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The Teacher I’m Not Eulogizing

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No, this isn’t a eulogy – not in the classic definition of the word. More like a stroll down Memory Lane [2] while reading a love note about an adored teacher and mentor.

Welcome to the tribute blog edition.
Content warning: more family friendly than usual. [1]

Late last year I was delighted to be contacted by R__ Clucas, son of my former high school teacher, Ted Clucas. Mr. Clucas’ son had contacted me after coming across a blog post wherein I’d mentioned The Generator, Santa Ana High School’s award-winning student newspaper. R__  shared kind words re Mr. Clucas’ fondness for his students, in particular The Generator crew (Mr. Clucas had become the newspaper’s advisor during my senior year, and remained so for several years after that). R__ also let me know that his father was in frail health.

 

Ted Clucas, ca. 1975.

Ted Clucas, ca. 1975.

 

Last week I received a FB message from R__ , excerpted here:

I thought you would want to know that my dad, Ted Clucas, died yesterday. If you are in contact with any other former Santa Ana High students and Generator staff members, perhaps you can pass along that information to them….
It is sad, but I know he lived a long and good life. I also know that advising the Generator and working with students was one of the things he enjoyed most in life.

I did indeed pass along the news. Many SASH alum shared their memories of Mr. Clucas on the FB post, as well as their reflections on teachers and teaching in general. [3] The personal remarks – all loving and generous – I passed along to Mr. Clucas’ son and widow.

There was a pattern to the comments: Ted Clucas is remembered for his kindness, patience, and sage, good humored guidance. I can’t think of a better legacy for a teacher – he was one of “the good guys” whom we both liked and respected.

 

I had more sweaters, but Ted Clucas' students had a sassier mascot.

I had more sweaters, but Ted Clucas’ students had a sassier mascot.

 

A couple of the reflections got me thinking more about the act and art of teaching.

… he did always strike me as part of that wonderful old guard that ushered us through a certain moment in time. A few others I have less fond memories of, but in the greatness of time, they matter less.

I’ve often thought about the “management style” we learned from our teachers & coaches. Most was really poor, having to be unlearned later. Not with Mr. Clucas. We accomplished great things, worked hard & had fun. He was a gift.

A part of that wonderful old guard that ushered us through a certain moment in time. 

So well put (thanks, TF). As for some of that old guard…well…in that certain, Orwellian sense, some of our ushers were more equal than others.

As I watched my now college-age children navigate through their series of high school teachers – some of whom I wanted to nominate for a Nobel Peace Prize, some of whom were no better than trained circus monkeys – I would often marvel at the discrepancies in teachers’ attitudes and abilities, [4] and also at what are seemingly twists of fate, where one bad experience can deactivate a child’s interest in a subject or field they liked…and, of course, how one good teacher can ignite a spark that fosters a lifelong passion for a subject the student had once thought dull, difficult or inconsequential.

What combination of inborn and/or acquired personality traits, training and education, and simple force of will produce a good teacher? (If I had the answer, I’d nominate moiself to the Nobel Prize committee). How much of being an influential, memorable mentor involves a conscious decision,

I shall be like this, and not this.
I shall do and say this, but not this.

and how much is simply an unconscious reaction to circumstance and stimuli? And which came first?

chicken

 

From my FB post of June 11:

Attention SAHS alumni , and in particular *The Generator* staff members: please pass along this news to anyone who might be interested. Ted Clucas, longtime and beloved SAHS teacher and student journalism advisor, died yesterday.

Ted “Teddy” Clucas was both role model and cat wrangler when it came to mentoring 1975’s The Generator  staff. I’ve met few people in life with his combination of wisdom and patience (and yes, he let me get away with calling him “Teddy”). His name will always be on my list of favorite teachers, for so many reasons.

Oh, and about that mascot Mr. Rogers mentioned. I’ll get there. Eventually

Ted Clucas taught high school English, Composition and Literature classes for many years, and became the journalism class teacher and student newspaper advisor during my senior year. I had him for a literature class, and recall wonderfully instructive, generous and sometimes testy back-and-forth discussions about the significance and relevance of Great Expectations and other so-called classics. [5] My recollections also include his at once stern and bemused admonishment – Ms. Parnell! – when he thought I’d gone too far with my comments. That admonishment was to become my de facto nickname (shortened to, Parnell!) during my senior year, when he was my journalism advisor. The rebuke was always good natured (looking back, I sometimes cringe to think of how we tested his tolerance), usually produced in response to the pranks I and other Generator staff pulled.

One of the pranks, by select members of The Generator staff and other students, was an epic toilet-papering of Teddy’s house.  Mr. Clucas was wise enough to see that act as the compliment it was meant to be, where other teachers would have seen harassment or even vandalism.  He felt honored, and rightly so. We didn’t just tp any teacher’s house.

Another of the pranks was ongoing, and involved something more personal. Mr. Clucas spoke with a noticeable lisp.[6]  He of course was well aware of this, and also of the teasing he sometimes received about it. He never took the bait; if a student pointed out or even mocked his lisp, Mr. Clucas reacted as if the comment were along the lines of, “You are wearing a brown tie.”  Yes, I am.

Of the many, mildly unfair mysteries of life, two related ones stand out to me: that the word lisp has an s in it, as does the name Clucas. Because…there’s a story, about a telephone.

That would be the telephone in Mr. Clucas’ journalism classroom. The Generator‘s staffroom was one of the few classrooms with telephone access available to students. Even though we had use of the phone to make calls (groundbreaking reporters that we were), when the classroom phone rang it was supposed to be answered by the advisor. The phone didn’t ring very often, but every time – and I mean every single time – it did, if I were present and/or available, I moiself or one of the newspaper’s Merry Pranksters [7] would rush to the phone and answer it by saying:

“Mither Clucath thpeaking.”

"Please tell me you didn't make that so."

“Please tell me you didn’t make that so.”

Yeth, I did.

Okay, not every time. Sometimes the greeting was, Clucas’ Massage Parlor. Either way, Mr. C would cross his arms, shake his head, and try oh-so-unsuccessfully to prevent the corners of his mouth from twitching upward.

Parnell!

“Teddy” was both mentor and cheerleader when it came to my writing. I wrote various feature articles for the paper, from straight news to reviews to editorials, but my main focus was my regular editorial column, Parnal Knowledge.  As journalism advisor Mr. Clucas was seen, by his fellow teachers, the school administrators, and adult/parent readers of The Generator, as being ultimately responsible for the newspaper’s content. Thus, “the heat” was on him, on many occasions…often due to something I had written.  [8]

I received nothing but support from him when my columns were criticized, whether for content, fact or tone. He was even excited about the first piece of “hate mail” we received. The first time I received an angry letter from a teacher (and soon after that, a parent), he was almost beside himself with glee. I didn’t understand what the big whoop was about, until he told me it was the ultimate compliment and even litmus test for a writer.

“It means someone is reading – it means that you’ve made someone think about something that made them uncomfortable!”

1975 The Generator Staff photo, from my yearbook. Ted Clucas standing in the back row, far left. Yours truly front and center, to the left of Clucas Massage Parlor sign. Our mascot, Theodore, is seated in the second row, far right.

1975 The Generator Staff photo, from my yearbook. Ted Clucas standing in the back row, far left. Yours truly front and center, to the left of Clucas Massage Parlor sign. Our mascot, Theodore, is seated in the second row, far right.

 

The Generator staff was a rough crowd, not suitable for the esteem-challenged nor timorous of spirit. We constructed a class mascot, whom we christened Theodora, in honor of Teddy.  Theodora, a home-made dummy dressed in what I can only describe as pre-punk attire, which included part of a Girl Scout Uniform, had the middle digit of her right hand permanently affixed in what my WWII veteran father decorously referred to as the one finger salute. We installed Theodora in The Generator staffroom, with Teddy’s full knowledge and grudging acceptance if not permission, and her “offensive presence” was noted by several of the few teachers who dared darken the doorways of the journalism classroom. [9]

Each member of The Generator staff had his or her Generator nickname. A few of the more family-friendly ones I can mention included Kisser Carr, Quickie Lynn, Free Sample, and Frostie. [10] The Generator also had its own end-of-the-year awards banquet, during which we bestowed upon each other titles mocking those of the typical high school Senior Class Awards. [11]   For example, we voted our Sports/Fourth Page editor Best Nickname (“Bad Ass Cota”), and the student in charge of the newspaper’s distribution and circulation won the coveted title of Most Likely to Conceive.

And yes, when the latter title was bestowed, Mr. Clucas was sitting in the back of the classroom, shaking his head, not even bothering to stifle his chuckles. [12]

Theodora is ready for her close-up

Theodora is ready for her close-up

*   *   *

* He was one of my HS favorites. Very kind & patient. Looking back, he often seemed quietly amused with the stupidity of adolescence.

He was fully cognizant of our adolescent foolishness, yet was amused by it and never patronized us.

* Mr. C ignited my passion for journalism back in 7th grade…. The torch continues to burn to this day…Mr. C was not only a mentor, but a friend….

* He was a treasure. That rare combination of wisdom, humor, and elegance personified. One of my favorite experiences at SAHS, his English class and the Generator experience.

* Oh, yes, I remember him….bemused by our antics, gently guiding us away from the precipice when necessary. Don’t I remember a chuckle he had?

I, too, remember that chuckle, and so much more. Our little corner of the world was a better, kinder, wiser, and funnier place, because it had Ted Clucas in it.

*   *   *

May you have the good fortune to have your heart warmed by fond memories of an awesome teacher and mentor,
and may you have the good determination to be the kind of person who will be fondly remembered…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Not to worry, regular readers, the feminist-freethinking-political-cultural rants shall return next week. With an extra bonus – fart jokes!

[2] An actual street in Santa Ana, one that will be familiar to those who are referenced in this not-a-eulogy.

[3] It was a thoughtful bunch – many of whom after high school pursued careers in journalism and other forms of writing.

[4] as well as my own surprise that “this ( good teacher, bad teacher) is still going on?!”

[5] Frequently, for the sake of argument, I challenged the application of the label “classic” to whatever book we were reading. Imagine that.

[6] I was a fellow lisper, but in recovery:  I had gone to speech therapy sessions in grade school.

[7] Okay, it was mostly me, and at least two others Who Shall Not Be Named At This Time and in This Venue…but it was never, ever our Editor-in-Chief, Deborah Franklin, who went on to become a respected freelance science writer and NPR contributor. Deb was too kind and genteel for such base shenanigans (although I caught her laughing at them on more than one occasion).

[8] Including, from the very first issue, the name of my column.

[9] What the heck – Theodora kept the blue noses at bay.

[10] A nickname I’d bestowed on our newspaper photographer as per his tendency (in my eyes) to strut stiff-legged, as if his underwear had been frozen.

[11] Most Likely to Succeed, Most Studious, Most Athletic, Campus Clown… you know the drill.

[12] I think this is enough footnotes, don’t you?

The Self I’m Not Hating

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It’s Later, and I Don’t Hate Myself

The spam message I dared to delete:

IF  YOU  DON’T  READ  THIS  NOW  YOU’LL  HATE  YOURSELF  LATER

*   *   *

Every year, we forget they are there. And every year, usually in late June but earlier this year, two yellow roses pop up seemingly overnight, nestled amongst our patch of Hood strawberries.

roses

*   *   *

Three Cheers for Neti

That’s Neti, as in Neti pot – not Nessie, as per the one strange person who claimed they once overheard me extolling the values of a “Nessie pot.”

 

"So what am, I chopped liver?"

“So what am, I chopped liver?”

 

Sorry, Nessie. No cheers for you…although in this, The Season of Blooming Things, ® it does often seem as though a  Loch Ness Monster of snot [1]  is sloshing through my sinuses. And indeed, ’tis the season.

Curse you, pollen.  Curses upon you, you son of a fish who does not even know his own father — if I could only get at you, I would do the same to you! I would drape your innards over your arms! [2]

Curse you, ubiquitous and meddlesome wind-blown plant sperm, which will not be content with fertilizing the fauna but which also delights in infesting my nasal cavities and giving me what I can only describe as razor blade throat.

Some seasons, some days, it’s hardly noticeable. Either way, on most days, half of an OTC allergy pill usually helps, as does the use of the Neti pot.

 

neti

 

Twice last week, after engaging in a breezy, early evening berry picking session, I thought I would achoo my brains out. As I was stuck in full tilt, machine gun-sneeze mode, I marveled at the unstoppability of the reaction and contemplated the sad fact that if I had one of those attacks during Inconvenient Times ©, the terrorists would win.

What if I had such an attack and I was on a bus with doctors and Korean refugees, all of us hiding from the nearby North Korean patrol that would surely kill us if they found us, and I couldn’t stop sneezing and Alan Alda would have to strangle me to keep me quiet so as not betray our position?

Am I the only person in the world who thinks of the MASH  series finale when I have an epic sneeze fit?

Don’t answer that.

*   *   *

Good News That’s Nothing to Sneeze About

For once I have cause to be politically and socially proud of the actions of the country of (50% of) my ancestors’ birth. Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular national vote [3]. Sure and begorrah, ’twas a popular vote, indeed, as more than 62% of Irish voters said aye to changing Ireland’s constitution to define marriage as a union between two people, regardless of gender.

The Roman Catholic church has had a stranglehold on Irish politics and culture, dating from when the RCs ruled every aspect of Irish life and the priests sodomized the courts and the laws before they discovered altar boys and Magdalene laundry girls.

The RC church is rapidly and consistently losing ground in Ireland, a briskly changing, modernizing society which now polls as one of the more secular European nations. However, the majority of the county’s laws were enacted when the RC church had a theocratic stranglehold on the land.

IRELAND-GAY-MARRIAGE-VOTE

Michael Nugent, Dublin writer and chair of the advocacy group Atheist Ireland, noted in an interview with Freethought Radio that Ireland is a “pluralistic society governed by Catholic laws.” Nugent said that Ireland’s openly a-religious, atheist and freethinking politicians [4] are taking this vote to heart and plan on working to amend and repeal a plethora of Church-inspired laws – from abortion prohibitions to statutes requiring public officials to swear religious oaths.

More than one political commentator has referred to the gay marriage vote as a “reality check” and a “slap in the face to the Roman Catholic church.” I heartily applaud the latter, and look forward to more church-face slapping – preferably with the biggest, coldest fish voters can wield – as the interests of humanity and rationality overturn the legal vestiges of dogma and superstition.

*   *   *

I’d Like to Buy a Vowel, Pat

vowel

NO NO NO NO NO.

Not that vowel.

I’d like to buy an i.

i is my favorite vowel, in part because two of my favorite words begin with it [5].

There is the word I itself, the personal pronoun. Although I am not fond of the first person narrative in fiction and rarely employ it in my stories, I am fond of I for more personal reasons, having to do with action and momentum. I is an indicator of agency and responsibility (I will do ___; I think that ___).

My other favorite i-word is if. I love that word. For me, it is the key to answering the question non-writers of fiction often ask of writers of fiction; specifically, How do you get your story ideas? The closest I can come to answering that question truthfully [6]  is to say that the What if question is always involved.

Story ideas, from the mundane to the profound, center around possible answers to the question, What if…

*  a couple used their argument over whose turn it was to bring in the garbage can as a distraction from their crumbling relationship, mental health issues and employment insecurity…
* a husband betrayed  his wife by posting bail for her sister who was in jail for abetting a cult leader’s assault upon…
* a bereaved mother enlisted the help of a sympathetic stranger she met in a university library to avenge her daughter’s death…
* a teen-aged/elderly/mentally challenged skate boarder/retired cracker salter quality assurance manager/grocery bagger  stumbled upon the body of a former teacher/complete stranger/notorious serial flasher in the hall closet/supermarket parking lot/Grand Canyon gift shop restroom…

Also, if can be used to denote the hope of things to come and the rationalization of things that fail in the here and now (“If ___, then ___”).  It is a word of both promise and regret (“If only…”).  A mere two letters, a thousand possibilities. I like that.

*   *   *

Disc Down, Antlers Up [7]

I saw my first professional Ultimate Frisbee game last Saturday. It might have also have been my last professional UF game.

On a sweltering afternoon in the Hillsboro Stadium (the home of Hillsboro’s minor league baseball team), my family and I watched the Portland Stags defeat the San Francisco Dogfish. [8]  That is, MH and Belle stuck around to watch the entire game. A bored and disappointed K and I left at halftime.

boredom

UF is an interesting, fast-paced game…or so I thought when I watched college and other teams play it. The teams self-referee, there are no time outs and no dallying between quarters and halves – the action is almost non-stop. The professional UF game I saw had been turned into a version of…frankly, of something I also used to love to watch: professional baseball.

It had the same bloated time frame, with time outs being called every other play and with the announcers and team owners or whomever not trusting the audience to be still with their thoughts and reflections – the cocaine/Ritalin/ADD generation has a short attention span and must be distracted/entertained every second! Thus, we were tortured provided with mind-numbingly, butt-scratchingly, tedious, juvenile and game-prolonging mascot dances and cheers and come-out-onto-the-field-kids-for-some-relay-games “entertainment” at every opportunity.

 

Oh, now this makes it interesting.

Oh, now this makes it interesting.

 

Over one and one half hours later, and it was only halftime? Thanks, but, nooooooo.

*   *   *

Shave Every Day and You’ll Always Look Keen

I’ve posted before re my brain’s penchant for earworms.  Apropos of nothing (conscious), yesterday morning I awoke with the charming ditty Shaving Cream, a novelty song featured on the Dr. Demento show, oompah-ing through my cranium.

There are worse ways to start a day.

All together now, join with me on the last verse:

♫ And now folks my story is ended
I think it is time I should quit
If any of you feel offended
Stick your head in a barrel of…. ♫

*   *   *

May you always look keen (and I trust that you do),
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Apologies to BO’M and those of you who’ve told me you enjoy reading this blog during breakfast.

[2] From the Epic of Gilgamesh, arguably the first great work of literature, which tells the tale of a Mesopotamian king’s adventures which include angry deities causing a worldwide flood and other tales which later sources borrowed  (e.g. the biblical Flood story). Quite entertaining, the EOG also has some really epic curses.

[3] Other countries have legalized same sex unions, via acts of their legislatures and/or the courts.

[4] Imagine, a country where a religion-free politician can be elected! Don’t need to imagine – that’s most Western Europe and the “developed” world,  except for the USA, which is in the company of the Islamic theocracies when it comes to electing out-of-the-closet atheists.

[5] Uh, that is, they begin with the letter “i,” not “it.”

[6] Yep, I’ve lied or mislead on many occasions. “How do I get my ideas? Well, there’s this guy in a trench coat who hangs around NE Burnside, and if you slip him a twenty he’ll flash you a plot and character outline….”

[7] That is the Portland Stags’ fan cheer or unofficial anthem, from what I gathered.

[8] Or, Dgfsh, as the scoreboard read.

The Clown Car I’m Not Driving

Comments Off on The Clown Car I’m Not Driving

A Performance Artist in the Family

gge

Belle and her friend LW recently used our humble abode for a guerrilla art project [1]. Sometime within the past couple of days, every framed family picture in our home, from the photos on the mantle to framed prints on the walls, was goo goo-eyed, as per this one of MH and I, taken during a backpacking trip in Big Sur.

goggleeyes

*   *   *

Department of Regressive Passive Aggression

Dear Future Husband is the new song by the same twat twit who brought us All About That Bass.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  I envy you.  Read the lyrics. [2]

Holy Fucking Stepford Wives. Would someone get this woman a girdle, a pool boy, a valium prescription and a one-way ticket to a pre-Enlightenment time machine?

On the positive side, this song is like a Public Service Announcement for Decent Men © : Gents, if the woman you are interested in subscribes (even jokingly) to any of the sentiments expressed in this narcissist, needy, whiny ditty, y’all better sprint, not walk, in the opposite direction.

retro

*   *   *

 Department of I Knew They Reminded Me of Something

I dreamed I was sitting on the top row of smelly, sticky, rickety bleachers at a tacky, three ring circus, booing along with other members of the audience at the third rate juggling and acrobat acts.  A VW Beetle clown car drove into the circus’ center ring. The car stopped, its doors flew open, and one by one a stream of Republican presidential candidates emerged from the tiny vehicle.

clowncar

*   *   *

It’s Nice to Have Them Both Home For the Summer

By them I refer to the two fruit of the loom Fruits of My Loins ®, son K and daughter Belle.  Yes, it’s nice. And loud. And often unintentionally amusing. To wit: a group of K’s friends were over Monday night, [3] and I overheard two of the young men reminiscing in our living room as they played a game of 8-ball [4] :

“Do you remember the first time we were playing, and little Belle came down from upstairs and asked if maybe she could join in, and then she sharked us all?”

“Yeah! I knew we were in trouble when she pulled her own cue stick out of a leather case.”

Sadie art

Would this sweet young thing clock her brother’s friends? Nooooooo, never.

*   *   *

Department of White People Problems

In my forty-plus never-you-mind-how-many years of driving, I have received only two parking tickets. The first was thirty-seven years ago, when I was a college student attending UC Davis. [5] The second was earlier this week, after K, Belle and I had taken friend SCM and her daughter Ph to lunch at their favorite sushi place to celebrate Ph’s eighth birthday.

No problem with the first parking spot. After lunch I dropped off K and Belle (and Belle’s backbreaking load of four bags of books) in front of Powell’s Books. We were to meet at the store’s book buyback counter after I found a new parking space.

Parking can be quite a challenge in that part of Portland, but I’m familiar with the area and know how to read signs…don’t I?

I found a space four blocks away from Powell’s and overpaid for parking (two hours, when we’d likely need less). We had another 30 minutes of time left on our stub when Belle, K and I returned to our car, and spotted an ominous yellow envelope tucked under the windshield wiper.  Apparently, I’d chosen the one spot in a two hour zone that was actually good for only 30 minutes, and for this flagrant violation Portland wants NINETY DOLLARS.

Are you satisfied, City of Portland, for catching the evil parking scofflaw? Huh? HUH? Huh? HUH? Huh? HUH? Huh? HUH? Huh? HUH? Huh? HUH? Are you satisfied?

My anger surprised me. [6] I now understand…almost…why some people mail in their parking ticket payments in an envelope stuffed with desiccated dog turds. [7]

Ninety fucking dollars. I hope the parking  meter ticket staff has a nice lunch out (I can recommend a nearby sushi venue), on me.

I get to enrage people while wearing this bitchin' hat – is this a dream job, or what?

I get to enrage people while wearing this bitchin’ hat – is this a dream job, or what?

*   *   *

Why Didn’t I Know About This, Much, Much Earlier?

Being a non-pork consumer, I missed jumping on the everything-is-better-with-bacon bandwagon. Still, I jumped for joy when I came across The United Church of Bacon.

 

bacon

 

Once again, magician Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller)  and his friends have used humor (and in particular, Penn’s finely honed craft of satire and ridicule) to point out a serious flaw in our culture – the fact that religious people are seen as (and often claim to be)  morally superior to atheists and that religions getting special privileges in the law, over  secular non-profit organizations.

The United Church of Bacon describes itself as a “real, legal church with a funny name but a serious mission.”  From their website’s intro page:

Praise Bacon!

  • We oppose supernatural claims. We are skeptics and atheists. In our religion, we doubt religion.
  • We fight discrimination. Atheists are not inferior and should not be hated and marginalized.
  • We raise money for charity while accepting no donations for ourselves. We do not claim tax exempt status.
  • We perform legal weddings, always for free. How joyful!
  • We expose religious privileges as silly by claiming the same rights for Bacon.
  • Praise Bacon If you don’t like pigs, praise Vegetarian Bacon or Turkey Bacon.

We now have nearly 10,000 members from around the world and have performed hundreds of weddings. Join us! Raise your voice in protest, and to Praise Bacon!

My MIL has been on the lookout for witnessing opportunities ever since MH and I came out of the closet, all those many years ago, about our religion-free status. [8]  How happy she will be when she has the opportunity to discover that we (or at least, I) have found a church that truly suits our spiritual needs!

Not only that, the Mormons ain’ got nothing on the United Church of Bacon when it comes to proxy baptisms, as per the UCB’s membership form:

We will baptize any family member in the name of Bacon. Please enter the name(s) of any relative(s) you would like to give the eternal glory of our Lard to.

praisebacon-S

*   *   *

Speaking of witnessing opportunities, during our trip to Central Florida I saw an an auto repair shop [9] that called itself Just Brakes Total Car Care. I admit to being in a humidity-heat induced stupor during much of that trip, but even now, back here in temperate Oregon, that particular business name has me confused.

I may suck at reading parking zone restrictions, but I know the definitions of the words just and total.  So, which is it:  do you do fix brakes and only brakes, or everything?

Dadgummit, sonny, I said just the brakes – keep your grubby hands offa my air filter!

Dadgummit, sonny, I said just the brakes – keep your grubby hands offa my air filter!

 

*   *   *

End Notes

Yesterday afternoon, driving home after a lunchtime errand, I found myself stopped at a traffic light behind a guy whose vehicle sported a license plate holder with the phrase, He Died For Me.

license

My gut reaction: And you’re bragging about it, you heartless bastard?!

*   *   *

May you find comfort (not to mention calories) in the Eternal Glory of Our Lard…

and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She has yet to confess…but we know it’s her.

[2] Please, don’t waste your stereocilia by listening to the song.

[3] And if the pattern continues, it will be every other night.

[4] After Belle took a billiards class when she was in 8th grade, we sold the piano she never used (but had begged for when she wanted to take piano lessons, which lasted all of 3 months) and bought a used pool table. Ever since, our living room = the pool room. One of the best trades we ever made – the room gets used!

[5] And I did not have to pay that ticket, after a judge, reading the note of apology/explanation I sent in with the fine, returned my check to me.

[6] and included a pathetic, tell-it-to-the-judge whine, if this was a 30 minute spot only why did the parking machine allow me to buy two hour’s worth of time ?

[7] My favorite of the many stories I’ve read about parking ticket rage.

[8] More ickily and sadly, she has several times reminded us ( and our children, her grandchildren) how disappointed she and my FIL are that we have “rejected god.”

[9] apparently, it’s a nationwide franchise, in mostly southeast & southwest states.

The Theme Parks I’m Not Visiting

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Returning From a Week in DisneyWorld Domination Central Florida Edition.

Content Warning: Central Florida.

disney

Why…or why?

Visiting my in-laws, that’s why. MH’s parents used to come out to see us at least once a year, and we’d do the trek to see them every other year or so. But my FIL’s struggles with Parkinson’s Disease, and now lymphoma on top of that (good times!). These and other realities of age have made it difficult for the former intrepid travelers to comfortably and safely do the cross-country trek.

My in-laws are nice people and gracious hosts. We visited the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey and kayaked on the Wekiva river, and we had a great lunch on Sunday with an old friend of MH’s (old as in, from when MH was a teenager) and her family.  Still, I loathe Central Florida, or at least the parts of it that are not rivers fit for kayaking and canoeing. But even those (ala Wekiwa Springs) are infested with an odious blend of Hey-Where’s-the-Party Locals & Tourists ®.

touist

 

My goals for this trip included:

*  being able to get a good night’s sleep in the bedroom that used to be MH’s sister’s bedroom, with MH was in the same room, in the same bed; [1]
* avoiding trips to any and all amusement parks. [2] 

shell

 

Mission partially accomplished.

Lowering your expectations and upping your patience/tolerance thresholds are the keys to any extended family visit…I keep telling myself.  Still, it’s hard to watch your offspring attempt to navigate a Family Obligation Situation © after having a whole 1.5 days of downtime [3] between their college finals/graduation, moving out of college living situations and back with their parents, having to unpack from one situation and pack for the trip…and being obviously exhausted and less than enthusiastic, and having those attitudes noticed [4] by All The Grownups who do not seem to understand (or perhaps even realize) how introverts derive their energy and what they need to recharge.

*   *   *

The Mechanically Unfriendly, Cardiac Incident-Inducing Skies
Aka: Notes to Moiself on the Flight(s) Home

Okay, so our flight from PDX to Phoenix was delayed, first to check “mechanical difficulties” and then, when we were getting ready to go, a passenger seated in first class had a “cardiac incident,” which ended with him being deplaned, as they say.  We thought we’d missed our connection, but when we arrived in Phoenix we ran to the gate just as our flight to Orlando was beginning to board, and another “mechanical difficulty” was announced.

On the first leg of our flight back home, there was another call over the plane’s PA system for a medical professional, wich resulted in an elderly women a few rows ahead of us being given oxygen for the rest of the flight and her vitals monitored by a doctor…and now this, our fourth and final flight during this trip, the flight to return us to our beloved PDX, is behing delayed due to mechanical difficulties…and I wouldn’t mind pacing back and forth/sitting for yet another hour-plus delay if the Phoenix airport didn’t have such gawd-awful carpet, ahem.

like this, only uglier and dirtier.

it was like this, only uglier and dirtier.

Department of It Wasn’t All Bad

When we finally boarded flight #2 (Phoenix to Orlando), as I was schlepping my carryon back to row 2,478 or whatever, I greeted the flight attendants as I always do. As I passed by, one of them one asked me how my day was going. My shrugged reply of Meh –I’m flying to Central Florida apparently amused her enough that she comped me two white wines during beverage service. 

*   *   *

Did you know [5] that jet lag is worse flying east than west, and why that is so?

jetlag

 

Because, Science.

Reader’s Digest-y condensed explanation:  It has to do with the human body’s internal clock, which has an inborn tendency to run slightly longer than 24 hours. Every day, when you think your body is preoccupied with maintenance tasks like digestion and respiration, shedding skin cells, emitting waste products for which you plan on blaming the dog and so on and so forth, without your conscious knowledge your sneaky body is also “contracting” your internal clock to synchronize with the sun’s 24-hour cycle. Thus, when you travel east and lose time, your body has to cut its natural cycle even further (and when you travel west, your body gets the extra time it instinctively craves).

Anyway, all of this means that we were there long enough for me to feel sleep-deprived and dopey the entire time, and now I get to return to feeling just…my normal sleep-deprived and dopey self.

Still, it’s good to be back. Even if I’m not up for doing much of a post.

 

airportcarpet

*   *   *

Department of Maybe It’s a Good Thing They Turned Right And We Turned Left

Another creepy thing about Central Florida, for us Happy Heathens and Amiable Apostates, ® is the preponderances of churchiness. You can’t spit (and I have tried) without hitting a church or a church school or signs in people’s yards advertising religious schools or religious bumper stickers and license plates holders…

Also, you can’t get halibut in this FSM-forsaken place, a realization which, as we were driving to yet another grocery store, pissed me off even more than the

WE ARE A CHRISTIAN NATION

window sticker I saw on the car ahead of us — the car I hoped was also grocery store-bound, so I could leave a

CRACK THE CONSTITUTION  – WE ARE NOT A THEOCRACY,
WE ARE A SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, YOU SANCTIMONIOUS DUMBFUCK

note on their windshield.

...that you didn't do that, right?

…that you didn’t do that, right?

*  *   *

Okay, I’m too tired to do a decent post so pretend that right here we have many delightful pictures of Florida alligators, and people who need to be bitten by alligators….

…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Which is one  of those inappropriately named “full size” beds. Nothing full about it. We have a king bed at home. I was  grumpy about the lodging arrangements…and rescued at the last moment, when MH’s parents rented another bed, yee haw!

[2] You can’t spit in Central Florida without hitting an amusement park of some kind. From LegoLand to Universal Studios to Gatorland to SeaWorld to Disney’s Epcot, Disney World, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, Disney’s Blizzard Beach….

[3][3] And not really downtime at that, what with scampering around to fulfill multiple obligations as per moving back home and attaining summer employment .

[4] And commented upon.

[5] Or, do you even give a flying squirrels’ patootie?

The Offer I’m Not Accepting

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A Nice Way To Start The Week

Dateline: Monday, ~ 7:50 am, out for my morning walk. On my way back home I approach a path that cuts through a local park. The path starts near a sidewalk which is a school bus stop for one of the local high schools. Three groups of kids wait at the stop:

* two Latino boys to the far right of the sidewalk, their laughter carrying a block away.

* three girls “in the middle” of the sidewalk, about ten feet away from the boys, are talking with each other. The girls, who appear to be Asian and Latina, are slim, fashionably dressed, and gorgeous.

* and one…well, not a group, but one student stands far to the left of the others. The one is a very tall, very chubby, very white and very lonely looking boy, hair and clothing by Nerdstyle. His gaze is fixed downward at his ratty, generic sneakers.

The dynamic seemed obvious.

lonelyboy

One of the girls glances over her shoulder at Lonely Boy. She looks back at her group, at the other two boys, then leaves her friends and sidles over to Lonely Boy. As I approach and pass by them I hear her ask him about his project.[1]  I also catch the look on Lonely Boy’s face – the shy but noticeable, hopeful, gleam in his eyes.

Someone is paying attention to me.

The act and consequence, however fleeting, of a moment of connection and kindness…. It stayed with me the rest of the day.

*   *   *

The preceding warm fuzzy was brought to by The Treacledown Theory. We return you to our regular shit-talking programming.

*   *   *

Department of Burning Bridges

This week I received the following offer for publication:

First, let me apologize for the serious delay in my response.  Second, we would love to publish “____________” (name of my story) in ___________ (journal name), for publication in 2016.  I understand there is a good likelihood this piece been picked up elsewhere.  Please let me know if it’s still available.
Thanks so much for your submission. ____________(Editor name)

I had long ago written off that submission (which I do with any submitted work when the editors have not replied within their journal’s stated length-of-reply period) as an assumed rejection.

The story Redacted Journal Name wants to publish was sent to them, by moiself, in January 2012. No, that is not a typo. Longest reply ever. One thousand fifty-four days to consider a 3000 word story. [2] Also, this journal “pays” their contributors only in copies of said journal. [3]

I think I’ll wait…oh, maybe three years or so…to decline their generous offer.

burning bridge

*   *   *

More From The Wacky World o’ Literature Files

I’ve been a writer for some time, submitting my work, having it be both accepted and rejected. In years of doing so I’ve had many Interesting Experiences, ®  and two Standout Experiences this week alone (one of which is the afore-mentioned longest reply ever).

Interesting Experiences include having manuscripts returned to me that I neither submitted nor penned. That is, I’d sent a manuscript of mine to a publisher, and that publisher returned to me a manuscript that was not mine – one that had been submitted to the same publisher, by another author.

REALLY

Really.

These mistakes I found both amusing (okay, my manuscript was not right for you, but you couldn’t just say “No, thanks,” – you had to send me someone else’s rejected work?) and alarming (Yikes – is this the attentive care you take with all of your submissions?).

In each case of errant manuscript return, the other authors’ last names also started with a P or were vaguely similar to mine (I assume the errors were blamed on overworked or alphabetically-challenged editorial assistants). After alerting the publishers of their respective mishaps, at their request I destroyed the manuscripts…but not before reading the opening pages or chapters, [4] and doing so has given me a high appreciation of what publishers and editors must wade through on a daily basis, and an even higher suspicion of self-published works. [5]

So. On to this week’s Standout Experience #2.

Never have I been addressed as Mrs., nor have I ever used that title, either personally or professionally. This week I received a reply to a query, from a publisher who addressed me as Mrs. Parnell. That is something I’d expect from junk mail/catalog come-ons, not from a publisher…who, BTW, who knows nothing of my marital status, which should be irrelevant in professional correspondence, anyway.

Professionally or personally, it is wrong to refer to me as Mrs. Parnell. I have been, and always shall be your friendDammit, Spock – cease the mind meld at once!

Live long and apologize when necessary.

Live long and apologize when necessary.

I’ll try that again. I have been, and always shall be, Ms.-Parnell-please-call-me-Robyn.

MH, renegade trendsetter that he is, kept his birth surname when we married. So did I. I have never been a Mrs. Anyname.

In over twenty-seven years, editors and publishers have always addressed me as Ms. Parnell. It just struck me as…odd. I was annoyed by that salutation coming from a publisher, then annoyed by my own annoyance.

Mrs.

*   *   *

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
(George Bernard Shaw)

Now that I have Mr. Shaw’s permission, I shall spice my conversation:

Our purpose in life isn’t outsourced.
(Robyn Parnell, re how the religion-free create meaning in life)

“…all ministers are slave-traders – all Christian ministers (Paul called himself a slave, Jesus said you should become captive and you should submit and deny yourself ). They are preaching a backward message about life and about purpose.”
 (excerpt from an interview with Dan Barker, Freethought Today radio podcast, 3-14-15 [6])

Yep, that’s  Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker, himself a former evangelical minister, referring to megachurch pastor Rick Warren and other such pastors as slave-traders, in an interview about Barker’s new book, Life Driven Purpose. LDP, published by Pitchstone Publishing, aims to be “the first atheist book shelved in the inspirational section” of bookstores.

barker

According to Barker, the whole point of the book is to “flip everything around,” as per the message from books like the Rev. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and other “inspirational” titles which claim people cannot have a life of meaning without (their particular brand of) religion. More excerpts from Barker’s interview:

The good news in a nutshell is that there is no purpose of life – and that is great news! Because if there’s a purpose of life, that means we are secondary; we’re having to look up somewhere for someone to hand it to us – ‘here’s what you are’ – we’re like slaves, we’re like servants to whoever this boss is, as the Bible teaches. But the really great news is that although there is no purpose of life – and we shouldn’t want there to be, because life is its own reward – that doesn’t mean that there’s no purpose in life…. Atheists and nonbelievers have immense purpose in our lives….

“I think we atheists are truly in-spired, while (religious) believers are out-spired. They don’t have any in-spiration; they have to get it all from someone outside of themselves telling them, ‘Here’s your marching orders; here’s your rules to live, don’t think for yourselves – it’s not about you,’ like Rick Warren says. We atheists and non-believers find purpose and meaning, we create purpose and meaning within ourselves.”

Whenever I run across a reference to Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, I find myself wondering what purpose drove Warren when he visited Uganda in 2008, where he supported Ugandan Anglican’s bishops in their boycott of other Anglican’s  support for LGBT/human rights  and declared that “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus is not a human right,” after which the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”) was introduced in the Ugandan parliament.  [7]

gayugandanajpg

Anyway….

Dan Barker’s book will be released in April, and can be pre-ordered from the usual outlets.

*   *   *

Department of There Needs to Be Such A Thing

After friend SCM brought her yummy-yum-yummers potatoes to our Sunday St. Patrick’s Day-The Ides of March-Pi Day-Mardi Gras-Spring celebratory dinner, I suggested she and I form PLASMA, which is a scrambled acronym for what would be the Lumpy Artisinal Mashed Potato Appreciation Society. [8]

While I appreciate pureed foods in many forms, I am suspicious of mashed potatoes that have no lumps or “substance” whatsoever. Totally smooth mashed potatoes are a template for lefse but, IMHO, have little purpose outside of that. I prefer my MPs to have texture; i.e., chunks of delicious potatoes.

I volunteer to assume the duties and responsibilities of PLASMA’s The Dowager Lumpy. I will gladly accept suggestions for the title to be bestowed upon the genteel (and gentile, to boot) SCM.

Mashed potatoes without lumps? How middle class.

Mashed potatoes without lumps? How middle class.

*   *   *

Department of It’s Obvious, Dude

To the residents of the really-needs-the-lawn-mown-and-siding-painted house, every window of which is covered with aluminum foil and/or an American flag:

Wouldn’t it just be easier to hang a sign on the front door that says, We cook meth here?

nothin' to hide in here, no sir.

nothin’ to hide in here, no sir, officer sir.

*   *   *

May your salutations be appropriate, may your mashed potatoes be lumpy, may your view stay foil-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The high school they attend has a mandatory Senior Project for graduating students, and this would be the time of the year students would be working on their projects.

[2] That’s 2.6 words a day. Of course I did the math.

[3] I no longer submit work to publications that offer no monetary compensation to writers.

[4] I at first thought they might be my works, and each time this happened I wondered why the publisher had taken the time and expense to return my ms., despite my having clearly requested in my cover letter that the publisher follow the industry standard on hard copy submissions (which is to destroy/recycle the ms. and reply via the enclosed SASE).

[5] I cringe to think that those would-be books I read could make it to publication without having gone through the “gate keepers” (i.e. they were in need of severe editing)…and suck writing can, nowadays, thanks to the self-publishing industry.

[6] Yes – almost the best Pi day date ever!

[7] Rick Warren was not the only American conservative minister to export their anti-LGBT propaganda to Africa.

[8] Artisinal because you can’t spit without hitting artisanal something in the Portland area.

The Baby Card I’m Not Sending

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Happy New Year – Pick Your Battles

Every morning I send an email to my mother (from my end it’s an email; from her end, it’s more like receiving a fax [1]). The emails are neither particularly personal nor conversational – I save that for our phone calls. Rather, they are another way of keeping in touch, another way of letting her know I’m thinking of her, another way to provide her with a modicum of cognitive stimulation and something to read besides that loony-ass shit the Billy Graham people send her. [2]

Each day’s email has a theme. Mondays are Jokes for the day, and I send her select stories and gags I’ve culled from a variety of “clean” humor websites.

corny joke

On another day she receives a Word for the Day, and there is a Quote for the Day, Poem for the Day, and so on.

Thursdays are Thoughts for the Day: two or more meditative or philosophical passages I gather from a couple of sources, including one called (wait for it) Thought For Today.

The TFT website describes its function as providing:

 “…daily Medication for the soul. Quotations and words of wisdom to motivate and inspire. Since January 2008 we have provided a Thought for the Day from famous and not so famous individuals, some still living, some not.
We believe that words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up….”

The TFT site posts a list of quotations/meditations/thoughts that change daily.  No matter the attribution, the words of wisdom are listed as being presented on the site by “The Thought Collector’s Wife.” Which frosts my butt, every time I read that.

OHNO

Yesterday, I decided that it’s butt-thawing time, and sent the TFT site the following email.

I enjoy reading your collection of motivational quotes. As you so wisely put it in your About Us statement, “Words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up.” I agree wholeheartedly that words matter – that how we say something can be just as important as what we are saying.  Thus, I request that you please change the name of “The Thought Collector’s Wife” to “The Thought Collector.” The former “title” is a sexist remnant, reflecting the times when only a man was thought to have ownership of occupations and ideas – times when, for example, a man who farmed was referred to as a farmer, and the woman who also farmed would be called “the farmer’s wife.”
“Wife” and “husband’ are terms denoting relationship, not occupation.  If a woman collects thoughts, she is a thought collector – her marital status is irrelevant.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.

*   *   *

 

falling

OPRAH DROPS FOUR SIZES ! ! !

Yikes! I hope they didn’t land on anyone’s noggin.

That is my favorite spam of 2015. The year is young, I know.

spamlite

*   *   *

Speaking of canned meat by-products,  although it pains me to waste precious seconds by typing the name, Sarah Palin (ye-ow, that smarts) was something I thought I’d be grateful for, in the new year.  Grateful as in, I’ve yet another year to appreciate the concept of bullet dodging.

As in, we dodged a bullet.

Big time.

All of us.

Which we did by not electing the McCain-Palin (ouch) ticket.

I also thought I’d be grateful that the dropout governor/former mayor of the meth capital of Alaska was seemingly/relatively gone from public life….

Silly moi.

And then, one of her mutant offspring [3] stepped on the new family dog, and for some reason Palin (owwww) posted a picture of the abuse charming domestic scene on a social media site.  Animal rights accusation flinging ensued, and Palin (stop that!) eagerly dove headfirst into the slop bucket jumped into the ring.

Pet abuse, schmet-abuse – the real story is, why did she respond at all?  Is it simply that she continues to be infected with the quasi-celebrity mentality that any press is good press, and it’s been some time since she’s had a headline?

I actually read part of her screed, before I was overcome with a return-to-sanity-inducing, WTF am I doing?!  bout of self-reproach.  And I felt a chill – yep, the actual, [4] proverbial chill running down my spine – to read her strident, two-steps-short-of-intelligible harangue; I felt chilled to realize that such an immature, superficial, petty and vicious person was, for the most manipulative and cynical reasons [5], chosen to be placed in a position a few EKGs away from the presidency.

And thus, the first Pretty Purple Toe Award of 2015 goes to…well, to all of us. We do a lotta dumb shit, but at least we did not go down that path.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

҉    New Year Reflections Continued    ҉

The Department of She Meant Well
Chapter XVI: The Problem with The Problem Child

The following discourse is courtesy to flashbacks sparked by the family wedding photos I received with this year’s Christmas cards and letters.

Dateline: either in late junior high or high school.  was visiting a friend at her house. My friend, Friend’s Mother and I were talking about…parent-child relationships, perhaps? I cannot remember the subject. Whatever the topic, it apparently inspired Friend’s Mother to tell me the story of how my mother had confided in her that I was my mother’s “problem child.”

Looking back, I think FM sincerely (if mistakenly) thought that by sharing this story she might bolster my self-confidence and paint herself as a hero –  my champion – as the anecdote also included her response to my mother:

“Well, if that’s a problem child, give me that problem any day!”

problemchild

Problem child. A moniker which, I imagine, most true problem children bear with pride.

It confused me, then. Still does.

I attended a Southern California high school that had a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse student body, and which was majority Hispanic by my senior year.  My fellow students were kids from poverty-stricken neighborhoods with gang problems and rich kids with drug problems and surfer kids with Dude, where’s my brain? problems, and everything in between.

Moi? I was a smart ass, with opinions. I talked back – and forth, and up and down – at home, at school, at church. I questioned; I had political and social and cultural attitudes and interests that were not always shared nor understood by my parents or teachers.  I also was a straight-A student, involved in my church’s youth group and in school sports and student government and journalism programs, and by my senior year had my own editorial column in the school paper’s op-ed page.

I was not doing drugs/violence/the track coach under the bleachers. Where, exactly, was the problem?

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Through the miracle of time travel we return to the recent past, to one of last year’s three family weddings.  My niece’s wedding ceremony was late (surprise!) in starting.  Sitting in the second row, I struck up a conversation with one of the three wonderful women who are employed as my mother’s round-the-clock, live-in caretakers (“Mom’s Ladies” is how my sisters and I fondly refer to them).

Looking around at the other guests, I’d noticed I seemed to be the only female not attired in something on the purple-blue end of the color spectrum. I pointed to my black skirt and made a crack to the Mom’s Lady sitting nearest me, about how I obviously “hadn’t been sent the wedding attire memo.”

Mom’s Lady winked at me and said, with conspiratorial affection, “Well, of course – black sheep of the family.”

Interesting…that the label had apparently changed (progressed?) from Problem Child ® to Black Sheep ®.

Still, youch. I just wasn’t expecting that blast from the past.

The thing is, the only reason one of Mom’s Ladies could have known I had been given that label is that is that someone – my mother is the likely suspect – had to have said that to her.

Why does such a label – or the story of it – persist? It may be due in part to the fact that I am the only (openly) religion-free person in my immediate family. But, really. FFS, I’m in my fifties.

 

Yeah, I'm black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

Yeah, I’m black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

*   *   *

Department of Pipe Dreams

Ababies

Aka, The Congratulations Card I Probably Won’t Send

What with all the weddings in my extended family during the past year, there’s bound to be some imminent breeding. Here is an example of the baby congrats card I’d love to send…but won’t.[6]

Congratulations on the birth of your new little atheist!

Congratulations on your new little atheist!

 

All babies, including those born to religious parents, are born atheists.  Atheism is not a philosophy or belief system – really, it’s not an ism at all. It is a term which simply denotes a lack of theistic belief, which is where we all begin – it is a human being’s natural state. We are born without supernatural beliefs, or beliefs of any kind.

Religions need to be inculcated.  Beliefs are learned [7].  You have to be carefully taught.

 

*   *   *

And You Thought Wedgies Were Uncomfortable

Animal name of the day…year…century.  Behold, the cockchafer.

Imagine having that for your species name. Just, because, okay?

Who's the cute little cockchafer?!

Who’s the cute little cockchafer?!

*   *   *

Overheard

Dateline: Wednesday, during our family tradition of playing cards at dinner (dealer chooses the game). Over a game of Knock (aka Kings in the corner), MH came up with a somewhat mild double entendre while Belle, K and I were discussing the latest Downton Abbey episode.

“Dad!” Belle gasped in astonishment and delight. “Did you just make a dick joke?!”

MH smiled enigmatically, but did not reply.

“I think you’re ready to play Cards Against Humanity,” [8] Belle declared.

*   *   *

May you be ready for any game your children will play with you, and for all shades of sheep that may roam the pastures of your life, and may the covert dick jokes and hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She has a device which allows her to print email from selected sources (thus, no spam), but she cannot reply. The device caters to and is marketed at the elderly/frail/computer-disinterested and/or phobic.

[2] No, she does not read this blog (and has no means to do so) – whaddya think, I’m crazy or something?

[3] I know, I know, don’t pick on the kids. At least I didn’t employ a slur that is supposedly directed at the mentally impaired (hint: rhymes with pee chard).

[4] Notice I did not type, “literal,” as, literally, that word has been officially declared so 2014, or whatever.

[5] You really must read Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. Preferably while chugging a strong anti-emetic.

[6] Because, after all, don’t want to give ’em any more Black Sheep ammunition.

[7] And, fortunately, can be unlearned.

[8] My offspring have promised to play that game with me, but have steadfastly refused to do so with their more genteel father.

The Possum I’m Not Herding

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The Department of Feasting

My family – the one MH and I created – has several holiday season traditions, some of our own making and some adopted/adapted from our respective families of origin.  The elves that hide in every downstairs room to watch you from atop the curtain rod, hanging from the bathroom lights or peeking out from a potted plant watching you – that’s from my family.  The every-piece-of-art-with-a-face-wears-a-Santa-hat mandate, that’s from the weirdo festive mind of moiself.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.

 

Many of our traditions involve (surprise!) dining.  Depending on when the Solstice falls, there are several days in a row of special meals.  Solstice Soup & Salad Supper; Little Christmas Eve,[1]  and of course Christmas Eve. [2]  On Christmas Day we go out for lunch to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, then for dinner it’s homemade pizza. Come Boxing Day, I swear I’m never going to cook/eat again…a vow that I am most happy to break in the New Year.

 

Mmmmm...lefse.

Mmmmm…lefse.

*   *   *

Department of Holiday Guerrilla Art Projects

Much to the chagrin pride of my family, I’ve been working on a…new project.  Friend and legitimate artist LAH refers to my project as a kind of performance art.  I’ve composed a variation on the typical lost pet posting that you see on kiosks, neighborhood post office boxes and lampposts, and for the past few days I have been posting these flyers around the “greater” [3] Hillsboro area.

LOST PET: REWARD FOR RETURN OF OUR BELOVED DOG!
503-555-9929
He is a purebred Welsh possum herder, answers to the name of:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

uglycat

Physical description: 15 years old,weighs approx. 10 lbs, brown, mange-ridden fur
blind in left eye, arthritic, toothless, asthmatic, incontinent….

On second thought, never mind.

 

* Yes, Virginia, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll is the actual name of a Welsh village;
* Yes, Virginia, there is no such thing as a Welsh possum herder dog;
* Yes, Virginia, the picture is not of a dog, but that of a pretty sorry looking cat

 

*   *   *

pagantree

“Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with teh axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

(Jer. 102-4)

 After last week’s post, specifically the blurb about the essay No, Virginia, There is NO Santa Claus, I feel compelled to explain that I like the Santa Claus thing.

I loved the folklore of Santa Claus when I was a child, even as I can’t remember a time that I actually believed Santa was a real entity.  It was a marvelous make-believe that got both kids and grownups to play an elaborate kind of dress up.

Being raised in a religious family, I took the various birth-of-JC stories for granted, although they didn’t interest me nearly as much as the other trappings of the Solstice season.  All the things I loved most about Christmas – Santa and the reindeer, candles and lights, festive greenery and Christmas fir trees, the idea of giving and receiving gifts – were, I later realized, secular traditions and symbols predating Christianity. These traditions and symbols were later stolen adopted and adapted by Christians, in a practice called Interpretatio Christiana, as a strategy for relating to and ultimately converting their pagan neighbors.

I know all that.  Still, I love the Santa thing for several reasons, including the fact that Santa Claus is a Freethinker/Bright?Atheist/Rationalist/Humanist’s best friend.  Or, as author and educator Dale McGowan put it, Santa Claus is “the greatest gift a rational worldview ever had.”

Asanta

Santa Claus is an entertaining and culturally acceptable way to introduce children to the fact that sensible-appearing people who claim to have good or altruistic reasons for doing so often “believe in” something that is exceptionally improbable…and these same, otherwise sensible people tap dance their way around answering the sticky questions children ask when they notice things like, “How come Santa brings more gifts to rich kids than to poor kids?”

By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. A very casual line of post-Santa questioning can lead kids to recognize how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough.
Dale McGowan, from his essay “Santa Claus, the Dry Run

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uglyXmas sweater

Only 364 days until the next UCS [4] Fest.

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Happy Boxing Day!  And may the hijinks ensue.

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 Make it so...festive

Make it so…festive

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Little Christmas Eve is the Eve before Christmas Eve, an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated by my paternal grandfather’s tiny Norwegian village.  The LCE dinner menu varies year to year; this year, at K’s & Belle’s request, roast rack of lamb.

[2] CE menu never varies: Norwegian lefse and meatcakes.

[3] The farther away from Hillsboro, the greater you get.

[4] Ugly Christmas Sweater.

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