Monday, December 31, 2007

. . . And A Right Guid Willie Waught To You All

I hope all of you have a wonderful and positive New Year. I hope nothing bad happens to any of you, and I hope you are all safe, and healthy, and happy, every single day. You, and everybody who is precious to you.

Did you know that the automated Times Square dropping ball was invented by a teenager, by the way? This teenager has become a very amazing adult, responsible for many innovative inventions and wonderful ideas and brilliant concepts. We study Dean Kamen in my college reading class.

This song, which all of us will be hearing and maybe even singing tonight, always makes me tear up. Even back before I knew what it meant, something about it was both sad, and happy, and sentimental.

It also makes me think of When Harry Met Sally, which is and always will be one of my favorite movies of all time.

What does this song really mean? I think it's important that we all know, since it's a song that's become a kind of holiday icon for most people. When you sing or hear it tonight, think about what the words are saying.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, (Should old acquaintances be forgotten,)
And never brought to mind (And never remembered?)
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And the days of auld lang syne. (And days of long ago.)

And surely ye 'll be your pint' stowp (And surely you will pay for your pint)
And surely I 'll be mine (And surely I’ll pay for mine)
And we 'll take a cup o' kindness yet (We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet)
For auld lang syne (for the days of long ago.)

We twa hae run about the braes (We two have run around the hillsides)
And pou'd the gowans fine (and pulled the daisies fine)
But we 've wander'd monie a weary fit (But we have wandered many a weary foot)
Sin' auld lang syne. (Since the days of long ago.)

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn (We two have paddled in the stream)
Frae morning sun till dine (From noon ‘till dinner time)
But seas between us braid hae roar'd (But seas between us broad have roared)
Sin' the days of auld lang syne (Since the days of long ago)

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere (And there’s a hand, my trusty friend)
And gie 's a hand o' thine (And give us a hand of yours)
And we 'll tak a right guid-willie waught (And we will take a goodwill draught)
For auld lang syne (For the days of long ago)

[CHORUS]For auld lang syne, my dear (For the days of long ago, my dear)
For auld lang syne (For the days of long ago)
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet (We’ll take a cup of kindness yet)
For auld lang syne (For the days of long ago.)

To answer the question of whether or not old acquaintances should ever be forgotten, the answer is, most emphatically, "NO."

Not till the Alzheimer's makes me say "Oh Baby" to the nursing home orderlies.

I love you, dear friends. And I wish you were all here so we could take a right guid willie waught together. I'm really up for some good willie waught.

Have a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve. Let's all still be here New Year's Day. I don't want to hear of any wonky driving from any of you, you hear?

Happy New Year to you all.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:37 AM | |

Friday, December 28, 2007

It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Zing

Fair warning: Long rambling rant ahead.

We can’t really appreciate something unless we notice it. It’s hard to notice something when it’s surrounded by lots and lots of other somethings. When there are too many, no matter what there are too many of, we tend to take them for granted and even resent them. Think "dandelions." A few are things of beauty, but too many are weeds, all alike and indistinguishable from one another. Tis thus with "children," too. Another book I often quote, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," describes children this way:

(Katie's baby is sickly, and an old woman has told her it would be better off dead.)

“Don’t say that,” Katie held her baby tightly. “It’s not better to die. Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.”

“Aw, somebody ought to cut that tree down, the homely thing.”

“If there was only one tree like that in the world, you would think it was beautiful,” said Katie. “But because there are so many, you just can’t see how beautiful it really is. Look at these children.” She pointed to a swarm of dirty children playing in the gutter. “You could take any one of them and wash him good and dress him up and sit him in a fine house and you would think he was beautiful.”

It's hard to see individuality in a swarm. It's hard to see beauty in a crowd. It's difficult to notice differences when the numbers are overwhelming. When a classroom is overcrowded, it’s impossible to give each student the attention he/she not only deserves, but NEEDS. When there are too many, only the loudest, the most disobedient, the worst behavior problems, and the squeakiest wheels get any attention. Little quiet well-behaved students are ignored. They’re appreciated, when the overworked and overwhelmed teacher gets a chance to catch his/her breath and think about it, but ultimately there is just no time left over for a child who doesn’t “demand.”

These days, our schools are mostly concerned with standardization. Not just the tests, but the everyday classroom interaction and technique. “Scripting” is quite the trend right now; with a script, each teacher will instruct the students in exactly the same way. Teachers who have excellent speaking voices and like to put some feeling into their instruction are instructed not to do so because it gives their students an advantage that other teachers’ students will not have. There are no outlets for creativity with scripted instruction. I understand the need for each classroom to teach the curriculum standards, but why can’t each teacher do this with his/her own individual ZING? Zingless teachers should be fired immediately, anyway! A classroom with no zing is a dead, boring place. How can a script contain zing?

Supposedly, scripted classrooms can contain more students than a classroom with a reasonable amount of just a few students.

I do not like the idea of scripted instruction for many reasons, one of which is the fact that I believe it would force excellent teachers down to the same low standards as the poor teachers. Shouldn’t we be striving to go the other direction? But then, school systems have been forcing excellent students down to the level of the poor students for years, so I suppose it was just a matter of time.

Who is writing these scripts? The only ones I've ever seen were lifeless, insipid, boring, uninspiring drivel, aimed at - who else? - the lowest common denominator in the classroom. If they were properly written, it might work.

I think our classrooms should have no more than twenty students, no matter what kind of class it is, or what grade level. Less if possible, even.

More than that, and you no longer have a room full of individual faces and names and personalities, all of which are well-known by the teacher and by each other, unless the teacher is a pretty poor specimen. More than that, and you’ve got a sea of faces and a list of numbers, and by Christmas the only names the teacher will know are the names of the behavior problems. This is not acceptable. Of course, I don’t believe chronic behavior problems should be acceptable at any time or in any place, but that’s just mean ol’ me.

While I’m whining here, I also believe schools do not encourage our children to put out much effort. Administrators are too worried about scores and money, and parents are overly concerned with self-esteem and being a basketball starter and making the cheerleading squad and ‘feeling good about oneself.’ Key word: self, and not others. Standardized tests aren't really very difficult; if you've never seen one, go to your child's school and ask to see an old one. They have to let you see it. Don't ask for the current test; the teachers aren't even supposed to see that one until it's unsealed a few minutes before the test begins. Schools get around it, of course, but them's the rules. These tests are a concern mainly for the struggling student population, on whom the financial future of a school often depends. But it's not fair, or even RIGHT, to require those students who know what they're supposed to know at a certain grade level, and often more, to sit there and endure while the lower depths are drilled. On test day, many students can skim it and mark it and have time left over to read the library book they generally carry with them at all times to help them get through the excruciatingly boring school day, and do very well, score-wise.

I hate it that so much of every school year is devoted to reviewing those things that were supposed to be covered and learned in years past. So many students got it then, but they still have to participate in reviews year after year, instead of being allowed to take the prior knowledge and run with it. NOT FAIR.

There is entirely too much review in many of our schools.

If you help the chick hatch, it will die. If the chick has to struggle and strive and remember and work – its OWN work, it will thrive. Many of our schools, these politically correct times, are so concerned with self esteem and never taking chances and never comparing and never competing and never having winners or losers (we're ALL winners here!) (horse-hockey!) and never keeping score and never excluding anybody for any reason, they've forgotten what a school is actually for: to help students learn how to read well and write well and figure well, and learn about the past so they can apply it to the present and the future, to learn to think clearly and appreciate good books and memorize things and be exposed to all kinds of things the child can't begin to understand yet but will at some future date. Those sudden "Wow!" moments, when we don't understand something and then we do, are priceless. Our curriculum takes most of those moments away, because schools are obsessed with immediate understanding and measurable results.

I'm all for measurable results, but many of the most important things can not be measured.

When there are too many children in a classroom, it’s not possible to do much more than measurable standardized stuff. There is no magic. There is no wonder. There is no imagination. Yes, before anyone can really soar, he/she needs to have a core of basic knowledge with which to work, but honestly? I think that if our kids had the prospect of magic and wonder, they might be more interested in earning the right to go there via mastering the basics. Mastery should mean privileges. Non-mastery should not. Again, these things are more easily accomplished with smaller groups.

If your child is one of an overlarge group in his/her school, don't let a week go by without asking the principal, the superintendent, the school board, when those numbers will become workable. Don't take "no" or "later" or "budget problems" or “Sadly, not this year” or ANYTHING for an answer. Keep at it. Go public. School superintendents fear publicity. Write letters to the editor, comparing the empty library shelves and 35+ in the second grade classroom to the luxurious athletic bus and the brand-new gym built so ten or so kids can strut their stuff. Find out how many kids don't have books because the school didn't buy enough, and tell everybody. Get a visitor's pass and ask to tour the school; pay close attention to classrooms stuffed so full of desks there is no way anyone could possibly walk around in the room, including the teacher. Look to see if the teacher has a desk; often, the teacher's desk is removed to make room for more student desks. Don't ask for average class sizes; my daughter's third grade classroom had 36+ students in it, while in town, no third grade classroom had more than fifteen. One town school had three third grade classrooms of twelve students each. The average, on paper, looked really good. The reality was, in our little country school - part of a large consolidation - the parents didn't know they had the right to ask questions; they just accepted. This is not ethical. It’s legal, but not ETHICAL. Ask how many students are in the classroom. This is public information and you have a right to know.

A teacher and fifteen students can accomplish so very much more than a teacher, an aide, and 38 kids. I have long believed that many schools "include" students so they can pay one teacher's salary, one minimum-wage aide's salary, and not have to hire another teacher. And unless inclusion is done properly, nobody benefits except the corporation budget controller.

Any time a child is forced to sit in a classroom so crowded that all the faces start to look alike, and all the names just kind of run together, and all the eyes start to shine less each day, and all the hands that would like to rise in the air and answer remain listless because who's going to see in that sea of other hands, it is long past time to protest.

One dandelion is beautiful. It's a flower, and a flower so attractive, people would buy them in nurseries and set them out in rows and make borders with them. It is only their commonness and their numbers that make them such nuisances, and make people want to negate their status as genuine flowers and instead treat them as usurpers and parasites.

Our children are worth the battle. Each child is unique, a snowflake, a fingerprint, a star, a face like no other face, a smile like no other smile, a talent waiting to be discovered and challenged and encouraged.

This is a ramble and it’s incoherent. Sometimes when I’m angry about an injustice such as overlarge class sizes, children who are forced to suppress their talents and abilities and wait, wait, wait while the teacher has to repeat, review, and repeat over and over, something half the class ‘got’ three weeks ago and would love to take further but can’t because the other half still can’t do it, I get really really REALLY upset for the sake of the kids who want to move on.

I used to be really down on homeschooling, and I still am when the parents don’t seem to know their ass from a hole in the ground, but more and more I am coming to believe that parents who know what they’re doing and who allow their children to soar, have the kids who are going to cure cancer and write symphonies and sculpt masterpieces and sing at the Met. The overcrowded public schools have the kids who could have, but were never given the chance because of the numbers and because all they really learned in school was to wait, and that school had nothing in store for children who knew things already. They were ready to move ahead but were not allowed to. They could have shed their shoes and danced with the stars, but were allowed only to sit quietly and wait, feet flat on the ground with those who couldn't have danced with a star on the best day of their lives.

This is wrong on so many levels.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:57 PM | |

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Astounding. Time Is Fleeting.

. . . and so another Christmas Day has come and gone. The day after Christmas always seems sad to me. Christmas itself takes such a long time to get here; the calendar turns to fall and fall brings thoughts of winter and winter without Christmas would be exactly the horror C.S. Lewis paints it to be. We need December in all of its holy and secular incarnations. It gives us hope. Reasons to go on. As Allison Kitchell says, in the Christmas novel What Child Is This that I've already quoted several times but am not finished quoting yet because it's packed so full of great ones, "December is the crown."

Christmas takes a long time getting here, but it's over in the wink of an eye. It's over. 24 sixty-minute hours made up of sixty-second minutes, but the day went by so fast it made my head spin. On Christmas Day, we live in hyperspace. I could almost see the clock hands spinning around and around, and it seems as though the chimes were ringing every few minutes instead of on the hour.

It's over, but December is the crown.

December 25 will forever be the crown for Belle's best friend Bess and her husband Matt, whose long-awaited baby was born Christmas morning. My daughter, and my daughter's best friend, are, even in the midst of their separate lives and hundred-mile-distance, the ultimate definition of kindred spirits. Honestly? Anne Shirley and Diana Barry had nothing on Belle and Bess. I love this child unconditionally, just as I love my own children, and I plan to help spoil the new baby, too.

Baby E might have her own opinion about a Christmas birthday, but that'll come later. :)

Einstein was right: it's all relative. Days like today yesterday go so fast. Christmas Day has the same shelf life as any other day, but it's always thus with the things we love most: time passes so much more quickly when we don't want it to. If only we had the power to slow time down a bit when wonderful things are happening. . . but then, when wonderful things are happening to somebody, someone on the other side of the world, or the street, is weeping and broken-hearted. It's all relative. And when we know something lovely is fleeting, we tend to appreciate it more.

We are all fleeting. Therefore, let us all try harder to be kind, and honest, and considerate, and helpful, slower to pass judgment, quicker to assume the best of people, more inclined to work hard, braver, more trustworthy, and cleaner*, so that anyone and everyone we encounter is encouraged by our lives. Let us all try to pay attention to each other, and bolster each other, and do our fair share and then some, and extend a helping hand whenever we possibly can. Today, it's someone else who needs help. Tomorrow, it might be us.

*Clean scouts smell better.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:44 AM | |

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

. . . and Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Fruitful Kwanzaa. Happy Holidays. Peaceful December.

Please pick one, and apply it to yourself and to your family.

I love you all more than you'll ever know. Thank you for being part of my online neighborhood of beloved friends.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:48 AM | |

Monday, December 24, 2007

Some Christmas Thises and Thats

Oh, my dears, it's so close now, so very, very close.

There are a lot of old older people out there who don't care much for the excitement, the wonder, the sparkles and reflections and tinsel and candles and suspense and giggles and hand-clapping and jammied children and ribbons and pretty paper and surprises, and this makes me sad for them. However, I also figure they were pretty much the same when they were young younger. I think the ability or tendency to glow and laugh and clap and appreciate things is there in all of us, and whether we let let the light of these things shine through us - or not - is a choice we make. Scrooge was Scrooge because he chose to be Scrooge. Yes, certain childhood happenings helped mold him, but ultimately, he chose his life. Free will choice. All of our lives are that way. We can't always control the circumstances, and sometimes Karma really hits us below the belt, but we can always control the way we deal with it. Most of us go up and down, back and forth, hot and cold with our reactions; even-keeled people are rare and actually rather boring. But whether we reel from the blows and get back up, or stay down and cover our heads and wait for more, is up to us. We've all been there.

Me, I love Christmas. What, you didn't know? :)

I also love Christmas movies. Certain ones, that is.


Now, please enjoy this video in several parts, that I used to show each year to my 8th graders, each with a kindergarten student as a guest, laps full of cookies. The Christmas Messenger, starring Richard Chamberlain, the most beautiful man in the world.

Christmas Eve is such a magical time. It's all ahead of us, you see. To paraphrase Katie, age 8, in What Child Is This, by Caroline Cooney, the night before Christmas isn't called a 'night,' it's called 'eve,' and Christmas morning isn't called 'morning,' it's 'morn.' Eve and morn: two special words to highlight two special times.

How special are they? They are special already, in their own right, but how you make them special for yourself and for your children is entirely up to you. I hope you give them memories they will cherish all their lives, so much so that they will pass the glory along to their own children.

Children flourish with roots, but they soar with wings.

May your Eve be full of anticipation and warmth, and may your Morn be all you hoped it would be.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:05 AM | |

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blue Balls, Madame Tinkertoy, and a Sprig of Holly

A house down the road from us has deep blue lights festooning its shrubberies, hanging from the eaves, and framing the windows. Their tree is white and covered with blue lights. It's a beautiful blue and the contrast is lovely but it's not Christmas-y. Blue is not a Christmas color. Blue lights are what mortuaries put on the tasteless white tree in the lobby: white tree, blue balls*, blue lights. Blue "Christmas" decorations bring me down. They make my heart heavy. Whenever I drive past this house, I don't want to look but I can't help it; it's like a train wreck with a blue bow, pretending to be merry. It's like a coffin with a sprig of holly.

I'm a child of the seventies, and "House of Blue Lights" has a rather different connotation for me. Hint: not Christmas. When I was in college, we were forbidden to put blue lights in our windows. It was considered advertising. And if you're going to advertise, you'd better have the merchandise handy when customers respond. Of course, some did; those homeschooled churchy sheltered girls down the hall, who'd never been allowed to go out anywhere on their own or with friends in their lives before, went hog-wild with the freedom they had never been taught to handle, got knocked up, and had to drop out before the first semester was over. They didn't even HAVE to advertise; the pheromones were so thick it made our homemade candles flicker funny. These girls were not typical, of course; they were just wild animals who suddenly had no harness. So to speak.

Ahem. Blue Christmas.

When I see all that blue, no amount of twinkle can make it seem holiday-like. It's just. . . sad. Blue is a sad color when it's not the sky or the sea or a robin's egg.

This is all merely my opinion, of course; if you wish to deck your halls with pink and turquoise plaid, or with John Deere tractors, or with taxidermied critter tails, by all means go for it.

I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas; I did create my own tradition with my tree, but I've stuck to it because for me, it was perfect. People with blue balls are of course free to create their own traditions, too.

I never wanted a tree that was nothing but an impersonal work of art; a Christmas tree should not appear untouched by human hands and have nothing to do with the people who put it up. A Christmas tree should be a reflection of the traditions and taste of the people involved. But blue? Sad. Gloomy. Mourning. Death. I'll have a blue Christmas without you. I'm blue, da ba dee da ba die. Am I blue? Song sung blue. Blue eyes crying in the rain. So now they paint themselves a sad song and color it blue. Please don't make me blue, sing me no sad songs. Sing me a song of sadness and sing it as blue as I feel. You're cloaked in red, I'm drenched in blue. You couldn't be a deeper shade of blue. That's as blue as the boy can be. Blue, blue, my love is blue. Don't it make my brown eyes blue. Etc. Blue is sad. Christmas is happy.

Or should be. I hope yours is. If I had a magic wand I would make it so for all of you. Whatever you do in December, may it shine with happy lights.

*Blue balls are not Christmas-y either. Why, what did you expect to find here?
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:59 PM | |

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dinner and Feces and Formal Dates and Nepotism

I do love to fix a big company dinner, and tonight I get to do that. Belle and some of her friends are coming down to feast on pork tenderloin, old rotten au gratin potatoes, green beans, corn, and homemade bread. I'm not fixing any dessert because I figure we'll all get enough dessert in a few days anyway. Besides, my oven is full of things I have to hide from the cats.

This being Saturday, Hub and I filled the van with big black bags and made our weekly jaunt to the dump, after which we had our weekly date for lunch, even though it was mid-afternoon.

What makes this weekly lunch a date? We go INSIDE, that's why. If you just go through the drive-through, it's not a date. And, if you go to a restaurant that doesn't even have a drive-through window, it's a formal date.

Why did we have lunch at 3 in the afternoon? Because we're on break right now, and 6 a.m. has been replaced by 11 a.m. And when you skip breakfast, you're ready for lunch at 3 p.m.

Never try to argue or out-rationalize 'food' with a fat chick. We'll win every time.

Dinner's at seven. Come on over. We've got enough food for all of you. You don't even have to bring ice now; we finally got the icemaker fixed. It broke seven years ago and flooded half the upstairs and all of the downstairs, but I think I waited long enough to have that tubing replaced; I wanted ice and I wanted it NOW. And now I have it.

Next up on the "to do" list: stairs for the deck. 25 years is long enough. And no, leaning a ladder against the deck isn't good enough. Although, it does work.

On a tangent, the janitor at my former middle school was so lousy, my students once conducted an experiment using him as its base. One of the kids found an absolutely humongous dead bug of some kind and brought it in. The bug (fresh, intact, but definitely dead) was strategically placed on the carpet in the front of the room, directly underneath the pencil sharpener, in plain sight. Then, the kids made a mark on the board and took a picture for each day the bug remained on the carpet.

The bug was never removed; the kids took pictures and marked time until there was nothing left but a little pile of black and red dust, and then the dust blew away. The carpet was NEVER SWEPT. I reported this but was told that the janitor had definitely vacuumed my classroom daily; it was checked off on his report. I offered to produce my evidence but was told it was a non-issue. I know the janitor was busy, shooting baskets in the gym for hours at a time cleaning and emptying wastebaskets and refusing to touch vomit and all, but I think falsifying his report should have been a kick-out-the-door. He was our secretary's son but that just couldn't have had anything to do with it.

The kids offered to conduct this same experiment with feces but one must draw the line somewhere.

I'm not by any stretch of the imagination what one would call a fastidious housekeeper, but when the dust on the carpet is so thick people are leaving footprints in it, and giant insects are left to turn to dust, I'd say it needed to be dealt with.

But oh well.

"For peace of mind, resign as General Manager of the Universe." I need to do that.

Now to peel some potatoes for tonight.

Sure you don't want to come over? I'm going to run the sweeper in a few minutes. . . .

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:49 PM | |

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Too Many Lay's? I Think Not.

The latest Carnival of Education is up over at the Education Wonks, and everyone who has children, or not, should go there immediately and read up on what the nation's teachers and parents are saying about the state of our schools.

Belle and I did a good deed tonight and I'm worn out. Seriously. Would I do it again tomorrow night? Absolutely.

After our do-gooding, we went to Target. I'm not a happy shopper and I don't tend to linger in any department except electronics, and it's one of Belle's many complaints that when she pauses to look at something, I disappear. This is true, I'm afraid. I wasn't moving very fast tonight because I had a rather bad fall earlier this evening, but I managed to escape from several aisles that contained no electronics boring aisles and she had to track me down. Fortunately, she knew where to find me. Electronics. I also saw my friend Connie and we had a nice chat. She wasn't packing any heat tonight; she was off duty.

As I pushed my cart past a man, he smiled at me and hoped my Winter Solstice was a happy one. I thanked him, and said "So far, so good." I guess I could have been insulted at his presumption in assuming that I'd be remotely interested in his personal beliefs and incensed that he dared to wish me well in a context not my own, but my mother raised me to be polite and to return good wishes with good manners. I don't celebrate Solstice but it doesn't bother me in the least if someone else does. And thank you, nice man, for sharing your happiness with me.

Bell and I were planning to grab some supper but at this point I pleaded exhaustion and intense pain, and dropped her off at her apartment where she and her friends ended up ordering pizza and feasting on that. I drove home through the pouring rain, and wished for the eleventy-zillionth time that the highway's center line glowed in the dark. It was like trying to navigate through outer space; nothing was visible. I think I felt my way home.

Once home, I grabbed a cheese sandwich and a few Lay's potato chips, watched a little more of Jurassic Park, and came in here to surf and get some ideas for my marketing blogs.

Jurassic Park isn't a Christmas movie, but I was in the mood for some dinosaurs and some screaming and some impact tremors in the water. Seriously? That little tremor in the water is one of the scariest things I've ever seen.

Subtle. Which makes it even scarier.

Speaking of Lay's, I think I'll go back to the kitchen and get some more. One never gets enough Lay's.

Subtle enough for ya?
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:04 PM | |

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This Is Why I Was Still Up At 4 a.m.

I completely ran out of money so I made this quilt for someone on my gift list. Someone who is very precious to me, in fact.

When I start a project, I generally become obsessed and work like the madwoman I am until it's finished, pausing only for the occasional potty break, sammich, and netsurf.

Total time: two days. Two large spools of green, two large spools of red, and there's a tiny little bit of red thread left.

I think my little sewing machine was starting to spew smoke.

I'm on break, so the clock really doesn't mean much right now. But the person who is getting this quilt sure does.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:33 PM | |

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Freedom of Religion Is Not Freedom From Religion, Unless That Is Your Religion

I will never understand why some people feel they have to be so defensive and hostile all the time. These people whine "insensitivity" but the truth is, THEY are the ones who are insensitive.

This time of year, in particular, one reads article after article, letter after letter, about incident after incident concerning "violation of my rights as a citizen/resident of this country and I want it STOPPED RIGHT NOW or I shall SUE and WHINE SOME MORE and WRITE SOME MORE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR and COMMENT ON WEBSITES and DEMAND THAT MY RIGHTS BE HONORED." Not anyone else's: just theirs.

Well, in this country, we all have a right to our rights. But shouldn't rants like this be reserved for issues that are more, well, life and death? Because if you're raising such a stink about a wreath and a candy cane, what have you left for horrific death and tragedy?

I really don't think anybody had you singled out for abuse when that snowman and the reindeer were put out in the yard. And if someone wishes to put out a nativity scene, well, they've got rights, too. Just don't look. Why can't we all make these diverse ways of celebration a learning time, not a time of hostility and tempers and offense?

When Sam Levinson came home from school and announced to his mother that "I'm the 'S' in 'Merry Christmas!'", his mother didn't go bonkers and storm the school demanding that this very non-Jewish program be removed immediately for the sake of her family. She sighed, and smiled, and said "Oy." Her family was secure enough in its beliefs to allow a little participation in other people's beliefs as well.

Families so insecure in their beliefs that they can't tolerate the slightest insight or gesture from someone else's belief system are sad pathetic entities indeed. Families who are so sure that THEIRS is the ONLY proper belief system that they can't tolerate the slightest insight or gesture from someone else's are even sadder. All religions have that kind of people. They are not good advertising.

What's happened to people? Why are so many people out there up in arms because the majority of this nation's population is happy and smiling and sharing and putting up symbols of a belief system that most of that population believes in? Why can't those who don't, just smile and shake their heads and go home and put up their own stuff? I don't get all huffy when it's Eid-Ul-Adhaor or Boxing Day or Kwanzaa or Navaratri or Omisoka or Hug-A-Tree-Sprite Day or whatever it might be for someone. And if someone doesn't approve of a symbol in a government building, why not just ask if they would please represent yours, too? People who work for the government like holidays, too. Government represents the people, doesn't it?

And pretty much my only good memories about elementary school are about holidays. Take those away and I've got year after year of sitting out in the hallway tutoring the slow kids.

Why can't we all just chill?

Because it just seems to me that if you've chosen to live in a country wherein the majority of the population believes in celebrating Christmas, you're a bit of an asscrack if you make a big loud stink about your 'rights' and get all huffy when a little old lady smiles at you and wishes you a Merry Christmas. That's just plain bad manners, oh sensitive one. You don't have to participate, but what's the harm in letting others do so? Are people storming your home and forcing you to be jolly? It's not working.

Why are you so insensitive about the beliefs of friendly people who mean you no harm, and so ultra-sensitive and quick to find and take offense if you suspect someone has put up a twinkling star or a bell or perhaps has a candy cane in the house and might offer you a lick? Someone is wishing you happiness and peace? How dare they!

I've been invited to Christmas parties all my life. Not everyone does it to my liking. That's none of my business; I'm just happy to be with a bunch of people who wanted me there, too. I've been to Chinese New Year parties and regular New Year parties. I've been invited to Hanukkah parties, and Kwanzaa parties, and parties given by Hindus and Buddhists and Pagans and atheists and people who write "nothing" in the blank that asks for 'religion.'

People who consider themselves 'nothing' make me kind of sad, but that's their business, too.

People who pressure others to conform to a particular sect or belief system, now, that's another subject altogether. But people who just want to express a wish for happiness to another person, using terminology he/she is familiar with? Thank them and smile back. Your face won't break unless your belief system is based on finding offense in other people's belief systems, in which case you're a prick. And just seeing or hearing evidence of other people's beliefs isn't going to hurt anybody, either. I love learning about other people's cultures and beliefs, and I love seeing their symbols and hearing their stories, too. This knowledge isn't going to change or betray my own, but it might make me smarter.

Honestly? I am not offended when people use their own personal belief system to wish happiness to me. I am honored.

If a person sees me in public - or in private, for that matter - and extends a hand of friendship to me with words that are not representative of my own personal belief system, I don't withdraw my hand in a huff and hurt them with a stream of words expressing my OWN beliefs in such a way that this person is fully aware they've somehow offended me by wishing me well in terms they understand but I don't.

I'm also smart enough to understand that a creche is not only a symbol of Christmas but the reason we have it in the first place. Talk all you wish about winter solstices, etc; that's something entirely different. We may have busted a move on your month, but the reason for the season is not the same. I'm willing to share; are you?

Please, everyone, wish me a Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. If you celebrate nothing, wish me a Happy Holiday Season. Pleasant December. Good Times. People want to be friendly and wish you well. Don't throw it back in their face.

Merry Christmas. Etc.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:27 PM | |

I've Had My Feet In More Stirrups Than Dale Evans

From my beautiful friend Anne comes this hilarious video that's had me laughing out loud, yes, alone in the house and laughing out loud, all morning. Well, for maybe an hour, ever since I got up. I'm on break, you know.

Crack of dawn = anything before noon.

Anything recommended by Anne is going to be good. She's a food blogger; she's got eight kids; she's funny and kind; she has exquisite taste in music; in other words, she's the BEST. You should all be reading her blog and printing out her recipes. Really, you all should.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:13 PM | |

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Charlie Scrubs Brown Christmas

On the contrary, I know EXACTLY why I love this one.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:57 AM | |

Because I Do.

I don't know why. I just liked it. Do I have to know why I like it?

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:51 AM | |

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Scenes and Words By Heart

We've got snow! It's beautiful. It makes me want to do kitchen things.

Ten loaves of homemade bread and six pounds of fudge later, I'm still in a good mood. My mentally unstable cats are off the wall because they smell bread. Yes, my cats crave bread; the three of them will decimate an entire loaf of bread in a few minutes. If it's whole wheat, a few seconds. Go figure. I have to keep the bread hidden; usually, I keep it in the oven. Occasionally, I remember that it's in there before I turn the oven on. . . . There might be some melted plastic clinging to the oven racks. Think "stalactites."

Anyway,* I hid the ten loaves in the guest room. I hope the latch holds. These cats are serious about wanting to get in there.

The house really does smell wonderful. Homemade bread, fudge, chili, and all kinds of spices. . . it's a good mix.

I've been watching my Christmas movies these past few days, too. I count any movie as a Christmas movie if it's got a Christmas scene in it. I began with Little Women (a favorite book since second grade) (does anyone ever get old enough NOT to break down and bawl like a baby when Beth dies?) (I've read this book over forty times and it still hits me hard.) I wish I could take the Katharine Hepburn version (I am eternally haunted by the music and the poetry that's read aloud) and the Winona Ryder version and somehow meld them together; seriously, though, there isn't a movie version yet that can even see the standards of the book on the horizon. The Susan Dey version wasn't too bad, but Professor Bhaer is one of my favorite characters and since this version had William Shatner in that role. . . . well, it didn't work. I tend to get obsessed with certain books and movies; right now, it's Little Women. Then, while shopping with my cousin C, I found a beautiful hardbound Little Women in a used bookstore for a song. It was karma. My old copy had been read and re-read until all the pages were discolored and loose, and the spine had pretty much disintegrated. I won't discard it, of course; it would be like turning my back on an old friend. But it will be nice to initiate a new book into the inner sanctum of obsession.

Then I watched White Christmas. Love it.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Shut up; I've loved it since I was a little kid. I hate Mr. Magoo, ordinarily, but somehow, as Scrooge, it works. Also, the songs are beautiful.

Going My Way. I first saw this movie on television when I was about five years old. It was my first introduction to opera: Rise Stevens was Carmen. It was also the first time I'd ever heard Ave Maria in any form, and I am crazy about Ave Maria to this day: most every composers' versions of it. Tu Ra Lu Ra Lu Ra was the first lullaby I sang to both of my babies. That fact that I put my own words to all lullabies didn't detract too much from its substance. We were not Catholic, but many of my favorite movies and books were about people who were. Still are.

Holiday Inn. Has anyone else noticed how blatantly racist this movie is? And how truly terrible most of the songs are? This movie gets so much press, but I think it's a stupid, low-class movie. But it is the first appearance of the song White Christmas. Louise Beavers was a beautiful actress, but in this movie she sings a song about slaves and darkies! And Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds sing and dance in blackface for Lincoln's birthday! I would never censor it - I do not believe in censorship - because it was just the context of the times, but I don't have to like it, either. Shallow characters, flimsy plot, less-than-mediocre music. But for some reason, I have to watch it every December.

Love Actually
. My favorite movie of all time, barring classics. I love it so much it's almost impossible to talk about it. I think I know the entire thing by heart. However, I confess that I must be innately cruel because if I were Laura Linney, I'd get an unlisted phone number and jump Karl's bones. Also, I do NOT think Natalie was fat.

Miracle on 34th Street
. The original, with Maureen O'Hara and John Payne, NOT that insipid remake. I will watch only the B/W version; colorizing those old movies is a bad, bad idea. Bad. Whenever I see a cane leaning against a wall, I think of this movie.

A Little Princess. The Wonderworks version, which is the only decent version on the market today. It actually follows the plot; can you even imagine! I love this version so much, and so would you all. That movie that came out a few years ago? Don't even bother. They changed the plot so drastically, the author wouldn't even recognize it. I hate when they do that. Stupid screenwriters. I named my daughter for the main character, but I don't associate my beautiful child with the main character in any of the movie versions except the Wonderworks version.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The Peggy Ann Garner version. This book contains most of the themes of my life, and none of the movie versions can begin to measure up to the book, including this version, but this one is the best. I can close my eyes and SEE the Christmas tree salesman throwing that giant tree at Francie and Neely, and I can see Johnny carrying it up the stairs to their flat, singing carols all the way and uniting all the neighbors for just that one brief moment. . . ., and I can see hungry little Francie wanting that tiny pie so badly that she told a lie to get it, and I love her teacher for explaining to the child the difference between telling a lie and making up a story, and that she should TELL the truth and WRITE the story.

While You Were Sleeping. Orphaned Sandra Bullock watching that family interacting at Christmastime, with wistfulness in her face and gratitude in her eyes. . . . Love it. LOVE it.

Toys. It's zany and colorful and I love it! It's also got a fantastic soundtrack.

You've Got Mail. I love watching Meg Ryan trying to untangle Christmas lights and make her store viable even when she knows it's a lost cause.

Mixed Nuts
. But I've talked about this one before.

Scrooged. I love Bill Murray. And has there ever been a more sincere and engaging smile than Karen Black's?

Yours, Mine, and Ours. NOT that stupid remake, oh holy scheisse NO. The version you want is the Henry Fonda/Lucille Ball version. It's not even a true representation of the book, but it's a fun flick, and you'll never forget THEIR Christmas morning!

Babes in Toyland
. Again, not the Drew Barrymore/Keanu Reeves version. That one is so terrible it defies description. No, I mean the Disney version with Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk and the Tin Man Ray Bolger, and is there anybody else who thinks his character was pretty creepy and predatory? It's silly, but I saw it when I was a little child and my standards were different. Not lower, just different.

I have never cared for A Christmas Story. I do, however, like several other Jean Shepherd short stories.

I doubt that many of you have ever heard of Miracle at Moreaux. It is, however, one of my favorite Christmas videos. I highly recommend it. It's based on the book "Twenty and Ten," by Claire Hutchet Bishop.

When Harry Met Sally. I love it for many reasons, one of which is the Christmas scene where Sally is trying to drag her tree from the lot to her apartment, disregarding Harry's voice mails and feeling very lonely.

Love Story. There are several Christmas scenes in this film, my favorite of which is the one where Jenny is directing the choir. However, the music of the final Christmas scene is lovely beyond belief.

Hanging Up. The first time I saw this movie, I hated it; it was just too personal at the time. Now, however, it's one of my favorites. Eve and her father, choosing a Christmas tree and screaming "To hell with her" about their mother/wife, is a great scene.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
, by L. Frank Baum. There are two film versions of this fantastic book; get the claymation one, not the animated one. This is the Wizard of Oz author, folks, and his Christmas story is AWESOME.

I also love those old Christmas cartoons from the thirties, forties, and fifties, especially the nostalgic or sad ones.

Perhaps this is not a good time to confess that I own a copy of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

MASH. All the Christmas episodes.

Scrubs. All the Christmas episodes.

YouTube. I go there and search for the videos to my favorite Christmas songs, and scenes from my favorite Christmas movies, and old variety show Christmas segments.

This is just a smattering, of course. There are many more Christmas movies, or movies with a Christmas scene in them, that I love, or like, or put up with, or hate. Heh.

My VERY favorite Christmas movie is George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol. I actually adore almost all the versions of A Christmas Carol, but Scott's is my favorite. My father used to read this story aloud to us ("Daddy, what's a doormouse, and why is it deader than any other kind of mouse?") and it haunted and hypnotized and fascinated me, and still does. In the 1951 version, which WTTV Channel 4, pretty much the only station we could get back then, used to show every Christmas afternoon, the guests at Fred's party are singing "Barbara Allen," and it was the first time I'd ever heard that song. It haunted me for years; I loved it. Not getting to watch that movie was one of the reasons I balked at going to the family reunion on Christmas afternoon; every chance I got, I went back home and tried to catch some of it. I was in college before I was able to watch the whole thing straight through!

I have never seen most of the newer (after 2000) Christmas movies. I don't usually care for movies that mock Christmas or make evil entities out of sweet Christmas characters. Some things should not be parodied or made into twisted perversions.

I love all the sweet Christmas television shows, too, but with no small children living here any more, I have to sneak over to YouTube and watch them when I'm alone in the house haven't seen them on the TV in years.

As for my favorite Christmas book that is not A Christmas Carol, it would have to be What Child Is This, by Caroline Cooney. I love it so much it makes my heart hurt. I even have the audio book in my car. And yes, I know it by heart. Every word. It makes me cry out loud every. single. time. Not just tears. Sobs.

The Little House books have wonderful Christmas chapters, too. You want the Garth Williams illustrations, not the new ones. And yes, I know all of them by heart.

Whenever I find a movie, book, poem, song, play, etc, that I love, I learn it by heart.

When you learn things by heart, you have them with you, always.

*Please take note: there is no "s" at the end of this word, ever. Thankyouverymuch.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:00 PM | |

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Not to go to the theater is like making one's toilet without a mirror." - Schopenhauer

As a mother, I did many things wrong, but one thing I did do right was to instill in my children an intense love of live theater.

I suppose I should say that I TRIED to instill in my children an intense love of the theater, because trying is all anyone can do; the actual "instillation" of anything must be done by the individual himself/herself, but the fact is, this attempt actually worked. My kids are theater-lovers. This gives me great joy.

Perhaps our favorite, as a family and as individuals, is Les Miserables. We always took a vanload of kids with us to every show, and our journey to Les Miserables was memorable for several reasons. One reason is that although we had season tickets to a box up in the cheapest of all possible cheap seats Nosebleed Land, for Les Miserables we were in Row 5, center. Apparently, the Les Miz sound guys needed our Nosebleed Box for some of their equipment. No problem, sound guys.

Les Miserables, as seen from Row Five, Center, was so wonderful, so fantastic, that I feel justified in using that very misused (and usually wasted) word, AWESOME.

My beautiful daughter Belle sent me this video to remind me of the AWESOMENESS of our family's history with this show. Also, I had the International Cast version in the Honda's cd player last night when I picked her up, fed her, and bought her some toilet paper little things she needed. We sang it together as a family, and we sing it together as a family. We don't need a libretto, either; this crew knows it by heart, baby. The whole show. Every word.

The video is from the 10th Anniversary Concert version of the show; it's the Grand Finale to beat all other Grand Finales in the known universe.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:28 PM | |

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I'm entering a contest! Why don't you enter it, too?

--writing challenge badge

Holidays often make us nostalgic for childhood: our own, most of all. Our lost childhoods, gone forever in a mist of memory and turning pages. . . . Looking back, I realize that the zeitgeist of my memory often depended on sheer serendipity. This realization has nothing much to do with any mantic sense; ataraxia is not a thing to be given a lick and a promise, no matter what our praxis might be. I especially love the memory of lying under my blankets, savoring my sapid, secret contraband of halvah, in the semilunar holiday bowl brought out only for December. No planned activity could ever have touched it.


Good luck to you, and good luck to me. I love contests.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:02 PM | |

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rhymes With "Mona Bill"

After my blazingly talented Tumorless Sister's wonderful Christmas concert last night, my kind and generous Other Sister took us all out to eat at a lovely restaurant we'd all been to before and really enjoyed.

A good time was had by all, even me; that's saying a lot when you're sitting in a fancy restaurant soaking wet because a waiter spilled a tray of ice water and cubes down your back. It wasn't his fault; it was only water; it was no big deal and I hope the manager didn't lace him down. Accidents happen.

My underwear and the lining of my coat were still wet hours later when I got home, even after a few hours of shopping and a two-hour drive. I think probably the freezing weather helped preserve the moisture.

Maybe it's just me, but if I managed a fancy expensive restaurant, and an employee drenched a customer with a waterfall of ice water and cubes, I'd offer that customer a discount of some kind, even if the customer was gracious and laughing about it. (after the initial shock wore off; that was SOME KIND OF COLD, I'm tellin' y'all.) (I couldn't even talk for a few minutes!)

Not this restaurant. Full price for everybody at the table.

Next time we're all together, we'll go someplace else.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:59 PM | |

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Those Old Variety Shows Were The BEST TELEVISION EVER

Do you know what I miss, especially at this time of the year? Variety shows.

Those weekly shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Andy Williams, The Smothers Brothers, Sonny and Cher, Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Perry Como, Flip Wilson. . . The Muppet Show. . . .

SNL is probably the closest thing we have to a variety show, now. But even SNL isn't as cool as it used to be. But those old variety shows. Sigh.

We could tune in weekly and count on seeing well-written sketches, all kinds of singing and dancing, and appearances by well-known and not-so-well-known celebrities and budding celebrities, singers and bands, comedians. . . you name it, it was on the variety shows.

I am not talking about talk shows, where somebody whose fifteen minutes is still running comes on and plugs his/her new movie/book/tv show, etc - those are a dime a dozen now, although it used to be different. I'm talking about variety shows: genuinely talented people from Broadway or movies that didn't include Carrot Top or anybody whose last name has become a blend of someone else's who they are currently having sex with, or tv shows that had lasted long enough to become properly popular. People who really had talent, not just a sweet/fast-talking agent. People who SANG their songs, not people who lip-synched them.

Lip-synchers. Bah.

Ed Sullivan took a chance every week with complete unknowns, some of whom remain unknown to this very day. He also introduced the Beatles to America; I remember that night very well. My parents scoffed at this new concept in entertainment, but even though I was just a little kid, I remember the distinct feeling that something inside of me had changed after watching the Beatles. When the camera turned on John Lennon, the words "Sorry, girls, he's married" flashed across the screen, and for the first time in my life I knew what "jealousy" really was.

Ultimately, though, it was George who was my favorite.

Dean Martin's show was ad-libbed almost all the way through. It was fantastic. Dean and his guests were show-biz-savvy, and they had TALENT. They didn't need writers to tell them what to say. They knew what to say because they were real troupers and could do it themselves.

Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, and Tim Conway laughed their way through some of the best-written sketches of all time. Sonny & Cher (who woulda thought it!) had a great show, too. I remember Elton John, back in his Mad Hatter period, wearing his trademark giant glasses and pounding the daylights out of the piano, on their show.

I also remember the Smothers Brothers' show, the night of the musician's strike. It was business as usual, and all the instrumental backgrounds were provided by their vocal chorus.

Back in the days of the variety shows, we could see all kinds of celebrities, not just Britney and Lindsey and Brennifer and Brangelina and some guy with a new fall tv show. Guests were required to perform, and PROVE their celebrity worth, not just giggle and smirk and hawk stuff.

Television seems to go in circles and trends: one season, it's doctor shows; another season, it's westerns; later, it's crime scene shows, etc.

I haven't watched tv since MASH went off the air, but if somebody ever has the balls to bring back the variety shows, REAL ones, with Broadway stars and comedians who know how to be genuinely funny without using four-letter words and assuming everybody approves of pre-marital sex for sophomores, and fully-clothed dancers who can really dance, not just strut their stuff, and bands who sing live, and scenes from New York plays, and dramatic recitations, and parodies. . . not just ONE THING, but many different examples of many different talents, lasting a full hour. . . I'd probably buy whatever their advertisers advertised.

Maybe the general population's tastes have changed to the point where such shows are no longer what they want, or maybe they just haven't ever SEEN them, real ones, since TV is so dominated by the same old thing season after season, stressing celebrity rather than talent, with only a few exceptions. Today's celebrities seem to be in the news more for their off-screen antics - usually nasty and disgusting - than for having any actual talent.

I'm no prude, not by a long shot, but it would be nice to have something - dare I mention the now-humorous word "wholesome. . . ."? - that I could watch that would make me say things like, "He's such a beautiful singer!" and "She's so funny; call Mom and tell her to turn on her tv." and "That's the funniest sketch I've ever seen!" and "We've got to get tickets to this Broadway show!" and never once hear an F or a Big D or a GD, watch some hormonal idiot reap the consequences of his/her own actions, or be expected to applaud when someone hires someone else to kill someone. I want to see awe-inspiring talent, not some dippy moron whose grammar makes me want to scream and yell and throw things.

I hear and see enough of those in my real life. When I watch something, be it tv or movie, I want to be entertained and thrilled and enchanted and blown away by the sheer brilliance of somebody's blazingly individual talent, being performed live, warts and all.

Remember when the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations were commercial-free? That's the era I want back. I would seriously patronize a company that sponsored a commercial-free program.

Man, I'm old. But some things really were better back in the day.

(Don't change Scrubs, though. Perry Cox is hot.) (I've never watched it on tv, though; I watch it on DVD so I can own him pause if I want to.)

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:03 PM | |

Friday, December 07, 2007

Readers and Blogrolls and Goings-On, Oh My

I read blogs via Google Reader these days, and I haven't actually clicked on a link in my blogroll for weeks and weeks. Tonight I started clicking, and I realized that many of my blogroll links are no longer working.

So I'm going to clean it out! And I'm going to add all the working links to my Google Reader because some of them aren't on there.

There are a LOT of links on my Google Reader that aren't in my blogroll, too. . . hmm, maybe I should just do away with the blogroll and use the reader.

Then again, I find a lot of blogs I like by clicking on other people's blogrolls, figuring that if I like one blogger, I'll probably like some of his/her blogrolled choices. It works, too.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but this I do know: tonight, I'm mowing through the links and deleting all that no longer work. In a few days, please check, and if I've deleted you and you're still alive and blogging, please email me and I'll put your working link back on.

I'm not mad at anybody and I intend to delete only those links that don't work any more.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. You may all return to your usual goings-on; I'm sure they're more exciting than mine.

That's right: to make a hyphenated word plural, put the sign of the plural on the more important word, which is usually the first word. Goings-on is correct.

Brothers-in-law. Maids-of-honor. Passers-by. Presidents-elect.

Oh wait, it's the weekend! I'm off-duty! I'll stop now. Carry on.

And I'm sure you all will. :)

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:07 PM | |

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hand-Written Letters and Cookies

Several of the students in my husband's calculus classes were once students in my middle school classes. I used to bring them cookies and muffins and drinkboxes all the time, because they had to eat lunch at 10:30 and by 2:30 or so, they were hungry. Middle school kids need a lot of food, and if you don't think so, you just don't remember very well. Besides, most of my students were poor, and depended on school for their breakfast and their lunch and on Chance for their supper. These circumstances were NOT the children's fault, and I baked bread and occasionally scrambled eggs and poured juice for them with a full heart and with no grudgings. (That was reserved for some of the parents who bought cigarettes and beer instead of warm socks and food for their children, and for the administrators who wrote me up every time they caught me feeding my students, but I rant about that all the time.)


Hub brought me a note written on a large piece of red paper the other day. It was from his Period Four math class, and they respectfully requested some no-bake cookies. I make those on occasion for Hub's classes, in memory of the classroom full of hungry 13-year-olds I once had, and I don't think I've done it for Period Four yet.

It's almost midnight, but heck. No-bake cookies don't take very long. So yeah, I'll do it. I'm a sucker for a hand-written letter.

They do look a lot like cat poop, but trust me - they're good.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:45 PM | |

Alma Mater: I Don't Heart You Any More

Dear Indiana University,

Both of my degrees were earned on your breathtakingly beautiful campus, and I loved you dearly except when you kept phoning me and begging for money. Apparently, though, you've decided to get your money from sources who don't even owe you anything, and that, my former friends, is called "extortion." stealing.

After learning about this piece of absurdity, I'm afraid I'll have to take back a large portion of the affection I once had for you. In fact, I'm ashamed of you. You have made yourself and all who are associated with you into a ridiculous travesty. I've lost all respect for you.

I am not remotely interested in investing any time, money, attention, or affection in anything or anyone that has that big a stick up its ass has no sense of humor or of honor.

Please fire everyone involved with this ridiculous piece of bad, bad judgment and poor sportsmanship and general lack of humor, substance, and heart. Bring back the university of my memory: the college I still dream about, the campus where I'm young and strong and dancing through life as though everything about it were beautiful and right. . . .

Because of all the stupid stunts IU has ever pulled, this one is the most degrading and disgusting. Bobby wouldn't even have stooped that low. He would have thrown a chair at the person responsible, and the entire campus would have exploded with applause if it had hit.

Bah on thee, thou moronic Suits.



Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:47 PM | |

Rules for the Road

I live on a country road that is very narrow, and has no shoulders. It's of vital importance that everyone stays in his/her own lane at all times. People who feel they must swerve way out into the other lane when they turn are not welcome on my road. Such people tend to kill other people.

My road is also extremely curvy; it meanders like a river, and unexpected encounters can be avoided only if everyone stays in his/her own lane at all times. People who feel they must occasionally cross that very faded center line for whatever reason are not welcome on my road. Such people tend to kill other people.

Because of the above issues, it would be really nice if everyone who drove on my picturesque-yet-narrow, shoulderless, and curvy road after dark would TURN OFF THEIR #$%^&*()%%$%$!@#$% brights!

When I someone is driving on this road at night and comes around one of those hairpin curves and gets hit right in the retinas with some jerk's brights, it's blinding, and it's never good to be blinded, especially when you're navigating a very narrow, very shoulderless, very curvy little country road.

Please remember that other people's safety ALWAYS outweighs someone's personal convenience. Sure, it's a dangerous road and sure, you can see way better with your brights on, but holy SCHEISSE, it's horrifying to round a bend and have a klieg light explode in your face.

My point? Do I need one?


When driving on a narrow, shoulderless, meandering road with a LOT of hairpin curves, stay in your own lane, turn like a normal person (no swervies!), and NEVER drive with your brights on.

Thank you.

--Person Who Lives On This Road and Who Would Like To Continue Living

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:18 AM | |

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Freud the Barber: How's Your Mother?

It's true that a blog is a kind of shrink. A free therapy session with a kazillion excellent and understanding listeners, and really, isn't a great deal of therapy really just listening? And responding to what is heard? Well, if it isn't, it ought to be.

The very second I hit "publish post" on that hateful rant below, I felt both better and worse. Better, because it was a kind of release, and worse because now everybody who is important to me knows I'm a bitch sometimes.

That was a silly thing to say, because you all knew that already, dinncha.

Truth be told, someone I love is being maligned, and I hate the feeling of helplessness, and I hate the deja vu, and I hate the anonymous spawns of Satan who are being so cruel.

I might hate their anonymity the most. People say and do terrible things under the cloak of anonymity.

No, that's not true. I hate those who believe anonymous insinuations even more than I hate the insinuators.

Well, it might be a tie.

Those of you who pray: please put a word in for my friend. Those of you who don't: that's okay, too. But you don't know what you're missing. :)

I thank you, dear internet peoples, for putting up with me. It's got to be hard, sometimes.

Wes: remember that post card you sent me YEARS ago? I still have it.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:02 AM | |

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mean, Hateful Rant, Because I'm In Just That Kind of Mood Right Now

If anybody knows why so many old women wear those humongous white furry turbans instead of a normal hat, I wish he/she would let me in on it. I'm sure they're warm but holy scheisse, they're just so darn ugly! And they make those two thick dabs of bright red rouge stand out way too starkly.

Another Reason: They're hideous and make me think of large hairballs and dust bunnies, not that I have anything like that in my house, but why would someone wear one on her head?

Another Reason, Part II: An old chick wearing one of those hats came roaring down the Brook Knoll hill and never even PAUSED at the stop sign at the bottom. She almost ran me off the road. And once she was on the road, she drove 15 MPH, and there were no shoulders and no place to pass her.

Reason Tres: When I am behind a car driven by an old chick with dandelion head, going the big two-digit 15, and all I can see is that large roundish blog of white fur, the sides of huge brown glasses, and two hands reaching UP to touch the steering wheel, I want to get out a big remote control and zing that chick over to the Family Video parking lot and disable her engine.

I am not a fast driver - ask my kids. But even I go faster than 15 bloody frickin' MPH.

They always have those hideous heavy-looking Cadillacs, too. I consider a Cadillac to be the Chosen Fogie Vehicle of the Aged.

I also hate tan cars. Tan is the Camouflage of the Vehicular Color Wheel. Tan cars are invisible, especially when it's raining.

In movies, the getaway car is usually black. In real life, I bet the getaway car is tan. Who can see a tan car?

I am in such a bad mood. Honestly, I think I could bite the handle off an iron skillet. And spit bullets. I have targets in mind, too. I'd like to line them up and start devouring the skillet.

It's none of you. I still love all of you. Thank you all for being you.

It's nobody who would read a blog, in fact. Probably they can't read at all. Well, maybe the Enquirer and the Star; the personals in the back are probably where they met their spouse. I'm sure they also love to read their account of how the UFO looked, in the Police Reports, too. Not to mention their relatives listed by name and address in the Domestic Violence and DUI columns.

It's been a long time since I've been this angry. I apologize for venting all over my loved ones, but I know you'll all understand, because you're all just so immensely awesome.

P.S. I'm not really mad at dandelion-heads, either. She was just one more annoying thing today.

P.P.S. They really are ugly, though.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:06 PM | |

Monday, December 03, 2007

In Every Pothole, There Is Hope.

There's nothing like a zany Christmas movie like "Mixed Nuts" to really get me in the holiday mood. It's Steve Martin back when he was cute and funny and cool, like WAYYYY before he started making stupid movies and disgracefully bad remakes of genuinely great films. Actually, Steve's been in too many bad remakes to count.

I still like him, though. If you see Steve, tell him so he won't feel bad when he reads my blog.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:25 PM | |

Perfect Post: Naomi, Of Course!

The Original Perfect Post Awards Today is Perfect Post Day, and I've nominated Naomi, of Here in the Hills, for her breathtakingly lovely look into her past, with her memories of Broadway's Spoon River Anthology.

Spoon River Anthology has always been one of my favorites; I discovered it my freshman year of college, and it mesmerized me with its beauty, and its heartbreak, and its humor. If you are not familiar with Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, you have quite a bit of reading to do before you are up to par, literature-wise.

It will take your breath away. Really, it will.

Naomi's blog post contains all kinds of information about the Broadway production of Spoon River, and you will also see Naomi herself, as well as several other famous names.

What's that? You didn't know Naomi was famous? GET OVER THERE NOW. You've been missing out on something simply wonderful.

Naomi is . . . indescribable. In all of Webster there are no words good enough for her.

That is why she is my Perfect Post recipient for November. You'll know why once you've experienced her.

Oh, Naomi, thank you for your Spoon River. I love it, and I love you. But then, you already knew that, didn't you.

And many thanks to MommaK and Lindsay for being the masterminds behind the Perfect Post Awards. You can go to either of their blogs to get the complete list of nominated posts.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:37 AM | |

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Studying The Past Is No Longer Financially Viable

The Onion is always good for a hearty laugh, unless a person is so stupid that he/she thinks it's a real news magazine. Which, believe it or not, actually happens.

This one hit me right on the funny bone, even though I know it's not that far from the truth, and is a pretty accurate representation of the way many educational administrators "think," and I use that word loosely. <--two o's

It's enough to make one lose <--one o all respect for administration. That is, if I still had any, which I don't. Nope, not one little bit. Zip. Zero.

Check it out.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:47 PM | |

The Owls Hurt My Feelings

We're having leftover meatloaf for supper tonight. At least, I am. Come to think of it, nobody else ate it when it was fresh out of the oven, either.

I make good meatloaf, dagnabbit*. It's GOOD. Why doesn't anybody else like it? Wildlife won't even touch it.

Actually, my brother always liked it but he moved to Idaho. I don't like to think it was to get away from having to pretend to like my meatloaf because nobody else did and he's too sweet to hurt my feelings; I'm pretty sure it was that great job he was offered, because he really is a sweet guy. At least, he got sweet after he grew up. Actually, my brother was always really, really nice, and I'm sure that phase where he and Tumorless used to torture tease me whenever I brought a boy or any other friend home was a passing thing.

Anyway, it's cold here and a nice oven meal would hit the spot. Maybe a baked potato to go with it, and a cookie.

A cookie is always good. "Cookies" would be even better, but my numbers are up again. Sigh.

* this is what cranky old people say when they mean "dammit" but want to set a good example for the children
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:46 PM | |


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