Friday, April 30, 2010

Hummingbird Update!

Betty Fans have been asking for a Hummingbird update.

To tell you the truth, I have been putting it off, but today I release the news.

We went from this--

--to this on April 25th. One hatchling, but the other egg did not hatch. That's the bad news.


I was also really nervous because there was absolutely no movement when I took these pictures so I thought the worst. It's been usually cold here....



4/27: Still worried.



4/28: Nervous


4/29 At last! I saw the hatching move! Hurrah! I did a little jig around the house!

So, even though one egg did not hatch, we have reason to hope for this little guy.


Betty's been waxing philosophical these days, thinking about life in general.

This nest pretty much sums it all up.

There is sorrow and and there is joy.

They sit side by side in this life, in this complicated nest we have woven for ourselves.

We can't avoid the sorrow and we can't help but celebrate the joy.


Here's hoping your joy grows and grows, giving you wings to fly into the wide, open sky.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thank You. May I Have This Dance?

Thank you so much for all the support you showed me yesterday through your comments. I couldn't read most of them until I got home from work yesterday because I didn't want to be a slobbering mess in front of my classes. I really do appreciate all of your support, my Blogging Buddies.

The blogging world works in strange and mysterious ways. Sunday, when I was feeling pretty low about the news I received, Ms. Anthropy sent me this video after reading my Beauty Manifesto. (By the way, how are you doing with that vow not to think or say negative things about that beautiful face and body of yours?)

I love this video! Watch it and prepare to dance! (Sorry the video seems to be lop-sided, but then aren't we all?)


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lilacs


The view from the narrow kitchen window in the house I grew up in was a fairly stark scene, even in the spring when things began to grow green after those long, cold Kansas winters. Looking out while doing dishes, all I could see was a patch of unenthusiastic grass, some scraggly bushes and behind those, assorted dilapidated farm buildings.

However, just about this time every year this scene faded into the background when the lilac bushes burst onto center stage, decked out in their finery, singing bright, happy songs, cheering up the whole world. They were giant bushes of white and purple blooms, the branches joining with one another to make an arch under which we could walk.

Standing beneath these bushes, breathing in that scent, feeling the small flowers fall down upon my head when a breeze came though, I felt rich beyond belief. These opulent jewels hung heavy and I gathered them in my arms and breathed in their scent. My best friend E and I would sometimes play under the bushes, plucking large blossoms to place behind our ears and laughing at our exotic treasures.


Here in our part of California, lilac bushes are hard to find and they struggle, never growing very large. Just a few years ago, I located one. It was in the yard of a house on my regular walking route and one glorious day I saw it had produced beautiful purple flowers. I went up and breathed in, taking all that scent in, and memories rushed back to me. The people who own it must have wondered about the crazy lady who stopped to smell this bush every day.

This year the bush seems even smaller than most years and the blooms have not been abundant at all. Their smell is not as strong. I stopped a couple of times, but then started passing by without smelling the blooms. I was in a hurry to finish my walk and there were so many other colorful flowers popping up along my route.


Sunday my best friend E, that same one I played with under the lilac bushes, called to tell me that she most likely has a terminal illness that will slowly, painfully, take her life in the next six years.


So this is what a hard kick in the stomach feels like.


E and I became best friends in first grade and she has been a part of the landscape of my life for the past 44 years. Grade school, high school, college, marriage, children, and the loss of parents—we’ve been through it all together. “It’s only half-time!” I told her when we turned 50 together.

Now, well, maybe not.

I am here, 2000 miles from her, helpless, scared, speechless and bruised. I can do nothing at this point except be the best friend I know how to be. I send her a hand-written note through the mail every day and I dedicate my morning walks to her. I send her energy through my walks. I walk hard and I walk fast and I chant, “This is for you. This is for you. Can you feel it?”

And I stop, every single day at the small lilac bush, to touch its less than perfect blossoms, to smell the fading scent, to appreciate the beauty that is still there.

This morning I stopped and stood before it, crying at the sight of the few flowers that remain there. I cried because it is rare to find this kind of beauty on life’s route. I cried because I know that it is fleeting. I cried because I know someday it will be gone.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "April" by Marcia Masters


    April
    It’s lemonade, it’s lemonade, it’s daisy.
    It’s a roller-skating, scissor-grinding day;
    It’s gingham-waisted, chocolate flavored, lazy,
    With the children flower-scattered at their play.

    It’s the sun like watermelon,
    And the sidewalks overlaid
    With a glaze of yellow yellow
    Like a jar of marmalade.

    It’s the mower gently mowing,
    And the stars like startled glass,
    While the mower keeps on going
    Through a waterfall of grass.

    Then the rich magenta evening
    Like a sauce upon the walk,
    And the porches softly swinging
    With a hammockful of talk.

    It’s the hobo at the corner
    With his lilac-sniffing gait,
    And the shy departing thunder
    Of the fast departing skate.

    It’s lemonade, it’s lemonade, it’s April!
    A water sprinkler, puddle winking time,
    When a boy who peddles slowly,
    With a smile remote and holy,
    Sells you April, chocolate flavored, for a dime.

--Marcia Masters

Monday, April 26, 2010

Your Monday Morning Flowers and More!!!

Happy Monday to All!

Hope the sun is shining where you are and you are ready to greet the day with a smile.

Here is your bouquet for the week.



I want to thank all my blogging buddies out there who have supported me with comments over the past few days.

You da Bombs!

Yes, you are!

I shower you with more flowers!


OH! What's this I am sporting on my more-than-ample bosoms?

It's the T-Shirt that beloved followers and friends, Rebecca and Susan sent me!


Isn't it Great?


What's this Betty sees?
Her 200th follower!
Yahoo!
That deserves a standing ovation!



Sunday, April 25, 2010

Married With Children/The X-Files/Top Gear/Return to Me


It was summer and time for me to take the boys, then 6 and 11 years of age, back to Kansas to visit their grandparents.

HOB (Husband Of Betty) insisted he could not go. He was too busy at work, he said. “Busiest time of the year,” he said. However, in the days leading up to our departure, I grew suspicious. I couldn’t help but notice a certain lilt, a certain bounce in his voice when he talked about our trip.

Though he would not admit it, I knew he was looking forward to some time alone in the house. He was thrilled to have the break from his husband/father duties for the week. A week on the couch, the no danger of the remote being taken away, no children running through the house, Play-Dough on their feet, sharp-edged toys in their hands, jumping off furniture and no wife to glare at him if he wanted to eat greasy foods out of paper bags.

Ah, the Single Man Life.

Once we got to Kansas, I called him. The bouncy lilt had been replaced by a weird sort of relaxation in his voice, a dream-like quality. His words were slow and rhythmical, like the voice in an advertisement for old-fashioned lemonade or slow-churned ice cream. The placidity was apparent. His voice had nearly taken on the tinge of a drug-induced high. This was the voice of an extremely tranquil man.

Oh, and he had taken a day of vacation time while we were away.

This far-away, smooth, pleasantly-sedated voice was fine for the first conversation, but by the second phone call it was starting to bother me. The change in his voice would indicate to anyone that he had been released from the hellish prison of marriage and fatherhood and was now enjoying his life of freedom to the fullest.

The witch and her little sharp-toothed monkeys had been sent away and he now sat on his cloud-o’-happiness eating little chocolate-dipped marshmallows in peace.

“Do you miss us?” I asked in a leading voice.

“Oh yes, Baby. Oh yes,” he said in a smooth voice that made me suspect he was not responding to my question, but, I imagined, instead speaking to the two women in flowing white gowns who were no doubt fanning him with giant plumes as he reclined on a tufted velvet sofa.


Meanwhile in Kansas I suffered with the July heat and humidity and two California boys who couldn’t figure out why they had to spend even part of their summer vacation in this place where thirsty ticks sought them out, invisible creatures in the grass called chiggers were ready to attack and mosquitoes the size of sparrows dive bombed them on a hourly basis.

Perhaps I should have been happy to hear that relaxed tone of voice from HOB, but to tell you truth, it felt like a gear had slipped out of the family machine, like one of the dependable pieces was no longer engaged. It was an odd feeling that left me feeling alone and under more stress.

The third day there we drove out to see HOB’s parents. Driving around the hilly streets near their home, the Blazer I was driving blew out a tire. It was unnerving to say the least. I managed to park precariously on a hill, told the kids to get out and stay put on a nearby grassy bank, and I walked to the nearest house (it was a time before cell phones, children!) to give my in-laws a call.

I was met at the door by a very skinny man with acne scars on his face who looked at me suspiciously as I asked him if could use his phone. He nodded, and nearly pulled me in, slamming the door behind me.

“Air conditioning,” he growled by way of explanation.

I picked up the phone as the man headed to the kitchen. I could hear him rustling around in the drawers. Obviously, he was searching for a machete with which to kill me. I made the call, yelled my thank you, and then escaped to wait at the car for my in-laws to pick me up.

They did and we returned to their home. I decided to call HOB to get the number of my nephew who lived in the area and who drove a tow truck to see if he could come and get me or at least give me some advice. My voice must have been shaking as I called HOB and explained the situation, trying not to cry while I was at it. I took a deep breath and finally said,

“So, could you look in the Rolodex and get Scott’s number?”

“Oh,” he said. “Yeah….Well, that could be a bit of a problem….”

There it was—that tone. The maddening, euphoric tone.

I sat still, in disbelief. Was he so far gone, so totally indoctrinated in the cult of pleasure and non-responsibility that he had lost all his senses?

He continued in that unnervingly calm, dream-like voice.

“You see, that number is in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom. I'd have to walk out there and get it and I'm really comfortable right now.”


Oh no, he didn’t.


Oh yes, he did.


I sat there for two seconds in stunned silence. Then, I slammed down the phone. Hard.

He called back one minute later.

I picked up the phone and then slammed it down again.

He called back.

He apologized. "I don't know why said that. I wasn't thinking. Now, here's the number. Do you have a pen? Are you writing this down?

He continued, “Are you and the boys OK? Did the tire look OK at the rental car place? Did you check it before you pulled out? OK, now here's my advice about what to do...."

I sat, listened to him, and smiled.

It was not the words he was saying that made me happy.

No, it was beautiful tone of voice he was using. It was that familiar husband/father voice—the one tinged with concern, peppered with bossiness, the one bordering on tension, the one with more than just a hint of stress. It was the sane and sober voice of the beleaguered but loving husband and father.

I relaxed. The gear was back in place. Maybe it was the slamming of the phone that had jarred it back. Whatever it was, it was a relief.

“It’s OK,” I said. “I can handle things. I'll make some calls. I think everything’s going to be OK.”

And it was.



Friday, April 23, 2010

Betty's Beauty Manifesto


Back in 1987, at my ten-year high school reunion, somebody brought out movies taken during our senior trip. I stood there, watching the video and caught a glimpse of my younger self in a go-cart, racing around the track. I remember being stunned at that moving image of me.

During high school a combination of low self-esteem, cruel classmates, the stigma of being poor, and a steady diet of staring at perfect models Seventeen Magazine had convinced me that I was pretty unattractive, bordering on ugly.

But when I saw myself on the video, I saw a cute girl having fun on the track.

It was then I realized that because I had not known myself, I had let others define me. I had seen myself only through at lens of criticism and while some people may have created tidbits of insecurities that I nibbled on, I was the one who took them, added mounds of my own negativity and created a Home Town Buffet of self-criticism. I didn’t like my hair, I thought my hips were too wide, and my upper arms were too skinny. The list went on and on and on….

I wish I could say that moment at my ten-year reunion was a turning point for me, that I figured it all out. And though my perception of my looks did take a turn for the better, I continued to be self-critical about my looks throughout the years and I was not alone.

We as women seem to dwell on our own deficiencies, bringing them up to others, even making a competition out of it. “You think you have big thighs? Mine are bigger!” I must have racked up hours and hours in the frequent whining club. Conversations with groups of women nearly always had a hefty dose of complaining about our imperfections, our weight, our bone structure.

What a waste of energy and time.

When I look back at pictures now, I see my old self looking back and more than anything else, I wish she could have appreciated her beauty at that time. I used to be so self-critical, and egged on by society and the media, I played right into the hands of those who sought to benefit from my insecurities. (I remember complaining even during pregnancy, as my body was toiling away creating life!)

Here’s the thing: I am now 51 years old. I am all done complaining about my body. I’ve decided it’s beautiful just the way it is and more importantly, it’s healthy. It carries me through the day and does what I ask it to do. I'll take care of it and I'll appreciate it. That starts with no more negative comments, either spoken or thought.

Won't you join me?

Around me I see people who deal with real physical ailments, whose bodies are breaking down in one way or another. One of my best friends recently got a devastating diagnosis of a disease that affects her ability to move, to function normally. My complaining about my wide hips or the size of my stomach is stupid and dishonors her and all people who must face true problems.


Most of all, life is short and I do not want to be 75 years old, and look back on a picture of myself as a young 51 year-old and have that same kind of jolt I had watching those high school videos.

I will not look at a picture of myself in my fifties and wish I had appreciated my beauty at the time.

I will look at that picture, smile, and know I did.


(Me and a statue of Ribsy from the Beverly Cleary books!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Betty: The Big Shot



Betty Fans!

Please head over to Life As Eye See It today for Betty's first ever guest post!

Today I channel potato salad and we all learn a lot.

So.....

Stare at the hypnotic flower I have provided for you and click the link.

Do it.

or

or

See you over there!
Betty adores you!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Puzzle


When I was getting ready for Evan’s 17th birthday party, he said, “You know, this party is more for you than it is for me, Mom.”

He didn’t say it in that Lifetime Movie way, in a voice full of gratitude, you-are-the-wind-beneath-my-wings way. “Oh, my dear mother! Though this is my birthday, this party should really be a tribute to you, the selfless one who has nurtured me throughout all these years and made all things possible.”

No, it was more in a slit-eyed suspicious teen “You-and-I-both-know-I-don’t-care- anything-about-having-a-party;-you-just-want-to-have-your-friends-over-and-you’re-using-my-birthday-as-an-excuse kind of way.

I had been wheedling the boy for a week or so about what he wanted to do to celebrate and he had no idea. I decided a small dinner party with some friends would be a great idea. I presented the idea to Evan. He was less than thrilled.

“No, Mom. Come on.”

So I decided not to do it. I would be embarrassing him.

Then I decided to go ahead and do it. It would be fun! He’d see.

But shouldn’t I respect his wishes, let him know I had heard him?

I wouldn’t do it.

But no birthday party?

I had to have a party for my boy.

No. He was nearly a man. It was time to let him make the decision.

A few hours later, I changed my mind again.

Oh heck, I thought. I’ll have a party whether he likes it or not.

(My inner alarm: “Warning! Psychological Damage ahead! Therapy Bills Coming!”)

Evan begrudgingly invited three of his friends, choosing ones who already knew how “weird” we were and who could commiserate because they also had uncool parents who were likely to embarrass them by bursting out in song or dancing at the drop of a hat.

I am happy to say we had a great time with about 13 people in attendance. There were two girls just about two years older than Evan and his friends and so the six teens had a good time talking about their high school/alma mater and what was happening around town.

I figured the young people would be outta there right after the presents had been opened, and had organized a craft project for the adults who remained. It was a simple candle/tissue paper/Mod Podge project. I brought out the materials and off-handedly asked the kids if they wanted to participate, fully expecting them to shrink back in horror. To my surprise most of them said yes.

So for about an hour the tissue paper flew, Mod Podge was slathered on, and laughter and talk flowed. The adults finished up and went into the next room to play Wii bowling, but the teens remained, working on candles and talking for another hour or so. I listened and smiled, knowing Ev would never admit the party was a good idea, but also knowing he was having a great time.

As our children grow into these later teen years, it becomes increasingly difficult to use the Mom-o-Meter to know when to move in and when to back off. These offspring of ours push us away, sometimes at the exact moment they want us close.

And we, as parents, are sometimes too quick to back away when pushed, thinking that is what we are supposed to do. We reason they need independence and we want that for them too. However, we then discover they are asking boundaries even as they are proclaiming that we are ruining their lives with all our useless rules.

It’s enough to drive a mama crazy.

So what’s a concerned, dedicated parent to do? Well, quite naturally, as in all weighty matters, I turn to cats for guidance.

Think about it: Bring out a cat carrier and the cats will sense a trap and disappear for hours. Present them with a fancy new cat bed or an expensive cat play structure and they will look at you as though you have lost your mind. However, leave an old box on the table or a suitcase open and before you know it, they’re in there, relaxed, hanging out, and in no hurry to leave.

In the same way if you arrange a specific time to talk to your older teens specifically about their lives, they’ll sense a trap. Arrange an event that even remotely smacks of prepackaged bonding time—especially one reminiscent of their childhoods, say, the zoo or park, and they’ll look at you like you have lost your mind.

However, stand in the kitchen chopping vegetables, or relax on the couch and they might just come around, hang out, maybe even start talking.

Or sit at a table, mindlessly putting together a puzzle. Say nothing, be patient, avoid eye contact and eventually, you might just find them there, standing beside you, then sitting, maybe talking about nothing, maybe talking about everything.

If you are lucky, they might even pick up a few of the odd-shaped pieces and help you solve just a little bit of the confusing, but always colorful, puzzle that stretches out in front of both of you.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Apartment House" by Gerald Raftery by Gerald Raftery



Apartment House

A filling-cabinet of human lives
Where people swarm like bees in tunneled hive,
Each to his own cell in the towered comb,
Identical and cramped--we call it home.

--Gerald Raftery

Monday, April 19, 2010

Time for Your Monday Morning Flower Delivery!

Happy Monday!
Hope this week brings you sunny skies and good times!


Today's delivery of gerbera daisies comes to you with good wishes for a happy week.


Betty's got a full week ahead. How about you?


Thanks to all my followers and commenters. I really do appreciate you! You brighten my day!


Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

--Mark Twain

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Hummingbird Update

About a week ago I showed you what was in our ficus tree just outside our patio door.
Today I thought I'd give you an update.

In addition to the time spent sitting on her nest, Mama Hummingbird has also been working on her nest in preparation for her babies.
She is building up the sides, adding more ribbons and is carefully padding the top rim with a soft green rim that looks like moss.
I tried to get a picture for scale, but didn't really get one that did the nest justice.
This nest could easily sit on a half dollar.



I had to stand on a chair, lean forward, tilt my camera and just shoot blindly to get this shot.
What a relief and joy to push "review" and find pictures like this!



There she is, waiting in the nest she has so carefully prepared for her babies.
The other day the winds were strong, the cats were curious, and a sparrow was way too interested in her nest.

Are you fellow parents out there empathizing with her?
I am.
We've all been there.

We painstakingly build our nests.
We take care to make the sides high enough for safety but not so high as to prohibit eventual flight.
We prepare for what we can, hope that luck is with us and pray the world is kind .

Then, we wait.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls...



In celebration of Ev's six month anniversary of getting his license, I present this post again....


Evan got his driving permit recently and so I took him out yesterday to drive the streets around our home. Oh boy. This rite of passage is tough on a parent, but I am doing much better than I did a few years ago when Sonny Boy took me down the same path.

There was one evening I remember in particular. HOB was out of town and I was teaching late. Sonny Boy, 16 and Evan, 11, had been on their own for the evening. I came home, exhausted and I immediately changed into sweats and slippers and plopped on the couch, planning on going to bed within the hour. However, the boys informed me they were hungry and wanted to go to Taco Bell. "No way!" I said. "I'm exhausted."

They wheedled.
I said no.
They pled.
I said no.
They whined.
I said no.
They applied guilt.
Liberally.
They had been all alone, in the house, with no food, no parents.

Working Mother caved.

If a couple of tacos and an order of nachos would relieve the feeling of criminality of being a Career Woman/Working Mother, even temporarily, so be it.

Sonny Boy jumped up and offered to drive. He had his permit and was ready to use it, but needed a parent with him. "OK," I said, "but don't get into an accident because I've taken off my bra and shoes and I'm not putting them back on."

We got into the car, SB in the driver's seat, Evan in the back and me in the passenger's side. Of course, I had ridden with Sonny Boy before, but never at night and never with Evan along. I discovered the seat I was sitting in was positioned as far back from the dash as possible--the position SB nearly always put it in to accommodate his long legs. Try as I might, I couldn't get the seat to slide forward. I felt small and disconnected from the front of the car. I found myself hanging on to the handle above the window as we drove, a position I have always associated with nervous grandmothers.

Now, any parent can tell you, it's just plain startling to find yourself on the passenger's side after years in the driver's seat. But the situation became surreal when we pulled into the drive-thru lane of Taco Bell and Sonny Boy turned to ask me what I wanted. I was shocked by this reversal of roles. I hesitated and fumbled with my order. I could tell he was getting exasperated with me. "Come on, Mom. Don't you know what you want?" he said in a tone that was more than vaguely familiar to me. Could that be my impatient tone coming out of the boy's mouth now? He turned to Evan, demanded his order and then turned to the speaker box to place the order.

At that moment, some strange, primitive hunter/gatherer instinct arose in me and overwhelmed my senses. An alarm as old as our species went off. Not only was I not driving, but now I was displaced as the provider of nutrients. I should be the one speaking into the metal box, procuring food for my offspring. Instead, I was the one waiting to be fed, my thin white knuckles still wrapped around the handle above the window. Not only that, but like a aging convalescent, I had slippers on, my legs seemed to dangle in front of me, I couldn't reach the dash, and was it my imagination, but were my unsupported breasts sagging even more now, nearly touching my knees? Could it be that this brightly-lit alley, decorated with giant pictures of tacos and burritos under the purple and yellow lights was some sort of time tunnel? I strained to see my reflection in the side mirror. The lights above cast weird, ghastly shadows around my eyes. I looked up and over. Had the sign above the drive-thru window actually changed to "Taco Hell"?

Sonny Boy drove to the window, and turned to me for the money. Ah, at least there was some normality in this act. I dug through my purse (another old lady act) and finally found enough. SB handed the bag of food to me and Evan wanted to start eating his in the car. "No," said Sonny Boy authoritatively, as he turned the wheel. "We'll eat it at home."



I thought about this episode as I drove with Evan yesterday. I know there will be times like this ahead, when he naturally assumes the mantel of authoritativeness while I sit, watching in amazement and bewilderment.

But for right now I ride with my youngest son at the wheel as he drives slowly around the familiar, uncomplicated streets of our neighborhood--no heavy traffic, no major intersections. The decisions and moves he needs to make are relatively easy ones. I sit on the passenger's side, offering encouragement and advice. Fully dressed, seat pulled up parallel with his, I am ready (well, almost ready) for what the future holds.





Friday, April 16, 2010

Cookie Time!


Betty doesn't normally go for refrigerator cookies because of that delayed gratification factor--you know that pesky waiting period after mixing and before baking them. It goes against my impulsive nature.

However, I found this recipe in the Best of Mayberry the other night and decided to give it a try. Never content with just leaving a recipe alone, I used dried apricots instead of dried peaches. When I make these again, I'll cram a bunch of coconut in there and maybe use pecans instead of walnuts.

Oh, and I won't eat 20 in the first few hours.

I'll pace myself this time.

Really. I will.



Peach Refrigerator Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 TB baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/4 cup milk
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 cup dried peaches, chopped.

Cream butter, sugar, and egg. Sift dry ingredients, add to first mixture alternating with milk. Add nuts and peaches; mix well. Shape into rolls, wrap in waxed paper and place in refrigerator until ready to back. Preheat oven. Slice thin and bake. Temperature: 400 degrees. Baking time: 10-12 minutes. Yield: 5 dozen.

Hope you enjoy!



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Volunterin' With Betty


There's a reason Betty teaches college students and not little tiny children.

Oh, Betty tries to be sweet, good, kind and patient with large groups of little children. In fact, I can go for about ten minutes solid on a good day and not say something that may psychologically damage one of the little under-construction adults.

As the youngest of five children, I did not grow up taking care of other children. I wore the crown. I was the sweetheart who got carried about and tended to. I did my share of babysitting, but only for the bucks it brought, not for the love of taking care of tender little ones.

I always knew I wanted my own children, but harbored fears that I really didn't know what I was doing. After the birth of my first child, I stood in the halls of the hospital and looked around at the doctors and nurses. Was it true that they were just going to release me? With this helpless infant? I had been a student nearly all my life. I wanted someone to come administer a test, or at least a short quiz, before they passed me into this program of child-rearing.

They did indeed release me, and even without a test, I am quite happy to say that Sonny Boy and I did just fine. I loved being a mom, and while I did make some mistakes, (another LONG post) we both survived and then along came Evan to make the picture complete.

Then came the school years. Since our house backed up to an elementary school, I had watched for years when the parents and kids gathered for events. Once I was walking down the sidewalk and I saw a beaming mom walking toward the school carrying a cake creation that I will never forget. It was an old west scene, with a dusty main street that had detailed stores and sidewalks, and going down the street was a horse and buggy complete with detailed riders and reins made out of skinny licorice whips. My stomach seized up. How would I ever fit in with the other School Moms? I had no idea how to create such items. The last batch of cupcakes I had made looked strange, melted aliens.

The school Sonny Boy enrolled in was indeed the school back of us. It was an alternative school--one with an open philosophy. We had to enter a lottery for it, but he got in and was more than ready. I was not. The school required two hours of volunteer time per week and there were some hard-core Mommies who lived, breathed, and loved their school volunteering duties.

As I signed up for my volunteer hours, memories of my insecurities in the hospital and of that damn horse and buggy cake came back to me, but I decided to get in there and be a Dedicated School Mom Volunteer. Patient. Good. Kind. I could do this. For two hours a week.

I was working full-time by this time and Evan was an infant (Read: I was tired, stressed, bedraggled, and smelled funny most of the time) but I managed to juggle my schedule, get a babysitter and show up on time. The classroom was full of teeming, talking, moving, wiggling little children. It was overwhelming. I helped out by patrolling for wayward students in the classroom, overseeing lunch bag distribution, and helping children wash their hands after recess. It was, to say the least, not exactly my thing. I did my hours and then left the school, barely masking my impulse to run back to my car and tear out of the school's driveway.

On top of it all, I found some of the children to be, well, a little annoying.

Some were very annoying.

I have very little patience with annoying children.

However, I took my cue from the Good Mothers who were also in the room--the ones who said kind and loving things to the annoying children. The ones who were willing to repeat instructions in level-tones and with just enough sugar in the voice to sound like the nice Mom on TV who serves her children Jeno's Pizza Rolls as an after-school snack.

It was about the fifth week into my Good Mother Volunteer role that I found myself in charge of one of the crafts stations with construction paper, scissors, glue and about five children. Our mission was to cut out cute clown heads and then decorate them with happy, happy, fuzz balls and pipe cleaners too!

It all started well, until one boy decided to mess with Betty. He was one of the repeat offenders--the kind of child other parents refer to as a "one hour kid," meaning you want the kid at your house for no more than one hour.

No matter what I did, he wouldn't cut out his clown head. I finally started it for him and urged him to take over. He looked around, he kicked the table, he broke crayons, he wheedled the kid next to him. All the while I was patient, urging him to cut out the rest of his clown face. "Won't this be FUN?" I said. He looked around the room and then at me.

He asked me where I got my weird shoes.

He told me my shirt looked old.

He began to play with the scissors, opening and shutting them rapidly.

(Now, I know all you good Mommies out there right now are diagnosing this boy with a syndrome. Believe me when I say there was nothing medically wrong with him. He really was just a horrible, annoying child.)

I decided to ignore him and focus on the other children. That's when the Annoying One held his scissors aloft and said, "I am going to stab myself in the leg with these. What would you do if I did that?" he said.

"Oh!" I said, in a sweet voice and large eyes that I hoped conveyed concern and shock to any other mothers who might have overheard the little monster. "You wouldn't want to do that! That would hurt you and you wouldn't be able to run and play."

"Well, I am going to and then you'll probably get into big trouble."

(Betty's Blood Pressure Rises.)

Using my sweet voice, but in a slightly higher octave, "Oh, but why would you want to get me in trouble?'

"Because I don't like you."

Voice now Concentrated High Fructose Corn Syrup Sweet and at a pitch not often heard in human beings: "Oh! Well, I like you very much and I sure don't want to see you hurt!"

"I'm going to do it. I'm going to stick these scissors into my leg and then it's going to bleed."

Silence from Betty. (Never a Good Sign.)

"I'll do it!"

More silence as all traces of Betty as Good Mother Volunteer leak out like grape juice in a bogus knock-off Glad Sandwich Bag purchased at the 99 Cent store.

"I'm going to do it and then you'll be in a lot of trouble."

Betty turns to other children and is overly nice to them for the next 30 seconds just to show Annoying Child how other children love Betty.

"I will do it," he says.

Betty turns to him, smile plastered on her face, bearing a disturbing resemblance to the clown faces on table. She speaks through the frozen, open smile.

"Fine. Go ahead. Do it."

"I will!" he says in a flutely, jeering voice, his eyes locked on mine.

I look over the table and pretend to enjoy gluing fuzz balls onto constriction paper. I tap the glue bottle rhythmically on the clown's hat and my voice matches in a sharp staccato.

"If stabbing scissors into the flesh of your skinny little leg is your life-long dream, your mission, your raison d'etre, then you should do it. I do not want to deny you this all-important, though painful experience."

He wavers a bit and says nothing, the scissors poised in mid-air above his leg..

I smile like a crazed circus performer at the other children at the table and then suddenly swing around to him, my face about two inches from his and whisper, "Do it! You should just do it! But when you do, put them in deep enough to make it worth your time and mine!"

I turn back to smile maniacally at the other children and ecstatically reach for some MORE colorful fuzz balls and glue!

At this time the teacher shows up and asks how our clown work is going. I look around to see one of the girls who was at our table, standing slightly behind the teacher, looking at me with widened eyes.

Narc.

Snitch.

Tattletale.

The next week I was put on Poetry Cube Duty--cutting milk cartons down, covering them and attaching poems to the sides. A solitary task. "Should I come up to the school and get the milk cartons and work on them there?" I asked the teacher.

"No! No!" she said hastily and I began to pick up on that tone of voice, that frozen smile on her face. "Since your house backs up to the school, I'll just throw the sacks with the milk cartons over your fence. There's no need for you to come to the school."

"Well, OK! But I'll sure miss working with the children!"

Time to celebrate! Pass the fuzz balls and the glue and let's get started!



Two Yellow Slides Diverged in a School Yard and I Didn't Take Either One.
I Went Home and Watched TV Instead.



Monday, April 12, 2010

Your Monday Morning Flowers

This week, your flowers come to you straight from our backyard.

This is one of the six azalea bushes that I look at as I stand at the kitchen sink. They seem to have just burst forth in the past week or so.

So, I send these to you on this Monday morning, hoping you burst forward into the week, full of brilliance, brightening the world with your own color and beauty.




Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do.
When there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go far wrong.

--Ella Fitzgerald


Hope you have a great week!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Humming With Betty: Part Two

Remember that little hummingbird that came to see us the other night?
Well, we saw it again today.
Apparently, he is actually a she.
Here's what she's been up to:


She built her tiny nest in the focus tree right next to our back door.


She does her best to be in her nest whenever she can.


Today when she was away we look a little look in the nest.


This is what we found!


We are watching, waiting, and hoping for the best!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hamster Madness

Have you noticed a lot of hamsters popping up on blogs these days?

Well, have you?

For some reason every third or fourth blog post I read has a hamster reference in it.

Perhaps these seemingly nonthreatening furry creatures are making good on their unspoken threat to take over all mankind.

Or perhaps it is the universe's way of gradually introducing a topic that I have tried to block out for many years.

If you want a well-written, heart-warming story of a girl and her hamster, go to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. If you want a gritty tale that takes a hard-hitting look at the seamy underbelly of hamster life--a story that involves deception, disfigurement, discrimination, and a disproportionate number of disturbing descriptive details, stick around.

(Oh! I see a number of you DID stick around to hear the alarming details of this hamster tale. I am not sure what that says about my readership.... However! we go on with our story which starts with this very cute picture of Evan and his hamster as a way to lull you a false sense of happiness and bliss.)


A Boy and his Hamster

When our boys were young they wanted hamsters and so naturally we read up on the subject, then went out and got two female hamsters. Oh yes, said the man at the pet store. They are two female hamsters. One was a beautiful with black and white markings. She was generally sweet, got along well with us, had a lovely personality and kept her area in the cage meticulously clean.

The other one was a small dark golden hamster with smokey markings on its side. It was quiet and generally nice at first. However, as soon as it got settled in the cage, it seemed to change. It wanted to sleep most of the time, didn't want to come out and play, and would bite us for no apparent reason. It preferred to be alone in its sloppy little hole in the corner of the cage. It seemed to grow fatter and grumpier in an amazingly short amount of time.

(Is reading the above description causing you to have flashbacks of your first year of marriage/significant relationship? Could you substitute the name of your first boyfriend and have it ring true? Have you figured out this was a MALE hamster?)

One morning we came out to find the fat golden hamster up and moving, but something was terribly wrong. (Brace yourselves, tender readers!) It seems that the hamster's eye had blown out, and was sitting there in his eye socket like a taut, greasy bubble. He waddled over and climbed upon his wheel that was dangerously close to the wall of the cage/aquarium and...well, before we could stop him, he got going on the wheel which, with the shifting of his weight had tilted just enough.... SPLAT!

Alas, the remnants of his eye were splattered on the glass wall.

It was traumatic for all concerned.

Over time, his eye socket sank into his head, and the hole sort of sealed up, but this left the already-less-than-attractive hamster even more unappealing.

Then, one night the boys and I came home and found HOB in the bathroom in the middle of hamster transfer. It seems the miracle of birth had occurred (considering we still thought we had two female hamsters, it really WAS a miracle!) and fast-thinking HOB had gotten Daddy Hamster out of the cage before he could kill his young. The mother hamster and five baby hamsters remained in the old, cruddy, aquarium cage with the eye-goo still on the side.

However, there sat the deformed, unattractive, disagreeable male hamster in his brand new, very fancy, obviously expensive, ornate blue plastic cage complete with elaborate Habitrail, built-in designer wheel, and luxury artist's loft.

I grilled HOB about the situation. Why not put the mother and five babies in the new apartment? Why keep her in the tenement? "What?" said HOB. "I bought this just for him. Look! I think he really likes it already."

I turned from the bedraggled mother and her five demanding babies and bent down to see the male hamster in his sleek, modern, bachelor's pad. He looked back at me with his one good eye and gave me a smug look. All he needed to complete the picture was an Eames chair, a cigarette and a martini glass. Throw in some etchings and perhaps a beaded curtain and he'd be set for entertaining.

Soon after, we decided not to take any chances. We separated all the hamsters and placed them in different cages (most purchased at Goodwill).

That's right: six cages, six squeaky wheels.

This way lies madness.

We live in a warm climate, so we finally stacked the cages on a table in the garage and shut the door at night. The boys' bedrooms were far enough away, so they were not bothered by the squeaking but HOB and I could still hear it. Hear it. Hear it. Throughout the night. Endlessly.

Because all the other cages were made of wire and his was made of plastic and had the Habitrail, guess who got to be at the top of the pyramid of cages? Oh yes, One-Eyed Daddy got the Penthouse Suite. This put him at exactly eye-level with me when I went out to the garage to get things from the shelf near his cage. I swear he stood there, leaning up against the glass, with his one eye staring right at me. When I looked at him, he'd quickly avert his eye and nonchalantly pretend to be overlooking the scenery below, enjoying the unobstructed, tinted view, seemingly unaware of the toiling, oppressed masses of his own offspring just beneath him.

(This is what those toiling masses did to my bike seat when I leaned it up against the cages one day.)



The average lifespan of an average hamster is two to three years. The average life span of a carefree, one-eyed, living-in-luxury bachelor hamster is MUCH longer. Mama died, some of the babies died, but One-Eyed Daddy remained, living in his azure oasis, with regular maid service and personal chef, until finally, he took that journey through the Ultimate Habitrail which we must all travel by ourselves some day.

It's been years since we've had hamsters. It was a phase of our lives I do not wish to repeat. In fact, I have blocked out most of the memories associated with the care and feeding of the tiny rodents.

And yet, some nights, when I least expect it, I awake to the slight aroma of pine chips and hear the faint spinning of a plastic wheel,

spinning,

spinning,

spinning,

into the dark, unending night.

Hum Along With Betty

This little guy made his way into our house the other night. He was a little dazed so HOB held on to him until he got his wits about him again. My regular readers may be concerned, hoping this hummingbird did not meet the same fate as Edgar Allan Crow.

He did not.

HOB released him and he flew into the night.

No defrosting needed.

Hope you all are humming away at your days and finding an abundance of the nectar of human kindness along the way.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Devil is a Cobbler


And he's making my shoes....


At a certain point in my life not too long ago I decided I should update my wardrobe-- you know, work on looking stylin' once again. This moment of clarity coincided with the realization that my children were now older and I could go to my job without someone's spit, vomit, or other bodily secretion upon my clothing.

It was quite exciting and I figured this was a golden age for me and I had better seize it before I get to the age where I once again have to be on the lookout for spit, vomit, and other bodily secretions--this time my own.

Now, for years I had thrown on my comfortable synthetic Mom clothes to to go work and along with those over-sized sweaters and big ol' chemically-based black pants, I wore some clunky black shoes--the kind McDonald's employees and convalescing elderly women wear. They were utilitarian to say the least. However, they got me from place to place, and at the end of the day my dogs were not barking, my children were still alive, and I was able to find my bed, so all my major life goals had been met.

I knew it was time for a change, So, doped up on hours and hours of "What Not to Wear" and rote, cult-like recitation of "I Love My Body" affirmation cards, I set out shopping and found delight in buying cute clothes that fit AND they were in colors other than black, off-black, and grey-black. This was cool. This was fun. I was having a good time...

HOWEVER....

In the center of this colorful carnival ride of fun was the grimy, oily, blackened-with-grit pole of truth: you can have all the great clothes you want, but if your shoes are drop-dead ugly, then the thoroughbred horses of style come to a griding halt and ain't nobody gonna ride the carousel of fashion fun.

So, I went to buy shoes. Now Betty is blessed with some fine lookin' feet, and just like with any work of art, the frame must be fitted just right for the artwork not to be damaged. My arches are high, my skin is delicate and I have just enough early 80's feminism to refuse to wear really high, hip-jutting, unnatural-gait-inducing, calf-killing, Achilles heel-shortening high, high heeled shoes. Really, I just wanted cute shoes that were comfortable. I walk around a lot during the day and I prefer not to be in searing pain as I do so.

Unreasonable?

Apparently so.

I bought cheap shoes, expensive shoes, flats, low-heeled, shiny shoes, shoes with no backs, shoes with no toes, shoes with straps, shoes with no straps. They all hurt. If they were cute, they hurt and they also slipped and chaffed and rubbed and...well, you get the idea.

I soon discovered that along with every shoe purchase came the inevitable purchase of Shoe Doo-Dads--those devices and aides to help the shoes fit and feel comfortable. These include various inserts, heel tape, heel cups, gel heel pads, arch supports, cushioned ball pads, seamless liners, footies, semi-footies, heel grips, toe posts, toe caps, slingback strips, peds, semi-peds, miracle shield, rub relief strips, and boxes and boxes of Band-Aids.


Examples of doo-dads.
Mable (my cat) basically destroys any gel inserts I leave in shoes, so all you see are the new ones here. The others are too sad.


I would estimate I have spent $1765.96 on shoes in the last year.

I have spent $2675.99 in the same amount of time on Shoe Doo-Dads.

I am thinking the Shoe Doo-Dads People are in cahoots with the New Shoe People. Dr. Scholl is sleeping with the Zappos Lady--you know what I am saying?

(Betty's Idea-of-the-Month Contribution to All of the World: Somebody needs to make a sock-like item that is soft on the inside, but hard plastic on the outside to take all the rubbing, pinching, and chaffing of shoes. The outside should look exactly like skin. Let's get on this--shall we people? Is it too much to ask all the people currently working on prosthetic limbs to dedicate just one lousy day to the development of this product? I didn't think so....)

So, what's a tender-footed gal like me to do? Well, I do wear my cute shoes to work most days. However, I kick them off when I'm in my office. (I actually have some house slippers under my desk.) I have a pair of comfortable flats for running to the xerox center on campus, and I have been known (occasionally) to walk around my classroom with no shoes on when the clock ticks past 2:00pm. I envy those women who can run around in high heels, but I am not one of them. I get by, but when I get home, it's sneaker time, baby.


When I die, whoever puts me in that box, urn, ocean, or hurridly-dug hole in the back yard had better put comfortable shoes on my feet for the occasion. Forget fashion on this day. Send me into the afterlife in my Eccos or my MBT's.

The Devil is a Cobbler. I've dealt with his shoes here on earth. They do not get to go with me to heaven. I don't care how cute they are.





Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Pushkin" by Marjorie Kowalski Cole


Pushkin

--Marjorie Kowlaski Cole

The old cat sleeps
in the newly arrived sun. One more spring
has come his way
dropping a solar bath
on failing kidneys, old cat bones.
I check for the rise and fall of breath.

Once he stalked hares
across the yard, tracked down
chicken hearts with split-lentil eyes.
Fearless, disinterested, a poseur, a demideity.
He and the dog are strangers still
after years of eating side by side.

I remember times of wailing
into my couch, alone
and utterly baffled by life,
when suddenly a cat
would be sitting on my head.

Last week I pulled him snarling
from under a chair in Dr. Bacon's office,
held him while she examined his dull coat,
felt his ribs. Pressed where it hurt.
Eight pounds of fur and bone and mad as hell
but "He's certainly less anxious in your lap,"
she murmured, astonishing me.
I had no idea. Old cat, old friend,
have I reached some place inside,
added to your life
as you have to mine?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Your Monday Morning Flowers and Quote!

Your Monday Morning Flowers have arrived!

All of Betty's People a special flower delivery on Mondays.

Enlarge these pictures on your computer screen and look around smugly, drawing attention to the fact that you are SO special!

Hope you are off to a great week!

Spring Break has ended for us here, so it is time to hit the classroom again and start stimulating those brain cells.

First, though, a Moment with Flowers:






I suspect that the happiest people you know are the ones who work at being kind, helpful and reliable--and happiness sneaks into their lives while they are busy doing those things. It is a by-product, never a primary goal.

--Harold S. Kushner

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!


I want to wish all my Betty People a Happy Easter!

I hope you have a wonderful day and renew your spirit in whatever way you choose.



My plans include going to church, eating candy and then whoopin' up on family members in a game of bocce.

See you all on Monday!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lettuce Talk


Betty's cool (most of the time).
Betty's got social graces (half of the time).
You can take me out in public and I'll behave (a quarter of the time.)

There is, however, one behavior that really bothers me and once a person does this, I find I impossible to greet said person again without squinting my eyes and without emitting a low guttural sound. It's an instinctual, automatic response over which I have no control.

What is that behavior?

For a prime example, let us go back in time....time...time....


The year was 1983. HOB and I were invited over for dinner by a woman who was also a graduate student with me. I had never really felt a connection with her, but because she was a potential life partner of one of my very good friends, I pulled on my stirrup pants (it WAS the early 80's, people!) and a stylin' sweater and showed up for the dinner with a smile on my face, flowers in my hand and a collection of Bee Gees' songs in my head to get my groove on.

It was a lovely table setting, a great atmosphere, the conversation was flowing. I was starting to warm up to the hostess and began to think she was not as cold and unfeeling as I thought she had been.

Then she served the salad.

Now, children, remember Grandma is telling this story about a time 27 years ago. Back then, all we had was iceberg lettuce. Oh, maybe if you were rich and highfalutin you got romaine once in awhile, but what our hostess served us was unlike any salad we had ever had before. It was an incredible mixture of greens, different leaves of exotic lettuces, some dark green, some light, some purple, some nearly pornographic in shape.

Today children, we call this Spring Mix. Back then we called it Amazing.

Everyone at the table sat, mouths open, more than a little stunned. Then we tasted it. OH! My tongue came started to quiver and move on its own. It was a religious experience.

"Oh! This is so great!" I said. "I've never seen anything like this!" "This is so good!" I looked at her, my eyes imploring, seeking, on the verge of begging her for more information.

"Thank you," she said smugly, bending over her salad like a selfish swan.

I couldn't stand it any more, but I tried to strike a nonchalant tone, "So, where did you find this?"

"Oh, at a store," she said, invoking a mysterious air, her eyes moving upward toward the ceiling as though a dust mote was more interesting than my inquiry.

OH! So that's how it was.

Now, I KNOW I am a person who gives way too much information at any given time, about any given subject. I really try to control myself with strangers who randomly comment on my purse or jacket, but if you are a good friend of mine, you will find out where I bought it, how much it cost, if I used a coupon, and just what I said to the clerk on the way out of the store.

Do not be surprised if I put you in a car and drive you to the store to get one too.

I realize for some people this is WAY too much 411. However, I consider this mutual exchange of information an essential part of the bonding process if someone is to become my gal pal.

She was not be my gal pal.

The instinctual, involuntary eye squinting and guttural noises made deep in the throat began shortly thereafter.

You know, like at the door that night.

At the same time I was thanking her for a "lovely" meal.

Thank goodness the relationship between this woman and my friend did not last.

Oh, and the next week, I found the spring mix at the fancy-schmancy grocery store--in a bin, next to other exotic garden items. It was obscenely expensive but I bought some anyway.

Then I went home, called a friend and told her all about it, leaf by leaf.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Faces

Friday Faces

Happy Friday!

Hope your own face is wearing a smile!












Have a Fabulous Friday!