Sunday, January 31, 2010

Takin' Out The Trash. Heroine in the Kitchen.

I know my readers have been unable sleep, just thinking about the Cookie Battle going on here in Betty's house. I am here to report that the man decided to make the cookies yesterday, shamelessly involving Evan in his process--desperately trying to encourage the boy to join the Sad Band of Men Who Cook Out of Bags.

Now, totally coincidentally, I just happened to have made some, oh, you know KILLER cookies earlier in the day--oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries, blueberries and cherries. I threw a little ground cloves in there and OH! it's SO STRANGE that they would be warm and gooey just of the oven just after a great meal I had also made for the menfolk.

Weird how these things work, huh?

Both Man and Boy were immediately, almost unconsciously, attracted to the Mom-Made cookies. One could see the evolutionary process at work as their eyes glazed over and were both reduced to brainwaves that transmitted only: "Mummmm. Woman make us food. Good. Warm. Sweet. We like. Mummmmm. We eat more.

What a shame it would be if the memory of these incredibly good cookies--close enough to Oatmeal Raisin to please fans of that cookie, but still Betty-ized enough to declare emancipation from all attempted "cookie rules" pathetically imposed by a certain husband --was still lodged in a portion of their brains as they attempted to "show me" by making the Bagged Mix Of Chemicals into cookies.

It was somewhat amusing to hear the commotion in the kitchen as they poured, mixed, and discussed in detail just how the oven timer worked. I sat on my bed, reading, calm and cool. The timer went off. Two minutes later it went off again. There was more discussion about how the timer worked. Two minutes later it went off again. Lots of pushing of buttons while discussing how the timer worked. Murmuring in the kitchen. Hushed conversation. Five minutes later they came in and gave me something INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS. It was this phrase, uttered outright and with sincerity:

"You were right."

Though HOB attempted to jazz up the next batch with more oatmeal, some cinnamon, and some vanilla extract, it was clear that he was just putting lipstick on a dead goose.

Here they are in their Bag 'o Shame where they will sit until trash day when they will be given their proper burial:

Ashes to Ashes.
Slick Bag to Storage Bag to Trash Bag.
Rest in Pieces and don't come back here no mo'.

Though HOB may not jump for joy when he views my next batch of Frosted Grapefruit Icebox Cookies, I do believe the man might have just developed a tad bit of appreciation for the art and craft of Cookie Making. My hope is this little adventure will cut the time of Man Sulking in half when a new variety of cookie is introduced in this household.

Observation: It's been about 20 hours since the males' little cooking-making spree.

Question: How long do you think it will be before the bowls and other utensils used in the process get washed and dried and put away?

Current Sink Situation

I wait patiently and serenely.

Happy Sundays everyone!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Harlot in the Kitchen: Battle of the Bettys

HOB (Husband of Betty) brought it home last night and put it on the counter. I stared at it unable to believe he had actually brought this...this...this intruder into our happy home:

Now for my new readers, let me explain that Bossy Betty is the Patron Saint of Homemade Cookies. I believe very strongly in their power and strength and have devoted myself to uplifting them to the high status which they deserve. For years, I have worked and baked and striven to uplift the tastes of the common people by making exquisite homemade cookies to show them there is more to life than Chips Ahoy and Nutter Butters. There is CERTAINLY more to Cookie Culture than this:

Corn Syrup? Partially Hydrogenated Soybean/and or Cottonseed Oil? Artificial Color? Artificial Flavor? These is the equivalent of thick make-up, garish rouge, and falsies.

WHY, oh WHY did HOB go out and get this stuff? His lovely, natural wife makes the BEST homemade cookies anywhere!

Well, fascinating and intelligent as he is in other areas, my dear husband is stunted in one area: cookie preference. Moreover, he is stubbornly unwilling to develop, to grow, to explore. I know he will not mind me saying such inflammatory words because we have discussed his limitations hour after hour after hour.

(OK, I guess it was mostly me talking, but you get the idea.)

He likes only one cookie: Oatmeal Raisin, without nuts.

Boring? Well, frankly, yes. Which would be fine and we could keep this as our own little family secret, but I feel the need to speak out now. You see, he believes, deep in his caveman heart, that it is the only cookie I should make. Somehow, he thinks this would show my allegiance to him, a sort of 1950's country music "he's-my-man-and-I'm-his-woman" side. He believes this with an evangelistic zeal. "Thou shall make no other cookie but the Oatmeal Raisin because this is the cookie thy husband prefers."

Narrow-minded? Yes.

Barbarian? Yes.

Bordering on Crazed Nut-Job?

Well, yes.

It's not that I have not made the Oatmeal Raisin without nuts for him. I have. Chained, bound, restricted by his sad limitation, I have mindlessly and without enthusiasm thrown together the simpleton cookie. Then, after weeks and weeks of the mundane, I grew restless and bored. I added maybe a little coconut, switched out the raisins for dried cherries, snuck in a little ground cloves. I mean--what's not to love? And what is my reward for my God-given sense of adventurousness?


Man Sulking.

The worst kind of sulking.

I have explained to him over and over again that when you marry a flamboyant, showy multicolored wonder bird such as Betty, you can't put her in wire cage in a factory farm setting and force her to produce one kind of egg. That constitutes torture in my book.
She needs to be out and about, exploring and sharing her plumage with the world and when she lays a multi-colored egg, it is for the world's benefit, to beautify the otherwise dull surroundings.

Though I love the man, there is no way he is going to clip my Cookie Wings. Therefore I still make Molasses Snaps, Chocolate/Ginger Wonders, Raisin/Carrot Chewies. This produces only more Man Sulking.

Would you ask Badgley Mischka to design clothing using one fabric only?

Would you force Baryshnikov to dance using just a pas de chat?

So, you may be asking me, why does this bag of prefabricated wallpaper paste posing as real almost-made cookie dough bother me so much? After all, the man is going to make them himself. (Oh yes, he will ALL by himself.) He is getting what he wants. So what's the problem?

It's because he is living with Rembrandt and insists on clowns-on-black velvet paintings. He should appreciate my talents. He should have never brought this cheap harlot in from the streets to sit on my pretty kitchen counter. This is WORSE than bringing home store-bought cookies. Those say: "Impulse Buy." These say: "You can't meet my cookie needs, so I have to go out and bring in someone who will." THIS, my friends, is a classic PCBT--A Premeditated Cookie Baking Transgression and he intends for me to watch the whole thing.

Will she give him what he wants? Yes.

Will it be cheap and fast? Yes.

Will he feel good afterwards? For a short time.

Will she pass on diseases? Try obesity and diabetes as a start. (Note above ingredients again, please.)

I just hope he has a good time mixing it up with her and then watching her having a hot time in the oven.

Oh, I'm sure he will. I know him. He'll be all over her cookies as soon as they come out of the oven.

As for my reaction--I'm going to take the high road. I'll be the patient and abiding wife. He'll see the error of his way soon enough. He'll come back and see the wisdom of homemade cookies with a wide variety of ingredients. I am calm, forbearing, good and kind. Pretty soon he'll beg me for some Lime Coolers with Almond Paste.

I wish him the best as he goes through this learning opportunity.

I just hope that bag of oatmeal flakes and assorted chemicals was not damaged by my accidental and violent slamming of it against the counter sixteen or seventeen times.

Bring it on, Crocker. May the Best Betty Win.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


So, after the little incident at Ross which I reported yesterday, I feel it's only right that today's post should be about indulging in an icy, sweetsie that you make by using raw machanical power to violently smash, grind, pulverize, cream, and crush assorted ingredients.

I make this with my Vitamix which is the Mother of all Blenders, available from the passionate vendors at the County Fair--where all truly great appliances/beauty products are purchased by the discerning public.

Since I pulled the recipe from the Vitamix site, the instructions here are in Vitamix-ease. You can make it with a regular blender, but it will take longer and I recommend softening the berries by microwaving them just a little before plopping them in the blender.

When you smell the motor of your blender start to burn, you'll know it's almost Treat Time!

Strawberry Yogurt Freeze

Speed: Variable to High
Time: 30 to 60 seconds

1 cup (240 g) nonfat yogurt, plain, vanilla, or strawberry
1 pound (454 g) frozen unsweetened strawberries
1/3 cup (65 g) sugar

1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
2. Select Variable 1.
3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
4. Use the tamper to press ingredients into the blades.
5. In about 30-60 seconds, the sound of the motor will change and four mounds should form.
6. Stop machine. Do not overmix or melting will occur. Serve immediately.

Variation: Use other frozen fruit and yogurt flavors, such as, blueberries, peaches, etc.

Enjoy! Betty adores you!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Clubbin' With Betty

Betty's no wimp when she gets sick.

She does not believe in coddling oneself.

Get up, get out there, and do the work you are supposed to do. She does not even believe in taking medicine for the common cold.

However, she DOES believe in the restorative power of sleep and since the coughing, wheezing, sneezing and incredible mucous build-up was preventing me from getting my beauty rest the night before last, I scrounged around in the medicine cabinet for something to shove down my windpipe which would hopefully open up my sinuses.

I had my choice of one antihistamine (originally purchased for the dog) which expired in 2007 and one that expired in 2008. Hummm.... Then I found a bottle of NyQuil with just enough for one dose. I did not tempt fate and look at the expiration date. I swallowed it down and crumpled into bed for a great night's sleep.

Apparently my ultra-pure system is one that soaks in liquid medicines and holds them there, in reserves, in small pockets that leak out throughout the day. I awoke in a haze and forced myself through my morning routine. I drank lot of tea to try and break through the cocoon that surrounded me, but when I went to the kitchen and dropped my favorite tea pot, I watched it shatter all over the floor, all the while thinking "Oh, Wow. Now that's a mess." I stood just sort of looking at the glass strewn all over the floor for about five minutes; then my eyes drifted upward and I started gazing at the window. This led me to think about the properties of glass in general. I was thoroughly entertained for about fifteen minutes.

Attempting to apply my make-up was a fun activity, especially since I use the lip paint that stays on for eight full hours. One slip, and it's clownsville for the rest of the day. To say the least, it was not on straight at all. At that point I also noticed a really, really, red rash coming up from my chest and creeping onto my face. Oh dear.

A lesser person would have stayed home, but after my third Diet Pepsi, I felt with it enough to go to campus to teach my one class. I got out of my car and thought how blissfully quiet the campus was. I got to my office wing and enjoyed the silence that enveloped the whole building. It was only when someone came by and moved his mouth in my general direction that I realized that my ears were apparently clogged up, resulting in my leaning aggressively forward and fastening my eyes on the lips of anyone who attempted to speak to me.

I taught my class. (Teaching is pretty darn fun when you can't hear your students and through the cottony clouds surrounding my ear drums, I sounded very intelligent as well!) I then proceeded to Ross to replace my beloved tea pot. I was very tired, nearly deaf, and discouraged when I could not find a replacement. I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors and noticed that the rash was now forming shapes often found on maps of incoming hurricanes. It was striving to reach upwards and join with the still bright, still crooked lipstick.

I found a tray and considered how I could use it as a pseudo-hospital tray at my bedside while I recuperated. I proceeded to the check out where leaned my head forward, squinted in the check-out lady's direction to catch what she was saying. Through the haze, I heard her loud cheery voice informing me that she had given me my "Tuesday Club" discount.

Cool! A club! I'm part of a club! I started to perk up a little.

As I left the store I saw the sign: "The Tuesday Club: 55 or or Older. 10 Percent Discount."

I had just been given my first Senior Citizen discount.


No more NyQuil for this girl and I must remember to write to Ross, praising them for hiring the sight-impaired.

Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "The More Loving One" by A.H. Auden

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Morning Flowers: Once More to the Rose Parade

Happy Monday!

No mere bouquet for you to to start this week off.
Instead, I've arranged to bring back part of the Rose Parade to escort you to your Happy Place.
Hope you enjoy!
(Betty's Blessing Included at No Extra Charge)

As you approach the week, may the Lions of Happiness greet you with roars of approval.

May Leaping Dolphins lead you to safe harbors and away from entangling tuna nets of deception.

May all your meals be full of giant fruits and vegetables.

And may you soar like a strange, unidentifiable, yet majestic bird that seems to be in flight though its back end is firmly attached to a curved pole covered with flowers and faces made out of seeds.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Betty's Sunday Plan

The Secret They've Known All Along

HOB is livin' the life in the big city of Las Vegas this weekend. (Work conference--or so he SAYS.)

It is cold outside.

I have a cold inside my head.

I have a giant cat beside me on the bed.

Evan has returned to the world of driving so I don't need to cart him around.

It is Sunday and I have NO grading to do.

I think you know what this all adds up to: a day of reading--right? Yahoo!

The trouble is I've read (ironic, I know) two articles lately that warn of a sedentary lifestyle, particularly sitting for more than four hours at a stretch.

Here's a snippet from one of the articles:

Here's a new warning from health experts: Sitting is deadly.

Scientists are increasingly warning that sitting for prolonged periods — even if you also exercise regularly — could be bad for your health. And it doesn't matter where the sitting takes place — at the office, at school, in the car or before a computer or TV — just the overall number of hours it occurs.

Research is preliminary, but several studies suggest people who spend most of their days sitting are more likely to be fat, have a heart attack or even die.

While health officials have issued guidelines recommending minimum amounts of physical activity, they haven't suggested people try to limit how much time they spend in a seated position.

"After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals," Ekblom-Bak said. She explained that genes regulating the amount of glucose and fat in the body start to shut down.


Oh wait a minute!

Careful reading of this article reveals the secret:

As long as I'm lying down with a book it should be no problem.

Ahhhhhhh.... Go ahead--take away one of my pillows so there's no temptation to get into the deadly seated position and hand me my stack o' books.

Happy Sundays to all!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Armed and Dangerous: Children's Literature as a Corrosive Agent to Sanity.

It's weird how some ideas can stick to your soul like lint on Velcro and never go away.

When I was seven or eight years old, two of my older sisters were in a car accident which required them to be in the hospital for what seemed like a very long time. I was too young to be allowed entrance to the hospital so I was stuck alone in the waiting room for hours on end, day after day. Boredom set in fast and I can still remember that waiting room in vivid detail since I inspected every inch of it.

Now, there were magazines there and, being the voracious reader I was, I whipped through them at amazing speed, especially the Highlights for Kids, solving every puzzle and finding every hidden picture there was. I had pretty much made up the back stories of Goofus and Gallant and decided that while Goofus was a hideous child, he was more than just a tad bit interesting than Gallant. (This early imprinting could explain some of my dating choices in college.)

I looked around for more reading choices. There were pamphlets up high. Standing on my tip toes I could read some of the titles, "Bowel Disease and You," "Taking Care of your Wound," and some old tattered ones, "Can You Survive an Atomic Attack?"

Then, one day I found a thick book with a bright blue cover. I can't remember the name of the book but it was written for children and I think it had a picture of Jesus on the cover surrounded by sheep and small boys and girls in flowing little outfits (the children--not the sheep).

I read the first two stories--fairly predictable ones about being kind to people, being honest, etc. It was standard Christian fare--the kind I got nearly every Sunday at church.

Then I read the next story and was transfixed.

The story featured a boy who was very ill and in the hospital. Another boy in the hospital came by and asked him how he was doing. The boy in the bed related how he was very sick and very tired and wanted to get some rest. The second boy talked about how Jesus loved all children and wanted the best for them. Then he suggested that the boy prop up his arm on his pillow that night as a sign to Jesus that he was tired and wanted rest. He even helped him shove the pillow under his arm so his forearm and hand were pointing straight up.

The next day the boy was found dead with a smile on his face. Jesus had seen the hand up and come to give him eternal rest.


I sat there reading the last line of the story over and over. Suppose my sisters in that hospital accidentally propped up their arms that night? Suppose Jesus was in a hurry and just took every hand up during sleep as a signal that person was ready to go? (How handy for him! What a time saver!)

I went home and decided if it could happen in a hospital, it could possibly happen at home. I stacked books on top of pillows and slid my arms underneath, weighing them down so there was no possibility of them popping up in the night. I slept that way for weeks.

This story haunted me for years. Whenever I would see anyone sleeping, their arm and hand propped up, my immediate response was an urge to go and put it down immediately. (OK, well, maybe not everybody. I did have one fairly annoying college roommate.)

It's been about 43 years since I read that story. I've grown. I've matured. I've studied life, religion, and literature. I've got perspective. I understand metaphor. I'm generally a very balanced, sane person. And YET when I walked in the bedroom this morning and saw Evan like this:

I have to admit I wanted to tackle the poor child, force his arm down and scream out, "He doesn't mean it! Yes! He's been having some pain and OK, he's been tired, but he's not ready to go!"

Oh, a curse, a CURSE, I say upon that person who wrote that story for children those many years ago. This story has stuck like a burr to the inside of my brain and continues to needle me. If I could go back to that waiting room and rip that book out of my eight-year old hands I would. "Here," I'd say as I handed my little-girl-self the pamphlet on an atomic attack. "This one is going to haunt you a whole lot less. Read it instead."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Mushroom-Bulgur Dance of Love in a Small Casserole Dish

It's been wet, wet, wet here in normally sunny California and since Betty's been fixated on comfort food lately, this little casserole is her new best friend.

I can't remember where I got this recipe, but it's been tucked into my drawer o' recipes for a long time, written on a scrap of paper in writing that looks like I might have been drunk at the time of transcribing. (It had no title, so I gave it one just now.)

The original recipe called for water, but I substituted some fake chicken stock instead. It also had no chicken, but I added some fake chicken from Trader Joe's in there too. You carnivores can add the real thing. I miss my vegans who are back in college, so I make it their way.

Happy Warm Food Day.

2 tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoons salt (optional)
1/2 cup chopped green onions or purple onions
1 cup bulgur
2 cups chicken stock (I used fake chicken stock!)
About a cup or two of chicken (I used the fake chicken from Trader Joes!)

Saute onions and mushrooms in butter until brown.

Stir in bulgur and salt and cook for one munte

Add stock and bring to boil.

Add chicken (optional).

Pour into casserole dish and cover. Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

P.S. I changed my comment form since the embedded format was causing all sorts of problems for my adoring fans. Let me know if this one causes you any pain or discomfort.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saltine Delights!

It's been a stressful week here in Betty's world. That means it's time to go to the kitchen and whip up batches of things that will bring joy and sunshine to all who partake.

When I first read this recipe on Recipeland I doubted it, but then I tried it and now I'm a believer. I doubt no more!


40 each crackers, saltine
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, light
12 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup nuts chopped


Line up the saltines on a jelly roll pan that has been LINED with FOIL that makes a bigger rim than the pan.

There should be 5 rows of 8.

Melt butter and add brown sugar.

Stir often and bring to a full rolling boil for exactly 3 minutes.

Pour over the saltines and bake in a 400 degrees F oven for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips and wait until they are almost melted; spread over all the saltines.

Drop the nuts over top as evenly as possible.

Refrigerate for two hours and then break up into pieces. (The dessert--not you!)

This is an easy recipe to make vegan should you desire to do so.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "But Here I am Permitted to be With You"

You are ill and so I lead you away
and put you to bed in the back room
-- you lie breathing softly and I hold your hand
feeling the fingertips relax as sleep comes

You will not sleep more than a few hours
for this illness is less serious than my anger or cruelty
but this dark bedroom is a foretaste of other darknesses
to come later which all of us must endure alone
but here I am permitted to be with you

After a while in your sleep your fingers clutch tightly
and I know that whatever may be happening
-- the fear coiled in dreams or the bright trespass of pain --
there is nothing at all I can do except hold your hand
and not go away.

--Sidney Morris

Monday, January 18, 2010

Our Winter Break in Colorado

Our trip to Colorado turned out to be much more eventful than we had planned.

HOB and Evan took an opportunity to go snowboarding/skiing. Evan had just gone around Christmas time here in California and thought it would be fun to hit the Colorado slopes.

He hit them, indeed.

It was about 10:30am when HOB called to tell me that there had been an accident. Evan had broken his wrist in two places. I could hear Evan screaming in pain in the background.

I believe there are nerve fibers formed in every mother, in every pregnancy, that are directly linked to the child she is carrying and long after that child is born those nerve fibers remain, alert to danger and pain. Any mother of an infant can tell you, when she watches her child get a shot, she feels it as well. When she looks at a bad scrape on her child's knee, a sensation crosses her stomach muscles. Though the nerve fibers may grow semi-dormant as the child matures and becomes more independent, there are there nonetheless and can become activated in an instant.

My mother fibers flamed up as I watched Evan unloaded from the ambulance, as I watched the nurses adjust the arm, and later as he writhed in pain waiting for the morphine to take effect. The doctor came in six hours after our arrival, numbed Evan's arm and then tried to manipulate the bones back into place. I stood by the bed, watching the doctor's movements, watching the bones move on the x-ray machine as the doctor pulled, pushed, turned, twisted the wrist trying to get the bones to match up. After it was over, I had to step out into the hallway for air.

But then it was back to the bedside. All the while, through the shots, the inserting of IV's--including two unsuccessful ones, the manipulating of the bones, the decision to operate, the waiting, the waiting, the tense waiting, I talked, I distracted, I brought up past vacations and made jokes about our surroundings. I pretended to steal medical supplies, I teased Evan about trying to get out of chores.

Then, at about 10:30 at night,

after talking to the surgeon at Evan's bedside,

after talking to the post-op nurse,

after talking to the anaesthesiologist,

after kissing Evan's forehead, promising I'd be there when he woke up,

after watching them wheel him into the operating room--my boy under that thin blanket on that steel bed being wheeled away from me,

after being escorted to the deserted surgery waiting room and thanking the nurse for her kindness,

after hearing her efficient steps back down the quiet hallway,

That's. When. I. Lost. It.

I cried the tears I had held back all day. I wept out of fear and frustration and exhaustion. They were sobs, hideous, snotty sobs. All day I had been upbeat for Ev, the happy mom, the confident mom, the it's-going-to-be-fine mom but just for a few minutes I allowed myself this falling-apart time. All day I had been shoving all emotions that were of no good use to anyone else at the time into this reserve area--a sort of emotional bladder (for lack of a better term). Mine was completely full and when I emptied it, it was not a pretty sight, but I felt a whole lot better afterwards.

HOB and I sat side by side in the surgery waiting room, watching the time tick by. The surgery was taking much longer than anticipated. A lack of sleep and an over-abundance of unspoken concern made us just a little punchy and we were desperate for distraction. I picked up a magazine on one of the tables and discovered it was a 1999 issue of Cat Fancy which featured a foldout poster of an Abyssinian who, according to the notes alongside the picture, enjoyed long naps and an occasional treat of catnip. In a goofy, sleep-deprived state, I folded and unfolded the centerfold for HOB, wiggling my eyebrows and nodding.

It was 3:00am when Evan was finally wheeled to his room and we settled down for a whole three hours of interrupted sleep on cots in his room. When he awoke, I was there, so glad the surgery was over. It was more complicated than anticipated, but I was optimistic about his recovery, thankful for the the two steel plates and ten screws holding everything together.

Holding everything together. It's a job that involves being strong and staying where you need to be. Sometimes it's a function best carried out with steel and screws; sometimes it's done with sheer will combined with parental instinct.

Sometimes it's a combination of both.

Our boy will be fine.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Betty's in Colorado

Hello Betty Fans,

Betty boarded the big bird yesterday and flew to Colorado to attend my niece's wedding. She's a very special girl to warrant this kind of movement for Betty in the middle of the week. Things are hoppin' here at the wedding house, so if Betty's not posting for a few days, you'll know why!

Stay happy.
Stay well.
Stay groovy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Scrabble with Matthews" by David Wojahn

Scrabble with Matthews

(For faithful reader Brian)

Jerboa on a triple: I was in for it,
my zither on a double looking feeble

as a "promising" first book. Oedipal & reckless,
my scheme would fail: keep him a couple drinks

ahead, & perhaps the muse would smile
upon me with some ses or some blanks.

January, Vermont: snowflakes teased the windows
of the Burlington airport bar. The waitress

tallied tips & channel-surfed above the amber
stutter of the snowplow's light: it couldn't

keep up, either. Visibility to zero, nothing taking off
& his dulcimer before me (50 bonus points

for "bingos") like a cautionary tale. The night
before I'd been his warm up act,

the audience of expensive preppies
doubling to twenty when he shambled

to the podium to give them Martial
& his then-new poems. "Why do you write

something nobody reads anymore?" queried one
little trust fund in a blazer. "Because

I'm willing to be honestly confused
& honestly fearful." Il miglior fabbro,

a.k.a. Prez: sweet & fitting honorifics he has left
upon the living's lips. Sweet & fitting too

that I could know the poems much better than
the man, flawed as I am told he was. Connoisseur

of word-root & amphibrach, of Coltrane
solo & of California reds, of box score & Horatian loss,

his garrulousness formidable & masking
a shyness I could never penetrate, meeting him

would always find me tongue-tied,
minding my ps & qs, the latter of which

I could not play, failing three times to draw a u.
The dead care nothing for our eulogies:

he wrote this many times & well.
& yet I pray his rumpled daimonion

shall guide our letters forward
as they wend the snow-white notebook leaves,

the stanzas scrolling down the laptop screens.
Game after game & the snow labored on.

Phalanx, bourboned whiteout & the board aglow
as he'd best me again & again. Qintar

& prosody, the runway lights enshrouded
& the wind, endquote, shook the panes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Morning Roses!

These Monday Morning flowers are for all those teachers out there, starting, or continuing their semesters.

You go get 'em!

It's back to school for Betty today.

I love the first day of school--lots of hope in the air, lots of new faces, AND I bought new shoes for the event.

I feel quite privileged to be a teacher and the sign in my office that reads "To Teach is to Touch a Life Forever" reminds me what an honor (and responsibility) my job is.

Enjoy your Monday Morning Flowers! Here's to a great week!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jaw Tales: Part Two

I learned a few things while I had my mouth wired shut. I learned:

A) I normally talk A LOT.

B) Eating is a huge part of nearly any social gathering.

C) There are approximately 4,435 advertisements for food on during the typical hour of television programming.

D) Buying, cooking, and serving food to your children and husband--food you cannot eat--is a form of torture.

E) Strangers do not respond well to persons speaking through clenched, wired-together teeth.

One day while I still had my jaws wired shut, I took the kids to the zoo. I had to get out of the house, and the park was not cutting it with the kiddos any more, so I loaded up the stroller and headed to the zoo. When I got there and up to the gate, I realized I had forgotten my membership card. I stood, two bags slung over my shoulder, Evan in my arms, Sonny Boy in the stroller and tried to speak through the little round circle in the Plexiglas of the booth at the entrance of the zoo. "Izzz a memmmbber. Izz a memmmmber. Nooooo carrrrrd. No carrrrrd." With my one free hand I tried to write in the air--an obvious sign for the woman to give me a pen so I could write her a note. She just watched my flailing hand in alarm. Though by this time, the drooling was not as big of a problem, I am very sure there was probably some starting to escape by the time I had repeated the above dialogue and hand motions for the fifth time. Finally, she held up her hand to get me to stop, shook her head and said with a GREAT deal of pity in her voice, "Just go on in."

Now, I had decided before the surgery that I would use this opportunity given to me by the universe and my surgical team to kick my drinking problem. You see, I was seriously addicted to Diet Pepsi which I considered the perfect breakfast beverage. I also considered it the perfect mid-morning drink, lunchtime drink, one hour past lunch time drink...well I think you get the idea. I had tried to kick the habit before but had never been able to get the monkey off my back. The lure of the fizz, the thrill of the phenylalanine always drew me back. However, I figured with my jaw wired shut, and the pain medication I'd be on for the first week or so, it was the perfect time to make the change. The week before my surgery, I drank gallons of my chemical-ridden, artificially-sweetened liquid in a dramatic good-bye scene.

The Ensure was going down a bit easier these days, though I still had to feed myself in the bathroom, but my weight continued to go down. I was tired from running after the kids, cleaning, cooking--all those things. HOB went out and bought me protein-filled drinks and I promised to try and get them down though they tasted about the same as Ensure, except with a little added chalk dust for that added repulsion factor.

It was one of those days when I was exhausted, frustrated, and sick and tired of dragging around when I opened the refrigerator to get my plastic bottle of the protein drink and there it was sitting in the refrigerator: my good-time buddy, my vacation-in-a-can, my instant synapse lubricant. I looked around. Ohhhhh. Caffeine would make everything OK and tea or coffee wasn't really an option and, shot couldn't hurt. The kids were busy. They'd never notice me gone for the few minutes I'd need.

I went back to the bathroom in the master bedroom, shut the door, set the can on the counter and opened it. (The pop! The blessed sound of the metal peeling against metal! The friendly, seductive hiss to welcome me back! ) I got out my syringe, stuck the point in the top of the can and drew out the lovely brown liquid into the cylinder. Then I threw back my head, stuck the syringe in and pushed the plunger to feel the sweet, familiar burn on the back of my throat.

Suddenly, the door opened and HOB stood there. "What are you doing?" he asked. The fluorescent lights above the sink seem to grow brighter, bringing a harsh, institutional light to the scene. I withdrew the syringe and turned around, "Nuffffiiiinnnng," I said, hiding the syringe behind my back and trying to look innocent. He came over and turned me around to face the mirror. Brown liquid dripped down my chin onto my shirt. "Oooooo," I said. "Ooooooo. Ooooooo."

You would think I would recount that last scene and call it my "hitting rock bottom" moment, but, no. To me, it was a pretty exciting discovery to find this new delivery system for my rediscovered friend. Nutritionally unsound, completely devoid of any vitamins, or minerals and one heck of a way to get through the day. I began using it as a chaser for the Ensure. (Note to Diet Pepsi People: think about that last idea as a marketing campaign. It could open up a entirely new market for you!)

Each year I place on my list of New Year's Resolutions "Drink Less Diet Pepsi" and for the most part I HAVE. However, there are times such as 1) Starting a new semester (This Monday!) 2) the start of a migraine attack (Probably this Tuesday!) and 3) a road trip of any kind (This Wednesday!) when I allow myself as much as I want.

Most days, I have just one can, maybe two and I drink it in a glass with ice and a straw, but I've saved my syringe should my family ever need it for me in the very distant future when they visit me at the nursing home.

They'll know exactly what to do.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jaw Tales: Part One

Some years back I had to have jaw surgery that resulted in my jaw being wired shut for five weeks. For weeks before the surgery I packed in the food, relishing my favorite dishes, especially from Baja Fresh, our favorite restaurant at the time.

So, the night before the surgery while relishing what I knew would be my last grilled vegetable burrito for a long time, I suggested to HOB (Husband of Betty) that in a dramatic show of love and support he should swear not to ingest Baja Fresh food until I could partake again with him. "It's a love pact," I said. He shook his head while wiping salsa from his lips. "Think of it," I said, "It's like you'd be taking some sort of romantic food celibacy vow. It would be a test. It would be nearly spiritual." He shook his head again while shoving even more Burrito Mexicano down his throat. I pounded on the table, "Put down your burrito! Show me your undying love and support! Make the damn LOVE PACT. NOW!! " People turned to stare. HOB turned to go get more guacamole.

Not only did he not restrain himself from Baja Fresh, after the surgery, he and his parents would have this kind of conversation in the hallway just outside my room while I sat in bed, my face bruised and swollen, my jaws wired shut:

"That pizza last night was good. We could go back there."
"Not pizza again. How about In N Out for burgers and fries?

"Fast food? No, let's get Italian. Lasagna sounds good, or manicotti. Garlic toast sounds good too."

I think she's flailing around in there. What's she agitated about? Why are her eyes bulging? You'd better get her the syringe."

Oh the syringe. It was not a needle, but a large tube with a plunger in it and a pointed end. To "eat" I filled up the tube by pulling back on the plunger, watching the tube fill up with the vile liquid Ensure and then, squeezed the point back between my cheek and teeth to a hole left by the surgeon to insert the liquid. I pushed on the plunger to release the Ensure. Since most of it came back out of my mouth, this whole process had to take place at the bathroom sink. My chin was completely deadened by the surgery (and remains somewhat so today--a nicked nerve. Note to oral surgeon: let's be a little more careful in there, OK?) so I could not feel the liquid dripping down my chin. I just saw it, a pale pink waterfall into the sink. It matched my spirits exactly.

Three or four weeks after the surgery we had some people over for my older son's fifth birthday. It was a small gathering, just some neighbors and a few friends, but after being cooped up at home, I was thrilled to see people and try to get back to normal life. We sat in a circle on the back patio. My son Evan was just four months old and I held him close on my lap as I smiled my weird wired-shut-smile at the people around me. I was nodding, enjoying the sunshine, and feeling so good to be with people again. I tried to join in the conversations that were around me by making wild eye contact and nodding excessively.

I noticed some people glancing at me, and then averting their eyes. I noticed some who excused themselves to go get some more food. I just sat, smiling my goofy smile, holding Evan close. One of my good friends came up with a towel and motioned to my chin. I wiped it off and then glanced down at the top of Evan's head--his little sunken fontanelle, absolutely filled the drool that had steadily been coming down my chin for the last half hour or so. It had started to expand out to the rest of his head as well. I sopped up the pool of drool in Lake Fontanelle, handed Evan off to a friend and went back to my room.

A mouth that opens is really important. You can't even have a good cry without it.

Tomorrow: Part Two of our Tale. The Monkey Visits Betty and Betty Let's Him Come in and Play.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Gift

When I was about six years old, I announced to my dad one evening that I was going to learn to milk cows. We had about 12 milk cows at the time and my father milked them by hand every night and every morning. My dad just smiled at my suggestion that I would be able to help him once I learned.

So, determined to do this, I followed him out to the milk barn which was a small, low building back of the big barn. The path to the barn was made up of large stones, strategically placed in the dirt and manure that made up the lot. They were placed for my father's long stride, so I had to jump from stone to stone to get the the barn. I got there just as my dad opened the door and called the cows in.

They were lumbering giants, these cows. They were beautiful in the way they responded to my dad's voice, their big, trusting liquid eyes watching him as they all went to their spots and stood, placing their heads in the v-shaped grips on the walls, their tails toward the door. I stood, my back to the wall, and looked down the line at these massive animals. The smallness of the barn and their close quarters with one another only emphasized their enormity. Their square rear ends were now still, their tails periodically swinging to the loud country music my dad always had on the radio in the barn.

Sitting on his T-shaped stool, my dad began milking the first cow, humming to the radio. He stopped before the first bucket was full and poured the warm, foamy contents into a large pan that sat at one end of the barn. Instantly, about ten barn cats showed up to lap up the milk. These feral beauties I had never been able to get close to, were now within arm's length and they were letting my father pet them. My head swam with happiness. It was the warm summer evening, and I was filled with bliss, being in the barn with the cows, the cats, but most of all being with my dad, in his domain, watching the way he sang, and worked. The tension he sometimes carried while he was in the house seem to slip off his shoulders here and he was totally at ease and best of all, I was with him.

It was while I was in this blissful state that I noticed with great interest that the cow directly in front of me had raised its tail and I could see its crusty anus, twisting and turning like the shutter on a rusty camera. I was transfixed there by this sight, as if it were a real camera and I had to remain still until the picture was taken. I heard my dad's voice, "I wouldn't stand behind that one if I were you" but still I didn't move. I was memorized, hypnotized, transfixed. I heard my father's voice again, "That one's sick. You need to move."

Then it happened: the camera shutter opened, my eyes grew wide and my mouth opened in surprise, as the projectile diarrhea shot directly towards me. I felt the warmth coat my entire body and I sputtered as I stood, draped, covered, cloaked in runny light brown goo. I immediately started crying which was not a good idea as each gasp brought a new assault to my tongue and throat.

"Oh. Oh," my dad said calmly as he came my way. That's all he said as he surveyed the situation. There was no scolding, no admonishment, no kidding, no teasing. All he did was put down the bucket of milk he was carrying, gently take my hand, and helped me over the large stones, back through the big barn, and down the path to the house. I could barely see out of the small holes I had managed to make around my eyes. The evening was a warm one and I could feel the hardening of the crust on my skin. I felt low. I felt... well, like one does when one is covered in cow poop, but I also felt my hand in my father's hand and knew at least I was headed in the right direction.

I remember at least one sister screamed when she saw me and I remember the (understandable) shrinking back (I did look like a walking Snicker's bar) and then some shouts for my mom. She came out of the house, took my hand from my father and led me to the bathroom to get cleaned up. I felt remarkably clean and good after that bath though I would continue to find residue of the adventure in my ears and scalp for weeks.

My dad died five years ago; today would have been his 95th birthday. In addition to all I have to think him for, I have the lesson I learned from this incident.

It is this: there are times in life when we all feel just the way I did that day and the greatest gift we can receive is for someone to quietly, and without negativity, put down the work he or she is doing, take us by the hand, help us maneuver our way over the big stones in our lives, and gently guide us back home to get cleaned up.

Sometimes in life we are the ones who need the help and sometimes we are the ones who offer the hand. In the end, both situations are gifts.

Happy Birthday, Daddy, and thanks for the hand.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Speedy Betty

Speed Theme: a)

Yesterday we got high speed Internet installed in our house. Zoom. Zoom. I can't really tell you how fast, but it's fast. Evan had been complaining about our slow speed for a long time, telling us we were in the dark ages, telling us we were in the bottom eight percent of people in the world. I envisioned tribes in Africa or Indonesia, sitting around a campfire, their laptops open, laughing at people like us. Well, we changed all that. Now I just think about a web site and it pops up. Zoom.

Best of all, now I can hop on my tread desk and watch Hulu to my heart's content. Oh Brave New World!

Speed Theme: b)

By the way, I love my tread desk. Readers from the past will remember I got it during the summer. It's been great and I have not injured myself as of yet--a miracle when you consider that I have tried walking with my poles on it (bad idea). I got creative last semester and graded papers while walking on my tread desk. I had to explain the some students why there were some very wavy lines under some sentences and why my comments ran off the page at times. They just sort of looked at me, blinked, and then backed away. I followed them, saying, "But I was walking 3.5 miles an hour at the time! Isn't that cool?"

Speed Theme: c)

This brings us to the new semester that is coming up rapidly. My classes are all packed and you would think after teaching basically the same classes for the past 20 years, I could just drag out some yellowed syllabus originally done on a mimeograph machine, and slap it on the copier, but no, Betty frets and rearranges, and attempts to plan out the entire semester for every class, changing things and updating. I know some teachers who just give a general syllabus, but not Betty. Everything is mapped out, every assignment has a due date, and every lecture is planned and set for a particular date. It's the Trafalgar Tour of the classroom experience. Good Teacher Betty, right? Yes, but it also makes for this period of time in which Betty circles the rooms of her mind like a crazed cat, yowling and scratching at the doors to get out.

Speed Theme: d)

Is a recent dramatic development, Trader Joe's stopped carrying my regular green tea which I consumed every morning. (More on this later.) I have switched to another kind of tea for morning and I suspect it has more caffeine in it. What do you think? What do you think? What do you think? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Green Tea" by Dale Ritterbusch

Green Tea

There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Your First Shipment of Flowers for 2010 has Arrived!

Wouldn't it be just fabulous to receive flowers every Monday morning? I know it would help set the tone of my entire day and even the entire week. Perhaps I wouldn't even get into my snappish behavior until, say 3:00, at which time a simple Mounds bar would set me back on the right track. Thursday, which is the week's equivilent to 3:00, would even seem a little brighter.

Betty's here for her readers. As my regulars know, I like to start out every week with a fresh delivery of flowers for you. Since this is your first delivery of 2010, I give you just a big ol' armful of flowers and this bonus commentary as well. Sit back, click on the bouquet to enlarge it and then just bask in the wonder that is YOU!

(Betty's Bonus Tip for Instant Popularity: Make sure someone else can see you gazing lovingly at your bouquet, just so you can say, "Oh! Why yes, I DO receive flowers every Monday!" Then walk around the rest of the day looking just a tad bit mysterious and smug.)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Out and About With Betty: Pasadena

As a kid, I looked forward to the Rose Parade every year. I'd grab my blanket, sit on our couch every New Year's Day and be absolutely fascinated with it. (And we still had a black and white TV after most people had gotten color!) I was sure that this parade must be held on some Polynesian island, not in the US. Remember, I was sitting in a chair that was in a house absolutely surrounded by snow. I looked out at the rock road, covered in snow, and across fields covered in snow. Surely, this sunny, magical place where these floats paraded by could not be in the same country I was.

Now, I live in that sunny, magical place and I am still fascinated with the parade. I get up every New Year's morning, get my blanket and sit and watch the parade. When they were younger, my kids would watch with me, and even now, they may watch a little.

Yesterday, I saw on the news that you could go and see the floats. Yahoo! HOB, Evan and I went and had a great time. As you can imagine, I had a good time taking pictures. I'll try and regulate myself and only do two or three more posts on them.

Here's my first offering:

Remember, according to the rules, all surfaces must be covered with organic material.

This one was the first one in the parade, bringing in the Grand Marshall--Captain Sully!

This is a close-up of just a small portion of one of the floats. I mean, don't you just love it?

Giant Birds.

Giant Vegetables.

The trip was Giant Fun!
More pictures to come!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!

Happy New Year! May this new year bring you health, happiness and just a while lot of good things. Are you making resolutions? Betty's got a list!

Enjoy the day and the chance for a new start. (That's an order from Betty who adores you all.)