Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My "first" Thanksgiving

45 years ago in Delta Junction, Alaska the buffalo roamed freely. It was dark by 2:30, and the nights were forever long. The stars seemed so close and bright I thought I could reach up and pluck one.

We heated with diesel fuel and cooked with propane. We could barely afford that stewing hen, much less a turkey on the military salary, but I wanted to prepare my first Thanksgiving dinner. Half way through the roasting, our trailer-size oven went cold. It ran out of propane. Days before payday and we didn't have six cents for a stamp to write home. None of the military families living off post did. We dug in the drawers, car, purse, pockets and came up with 99 cents. We went to the gas station up on the highway and asked the attendant to fill our five gallon drum with 99 cents worth of propane.

Today, so many years later, I am thankful for the man who filled our tank to the brim, and sent us down the road with his blessing.

We invited Bob and Karen over to share a meal. We heard a racket outside, looked out the trailer window at the field across the road and the small forest of stunted trees where the buffalo meandered. We noticed a middle age Eskimo couple walking down the gravel road, and it broke our hearts when we realized the man was verbally abusing the woman. Again. It was a common occurrence, a way of life for them, but especially hard to witness on Thanksgiving. Karen and I wanted to go rescue her.

Some times all we can do is offer a thought or prayers. Today I pray for all of those who are hungry, hurting, alone, in need. I am grateful for my many blessings and count my blog buddies among them. Wishing you and yours a blessed day. Enjoy your "stuffing."    

Monday, November 25, 2013

Albuquerque is a turkey

Presenting Albuquerque the turkey. One little girl told her mom and grandma that it was not a Turkey but a Querque, and if they didn't believe her then they could just ask Ms. Linda. I taught them a song about Albuquerque. I said, "Don't sing AlbaTURKEY, his name is AlbuQuerque."
The purpose was to see if they all had the hard C/K sound developed in their speech yet.

 The children twisted tissue paper and stuck it on our bird for feathers. Then, we did a food drive. It is never too early to teach children about helping those less fortunate. We talked about how the Native American Plains Indians had to hunt for buffalo when they wanted to eat or have clothing etc. because there were no stores.

I explained that even though we have stores now, there are some people who can't afford food. They need some, so we call them "needy", and we asked the children to bring non-perishables. When  parents walked in with a bag of canned goods or muffin mix, I stopped them and told them to allow their children to deposit the food in the box, so they could feel a part of the sharing.

Today we sorted all of the 125 items. We had more cans of soup and tuna, lots of fruits and vegetables, pastas and more. Not a bad donation form 19 students. I am proud of them. Tomorrow the people from the food pantry will come and haul it away.

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Multi-culturalism is a real hands-on experience in my classroom.

This is one of the most fun months at school for the children. It gets  a bit chaotic and noisy during free play as they take the toy bow and arrow and go on bear and buffalo and turkey hunts.

We make our very own tee-pee. Two children can sit inside and look at the pictorial display of the Native American doll and her accessories on the inner walls, or read a book, or view real photos of Native Americans.

First, we lay out a large roll of paper so the children can draw symbols. Prior to the activity I ask them if they can read. They all say NO, and then I show them bags from McDonalds, Taco Bell etc. and they "read" the words. I explain that they are symbol reading. Together we read a symbol story with pictures/words for water, mountain, tree, fish, deer etc. We learn that it required 12 buffalo skins or more to make one tee pee and the dads went hunting and the moms chewed the buffalo hide to soften it so they could sew the hides together. The kids are amazed to learn that Native American children had only one room in their home. Their first question is, "Where did they go to the bathroom?" They "Eww" when I say, "Out in the woods."

We converted an old vacuum cleaner box into a canoe and made paddles. The children dress in costumes and row down river to trade or see what they can see. I love to listen to their conversation and see how much information they have absorbed.

The week ends with a surprise. Ms. Amy borrows a box of animal pelts from The Department of Conservation. The children sit spellbound when they see the buffalo, bear and deer hides. We tell them how the Native Americans used all parts of the animals...every single part. They are amazed when I tell them that there were no stores to buy what you needed. If the Plains Indians needed food, clothing, shoes, a coat, blanket, or household items they had to go hunting for a large animal.
 In addition to these pelts, we also had a box of hides from small animal fur bearers. The children enjoyed guessing which animal it was. They have so much fun playing with the items I have collected over the years. It is times like these when I so enjoy teaching preschoolers. This is a month filled with active learning activities. The children think they are just playing, but play is a child's learning tool.

We have followed dot-to-dot paths, laced paper canoes, decorated paper tee pees, played listening games, learned songs, told individual stories and done so much more. Kids learn best by DOING. The back of the brain (sensory motor area) develops first, so giving children experiential learning activities enables them to hold on to the information better than doing table/pencil-paper work. If it's in the hand first it gets to the brain faster!

Now, to leave you with the best funny I have heard during the month of November. I told a class one year that my dad and grandma were Native American. A little girl raised her hand and said, "My daddy is a NAKED American, too." I kept a straight face and nodded, but I could not look at that father ever again with out laughing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Look at this debut!

I have heard lots of bad news from friends and family about cancer, death, auto accidents, brain tumors, house fires, teen troubles and more. The Phillipines is a mess, and I feel helpless. I find myself lately saying, Why would anyone want to bring a baby into this crazy world?

I am not going to get all philosophical here, but let me just say that after meeting with my daughter, granddaughter and her husband on the parking lot of the doctor's office, I know that love conquers all.

When they handed me the ultrasound picture with "Hi Grandma" typed on top, I squealed, hugged them and ran up to the first woman I saw and shoved the picture at her, tapped it and said, "This is my first great-grandchild!"

She nodded, half-smiled, said, "Oh," and kept walking.

Yes, there are crazies in this world, and yesterday I appeared to be one of them.

Even in the worst crises, life goes on. Here is my granddaughter's "tadpole."

On my way home I thought about how happy my mother would be. Ashley was her first great grandchild, and to say she was obsessed with her would be an understatement. I'm sure she's rejoicing in heaven.

I gazed at a snapshot of my maternal great-grandmother. She used to allow my mom (when she was a little girl)  to comb out her curls after just coming from the beauty salon. My mom's mom would reprimand her, but my mom's grandmother would say, "You leave her alone. I don't mind at all."

That act of selflessness made all the difference to my mother in her life. She often said she felt more love from her grandma than anyone. Ever.

I picked up my great grandma's photo and placed the ultra sound picture next to it. "Meet your great-great-great-great grandbaby, Wally."

The doctor said the baby has a very strong heartbeat, so the parents are convinced it's a boy, whose name (this month) is Wyatt William. They will know the gender for sure in one month. Times have sure changed. She can dye her hair and paint the nursery, all no-nos when I was PG.

Ashley is 8 1/2 weeks along; her due date is, June 27th. It would be incredible if she delivered on my mom's birthday, June 21st or on her mom's birthday June 24th, or mine, or her husband's or any of the other eight June birthdays in our family. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Recipe for success...who doesn't like a muffin?

I wish I were sitting in a large hi-rise at the beach with all my dear readers. I'd bake delicious muffins to share with all of you, and I would serve your beverages of choice...yes, anything.

We would gab about our lives and writing, and we'd gaze at the waves lapping the shore. We'd be proper and polite, share secrets and act silly; we'd be our authentic selves.

We would leave each other with lasting impressions and good-bye hugs that left indentations.

Since I can't gather you all at the beach, and shipping a muffin to all of you is out of the question, not to mention some of the beverages some of you would choose, I am inviting each of you to grab your favorite beverage and visit me at The Muffin. Please, will you leave a comment on their site?

It's not exactly a muffin, but I'd like to share a recipe with you that I recently tried.

Simple and simply delicious pin wheels:

Unroll the entire pack of dairy case extra large crescent rolls onto aluminum foil in one section.
Pinch the perforations closed.
Spread with cooked scrambled eggs. (I used five egg whites and one whole egg.) 
Sprinkle with crushed, cooked bacon/crumbled sausage or both!
Top with shredded cheese.

Roll from the short end, jelly roll fashion as you remove from the foil.
Slice and bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes.
Makes about 8-10 depending on how thick you slice yours.
If they seem loose when you roll them, give them a little squeeze, they will come out fine.

You can modify this in any way imaginable: fruit filling, sugar/cinnamon or any meat mixture.
These stored in fridge and reheated well. I am considering freezing some. They are addictive.

Now, will you please dash over to the The Muffin and read my post on Friday Speak Out!
The Muffin offers opportunties for publication with  Friday Speak Outs! Have at it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Makes you want to scratch your head

We went out to dinner Friday night. The things you hear! Across from our table sat a nicely dressed grandmother and her granddaughter who looked to be about 20 years old. The grandmother asked who the girl was dating.

Girl: "Joe."

Grandmother: "Oh, this is a  new guy? How old?"

Girl: "He's 29."

Grandmother: "Oh that's quite an age difference. He's older than the last guy. How old was he?"

Girl: "He was 27."

Grandmother: "Oh, I see. Well are you going to bring him to Thanksgiving?"

Girl: "Yeah, sure. I'm going to wear my short dress."

Grandmother: Shook her head. "No, you shouldn't wear that one. What is he wearing?"

Girl: "He wants to wear his wife beater undershirt so he can show off his tattoos."

MY HUSBAND: "Wonder where she parks her trailer?"

Now for the writers out there, that's a "character" in development. Look and listen to those around you when you need a writing prompt. Have fun.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chihaua WHAT!

Many decades ago during my first marriage, I talked someone into eating out. He said he'd be more comfortable eating if they had curtains in the booths. When the waitress came to take our order, he ordered an entree. She asked "super salad?" He replied, "Yes." She asked again. He replied yes. She asked two more times, then finally, very slowly, she said, "Soup OR salad?"

Now I can laugh about it, but then he didn't think it was at all funny.

Recently, someone I love and I went to a Mexican restaurant with friends, Phil and Pat. Upon leaving my honey asked, "What was that white cream on top?"
I told him it was melted Mexican Chihauhau cheese.

On our way home, he commented that we could make chicken Chimichnagas at home. I nodded.

He asked, "Where would we buy BULLDOG cheese?"

I am still laughing, but he who teases me, does not think it as funny as I do.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Say it. Sing it. Tell it like it is, girl!

So many kids have been told they can be anything they want to be. We encourage and empower children from the day they are born with our words, facial expressions, a tender touch.

A few years ago I sent a self-confident class of preschoolers to a new kindergarten teacher who had been a former middle grade classroom teacher years before. For the past ten years, she had been a resource teacher where she dealt with 1-3 children at a time. When I saw her in the hall, I asked how my former students were doing. She said with disgust, "They're all so bold and smart and confident, the entire class."

I believe that people in power should not overpower. Compliance and obedience are not synonymous. Gaining cooperation is different from demanding control. Kids are people too, and they have rights!

Before I go off on a tangent, let me tell you one more story about Nicole who is reading and writing.

She spent the night. I quizzed her on personal information: name, address, phone, city, state, parents/sibling names etc. With 100% accuracy, she answered all of my questions. Then she added, "And my nickname is Molly Rose. When I grow up I'm going to be a rock star, and that will be my name, Molly Rose."
And then, for the next hour she sang... Every. Single. Question. Comment, Request and Thought that popped into her head. Sometimes she sang like an opera star, sometimes she ch-ch-ched the ends of her songs.

Finally, I replied back in song, which startled and stopped her. "Hey, how did YOU learn that?" She asked and beamed proudly, probably thinking I was a former rock star.

With her every different voice inflection and delivery I had to smile, knowing that no matter which stage she takes to in her life, she WILL be a super star. "Molly Rose" is going to rock this world.

As I tucked her in at bedtime, I asked if she said her prayers. I began to recite, "Now I lay me down to sleep..."
She looked at me and said, "Nana, when I get under my covers, I just talk  to God, every night."


Saturday, November 9, 2013

She's my Yankee Doodle girl!

It's a big deal when you get to go on stage and stand on the risers for a musical performance with your fellow kindergarteners.

Six-year-old Nicole was very excited to tell me she would be doing a patriotic salute on Monday at school.

"And I get to REALLY salute!" She showed me HOW to salute. She stood, chin in air and sang all of the words to I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy.

When we were snuggling on the couch, I told her she will always be my little girl. She said, "Nana, YOU love me so much, don't you? I just KNOW you love me more than anyone."

Everyone should have someone in their life who loves them SO much...just because they were born, despite all of their "problems", real or imagined. How many people of all ages go through life trying to feel loved? I want my grandchildren to feel loved despite their inadequacies, and not because of some fantastic attribute, report card grades or claim to fame. Despite teen rebellion, no matter how married or how old they get, even when they have children of their own.

I am leaving my legacy. After I am gone I want my grandchildren to say, "Nana loved me best."
"Huh -uh, she loved ME best."

Nicholas is 11, and as soon as he comes in and sits by me, he still raises his shirt and asks me to rub his back. He says, "You tickle backs better than anyone, ever."

"Well, I'm an expert. I tickled your dad's back when he was a little boy," I say.

So, as Nicole and I were snuggling on the couch, I whispered in her ear that Ashley is going to have a baby.

"Is it out yet?" she asked.

"No, it's growing inside her. But it will come out around the fourth of July."

She sat up, wide-eyed and exclaimed, "Not out; you mean BORN. On Yankee Doodle Day?!"



She smiled broadly and curled beside me. I'm sure she thinks that her singing that song had something to do with it.

After thinking about it, we decided to call Ashley so Nicole could sing Yankee Doodle Dandy for her and the baby. We left that message on her answering machine.

Nicole's my Yankee Doodle girl!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Three pies, a dozen brownies, five do the math


What would we do without our women friends? My writing critique group, the WWWPs is the absolute best, and I feel blessed.

This is my opening for my story:

Wild Women Wielding Pens, page 303

We haven't been BFFs since kindergarten, and the only thing we had in common when we met was a desire to write and publish our work. Our girlhoods are thirty to fifty years in our pasts, but the five of us will always be girls at heart.

We have collectively mopped our foreheads and mouths as we have sweated out an essay, dealt with an ex-husband, had a hot flash, shared personal details, or devoured delectable cuisine.

Lest you think my story is only about writing, you will have to read on to find out the gossip I dished on each of my friends. We got caught on a "nanny cam" while on "retreat."

This book is available now. Please leave a review on Amazon if you liked it.

Last night was our critique meeting. We celebrated one of our birthdays with the best and funniest gifts and most delicious desserts. Sioux attempted to make the birthday girl's favorite, a coconut cream pie. According to her, by morning the pie filling still hadn't set up. Instead of forks we'd have been sucking it through straws, she said. She figured in six days it may set, so she left it in her fridge. She stopped for a Marie Callendar coconut cream pie on her way home from work. Funny though, her dear, thoughtful husband stopped by the bakery when he discovered her pie hadn't gelled, and he bought another coconut cream pie. That was three coconut pies!

Sioux had to panic stop while driving, and the bakery pie slid like a kid on Art Hill on a snowy day. It lodged under her seat. She imagined whipped cream and coconut smeared all over the lid.

She apologized. "I don't know what condition this coconut cream pie is going to be in after that panic stop." She opened the lid, looked inside, frowned and shouted, "What the... APPLE pie?!"

We laughed every time we thought about it. Sioux outdid herself; she brought brownies, too. See what I mean about women and friendship? Nothing...nobody stopped us from sampling all the desserts. Yes, all!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Baby steps

I'll bet most writers are aware that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where authors produce a 50,000 word novel (not polished) in thirty days and submit it to  That's a minimum of 1,667 words per day. That is not for me. But I admire those who can do it.

Many folks do not know that November is also National Life Writing Month. That is right up my alley! I can write a 1-2,000 word personal essay in one sitting. But if I had to do that everyday, I'd burn out.

Life writing takes many forms. Think of journal entries, pictorial displays at funerals, or Grandma's hand stitched quilt with squares from family clothes. If you find it difficult to get started, dig out old letters or greeting cards and read the handwritten messages from your loved ones. These are treasures. Look in the back of  your closet at an item of clothing. Trigger a memory by handling treasures in a trinket box, or dig through the junk drawer and dicover a key to...where?

Begin writing and don't stop to edit, just pour your heart onto the page until your words overflow. Sometimes they get messy and leave a flood of debris. Our lives are rife with debris and it is YOUR debris, your story. No one else owns YOUR memories. Begin your memoir by writing a memory. Before you know it, you may have a collection of rememberances that will lead to a story worthy of publication.

These leather baby shoes are over 100 years old. They are very fragile. Don't you love those tassles? There is a life story attached to those shoes, but I do not know the story. I bought them for a dollar at a yard sale, but the seller did not know the story. I keep them close by to remind me that someone a century ago, took baby steps, put one foot in front of the other and headed toward a goal. He or she fell frequently and then got back up and tried again. That's all any of us can do whether we are writing or just struggling to  get through one more day. You will  hear, "No". You will get bruised egos, and some days you will take  two steps forward and three back.

Begin with baby steps...a begining to an unknown destination where you'll make discoveries along the way. You have buried treasures in your past. Unearth them. If you are burdened by something, don't give up. Put one foot in front of the other and take baby steps.

Not 50,000 words, perhaps 150 to begin. Do it...your way, but DO IT.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nana does cakes, too

 Nana's girl is 6. She was thrilled when Grandpa walked in carrying her cake with the littlest Pet Shop fairy and her dog on top of her cake.
When I walked in with her very own Barbie cake, she squealed with delight.
I loved decorating these cakes, have never taken a class, but wouldn't want to do it for a living.
This is my oldest granddaughter who is expecting my first great grandbaby in July. Are we thrilled? Do you think? Twins run on both sides of their families. In fifteen days, they will know if there is one heart beat or two. They are hoping for two so they can get it over and done with all at one time.