pushover, and had her own tough exterior, but she let us express ourselves more fully in her classroom and brought in new ideas.  Before our class ventured to the movie theater twenty miles away to see Fiddler on the Roof, she brought in a guest who was Jewish to talk to us and and answer our questions.  This was something new for our homogeneous little group.

Mrs. Weingart was the first teacher to encourage my writing and, indeed to share it.  I had written an article about "My Home Town" which was, I thought, fairly witty.  I had observations concerning the drug store being the center of gossip, and the little card shack back of the bank being conveniently located.  (I thought when the men needed money they could go withdraw some from their own back accounts.)  I went on to comment on various other parts of the town.  Absolutely none of it was mean-spirited in any way.

Mrs. Weingart sent my essay to the local paper where it was published and , alas, it created a firestorm in the town.   People were apparently hungry to be offended and had a big feast that week.  My best friend came running into tell me she had heard talk that they were planning to run my family out of town.  I went into the drug store for a Coke, but no one would serve me.  Things were icy at the bank since some had thought I was hinting that the banker was betting on the card games.  

People wrote to the paper to protest running my essay.  Mrs. Weingart wrote in to say the piece was innocent and she had just wanted to support a budding author.  The editor of the paper wrote a piece artfully telling everyone to calm down.  Oh My.  I learned about the power of words that year.  

Sixth grade passed by slowly.  We were more than ready to hit junior high, even though it meant just moving to a group of classrooms just down the hall.  We were ready to say goodbye to elementary school and all that connoted.

And we did.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks (Part One)

Fifth grade. Oh My.  My teacher was Minnie R. and she was seventy-two when she taught us.  It was a year of strict rules, rulers being slapped on the desk, boys being sent to the office for corporal punishment, of silence behind three sided desk-dividers that she called our "inglenooks".  

One of her methods to "promote" reading in the classroom was to have us read aloud to the class, but the reader had to stop when he or she made an error.  That meant the poor readers in the class got through maybe a sentence or two before the next kid went.  Her theme was "self-control" and she liked to whack the side of our desks with her ruler as she patrolled the classroom looking for anyone breaking one of her many, many arcane rules.  

I shudder to think of her teaching methods in the classroom.  It was one of those years in which I kept my head down,  and tried to not get noticed.  I could see my classmates, especially three or four of the boys, being humlilated with her outdated methods of teaching and of discipline.  It broke my heart even at the time, but I knew better than to say anything lest the ruler come down upon my desk....

What I learned that I carry over to my teaching today:

 1) Shame and humiliation have no place in any classroom.

 2) Know when to step aside and let a younger generation of teachers have their turn in the classroom.