Friday, December 31, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 7

Today's Holiday Tradition: Deana Mae's biscuits.

These are not strictly a holiday tradition. And they're really more rolls than biscuits... or, are most certainly rolls and not biscuits, now that I've taken the time to look up the difference. However, we always called them "Deana Mae's biscuits", and that's how I still think of them.

Of course, I don't have the recipe, so maybe they really are biscuits, but I doubt it. They are very much rolls. The recipe is not written down anywhere--or, if it is, don't tell Ruth. My sister Ruth worked for years to figure it out, and I think she has pretty much found it (or, as she says, gotten the closest she's ever been).

Apparently they're a variation on Kentucky Angel Biscuits, but in roll form. Or, at one point, Ruth said something along those lines.

Deana Mae did a lot of cooking and baking, as I recall. I remember when the old house was still there and the new house was finished, she made a lot of Christmas candy.

Deana Mae's biscuits don't make it to every holiday meal any more. Ruth will sometimes whip up a batch, but I think it might be a lot of work.

While there are many more reasons to miss Deana Mae than her rolls, it is something I think of every time we all get together to eat.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 6

Today's tradition: Christmas at Grandma's.

My older siblings (and older cousins... and Aunt Rachel) are going to have to let me know how accurate my memory is here. I really feel at least twice in my early years we had a big family Christmas at Grandma's. I don't remember the exact date (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (but in the evening), or some evening before), but I remember going there. I remember getting a Wizzzer one year while there. Anybody remember the Wizzzer?

I have many memories from Grandma's. I still remember her phone number. It was one of the first phone numbers I ever memorized. I have about one memory of Grandpa, as he passed away when I was very little... but I remember him well, and Mom used to tell stories of me eating hard candy by sucking all the sugar off, and then giving them to Grandpa to finish, and how funny he thought it was. I just remember people helping him move around once. That's the only Grandpa memory I have... beyond Mom laughing and telling me that story about the candy.

Aunt Deana Mae had a daughter, Linda. Aunt Lois had a daughter and two sons, Toni, Mike, and David. Aunt Rachel had two sons and two daughters, Alan, Roy (Bryce now), Cheryl, and Karen. And then there were the (up to) eight of us. I have to add the "up to" because I'm not sure that we had Christmas at Grandma's in Ruth or Sara's lifetimes.

Aunt Rachel's family lived (and live) in Omaha (and/or the surrounding area), so seeing them was always a big deal. Karen was just a couple of months younger than me, and they were all just as crazy funny as the rest of us... so it was usually a pretty good time to be around them. I was so young for these events, however, most of what I remember are just the feeling of how great it was to have everyone there--and maybe everyone wasn't there the times I'm remembering, but it sure seemed like it.

I don't know that all of the cousins have been in the same place since then--except maybe at Grandma's funeral in 1982. Even then, I don't know if everyone made it or not. And, obviously, it wasn't exactly a joy-fest.

I keep thinking it would be great to get everyone together some Christmas, but then I realize everyone has their own families now, and I can just imagine how much fun it would be as a kid to have to go hang out with kids you're vaguely related to (second cousins, first cousins once removed, and so on) while the older folks sat around and laughed themselves sick. Or maybe they wouldn't hate it... but one of us better get a mansion first! There are a lot of kids of cousins (and some grandkids of cousins)!

Anyway, I've gotten off track a bit, talking about family... but that's one of the first traditions I remember missing once it stopped. I don't know why it stopped... or even if it was two years in a row that I'm remembering. I just remember being sad about not getting to see my cousins from Omaha, and not getting to have a big Christmas to-do, and thinking it didn't seem right without it... but then getting over it once my presents were ready to be opened.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 5

When I was growing up, there was only one present we could give our elementary school teacher for Christmas. Everybody in my family say it with me now:


Yes, today's holiday tradition is one from the early 70s (and maybe into the 80s... Ruth and Sara would have to report about that). No matter what cool thing we wanted to get out teacher for Christmas, Mom--who worked at the Post Office--insisted on us giving stamps.

In her defense, it's a very practical gift--or was back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, before you had to start explaining to high school students what stamps are. Speaking as a teacher, most of the things I get (if I get anything--7th grade is not elementary school) are nice, but I find a use for them, rather than the need being there already (although the candy dish I got last year has become a very useful item... it keeps the candy I shouldn't be eating over by the front door, where I almost never go).

I don't know how many years I gave a teacher stamps. Probably seven or so. Maybe more. Possibly less. I don't know that Miss Tyner got stamps from me my Kindergarten year, but I remember Miss Wolfe getting them for sure. (Or maybe it's Miss Wolf... I didn't remember how to spell "Miss Ewens" correctly, so all bets are off!) I have no idea about Mrs. Denny, Miss Coulter, Miss Ewens, Mrs. Chipman, and Mr. Smith, but I'm pretty sure they all got stamps from me. It seemed like the most uncool, impersonal gift to give.

I guess I could hunt some of them down and ask them. I sent Mrs. Denny and e-mail once, but never heard back from her. She was about to retire, according to my principal at the time, who knew her from whatever school district he'd worked at before. On the one hand, I think, "Like they want to hear from you..." On the other hand, I have plenty of former students I'd love to hear from.

Whatever, it's almost like work. If they aren't on Facebook, I'm not going to try much harder than that! Plus, Miss Wolf(e) and Miss Coulter got married, I think!

Anyway, there's a Christmas tradition for you. I don't know that I'd advise going with that gift in this day... maybe a Netflix gift subscription would be better.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 4

At some point every Advent or Christmas season (usually Advent), I turn on George Winston's December and sit by the tree with all non-holiday lights in the house turned off.

I've written about this on here before, years ago. It's like my yearly meditation time. I listen to the piano music, I watch the lights, I watch the shadows caused by the lights, I watch the play of light and shadow on the ceiling, and I just think about my life, the world, people in my life--both past and present, what was, what is, what might have been, and what might be.

Sometimes the CD goes around several times. Sometimes I go to sleep for a bit. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I talk to myself, and sometimes I'm silent the whole time.

It's my little slice of heavenly peace.

My favorite thing to do is imagine the lights on the tree as some sort of analogy, and play with different ideas of what they lights could be. I get as many different colors as possible, all individually blinking... so it could be anything. The "little light" of different people shining out and going away. The prayers being sent up. A sped-up version of lives on Earth.

Or, just pretty blinking lights.

Sometimes I will do this more than once a season, but it happens every year--or every year I put up a tree, anyway!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 3

This one happened at least twice, but I don't know that it happened many more times than that.

A couple (or a few) times after the candlelight service at Olivet Christian Church, we drove to Vandalia (I think it was Vandalia) to see this street that had a sort of "Life of Jesus" display. There were large wooden sort of "cut outs" of people, camels, other Bible-y things... all depicting different part of the life of Jesus.

We never took any pictures. I have no idea if the display still happens or not (this would be over twenty years ago, I think). I just remember going at least twice, and thinking what a nice Christmas tradition this would be.

Of course, Eddie is the only one who lives back home now (of the eight of us kids, anyway... we still have plenty of cousins back home), and that little made-up world in my head where Mom lives forever and things never change at all... well, that was a little made-up world in my head.

It would be nice to attend the candlelight service at the church, and go see that display again. I think it would also be a pretty sad thing, as Mom isn't here to look at that display with us.

As I get older, I feel torn between wanting to establish traditions and wanting to never do anything that might become a tradition. On the one hand, it would be nice to have something people do and think, "Remember when Mark was here to do that with us?" On the other hand, it would have to someday die out, and then what would be the point, right?

So, keep that in mind as I'm sharing these, I guess. Really, I think I mostly just want to have a good memory for myself and for those who make it to whatever holiday events I'm involved in. If a tradition happens, more power to it!

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 2

Yeah, that's right, I said "Day 2". Or typed it. Whatever.

What it is is this: I forgot to post one yesterday. But instead of just saying that, I'm going to say that the first day's tradition was the one I submitted for Judy on over here.

So here's today's Christmas tradition (and I should clarify that I'm defining "tradition" as anything I've done more than once for the holiday, even if I don't do it any more or didn't do it more than twice or didn't even do it in two consecutive years):

Dane and I usually take in a movie on Christmas. I'm using the word "usually" to mean "at least twice". I really think we've done this way more than two times.

As tradition origins go, it's pretty tame and mostly lost to the mists of time or whatnot. It comes from my taking him to a movie when I'd be home from college, I think. I don't know that it always happened on Christmas day, but it's happened on Christmas day several times.

The most memorable for me was in 2008, when I took him to see "Seven Pounds". We weren't planning to see it, but the movie we were going to see was at the "Fork & Spoon" or whatever the crazy expensive dinner-with-your-movie thing is called at AMC 30 in Olathe. So I turend to Dane and he had to make a snap decision.

Good movie, whatever. Not the feel-good hit of 2008, though. Little on the sad side. Okay, way on the sad side. Morbidly depressing, really.

As the credits started to roll, some wag from the back row called out, "Merry Christmas, everybody!" And we all laughed... or all the people I care to talk about here did, anyway. All the cool people. All the people you should want to hang out with.

This year we saw Narnia Part 3, which has a name, but I can't be bothered to look it up. I liked the movie and everything, but the title is too long for me to care about at this hour. There's a whole story about some jerks taking up the seats by the handicap spot, but I'll get all non-Christmasy if I go into that here, so maybe later.

Okay, so there's the second of the twelve Christmas traditions I plan to share. I hope you enjoyed it. Maybe I'll be less tired for the next one!

Monday, December 06, 2010

It's A Party!

For those of you who haven't been going back and reading every post I've ever written, a high school friend passed away back in January. I hadn't spoken to him in about 25 years (a little over a month shy of exactly 25 years, actually, but you can go back to early January and read all about that if you like), and I'm still feeling the ache of that stupid mistake.

He and his roommate had a party every year (I don't know the history of it, and know very little of the details) in St. Louis to which they would invite bunches and bunches of people, with everyone being asked to bring a toy for a gift that would be donated to a charity.

I wanted so badly to try to honor the memory of the friend that people believed I was almost joined to the hip of, and I thought a great way would be to have a similar party here in Kansas City.

Since we don't have the exact same charity group here in K.C. (that I could find, anyway), I opted for taking on a couple of kids that needed "adopting" for the holiday and figured we could also ask for donations for other gifts (even the boring clothing kind that kids who have clothes never want) to be donated to some charities here in Kansas City that could use them. (I know just the lady at church to go through for these!)

This idea has been in the works for a while, but teaching and recovering from a day of teaching seems to take up all my time these days!

Anyway, there's no way a lot of people can fit at my house, so Tricia--who was also friends with Brad in high school--was kind enough to co-host with me so we could have it at her place.

So it's this Saturday, 6:00 to 10:00. There will be food, but if people want to show off their holiday dishes, who are we to turn their food away?

If you'd like to come and you aren't fb friends with me (or Tricia), but can get in touch with me: do so! We'll put you on the list!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's a Secret

It’s a secret, you see…
How long we’re gonna have
With the ones who are here with us.
It’s a secret.
Nobody’s gonna tell
Because nobody can tell
How long we’re gonna have
With the ones who are here with us.
It’s a secret.
But we’re human,
And stupid,
And vain…
That’s no secret.
We let our tempers flare
And choose to act as though
We’ve all the time in the world
With the ones who are here with us.
For we are human,
And stupid,
And vain.
It’s no secret:
We imagine we’ll have time
To mend that broken fence—
To let some water pass under the bridge—
To let things cool down
Before admitting we were wrong.
Yet we know about the secret.
Beyond that,
We are so vain,
So stupid,
So human,
We let a parting pass
Without telling those we love
How much we love them.
We hesitate to appreciate.
We second-guess our instinct to share.
We let moments pass.
We leave things unspoken.
We keep it to ourselves,
Waiting for that perfect time.
We tell ourselves the lie
About how there’ll be some other time,
As if we’ve got some guarantee
Set in stone and bound by law.
Stupid, vain humans,
Taking for granted.
Stupid, vain humans,
Crying for opportunities lost,
Crying for just one more day,
Just one more hour,
One more minute,
The secret is:
There’s no tomorrow until it is today.
There’s no later until it is now.
There’s no sometime until it is this time.
And when today is too late,
Now is no longer able,
And this time is this loss:
We remember the secret:
It’s a secret,
How long we’re gonna have
With the ones who are here with us.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thoughts On All Hallow's Eve

Yeah, right, like I have thoughts...

First of all, I'm sorry if it upsets you, but I come down on the side of "pro" when it comes to peanut butter kisses (sometimes incorrectly referred to (by me, usually) as Mary Jane's... mainly because the people who make Mary Jane's also make these... and they're essentially the same thing). A picture, to clarify:

So... When I'm to a weight I'm happy with and can eat candy without worrying about keeping myself from my goal, feel free to send yours my way if you don't like them and receive them as a gift or in your trick-or-treat haul.

Apparently there is a program to send your extra candy over to the troops. It's an evil plot by dentists to "own" Halloween, but whatever. More info at

As I type, I realize it's time for the older kids to come around getting candy. At least the batch that just came to the door (9:10 or so) were all in costume, actually said "Trick-or-treat" and actually said "Thank you," without a parent there to coach them. That was nice.

Now, I know I have a sign on my door that says, "Sorry, folks, the doorbell is DEAD. Rap your bony knuckles on the door, instead!" And I realize from the street, as a parent, you might assume it said something like, "Go away, costumed freaks--I'm not even home!"

But, here's the view from the street (or from almost-to-the-street):

This kid earlier tonight was startled when I opened the door and said, "Oh! My dad said it didn't look like anybody was home. There was no car in the driveway and your lights aren't on."

Well, first: notice the garage?

Second: Wouldn't the spooky decorations lead you to believe I'm home.

Third: Wouldn't the cool lights in the windows be a bit ruined by all the parlor lights being on?

Fourth: Not related to the kid's statement, but I realize this picture is also evidence that this is probably my first time putting that fake cobweb stuff up. It's true. I've never used it before. I figured I could use it this year to make it seem like all the actual cobwebs were fake, too.

Fifth: Oh yeah, and there are too lights on! Notice the kitchen light on? What is it? Chopped liver? No, because chopped liver is not luminescent! (Oh, and props to me for spelling that right... I just checked.)

Anyway, I'll be up later than my new lights-out-by 9:30 bedtime. I figure kids might still be coming around for another hour or so (9:26 now), and I'd rather not have eggs on my house (not that they won't do it after 10:30 or so, but at least if they come by to get candy first, I can try to ward off revenge later).

Tomorrow is All Saint's Day. Today in church we had a moment during a prayer to say the names of saints (here meaning people who have passed on that we want to remember--there's more to it than that, but I'm going with that short version with a long caveat after). Here's my list, but probably very incomplete: Patsy Riggs, Lois Cottrell, Jimmy Cottrell, Deana Mae Horn, Harland Gregory Riggs, Brad Graham, William "Bud" Hickerson, Jan Ewens... and anybody I'm forgotten to add here.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So, This Is What Passes For Christian These Days, Is It?

I read a story tonight I didn't want to read. Every cell in my body was telling me not to click the link, at yet I clicked it anyway. And then I read.

--->CLICK ME<---

(If you don't read it, this post might not make a lot of sense... but that's okay. You can move on from this post and have a life free of this article. Seriously, consider not clicking.)

In answer to the question I used for the title, I'd say, "No, it isn't." But at the same time, who is letting this pass for Christian?

It's not a trick question.

Answer: Christians.

What to do with this sort of thing? I would like to say I wish he'd commit suicide. I'd like to say I wish horrible things upon him. I'd like to pile up all my anger and rage at people who are so hateful in the name of Christianity, melt it along with a lot of iron, make a giant cannonball out of it, and shoot it at his head at close range.

Seriously, I would really like to say that.

But here's the thing: This guy is just as welcome to Grace as I am. He's just as included in it.

So then I can't just get my hate on back at him. I can't just let my anger flow out in his direction until I get tired of it.

Seriously, I can't. I mean, I can, but what good will that do? I mean, yes, it will feel good in the short term, but at the end of the day, hate fuels hate, and it won't change anything.

I guess I'm more upset at all the people who will just shrug and do nothing... or tell themselves there's nothing they can do.

For real, people, how many Christians out there think this is not what Christianity is all about? You've got to start speaking up, and you've got to start speaking up three years ago yesterday, if not sooner!

I'm no biblical scholar, so I'm not able to say, "Look, let me walk you through all the confusion on this issue." But for pity's sake, google it or something!

So what to do about this guy? That he has anything to do with the education of children is sickening to me, to say the least. That he is on the school board and says this kind of happy horse hooey is infuriating. Maybe Step 1 is to write to everyone that can do anything about it and asking them to do something about it. Maybe Step 1 is to write a blog on your blog that is sometimes read by more than five people, and hope for the best. Maybe Step 1 is to mail him a Bible without all the references to Christ's teachings about love redacted.

One thing I do know is a whole lot of people are giving their permission with their silence. A whole lot of people are allowing people like this guy to define Christianity for the world. A whole lot of people need to get a whole lot more verbal. How many suicides will it take? Is there a maximum acceptable number? (I don't mean all of them, and I wasn't really asking you anyway, Mr. McCance.) Should I put a counter up on my page somewhere?

Hmm and haw all you want, but while you're hmming and hawing, other people are speaking out loud and clear for you, in the name of your religion.

Ranty? Yes. Preachy? Yes. Do I care? Not about being ranty and preachy.

So I read it. I want to figure out a response that comes from a place of love and not a place of rage and hate--but I don't want it to be like a wet noodle attacking a steel door.

And mostly, I want to say, "Please stop telling everybody this is what all of us Christians think."

Now, on a happier note:

--->CLICK ME<---

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two More Shopping Months 'Til Christmas!

I hope you've all planned what you're getting me for Christmas. But first, let's talk about the treats you need to get me for Halloween.

Well, actually, all I'm allowing myself of late is less than 2 ounces of dark chocolate a day... and 16 raisins, which--according to some sites--equal a serving. Oh, and prunes, but I don't think they're very sweet.

So back to Christmas...

Oh, wait, whose house am I going to for Thanksgiving? Or whose houses? Don't bicker, just work out a schedule and I'll stop by and partake of each meal.

You know, providing it's part of "the plan" that I'm trying to eat by.


Are these holidays gonna suck or what?

Anyway, I really just wanted to note that in two months, it will be Christmas. Two months used to mean something when I was younger. Now it means a very short time.

When I was younger, two months was roughly equivalent to a million years. I've rambled about this elsewhere. I just thought it could bear noting again.

That reminds me--you know when you have an accident or, say, slip and fall in the bathroom at school one summer day (there's a post a few years back about that), and time seems to slow down? Apparently it really doesn't. This study basically figured out your brain is just taking in a lot of information instead of slacking off like it usually does, and the act of remembering it all later makes it seem as if you were suddenly collecting data at a much faster rate. Turns out you were collecting just as fast, but throwing less of it away.

I heard that on NPR back in August, and I keep meaning to talk about it--because I've had a couple of moments like that in the past six years or so, so it's interesting to know that my stupid over-active mind actually kept track of things for a little while.

Yeah, where was I?

Oh yeah, nowhere. There wasn't really a point to this post. I just realized it was two months until Christmas, and wanted to share.

Nothing really exciting to report. Parent/teacher conferences are halfway over. The first night was last Thursday until 8:00, with work on Friday. The second half are this Wednesday until 8:00, with school on Thursday.

Binxy's Birthday Bash is Saturday, so that's exciting news to report.

Oh, and I have no plans for Halloween, other than hanging out at the house, passing out candy to trick-or-treaters... and hoping no students egg my house, so I don't have to go to prison for beating them up.

Okay, there, I've posted again. Those of you who wished for this may now acknowledge that "Be careful what you wish for" now applies.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oh, And There's This...

First of all, I love going back and reading my old post and finding glaring typographical errors. It reminds me how irritatingly imperfect I am at both typing and copy-editing. ::sigh::

Anyway, I'd been meaning to share this for a while, and keep forgetting: Apparently blogger has a whole "stats" option now (and probably has for some time, but I didn't notice).

This means I can seriously sit for hours and just read different stats about my different blogs. There is seriously something wrong with me that I find this a semi-sane thing to do while at home, but I really do.

My "Why I'm Wearing Purple" kept climbing up the chart in "most viewed" back on the 20th, as more facebook friends shared that link. It was interesting to watch. Well, interesting to me, anyway.

It's still not the most read. My farewell to Ms. Ewens is currently the most popular.

And I think the people who view me from Korea are the ones that leave the junk comments that are obviously spam links to bad sites. I mean, that or they enjoy looking at rambling English with many typographical and grammatical errors. Maybe they're learning how not to speak the language!

Anyway, that's what I'm doing when I'm not answering e-mails, responding to comments, answering the phone... when I'm not doing anything, really. I'm on here, looking at the stats for this blog and my others.

Yes, I'm so lame I need crutches.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I Channelled Patsy Today

Today as we were getting ready for Hannah's party, I was asked if I had any balloons. I asked if they were wanting to put them out front so people knew they had the right house for the party.

Upon confirmation, and upon admitting I had no balloons, I channelled my mother. Her problem-solving, her belief that you don't know you can't do it until you try, and her creativity were at-hand, ready for me to solve this no-balloon issue.

So I went to the guest bedroom, looking in the closet there, where there were some brightly-colored t-shirts that had been used to pack dishes in when I moved. I didn't know they were there, but I figured that closet would be the most likely spot to find something I needed. On the way to the room, I saw some red plastic cups that had been on the counter for a while now.

I knew I had scissors... and there it was: I'll just make something to hang out front. It will be bright, and should get the attention of anyone who drives by.

It didn't take us long, and Kevin cut himself on a plastic cup in the process, but we did it! (You can jump over to today's post on my photoblog to see the creation, if you'd like.)

Of course, Ruth parked right next to it and didn't see it. But I still feel like I channelled Patsy today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I'm Wearing Purple Tomorrow (Okay, Today, But After I Sleep Some)

I'm wearing purple tomorrow because there are students in my school who are afraid and alone--even more afraid and alone than all the other students, who very often are also afraid and alone.

I'm wearing purple tomorrow because there are students in my school who are part of a minority group that, as I've heard it put before, don't have people in the same minority group they get to go home and cope with at the end of a day of coping on their own--in fact, they might have less support at home than they would among classmates.

I'm wearing purple tomorrow because yelling "F**king faggot" down the hall gets you sent to the office only to be sent back to class a very short time later during the same class period. Maybe the "punishment" would have been the same for yelling "F**king n***er" or with some other racial epithet filling in for the second word, but I doubt it. Because it's very visual to be of another race. Sometimes it's very visual to be of another religion. I'm wearing purple tomorrow for those in the school who feel they have to stay invisible, not visual. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

I'm wearing purple tomorrow because it's not okay to bully anyone, ever, in any circumstances... unless it's a teacher bullying a class to get the kids to 'fess up to which student threw that paper wad. Then it's okay, but not preferable.

I'm wearing purple tomorrow because, statistically speaking, in a building with hundreds of kids, there are kids struggling with who they are and are getting messages from all over the place that who they are is something worse than being a murderer or something even worse than that... like a teacher or something.

I'm wearing purple tomorrow because I have too good of a memory of what 7th grade was like. I didn't get that gift of forgetting that so many adults seem to have gotten (although I can sorta slide it on like sunglasses if I'm in a hurry, and want to ignore how they feel).

I'm wearing purple tomorrow because I want all students to know that no matter how bad it gets, it gets better, and I want them to stick around to find out how right I am. How right I am about everything, not just that. But mostly that.

I'm wearing purple tomorrow. I hope you are, too.

Spirit Day, October 20, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Some Things You Need To Know About JEC

I have a this friend. He isn't really me while I try to confess to you I have some sort of issue or problem, and he isn't you while I try to get you to figure out it's really you I'm talking about. He's an actual friend. And this post is about him.

We'll call him "JEC". He'll know I'm talking about him, and that's okay. Friends of ours will know I'm talking about him, and that's okay, too.

I just wanted to document our friendship. He's one of my oldest friends, and I had a long phone conversation with him today, and I decided I wanted to write about him today.

When I was a young man of 18, fresh out of a town with a population of 669 people and three months out of a high school comprised of three small towns, I went to college in Liberty, Missouri. It was the furthest I could get away from Ralls County without actually leaving the state--or, that's how I thought of it. I think I could get out a map and find a college that would fit the bill better... but I digress.

I moved into Browning Hall on--if memory serves--August 31, 1985. I just checked. That was a Saturday. I can't remember for sure if it was a Saturday I first made that trek across the state or not. All I know is I moved into Browning Hall, first floor, west wing (room 116, I believe) on that day. I knew my roommate. I'd gone to high school with him. I'm inwardly laughing at my hypocrisy right now for almost telling the Senior I know that he shouldn't worry about knowing anyone when he goes to school--I couldn't stand the idea of a random roommate when I was 18!

Anyway, a couple of doors down there was this room that was tagged just like all the other rooms with the room number and the names on it. In very short time this was replaced with a paper covered in band names I'd never heard of, drawn all... 1985-punky, I guess. I remember the moment I saw it while walking down the hall. If I'd had car doors to lock, I would have. It was one of the first moments I realized I was in totally new territory.

That first weekend, my roommate was not there. I believe he'd gone early for football camp, and had a girlfriend back in Ralls County, and he went back to see her that weekend. I had my apple //c, and I sat with my dorm room door open and worked at my computer. It seemed to work as a way to get to know people. They'd stop by and ask about my computer, make conversation, and there it was.

The door at the end of the hall was very loud. You could hear whenever anyone opened it. So I'd keep my eye on the door so I could say "hey" to whoever walked by--or, if I heard a room door shut, I'd know their room was somewhere before mine (I was about halfway down the hall, directly across the hall from the payphone (younger readers, ask your parents what a pay phone is... and have them explain a collect call while they're at it)).

At one point, I heard the hall door open and close, and nobody walked by. There had been no door-closing prior to or not long after the sound of the hall door opening and closing. Perplexed, I got up and went to my dorm room door and leaned out to look down the hall.

JEC was leaning out his door, looking down the hall, presumably to figure out why my door was open (light from outside would have been spilling out into the hall, you see). He immediately jerked his head back in the room and slammed the door.

I shrugged, thinking "It's one of those guys in the freak room," and went on with my life.

JEC and his roommate Patrick (another great college friend of mine) had taken to calling me "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Man", because I looked a bit like Vincent Schiavelli, who was in the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (I think this is the reason, anyway--I'd typically get him as "actor I most look like" back then--although once I was told I could play Tom Hanks' brother...).

Anyway, what was happening while I was shrugging was JEC turned to Patrick and said, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Man just LOOKED at me!"

By the way, I think before I die I want that on a t-shirt.

Anyway, that right there sums up a big part of JEC. But, of course, that's not all there is to him.

We became close friends in college, and were in many shows together at Jewell. We've written ridiculous musicals together, and were frequently sounding boards for one another's projects. We've mapped out a soap opera spoof series together. All this was years ago. I don't know how much JEC writes any more. I know he gave up reading at some point, even though he's the reason I read Sara Paretsky and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. He now claims to hate reading. I don't know what happened. Or maybe he just pretends. He's the epitome of the Vonnegut quote, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." I think that quote about JEC a lot.

I think the best way to describe being friends with him is saying it's like a well-kept secret. His friends know how kind he is, how soft-hearted he is, and how he does not like injustice and does not like people treated poorly. However, the reason I don't use his name here is so he can continue to pretend to be something other than that. Sometimes, even his friends have to remind themselves of it. Plus we love him, so there's that.

After college, we lamented our lack of college-required jobs together often. There were times we'd talk on the phone and he'd point out we were acting like gossips by saying, "You know, there needs to be a picket fence right on this phone line." He loved my line that I wanted to say to Bette Midler when she was in town: "I don't know if you remember me or not, but I've seen all of your movies."

He wished me dead in a blog the day I nearly died. Because of that incident (and his reaction to realizing he'd wished me dead and I ended up in the emergency room nearly dead), I met the then pastor at my current church.

And I can't hang out with him without laughing. I can't talk to him on the phone without laughing. And I can't get away with things with him--he's not afraid to call me out.

So there it is: I love my friend, and I want him to know it today while we're both on the same planet, so he can read it and complain to me about it. I think I need to write more of these while the subject is still here. And JEC is a good one to start with.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Because I Don't Know What Else To Do

I'm really in a good place. Oh, there's an issue with my foot I'd rather not have to deal with, and things could be better in the scheduling department, and the school year isn't going like the best ever, but really, I'm in a good place.

For one thing, I'm feeling good--probably more because I've eaten right for two days (two days... seriously, and I have this natural high from the feeling of accomplishment... I'm such a loser). And maybe it's because things are still generally okay.

Whatever, I really am in a good place.

Granted, I'm really tired right now and have to wake up in the morning to help family move, but it's all good.

Wow, I didn't mean to make this a long rant about how I'm doing okay. I just wanted to preface this next bit with, "No, really, I'm doing okay."

What are we up to now? Five suicides in the last three weeks? I think that's the last stat I read. All related to bullying with some "gay" or "faggot" thrown in for fun, mind you.

I don't know what else to do. I don't let the word "gay" go by at school without addressing the "don't do that"ness of it. I can lecture and rant and threaten detentions and deliver detentions and do my part to make sure the detentions are served and on and on... and I still feel like I'm holding up my hand and saying "Stop" to a tsunami.

So I'm just going to share this:

Use it for good. Thank you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I've Started Another Blog

Shut up. It's for a really good reason... or a reason I have deemed really good--so I don't want to hear about it.

So this summer I heard about this report that said people who try to lose weight while in some sort of online support group or have some sort of online support something-or-other are more likely to be successful. It maybe have been like 0.0002% more likely, but I don't care. It sort of inspired me. I thought, "If I tell everyone what I eat every day and what exercise I do every day, I'll maybe feel responsible for actually doing the right thing." We'll see. I mean, I can always fall back on lying, so maybe it won't work at all.

Anyway, I started the other blog tonight. It's just a journal of my food for the day and my exercise for the day, with thoughts about either (or both) thrown in for good measure. Also, I've got a secret way of reporting how close I'm getting to my goal without actually putting my weight out there on the world wide web.

Because, you see, despite all the deep emotional personal crap I've shared on here, I've apparently DO have an inner "line" I do not intend to cross. And it's "how fat I am."

I'm calling it "One of the Big Riggs" because I'm still holding out for some of my siblings and maybe a niece or two joining me on this public display of... wow, I was so close to having a good thing there, but can't come up with a word.

Anyway, at one point we were going to be "Three Big Riggs with a Leake", but that was for some diet competition or something. Now we could be "Three Big Riggs with a Lemmon" or "Three Big Riggs and a Lemmon with a Leake" depending on which niece or nieces joined in. (In my dream world, we were all part of this weight-loss blog, making a team effort, and wowing people with our ability to retain our sense of humor and inability to catch typographical errors.)

You can find it at I'm not going to auto-publish it on the facebooks right now, so you facebook folks will have to follow it if you want to keep up. (I may auto-publish it later... or I may put up a survey about it. I don't know.)

Anyway, feel free to read through it or just stop by to post words of encouragement or chastisement or maybe a recipe. The "lifestyle program" I'm using isn't big on lots of fancy recipes, so maybe just a suggestion as to how to prepare things in a healthy way. Whatever.

Now I'm going to go read a book.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Interlude: Some E-mail From 2006

The day was May 10, 2006, a day like any other day at a midwestern middle school in May. At 9:48 a.m. Jeff sent this to the entire staff:

>>> Jeffery L. 5/10/2006 9:48 AM >>>
Anyone know of someone who does carpet installation? Would you happen to know the price per square foot? Im trying to get some quotes for the new carpet in our house. Thanks



Then, twelve minutes later, this arrives in everyone's mailbox from Pat:

>>> Pat S. 5/10/2006 10:00 AM >>>
Anyone know a reliable auto air conditioning company.


Two minutes after that, this arrives:

>>> Stephanie H. 5/10/2006 10:02 AM >>>
Anybody knows someone who does fence repair? tennis court repair?

I guess we are getting ready for summer around here.


So, anyone that knows me knows my fingers are twitching at this point. I am required by the laws of my nature to not let this sort of thing just sit there. I would not be me if I wasn't taking advantage of this perfect set-up. So, within a minute, I sent:

>>> Mark Riggs 5/10/2006 10:03 AM >>>
Does anyone know how to get blood out of a shag carpet? We're talking LOTS of blood here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Five Years

Fifth Anniversary
by Mark Riggs

I think of you a lot when I’m with Binx.
I think of how he would have brought you joy,
And with that comes the ache as my heart sinks
Because you never got to know this boy.
It sinks, but not to where it sank before.

I guess, since time has passed, I could attempt
To keep you up to date—but what a bore.
Besides, I have lost track: my notes, unkempt
Inside my brain won’t help me any more.
I’ll hit some post-game highlights, then I’m out.

I’ve earned my Master’s. Now I wear light blue
If I wear scholar’s robes—right now I doubt
That any time real soon that will come true.
(The pay raise is what that degree’s about.)
But your fifth child has walked across that stage.

And—speaking of your kids—we’re all still here,
Each one with five years added the age
We were when we mourned you that nasty year.
We laugh; we cry; we fight; we love; we rage
Against the tide of time and hand of fate.

I’ve missed you more than I would care to share
Since long before your final resting date.
I wish that—rather than that empty stare—
I’d had one last chance to communicate
The things I’d wished I’d said when you weren’t “gone”.

But is that something new? I’m not alone.
The world is full of fools who have moved on
Since seeing all they’ve missed and could bemoan.
Try this instead: “I shall see you anon.”
Archaic? Yes, but gets the point across.

So, back to Binx: his mind makes me miss you.
And he will not know you. Another loss.
But I’ll remember you in all I do—
These thoughts are rolling stones (they’re all sans moss):
Solid Patsy rocks no tide can destroy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If You Can Read This, You Must Not Be Having Technical Difficulties. Also, Thank A Teacher.

I wanted to post tonight because it's the last day of August, and the last thing I posted was early July upon hearing the news of my fourth grade teacher's passing.

Also, a couple of out-of-town facebook friends (one of which is a real-world relative) are telling me they can't get to my blog. So if you're a Kansas City are friend of mine and you can't read this, let me know so I can come visit and see if I can figure out the problem.

I'm experiencing the most difficult start to a school year of my entire teaching career. It's very frustrating and has little to do with the kids (although this bunch does seem to have trouble shutting up and recognizing that when I said "I need you to get quiet" thirty seconds ago, I meant for more than twenty-five seconds.

The fifth-year anniversary of my mother's death is coming up. All that means is I've been working on what I think about that. Nobody needs to send a card or anything.

Maybe I should write more often. Maybe I should do lots of things. I for sure should this be saving up to get a new compressor for my a/c here at the house.

Oh, I got my Masters in Education. I guess that's something I could have written about, eh?

I have gotten this very bad habit of thinking saying it on facebook means I've said it to the world. Not that saying it on here is like saying it to the world... if so, I would have said, "This place is a dump! I want my money back!" on here years ago.

I kid.

Anyway, I'm not doing very well at getting to sleep on time, and I'm already behind on grading. Also, I need to start a blog about my health or my attempts to improve it. I should have a poll about that.

Enjoy your September, everyone.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Goodbye, Miss Ewens

I found out today my fourth grade teacher, Miss Ewens, passed away yesterday morning (the morning of July 4th... I realize my being up so late may cause confusion as to what day is what).

I'm one of those people who holds a special place in his heart for his teachers, especially the elementary school ones. I could wax on as I am wont to do about Miss Ewens, but instead I think I'll just share some memories from fourth grade.

I remember Miss Ewens teaching us to sing "Green, Green Grass of Home", and what a sad song I thought that was.

I remember in fourth grade I had the job of checking the fire exit that was in our cloak room every morning, to make sure it was unlocked.

In fourth grade, Miss Ewens sometimes gave us story starters, and our task was to finish the stories. It was one of my favorite things to do.

In fourth grade, I got in trouble for repeating something mean someone had said to an elderly woman. Actually, I didn't get into trouble, but Miss Ewens let me know in no uncertain terms I was not to repeat such mean things (I think the phrase "you old bat" was part of the story).

In fourth grade, Johnny Joe Riechard wrote "The Best" on his reading workbook, but misspelled it, so it said "The Beast".

I think it was in fourth grade that I won the "most creative" award for my Valentines box.

It was in fourth grade that, during a discussion about a special about bigfoot that had been on television the night before, I pointed out that if we keep destroying the forests, eventually we'll know for sure if there's a bigfoot or not, because there will be no more forests for him to hide in. I remember very clearly Miss Ewens' reaction to my saying this, and I could tell it made her sad.

I'm pretty sure it was in Miss Ewens' class that we read (or she read to us) Henry and Ribsy or some other Beverly Cleary book, and I remember getting a few others through the book orders we had that year.

In fourth grade, one of the few low grades I got was in handwriting.

I can't remember what reading book(s) I used in fourth grade, but all day long since I've heard the news, I keep remembering Panorama--which I know was in the series we used, but am not sure if it was what I read in that grade. But I remember sitting with my reading group all in a circle, Miss Ewens talking with us or reading with us or assigning us parts for the play in the book.

I'm pretty sure I first got into the Danny Dunn books in fourth grade. I know I won Miss Pickerel Goes to Mars in fourth grade. I can't remember how I won it--it might have been for the most creative Valentines box. I just know sometimes Miss Ewens would have books for prizes, and we'd get to pick which one we wanted for our prize.

There's a story that I've seen forwarded around about a teacher going to heaven, and how this teacher keeps being guided past nicer and nicer houses, each time hearing "This is where people in this profession go," and the professions getting more and more important and/or noble as the story goes on, and the story ends with the teacher going to the nicest place ever.

I don't think Heaven works like that, but if it does, Miss Ewens deserves that nicest place.

Good-bye, Miss Ewens. Thank you for being my teacher.

Miss Ewens, 1976
I will always think of you when I hear "Green, Green Grass of Home".

Sunday, July 04, 2010

For Heros Proved In Liberating Strife

At some point every Independence Day, I think of Unclue Bud. It's usually a brief moment, long enough to miss an uncle I never knew, but it usually happend on this day. And Pearl Harbor Day, for some reason. He wasn't at Pearl Harbor, but if I see any flags at half mast, he comes to mind. He was going to be my topic for today's ramble, but my sister beat me to it. So I started to think about what I could write about instead...

Then I thought I'd just add to what she said. So, you might want to go back to that last paragraph and click the link to read what my sister had to say about Uncle Bud.

I've mentioned Uncle Bud several times on here, and maybe on a slow day I'll go search for those and link to them back here. Right now, I just want to add to what Ruth shared.

I didn't know a lot about Uncle Bud, or even register I had an uncle who died long before I was born. I may have been in college before I realized he died at Iwo Jima--I was never a big history buff, so it might not been until college that I actually got what "Iwo Jima" was. It's possible it was explained to me when I was younger--I say "possible" instead of "likely", as Uncle Bud wasn't a topic that came up a lot, other than when I'd see his picture at Grandma's house, or when I'd see a picture in a photo album. I just knew he died, and that was enough to make me think maybe I shouldn't ask a lot of questions.

I've mentioned before talking with Mom about him in Hardee's in Mexico, Missouri. It was just one of those conversations that stick with you (and I guess I have a lot of those, despite the fact I have many more I can't remember very clearly, but this one sticks with me in a different way). I guess it sticks with me because I finally got the courage to bring it up, or leap on something that segued into the topic of Uncle Bud.

In that conversation, Mom told me his nickname was pronounce "bood", not "bud". She never mentioned this to anyone else, and my Aunt Rachel has told me she never heard it pronounced like that. The story Mom told me was that when he was born, my aunt Deana Mae, who was very young at the time, said, "That's my boodley," instead of "That's my brother." So they called him "bood", spelled "Bud". Maybe Mom was misremembering, or maybe that nickname came and went before Aunt Rachel was born. Or maybe I've just lost it and made the whole thing up and can't remember doing so. It's a complicated universe. Anything is possible. At any rate, it's pronounced "bud" by everyone in my family now.

She told me she thought we would have got along well. When I pressed her for an explanation, she just said we both had a good sense of humor, and trailed off so I didn't hear any other explanation beyond that. We'll never know, of course.

His birthday was 9 days after mine. He would have been 41 when I was born, but only for those 9 days. About the time I'd have been old enough to start forming memories of him, he would be the age I am now. He died less than a month after his 20th birthday, so I guess it's a moot point. It's just I sometimes like to think about that other universe (or set of universes... universi?)where I knew him in person.

When I was doing some research on this a while back, I came across a scanned page that gave me more information than I had before. He was in the 28th Regiment, and his rank was PhM3C (Pharmacist's Mate, 3rd Class). It went on to explain what that rank meant in more detail, but I can't find that page now. Essentially he was attached to the Marines, but not a Marine. I can't remember if he was Army or what.

Mom told me about a man who was there when Uncle Bud died coming to visit the farm, as mentioned in Ruth's post... and Rachel told me all about it when I was over at her house one of the times I was up in Omaha since I did my online search. The two stories of how he died were completely different, but in the end it's all the same: he was shot and killed.

One of the things I found in my search for him was a reference to him in a book about Iwo Jima. That is how we all learned about him being part of the small patrol that first went up Mount Suribachi, ahead of the 40-or-so others who came up the next morning. I think about how that volunteer session went down. I wonder if my uncle figured it was climbing, and climbing was something you do in rural areas, so how hard could it be, right? You know, beyond the people trying to kill you and stuff.

Or maybe it was totally different. Whatever the case, he was gone just over a week later. But he did that. My uncle did that. Maybe it wasn't single-handedly stopping the war or saving 100 people, but it's still such an awesome thing to imagine.

Anyway, that's what I have to add about the uncle I never met. Aunt Rachel shared other stuff with me: stories of how he'd carry her back when he went to get the mail and she went with him, a textbook he had in high school... But it all just makes me wish we had the technology to at least view the past.

The title of this post is from "America the Beautiful". I love that song and wish it was our National Anthem--but nobody is consulting me on it, so I'll keep wishing. I just thought it would be an appropriate title for my contribution to this theme of "What I know about Edwin Earl "Bud" Hickerson".

Saturday, July 03, 2010

More Insipidness...

Yeah, that last one went on and on, didn't it? All I can say is I was way tired, and I felt it get away from me early on, but my fingers were typing on inertia and there was nothing to do but wait for them to be done.

Or something.

Anyway, I'm sure everyone is dying to know: I got the patio where I want it for now. Yes, I could go rent or buy a power washer and get it more clean, and yes, I could get a couple more chairs and another small table or two, but it will do. When I finish this post, I am going to go sit in one of those chairs and enjoy a Bud Light.

Because I can.

I have many things I want to write about, but none of them work right now. One requires a lot of math. Another I've forgotten about, but it keeps peeking its head around one of the corners in my mind, but disappearing just as I think I'm going to recognize it. And maybe there are just two things... and two isn't "many".


I have decided to wake up at 8:00 tomorrow. I have decided I've reached that point in old age where I think a person should wake up at 8:00 at the absolute latest. I'm afraid it's a side-effect of this whole "do something" thing.

I went to Nebraska Furniture Mart tonight (don't tell Jordan, as she is always wanting me to take her out that way for shopping, etc., and she's off at the Grand Canyon or somewhere right now). I wanted a smaller table for the... area by the kitchen that can't really be called a dining room. I want to move that big table out to the sun room. I think the sun room could make a nice little dining room. Plus, I realized today as long as I have the door open between the rest of the house and the sun room, the a/c does a great job. Sure, I'd love to get an vent in there so it still gets the heat/a.c. with the door closed, but I'm okay leaving it open.

Anyway, the NFM thing was very spur-of-the-moment. I was at K-Mart looking at little table/chair sets, trying to figure out how to budget that in, when it hit me NFM was having a big "no interest for 32 months" thing, and there I was with a NFM card! So I got in the car and headed on over, forgetting about the Garmin and arguing with myself about the quickest way to get there (not that Garmin is ever right about that, mind you) and in the end missing an exit and going a strange way I hadn't thought of as an option.

I had my window rolled down, and rolled down the passenger window a bit (with no power windows, you have to hedge your bets on how far to roll the windows you'd have to pull over to roll up).

I don't know. I got things done today, so hooray for that... and I have decided tomorrow I will be bringing homemade strawberry salsa to the annual festivities over at Patrick & Leigh's. I'm starting to think about maybe having a little garden next year.

I'm out of control. Somebody stop me!

Side note: I've got Music Choice 80's on the television as I type this, and Irene Cara's "Fame" started playing, and I got distracted thinking, "I thought that was from 1979, not the 80s." Guess what, I'm right. It even says it on the screen. Do the people who program those things not look at the date, you think? Or do they base it on when the song was in the Top 40? I'm not saying I know where it was on the charts in the 80s, I'm just trying to figure out why a song from 1979 might be considered an 80s song.

Okay, I'm distracted and rambling. I need to be up at 8:00 tomorrow. I'll have to be sure to wear my name tag at church tomorrow. Nobody is going to remember my name... or my face, since it's been so long since I've been.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Maybe Sloth IS A Deadly Sin!

I had a shocking epiphany today, and--despite being too tired of typing to do this--I have to share with whoever happens to read this (I already shared it with Ben, but if he reads this he'll find out again, and more power to him). However, I'll have to keep it short, as my body is not a fan of the typing right now... Nor is it a fan of the sitting at the computer. So this will probably be only 17 long boring paragraphs instead of the standard 43...

Anyway, for whatever reason I got tired of the bags of leaves that have been sitting on what I'm going to call my patio (it may very well be a patio, I just don't have the power of the names-of-bits-of-the-house-ness) since late last autumn. It's a long story, and there is a teenager involved, so you should probably be able to piece together how this came to pass.

These lovely bags of leaves have been through that very crazy winter we just had, and have soaked up all that fun rain we've had. In short: these are some gross bags of leaves.

As I was saying (or typing), I got tired of these bags sitting there (18 bags, plus what remained of the one an un-named teen tried to move to the curb for the spring clean-up trash pickup day), and had talked to Bowman about a week or so ago, and he said he had some space he needed to fill with organic-ness, and leaves fit the bill. Last night was the night. I don't have any idea why it was the night, but my brain just locked onto this task.

I had already been to the Big K or whatever it's called these days, and they didn't have the 55-gallon trash bags I wanted. I went to Lowe's that same day and found them.

I had the bags. I knew where I could take these stupid leaves. The stage was set. I guess that's why my brain got all obsessed about it.

I went outside and started bagging the bags of leaves. The original plan was to put two bags in every giant trash bag, and it would have worked great, had the bags wanted to stay in one piece when touched. Instead, they wanted to fall apart. But it still went well. All I had to do was put a trash bag over the top of one, tip the whole thing over and pick up the plastic trash bag from its top.

Not that it was a huge fun job or anything, but there was a big feeling of accomplishment with each bag.

Then I realized there were lots of leaves sort of collected and bleched together on the patio (not to mention the bottoms of all the paper bags... they sort of stayed on the patio, too). So I thought: shovel. I even had the right shovel in my head. Not one you might use to dig a whole, but what is apparently called a grain shovel. I now own one, so I know what they're called.

Now I was on a roll... On the way to the hardware store, I called Bowman to see if I could bring the leaves by sometime tomorrow. He wasn't available, so I asked his daughter to tell him to call me back. I then called Ben to see if I could borrow his truck (the one I covet so). He was super-gracious, as always.

I went to the hardware store (where Bowman called me back and said noon would work), bought the shovel (and a citronella candle, as it was damaged and on sale for cheap), and came back home to start scooping up the mess that was my patio.

I had a plan: wake up, drive to Olathe, get Ben's truck, drive back here, load up the bags of leaves, drive them to Bowman's, get the leaves out of the trash bags, take the truck back to Ben, and then come home.

But wait! How about I cut down some of these things that have been growing and acting like I want them to be there. Pretty and all, but I don't think I want a tree growling RIGHT next to the house, disappearing between the ground and my foundation.

So after all this fun and exciting work, I went inside and caught my breath... and realized the rough draft of Chapter 4 of my thesis was due the same day I was going to be doing all this leaf-hauling.

Okay, if you've been waiting for the exciting and interesting part, you've never read this blog before... but we've finally reached today in this story...

I woke up at 8:00, made a quick breakfast, headed out to get Ben's truck, and was back home with it by a little after 10:00. This was according to plan. Nineteen bags of leaves did not fit in the back of the truck. This was not according to plan.

However, I improvised.

It took me about 30 minutes to get the truck loaded up, which surprised me, as I left about 90 for the task. I came back inside and visited with some of the family members that were here at the time, then went back out to head out.

The bummer part about the trip to Bowman's was the trash bags were too noisy, so I had to roll the windows up and turn on the a.c.--I was digging the rolled-down windows thing. This was when it happened. The epiphany started with me realizing I had to have automatic windows on my next vehicle, because the lack of these is the main reason I don't drive around with the windows rolled down as much as I'd love to. The other (and major) epiphany was this: I flippin' love getting things done! I mean, I thought sitting around and watching television and doing nothing all day was the absolute best it got, but I feel way wrong about that now!

Don't get me wrong, I doubt I'm going to go crazy and start doing stuff every day (baby steps), but I was digging this whole "doing stuff, getting things done, driving with the windows rolled down" thing.

Anyway, got to Bowman's, got the leaves out of the truck and out of my life, and headed back home--yes, home... not for another load, but while I had the truck, I wanted to get some chairs for the patio.

Got the chairs and a couple of little tray-thingies, and got that all set up on the patio (which still needs some cleaning, but it coming along nicely) and returned the truck.

You gotta understand, normally by 3:00 (which is about when I got the truck back to Ben) all I've done is wake up, have breakfast, and maybe have thought about making lunch (or whatever you'd call that meal at that time of day).

Anyway, that's my stupid "short" entry. I found out I like to actually do things. Who would have believed it?

Monday, June 21, 2010

An Ordinary Thing (Like A Light Bulb)

Big, exciting news: I changed a light bulb in my car today!

I first noticed my left-turn signal blinking faster than usual the other day, and I figured I had a light out. Sure enough, when I got to where I was headed and check, no blinker working in the back.

I've been meaning to go get a bulb and replace the one that's out, but I've also kept forgetting I needed it until I was headed somewhere else.

So today, I was wanting to get out of the house, so I got in my car figuring I'd think of somewhere to go... and then I turned left.

And still I debated whether or not to take care of it right then. Really. I thought, well, I can take care of it after I go do this.

It took a moment to figure out this did not involve a this. So I turned left again to the auto parts store.

I'd like to note that I sweat something like a gallon as I did this little task. I miss nice days. We did used to have nice days once, right? Crazy hot.

Anyway, that's the big thing I did today. An ordinary thing like that.

Tonight a friend of mine is with her mother and sisters in a hospital while her father's blood pressure continues to drop. He doesn't have long, they say.

So while you go about doing your ordinary things today, if you're the prayin' kind, send up a prayer for my friend's father, that he is able to go in peace. Pray that my friend and her family can find peace as well.

You don't need names. Just tell God it's my friend and her family. She'll know who you mean.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Wonder He Wanted To Fly Like An Eagle

It's Father's Day. There's a great story there. I'm not going to share it... mostly because every time I share it with anyone, they tell me there needs to be a movie on Lifetime about it, so I'm still considering writing the script and sending it off to those folks at Lifetime.

However, I will tell you the story of my trip to Metro North Mall the other day. It was the second time I'd been there in about a week, but the first time I just drove by--I was trying to find the closest GNC (which, it turns out, is not the one at Metro North Mall... the actual closest one I could hit with a baseball if I was standing in my front yard and threw it with some small fraction of Superman's strength. I mean, like a fifth of the fraction of his strength I'd need to hit Metro North Mall with that baseball standing in the same spot in my yard... and that's not my point and it's been way too long since that open-parenthesis, eh?), and I thought it was there. The place had to have been closed--I mean, yeah, I knew the place wasn't the hoppin' spot it was in the late 80s and early 90s, but I'd expected more than the ten vehicles or so I saw parked around the place. So I didn't go in.

A few days ago, I returned and actually went in. As it turned out, I parked at the other end of the mall from where I needed to be. This worked out well, because my shocked reaction was to walk the length of the place on both floors.

Ghost. Town.

Or, you know: Ghost. Mall.

I can't remember the last time I'd been in there. I mean, I remember the last time I'd been in there, but I didn't remember what year it was. I mean, I remembered what year it was at the time I was in there last, but I cannot now remember what year it was I was last in there.

Because blogging makes my writing English good.

Anyway, the last time I'd been there, I was there for the "Go For The Grand" finals in the northland. We had some kids on our team competing, and we'd gone to watch the finals there. I remember thinking the place was kinda dead and it was kinda said... but this last time I was there? Very dead. Very sad.

You see, back in the day, there was nothing in or near Liberty. In that sentence, "back in the day" means circa August 1985 to May 1990 or so. And "nothing" means "very little to see or do that was of interest to your average college student".

Metro North Mall was where I most often went to see movies while in college. It's where Gregg Elliott and I acted out the poster for White Knights, and where Jhoneric Campbell and Jennifer Sherburne crashed an burned trying to act out the poster for Jewel of the Nile about three seconds after Gregg and I did our thing.

Jhoneric and I wrote "Toxic Mall Rats", the award winning musical (in our minds) after a visit to Metro North Mall--and we used that mall as the template for the mall in the musical. To my knowledge, no dead body was ever found in one of the fountains, and no heavy metal songstress had a concert there, and the mall never exploded, but I still feel we captured the essence of that place.

Walking around that place the other day I kept remembering what used to be in all those empty spots. There has to be no more than 20 stores there now, and I really think it's closer to 12 than 20.

The first horrible blow was seeing the total lack of Mr. Bulky's. How are you gonna have a mall without a Mr. Bulky's?

No music stores (do they exist any more?), no place to eat (unless you count Topsy's... I think those places are like the cockroaches of businesses... they can survive anywhere... Metcalf South Mall had one the last time I was in there, and it had very little else), no book store, and only one of the four "big department store" spots is occupied.

It was horrible. It really made me kinda sick to my stomach, but the emotional one, not the "O to the M to the G, I am so gonna hurl" one.

And here's the spot where I ran into that guy I knew in high school. And here is the spot where they had the Santa Train or whatever every year (and maybe they still do, but just decided not to put it out for June), and here's the spot where Spencer Gifts used to be, and here's the spot where Duff's used to be (and where I first worked as a cook)... and on and on.

I get it, I get it. We need to have the passage of time so we'll get older and realize what idiots we were in our youth or five years ago or last week or whatever applies. But man, this whole "slippin' in the future thing" can suck.

Yeah, I know, "death of another mall," big deal. It's just... wow. Death of a mall I went to often during college. I think it's just a sort of an affront to the part of me that wants to be able to say, "This happened once. We did this." Of course, those things can still be said. Just without, you know, visual aids.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Secret Behind The "No Fear" Thing

Before I start, there's a poll over there to the left. You probably can't read it at all. Try clicking and dragging as if you were going to copy and paste. I still haven't worked out the issues with this whole new layout thing, and at the rate I'm going, won't get around to it before I change the whole thing again.

Anyway, there's a poll. As I type this, I don't even remember what it's about. I put it up the other day, but Google was being a freak about posting it for some reason, and I just figured it would show up when it showed up, and then I'd post something about it here. I just noticed tonight it's over there.

Now, back to this post.

I have probably mentioned it sometime in the past six or so years that I've been occasionally expressing my thoughts with as many embarrassing typographical errors as possible on here, but fear plays a major part in my life. Way too much of a major part in my life. I mean, in so many ways, I so could not care less about things, but in so many ways that's a huge lie.

Shut up. You're all dichotomistic. Don't try to deny it. Or argue that "dichotomistic" isn't a word. Look up dichotomy and then just look the other way like you do when I make up other words like... well, I can't think up any examples right now, but you know it's true. All of it. Not just the bit about the word-making-up-ed-ness, but the dichotomy thing, too.

Argh. Where was I?

Oh yeah: fear in my life.

It's stupid the role fear plays and has played in my life. More stupid that I've realized it and yet it still plays a huge role. As much as I don't care what people think, I'm also there, caring what people think. As much as I don't care who I make angry, I care who I make angry.

However, I can firmly say, fear plays a huge part in my life. I can't follow with, "And yet I'm so without fear." I can't think of many times I've been without fear... and you can probably change that to "I can't think of any times", were it not for my dislike for speaking in absolutes.

So as I look back at some of the highlights of my fear-filled life (the Brad Graham incident of 1985, college selection, and a whole host of things I'm afraid to mention (see!?!?)), I realize the whole "No Fear" thing probably started because I was hogging all the fear, and people were actually running out.

Don't get me wrong, I don't cower in fear at every little thing... I'm certainly less afraid of physical pain that I should be--and less afraid of the general "what will become of me" than I should be.

Really, I had a destination in mind when I started writing this. I swear I did. I'll let you know if we end up anywhere close.

Okay, for instance, the whole "Dad" thing (see Ruth's post here). I didn't want to bring it up, because I was afraid it was going to stir up sh*t. I don't mind that Ruth did, because I trust her judgement a whole lot more than I trust my own. I figured it she was willing to bring it up, it was probably okay. Then I just kick myself for not having the guts to bring it up. I just don't trust my judgement in this arena very well. I also don't trust my instincts. Just a side note there.

I mean, yes, there are times that I am not afraid to stir things up, especially if I very very very very firmly believe something is wrong. And there really do need to be that many "very"s in front of it before I'll actually grab the spoon and start stirring...

But for the most part, I think if I knew I could feed and clothe myself, and keep myself warm, I'd go live in a cave somewhere and only come out when people needed me for something. You know, like reaching something on a high-up shelf for someone.

Also, I'd like a cave with wireless internet, but that's really optional. People think this isn't so where I'm concerned, but there were several years there I lived without cable to save money... You'd be amazed at what I can do without if I have to. Especially if it meant there's less chance of me stirring stuff up!

Anyway, my fear-filled life was on my mind tonight. For some reason it came to me after I read this old post of mine from a few years back. Maybe there's a connection. No, wait, there is a connection, but I'm not going to share it for a secret reason that rhymes with smear and leer and bier.

So, um... Happy Father's Day to my dad, in the Great Beyond. Happy Father's Day to the many dads who quasi-adopted me throughout my earlier years (Mike Couch, Tom VanSkike, Les Taylor, Kim Harris, to name a few--and forgive me if I've forgotten any).

Now I have to go back and re-read this to see if I'm really gonna post it... (fear, you know)

Oh, and I have no idea if we ended up where I thought we'd end up!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog...

I had a quick couple of things I wanted to say, and thought I forgot one of them, but now I remember it. There is no reason for me to keep all of that in this paragraph, and yet I do.

First, I'm playing with the look of this blog. I'm not married to what it is right now, so if you hate it, give it time; it will probably change.

Second, my sister is finally blogging. There's a link in one of the side bars (currently on the right, but I might move it). Her blog is The World Needed Another Blog, which I think is a great title, and very "her". Also, she makes me sound like some sort of total j.d. in her description of her blog, so go check it out.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging, already in lack of progress.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Another Jewell Visit

Twenty-five years ago today, I came to Kansas City for the first time. It was some sort of pre-registration event for incoming freshmen at Jewell. The Kansas City part was fairly short... and may have technically been a look from a slight distance, as we came across on I-70 and then headed north on... some road or another. If I had to guess now, I'd say 435, but maybe we did the 291 thing. Whatever.

Anyway, the date has always stuck in my head, as it was such a huge thing for me. I wanted to get out of Ralls County (no offense, Ralls County) so bad at that point, and I had an audition for a scholarship that day, and it was a huge deal. The night before I'd spent what seemed like hours perusing the Hannibal Public Library looking for a 4-minute monologue piece. In those days way before the internet, I had no idea how to find such a thing in my rural home town or nearby towns' libraries. June 7, 1985 was one of the first times I heard my mom drop the f-bomb, by the way.

I came in from my fruitless trip to the library in Hannibal, and Mom asked if I found anything. If you've seen that scene with Edie McClurg from "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", what came out of my mouth was not unlike what I said to my mom at that point. However, my rant was about living in a small town and a rural community--just equally peppered with f-bombs as the one in the movie. Mom's response was similar to the one by Edie McClurg's character: "Well, f*** it." Well, similar in that it was short and had the f-bomb in it.

So I went to my trusty Apple //c and started adapting the floor show from "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" into a four-minute monologue. I stayed up very late working on that, and had to get up very early the next morning.

We had just gotten a handicap van (with a wheelchair lift), and I seem to recall the removal or the return of one of the swivel chairs in the back the night before. The library search, the conversation with mom, seeing the chair replacement/removal, and the hours spent in front of my computer with a paperback book beside me are the main things I remember from the day before.

I got a couple of hours sleep before we had to get up, get ready, and head for Jewell. In an ideal world, I would have slept in the van. However, I had a monologue to memorize. I'll cut to the chase on the audition: it was terrible, but luckily at that point to get a theatre scholarship at Jewell if you were male, all you had to do was be in the program.

I guess the Taylor family (sans Derek, if I remember correctly) came to our house, and we all left in the van from there. I remember Les pointing out a hotel he worked on when he was in the Kansas City area working. I still think of that whenever I drive by that place on I-70.

I don't remember a lot of time details. I know early on I had my audition, which started with a meeting with Kim and his son Kyle (well, the meeting was with Kim, and Kyle was there). Kyle was on his way into 2nd grade, and his head was shaved. I thought he had leukemia or something.

I know my appointment to set up my schedule started while I was auditioning. My mom met with Dr. Dunham for that part, and I arrived later. We were in the west cafeteria, not far from where me and mine often ate dinner every night over the next several years. Apparently Dr. Dunham found my mom entertaining enough not to shoo us away upon my arrival.

We didn't look at a lot of the campus (at least, it doesn't seem like we did... I was dead tired, so maybe I sleepwalked through it). I remember seeing Joy Mincey, because she had long black hair with a streak of red it in. This small-town boy was shocked that people would go out in daylight like that.

In honor of it being the 25th anniversary of my first visit to Jewell, I went on campus today. I took a lot of pictures of the quad, and my photo-of-myself for the day was outside the theatre. And I ran into Dr. Robinson! I was in her "Teaching Reading in the Secondary School" class in... 1989 or so. She was so excited to learn of another male middle school teacher... and I learned in the course of her conversation she has been teaching there for 31 years!

I walked around the library a bit, and went into the new-fangled Student Union. It's all very different. Blink, and 25 years pass.

Apparently, lots of other changes are on the way. The school wants to "modernize" the front of the library, so it looks more like the new Student Union front. Whatever. It's all good. I've got photos of what it used to look like.

I kept thinking how much has already changed since that day. I decided to go while I was on the other side of town, so just for fun I had the Garmin tell me how to get there. I had my phone with me. I was taking pictures with my digital camera. I wondered what that me from 25 years ago would have thought about all that, were we to bump into each other on the quad. But there were probably much more important things to share with that guy. Winning Powerball numbers, for instance...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Consider This A Wagon Well Fallen Off Of... Or Something

Yikes! Many days have passed. Remember a couple of months ago, when I was writing daily. Those were good times, eh?

Okay, so I re-read my post about my crazy life (like two back, I think) because I got the feeling I had offended some of my commenters (and I'm going to mention at least one of you buy name, so I hope that's okay... and by name, I mean by the name I use which is your screen name or blog name or whatever... and I've gone on too long about this, haven't I?).

There was so much wrong with that last paragraph. Manchion should use it as a DOL for class tomorrow.

Anyway, I thought I should re-read the post, because I think some people took umbrage at what I said about people posting to gain readership, etc.

And I get that. I don't know if I'm going to start trying to make the pedals on this bike go backwards, but I will stop pedaling and lift my feet off the handlebars and let gravity and inertia battle it out...

I really did not mean all the people who actually SAY something, if that makes any sense. And if I was the person I meant to be when I was younger, I would go to the blog of every person who posts on here and find something positive to post on theirs. It's how I'm wired. I'm a teacher, for cryin' in a bucket! The way I discuss in my online grad school class is to find the person with the fewest responses and find SOMETHING to talk about in their initial posting. It really is how I'm wired.

However, in addition to people like Purple Cow, who actually says stuff, and Robin, who I have conversed with via comments on here and via facebook, and MANY other people who seem to be genuinely wanting to share a compliment or a thank-you (or even an opposing view, on occasion), I get some crazy spam-like comments... and if you go through, I get some comments that seem "real" until you see the similarity to so many other comments and think they are "unreal".

And the thing is, they may be real. Who knows, right?

Oh, and the blogger my brain calls "Toppo", but really it's longer than that. That person seems to be... less easily thought of as unreal.

And this Arshed person I haven't looked into yet (just meaning reading profile, checking out blog, etc., not actually, you know, LOOKING INTO like a background check or whatever), but I think is on the "Mark thinks they are real" side of things.

Not that it's some elite group everybody should want to get into. I'm just trying to lay out the map of that part of my brain for you.

Anyway, I got distracted and lost my track, which is the norm. What I'm trying to say is, after hearing from several of the people I think of as "real" (again, if I haven't mentioned you as "real", that's not to mean I don't, it just means it's late and I haven't gone through all my comments), I guess I realize I do want to take some time to read about these people.

A friend of mine in high school, who I went on and on about during many posts from early January until... I don't know how many back... I guess we have to include this one, now, too... anyway, this guy was big into the blogness. He knew people from all over, and I think he had a bit of a "no fear" attitude about it. If you knew the whole story about us, you'd see he was the poster boy for "no fear", and I was Mr. Fear 1985. So I should work on fixing that. I should go read other people's stuff. I should get to know some people, eh?

Okay, so here's my goal: I am going to read your blog--at least three entries--and comment on at least one if you comment here. If I fail to do so, then I have to prepare all of Julia C.'s recipes in a year and blog about that. Or something.

Anyway, it's late, and I've gone from silly to stupid back to silly again (but with a hint of stupid, for flavor). Good night, all.

Oh, and Brenda, I know you're real, because I've known you for nigh unto 25 years... I fell I should say that because I sense an impending comment from you...

And now that I mention it, I know all you other people I know are real too. Stop being smart-ashes.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

As I Was Going Down The Stair

Don't read too much into this, as I have no idea what it means...

But "I feel like the man who wasn't there," keeps going through my head, and it just feels oddly appropriate. I'd love to connect it to... well, anything, really. But I'm not doing a very good job of it. I was trying to describe to myself what I felt like (I live alone, so good company for conversation isn't a staple here), and this is the phrase my brain sent me.

It's right up there with "My heart wants to sing, but it doesn't know the words," from 1989 or so. It's better than 1992's "Listen to the clear blue world," or "Welcome to the clear blue world," which my brain supplied in a dream, however.

Yeah, my brain has too much time on its hands.

Anyway, that's what I feel like right now. I just feel very... not here.

It probably doesn't help that I'm becoming more and more of a homebody. I'm home, I don't want to go out. End of story. Really. You should be here for the pep talks I give myself when I'm considering going out to a movie or to the store.

Whatever. I just thought I'd share here, because that thought is a very good reason for not writing as often as I have: I feel like the man who wasn't there.

Nobody sees me, but they wish I'd go away!

Okay, I just made myself laugh.

Also, here are some sites to check out... I need to update my link list over there, I guess. Maybe I'll just do that instead. Both would be better, I guess...

Mike Humphrey, a guy I knew in college has a column at true/slant here:
Brenda (she's commented on here, and I've known her since college, as well) blogs here:
And photoblogs here:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And I Am Back...

Okay, things got a little crazy there for a while. The last couple of weeks of class were a bit insane, and I was starting to get a little freaked out by some of the posts to my blog entries... While I love being told how people love my writing style, the similarity of the postings makes me doubt the sincerity of the sentiment... and makes me wonder if I'm in some political office and people are telling me how the "really feel" by copying and pasting e-mail content to me. It's strange.

I guess it's a way to increase readership or whatever, and that's great... but even the blogs I like to read are blogs I seldom read. Part of it is my crazy life, and the other part of it is... the rest of my crazy life, I guess.

Anyway, the facebook folks know this, but I'll share for the rest of you: I had Binx in my care for several days. I am pretty sure he's no worse for having experienced this. Jordan came over last weekend and we stayed up too late playing Super Mario Brothers Wii the night before church.

Oh, and I got an A- in that class that I was having such a frustrating time with. A smaller part of my frustration comes from the style of writing. I hate reading that sort of writing, so I loathe writing it. I don't get the style, anyway. Why do you want to make getting information such a horrible freakin' chore?

I just deleted the rest of that tirade. Gone... mourn it, yet be thankful.

So that's my life. I'll try to get back to daily posts if for no other reason than to bother people.

Oh, and I've yet to hear from the sleep study folks. I think I need to make a phone call tomorrow, eh?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anybody Got Any Short'nin' Bread?

So I went to the doctor for my "Health & Wellness Visit"... which is like a physical, but with a longer name... and fewer awkward moments.

I got to finally mention all of the things I've been wanting to ask my doctor about for a while, so that was nice.

They didn't want me to eat anything for twelve hours, which is easy to do when you make the appointment for fairly early in the morning and you don't keep much in the way of food in the house. But because they asked this of me, I started wondering last night if this meant anything in particular... especially involving the digestion system... and more specifically, the end bit of it.

So I called Say, who was busy working a crazy-long day and thus didn't answer. I left her a message asking if the doctor was going to do that thing where I'd at least like a little sweet talk before he started, and said some other stuff and left it at that. I was at rehearsal, so when Say didn't call back for a while, I found Mark, who is a nurse, and asked him. He assured me it was all about blood work, not butt work.

Say confirmed this on a message she left after I called her again during the break to ask how she could abandon me in the middle of a medical emergency like this...

Imagine my discomfort this morning, then, when the nurse got out some rubber gloves and a tube of... I'm trying to think of a non-gross-sounding word for it... and I've failed, so we'll move on.

She said, "I'll get these out, just in case..." and left the room.

Now that was a fun wait. There is some mental preparation that goes into this. I mean, I hardly know the man...

Sorry for the delay that you didn't notice because it happened as I was typing this, not as you were reading it. I was just cracking myself up with all the possible next lines. I've opted to just pretend I didn't just set up a bawdy joke.

So he comes in, we go through all the questions and the awkward non-hind-end touching that goes with a "Health and Wellness Visit"... which is all above the waist, for those of you with your mind in the gutter... or at least below the waist. And I ask my questions, and he asks counter-questions, and the whole time the pair of gloves and the tube of whatever are just hanging there in the air between us, the elephant in the room, as it were. But, you know, and elephant that can hang in the air sort of thing.

Finally, he points to the items and says, "We're not going to do that today. I think they just get those out to scare people."

I sighed a big sigh of relief, and then immediately felt bad, so I said, "Don't get me wrong. I do like you, but as a friend only..."

I kid.

Anyway, nothing exciting to report. All of the little this'n'thats I was asking about were either answered with, "We can do that if you want, but you're okay if you don't" or "Losing weight and exercising will help with that", and for the most part I called all of those in the second category before I even went in to see him.

I am going to do another sleep study, even though the one 5 years ago was enough to get me on a whatchamahookey... because it was 5 years ago and I never got on a whatchamahookey.

I'm looking forward to it, however. Apparently there are many health benefits to a good night's sleep.