Wednesday, May 28, 2008


If the Academy of Motion Pictures ever decides to award an Oscar for "Actor with Best Official Website," the winner, hands-down, will be (drum roll, please): Jeff Bridges. I say this not because he is on my short list of favorite actors of all time but because he truly has a quirky, funny, interesting website. You've got to check it out.

Besides being an actor, Bridges is a photographer, sketch artist, sculptor, author, and philanthropist. His website, scrawled in his own handwriting and accompanied by his drawings (including the one above), has the usual filmography, interviews, upcoming appearances, etc., but he also promotes not-so-well-known musicians, as well as his charity, End Hunger Network.

The best part of his website, however, is his "Stuff" link. It has human interest stories (don't miss "Testicle Attack"), oddities, photography, art, (ever seen horses made of driftwood?) well, just lots of "stuff." I found one of the funniest to be "Worst Album Covers Ever." There's also a neat YouTube link to a fantastic acoustic guitar player from Topeka and a golf game link that is addictive. There is so much "stuff," you'll be entertained for hours. Sometimes Bridges includes personal side comments, as though he is writing little tidbits to his best friends, of which I am one, of course. ;)

So, if you're looking for a website that is different, try out this one. Oh, and for my blog readers from Greenwood County, if you've never seen Bridges's old movie Bad Company, you should rent it from your local video store. It was filmed in Severy and in the Flint Hills, so you'll see some mighty familiar territory. And if that doesn't trip your trigger, then try The Fisher King or Star Man or Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Well, just about any ol' Bridges work will suffice. Happy viewing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Rain has been keeping our basement sump pump in overdrive the past few days. I'm not too keen on all this overly wet weather now that I'm an old fogey, but I used to relish sloshing around the neighborhood after a good "toad strangler"--other than the fact that I had to wear my older brother's hand-me-down galoshes, brown Hoplaong Cassiday clodhoppers, rather than the cutesy white, pink, or yellow numbers that most girls wore.

There were several favorite post-deluge venues around town, and one of them was the practice football field right across the street from my house, that is until a school was built on the land and ruined all our fun. This field had a low spot that typically filled up after a good rain. It was a great place to mingle with croaking frogs, turtles, and crawdads. There were even a few times the water was so deep that inner tubes were required.

Probably the best-known water spot in town, however, was Button Creek. I'm not exactly sure where it started, but I do recall that there were sidewalk bridges running across it from 12th to 4th streets. After a big rain, everyone had to check the creek to see how high the water was, as compared to previous downpours. We'd toss something into the rushing stream, like a small tree branch or a rubber ball, then race like lightning to the next block's bridge, hoping to get there first.

Even in dry seasons, Button Creek was a playground. We'd jump in at 12th Street and then follow the creek bed to 4th, walking underneath the streets in the dark, imagining what danger lay ahead. This must have been what it was like for the great navigators of the world, I was certain. We also used the creek as a place to hide secret messages and to crouch down in as we spied on the "holy rollers" inside an adjacent church. Some of my guy pals once stashed their girlie magazines inside a stone crevice of the creek until a cranky old lady/neighbor discovered their cache and ratted to a parent. Bummer.

I hope the current crop of kids in Fredonia have found their own creative uses for Button Creek like my friends and I did once upon a time. If they haven't, they are missing out on one of life's little treasures.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Attending my great niece's dance recital over the weekend got me to thinking about the one and only time I took dance lessons--two years ago. My friend the Hippie Goddess persuaded me to join her in taking Intro to Belly Dancing 101 at a retirement home in Eskridge. It sounded intriguing, so my bulging belly and I signed up for about six weeks of basic training.

I wasn't good at it. I could get the hip and foot part okay, but when I tried to add the hand/arm motions, I was sunk. Try as I might, I couldn't coordinate my top half with my bottom half. I looked like a tortured dancing worm. When it got to the point that I could no longer bear to watch myself practicing in front of the full-length mirror at home, I decided it was time to wave the white flag and give it up. No recitals for me, although I did enjoy wearing my royal blue, velvet hip scarf and shaking all the attached booty coins. I still take it out of the closet from time to time to look at it.

I've now decided that clogging lessons would be more to my liking. There is only one position for the arms and hands--hanging at the sides, not moving. I can do that. Cloggers just appear to hop, stomp and skip. I think I can do that, too, although maybe not all at once and maybe not at warp speed, but it's possible. I also have the hair for clogging, so that's a plus, too. Now, if I can just find a pair of size 10 tap shoes and a clog teacher, I'll be set.

I'm leaving the harem behind and headed to Riverdance. See you under the lights!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Gasoline prices be damned, I drove to Pittsburg today, 240 miles round trip, to see my great niece Madelaine perform in a dance recital. Never mind that I had to sit through 21 other group performances before the 3-4 year old production, "It's All How You Look At It" came on stage. Maddie was terrific and it was worth the wait. I'd never seen her all gussied up and prettified before. She typically prefers being barefooted, dirt and food smudged on her face, with her hair flying behind her, but here she was in her little purple ballet tutu, looking like a princess. At home, she's a wild child dashing about carelessly, but now she was all precision, keeping with the beat of the music, making all the right moves and facial expressions. Incredible. Later she returned to the stage with a smaller group, shaking colorful streamers to "Rainbow in Your Eyes." Bravo! Bravo!

When we got back to my sister's home, I showed Maddie the digital pictures I'd taken of her at the recital. In true fashion, she was more interested in the pictures of my cat Muffin, which were still on the camera from a previous shoot. No longer the dancing diva, she was back to being the funny little girl with the knack for bizarre conversations.

"Hey, Aunt Nancy, what's Miss Muffin do all day long?"
"Oh, she eats, and sleeps, and gives back scratches."

"What does she eat?"
"Science Diet."

"Where does Miss Muffin sleep?"
"Oh, just about any place."

"Does she play with your other cats?"
"No, she doesn't like them very much."

"Does she play with dogs?"
"Nope. She stays inside."

"Hey, Aunt Nancy, can you suck your toes?"

"I can suck my toes."

---Ah, Maddie has apparently discovered the key to becoming a successful prima ballerina. Toe sucking. What do you think?

Friday, May 23, 2008


Geez--now that American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, and Survivor have had their big May finales, my list of reality show viewing has, boo-hoo, shrunk considerably. Big Bore is elated--especially after AI's show Wednesday night. He not-so-fondly calls it American Idiot, which I suppose isn't far off the mark. Anyone who watched the two-hour final spectacle (as in ME) just to see the last minute of the show, when the winner was announced, is, well, an idiot?

I justify watching such high drama, however, because I rarely watch daytime TV, other than, of course, Jeopardy!, and I have no other vices like smoking, drinking, and hanging out under street lamps at night, for which Big Bore is most grateful. Thank goodness The Bachelorette, Design Star, Last Comic Standing, and America's Got Talent are getting back into production. Without them, he wouldn't haven't anything to gripe and grumble about, and I certainly don't want his mouth to become idle and lose its edginess. Pass the remote! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008


In follow-up to yesterday's photo blog, here are some gargoyles lurking in my backyard. They are there to ward off evil insects, weeds, and my greatest nemesis, bermuda grass!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


During the fifteen years I taught King Arthurian literature to high school sophomores, I managed to collect many wizard and gargoyle figurines, which were displayed throughout the classroom during the entire the school year. Once I retired, I didn't have room for most of them inside the house, but I didn't want to stash them in the basement...SO I found places for them outdoors hiding among the flora and fauna, right where they belong. Here are some wizards.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In the past 26+ years I have jogged a lot, but now I mostly walk a lot. Back surgery and gall bladder surgery have taken their toll on my mediocre running skills, but that's okay. This is not a blog about exercise. This is a blog about money.

Around twenty years ago, I began to notice loose change along my jogging paths about town. These discoveries occurred so often that I finally decided to quit passing by the money or picking it up just to spend it later. I decided to save Lucky Money. I call it this because I'm hoping a little angel drops it from heaven rather than some poor schmuck with a hole in his pockets.

Once a year I get out the coin wrappers and take an inventory of what I've collected so far. Today is that day. Drum roll, please:





Dollar Bills-2

Grand total: $79.85 (more or less?)

This is not counting a Canadian penny or a slot machine slug from Aladdin's Castle.

I know this amount is not exactly enough to break the bank, but thrills come cheaply where I live. If you are interested in making a slow buck, like the Flaming Bore here, I hope you'll keep your nose to the ground while jogging or walking or biking and look for your own Lucky Money...BUT watch out for traffic. Unlucky money is not allowed!

Monday, May 19, 2008


I spent the past weekend in Fredonia helping Mom try out a new insulin delivery system. Other than watching her jab herself four times a day with a needle, we had a great time cruising around, yippety yapping, and piddling in the yard. I won the Scrabble game, but she won the title of creating the longest word--WONDERING--as in: I am wondering how Flaming Bore got so lucky to pick the Z, Q, X, J, and K. But we all know that old saying: "All is not fair in love and Scrabble."

While I was home, I had nice visits from my old Mound School/Methodist Church pals, Maggie and Nancy Sue. Maggie was with her husband Robert, a NASCAR wannabe in control of their topless Honda 2000 Hair-Raiser. When Maggie suggested he take me for a spin around the neighborhood, I was game. After all, the speed limit is in the 20-30 mph range. How dangerous could it be? Well, ol' A.J., er, Robert, had that baby roaring from 0 to 60 in a nanosecond. There was enough thrust working to force me into the backseat, had there been one. I'll stick with my Saturn pedal mobile.

Returning from a Sunday afternoon stroll, I noticed half the town was parked around Mama Bore's house to attend the high school graduation ceremony across the street. That got me to thinking what one piece of advice I would give those 18-year-old hotshots had I been their commencement speaker. After much cogitation, I decided upon, "Stay away from illegal drugs." Drugs cause people to lie, cheat, steal, kill, lose their jobs, ruin personal relationships, and destroy their bodies. Don't use drugs and you'll have a better chance of having a happier life. End of sermon.

Last of all, what the heck was with that ending to "Desperate Housewives" last night? Just when I thought all the conflicts were neatly resolved for the end of the season, the writers have to toss in this "Five Years Later" curveball. I'm crying, "Foul!"

Friday, May 16, 2008


One of yesterday's "Top News Stories" on AOL was about a Michigan teen who'd sold a record 17,328 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from a Michigan street corner. Now you'd think people would praise her salesmanship, but not on the Internet. Most of the anonymous comments to this feat were totally off the wall, some practically making this kid sound like a law-breaking crack dealer. Here are some shortened remarks:

"Is that all she sold? Big deal! I ate 18,000 boxes!"

"Did she have a license to peddle on the streets of Detroit?"

"Those lard-laden cookies aren't worth selling or eating. They're full of fat!"

"I thought they were made of Girl Scouts."

"Those cookies are poisonous!"

"It's a wonder she didn't get mugged."

"The Girl Scouts are enslaved to make the rich richer."

"Who the hell is buying that crap?"

"Those cookies are horrible!"

Well, I say more power to that super sales gal. Before I became a Girl Scout drop-out loser, I dreaded selling cookies, 50 cents a box, because no one wanted to buy any and I'd get my feelings hurt. Knocking on doors and delivering the pitch was agony.

Nowadays, I buy everything the Scouts push. Cookies? I'll have a dozen boxes, please. Christmas greenery? You bet! Popcorn? Bring it on! I can't stand to see disappointed faces on my front porch. I feel guilty. I feel like I'm a kid again and another door is being slammed in my pitiful little Girl Scout face. I get all teary-eyed just thinking about it.

The Flaming Bore is a soft touch. Soft--and poor.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


In determining why our basement is so wet, Big Bore and I recently decided that our home could use a chimney cap. Since all good caps first need a measurement, however, we planned that he would get on the roof to do this when he returned from his fishing trip. As we were dragging out the ladder from the garage, a great idea came to me. I've never ever been all the way to the top of a roof, any roof, so wouldn't it be fun for ME to be the chimney measurement person? Of course it would! How hard could it be? Little convincing was needed that I was the best man for the job. Big Bore would gladly hold the ladder steady while the tape measure and I would just zip right up to the chimney. Instantly, my courage wavered.

"Don't you think we ought to go on the other side of the house to do this? That way, if I fall, I'll land on grass and not concrete."

"You're not going to fall."


Well, I got up the ladder just fine, but once on the roof I lost all confidence. My Nikes didn't have as much traction as I expected. The roof didn't seem as sturdy as I expected. My balance wasn't as rock-solid as I expected.

"Now walk on up," Big Bore directed.

"It's too steep!" I moaned.

Like a big-ass spider, I slowly sidled across and up to the chimney, careful not to get tangled up in the tape measure. Why in the hell did I volunteer to do this? I got the measurements, 16 inches squared, and then began the descent. At least on the way up, I could see where I was headed. Now, I had no clue what lay behind. Big Bore guided me.

"Over to the right, to the right, now down a little."

"How much farther till I get to the ladder?" I asked after a few tentative minutes of slowly scooting downwards.

"About 10 feet," BB answered.

"Ten more feet!? You've got to be kidding!"

"Turn around and take a look."

"No way! I believe you!"

Finally, my little guardian angel got me to the ladder, and I maneuvered back onto it. Ah! I might live to tell about this experience after all. I got back to blessed terra firma as quickly as I could.

"Ta-dum! I did it!" I said triumphantly, collapsing in Big Bore's arms, about to throw up.

"Good job!" he congratulated me.

I can tell you one thing. Whenever that blasted chimney cap is purchased and ready to install, I am not going to make a return trip. I'll pay somebody else big bucks to do my roof walking for me. All you professionals out there...shinglers, chimney sweeps, Santa Claus...I applaud your ability to do your jobs with your feet off the ground. Mine are staying put from now on!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


When I returned home from aluminum can pick-up patrol yesterday, my neighbor lady was outside. Her husband and she are yard nerds, so I was quick to say, "Come on over and look at my strawberry patch. They're starting to turn red!" I proudly escorted her over to the patch and pulled back the leaves where the first two ripening berries were....only to find that THEY'D BEEN ATTACKED!!!!! My beautiful almost-red strawberries, HALF EATEN!!! I about blew a gasket. No shortcake this week! ---We quickly made our own theories as to who was the criminal.

"Turtle," she guessed.

"Rabbit," I disagreed. "Do not mess with my strawberries! This means war!!"

I surrounded the patch with little plastic white fencing sections I had in the garage, but when Big Bore got home from work he said they wouldn't help much. He's going to try to find some plastic netting today to put over the area.

BUT FIRST....he must go fishing. This is his day off work so, naturally, he was out of bed at 4 AM, slurping coffee, removing his night crawlers from the refrigerator, and getting psyched up by watching an episode of "Star Trek" on TV.

"Captain, there appears to be an invasive agent in the strawberry patch!"

"RED ALERT! RED ALERT! Man your stations!"

Well, I'm staying home to stand watch over my precious fruit until he gets back. I smell a counterattack. May the force be with me, and may my strawberries live long and prosper!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Well, good grief! Something must be wrong with Big Bore. He got those plants put up for me last night before I could even say...."Boston ferns!" Turned out he had some macrame-type hangers stored away, so up they went in no time. He planted some corn this morning and reported that the strawberries are starting to turn red. My belly is about ready for some good ol' strawberries, shortcake, and ice cream. Bring it on!

Monday, May 12, 2008


I went back to Botanica this afternoon. All the tulips are gone, so the gardens are in transition. Iris and peonies are starting to bloom, but the roses are still asleep. The pansies, though, appear to be on steroids. They are fabulous.

Every time I go to Botanica, I'm inspired to spend more money at the greenhouse. Before I even got home, I purchased two husky Boston ferns for the front porch. They don't have hangers, so this will be a project for you-know-who when he gets home from work. I can hear the sighing already, but I have my speech all prepared. And a smile. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


  • Whenever I click on the Internet, my computer immediately opens to AOL's top news stories of the day. Yesterday must have bottom-ed out on thrills, though, because one of the featured must-read items was a National Enquirer cover story about the cellulite of the stars. Yikes! Was this really a big seller at the supermarket check-out lines? I don't know the price of an Enquirer, but I do know that I'm not wasting one single penny to look at over-exposed, dimpled butts, especially those with wedgies! I don't care if they are attached to celebrities. If I'm having a burning desire to see a flabby ass, I'll just strip naked in front of a mirror. For free!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


A few weeks ago, I received a funny email, changed the picture on it, printed it, then posted it on our refrigerator. Here is the miniature version:

One day, a long, long, time ago, there was a woman who didn't whine, nag, or bitch.

But that was a very long time ago. And it was just for one day.

The End.

Big Bore reads it aloud almost daily and laughs every time. Now, I'm actually fairly easy to get along with, I'm a gentle nagger, but he says I occasionally "flabbergast" him, as in "bewilder." Most often this occurs when I ask him to do something around the house/yard and then I butt in and end up doing it my own way--for better or for worse, usually for worse. Sound familiar? Well, since this cartoon has been such a big hit, I think I'm going to put up a similar one, just to get Big Bore's attention. It will be something like this:

One day, a long, long, time ago, there was a man who didn't belch, monopolize the TV remote, or spill food all over his clothes.

But that was a very long time ago. And it was just for one day.

The End
I can't wait for his reaction!

Friday, May 9, 2008


In yesterday's Wichita Eagle, there was a blurb about a new wonder bra by Victoria's Secret, claiming it can be worn 100 different ways. Heck, I always thought there was just one way to wear a bra--uncomfortably.

The article mentioned a few of the options: strapless, one-shoulder, crisscross, racer back, plunge, and boat neck. Apparently this super bra has little notches on it, which allow for the many variations--all for the bargain basement price of $50-$56, depending on the pattern. Why, you couldn't pay me that much to wear it!

First of all, it sounds too complicated. My brain can only process so much information. I'm afraid I'd end up hanging myself with the blasted contraption. I do not want a bra that is smarter than I am. Secondly, I don't have a wardrobe need for this new bra. There are no plunging evening gowns in my closet. All I have are t-shirts. Lots and lots of t-shirts. If I'm going out in public, I might pull on a stretchy sports bra. Other than that, my favorite bra is NONE. Costs nothing and, oh, so comfy!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I spent an early Mother's Day with Mom Bore yesterday, and since it rained the entire time, we didn't get to do any gardening. Instead, we ended up doing the next best thing--playing Scrabble and "Jeopardy!" I don't know how many Scrabble games and dictionaries she's worn out over the years, but her current board is the deluxe plastic edition on a lazy Susan, with a velvet pouch for the letters. Very classy.

I edged her out at Scrabble, but neither of us made any wonder words. My biggest was JUMPY--apropos for me, I thought, worth 43 points, and her top score was 30 points with HAVE on the triple word score. She was hoping I'd let her get away with using all of her letters, making EUROPEAN, but proper nouns are a no-no. That's a real rule, not a Flaming Bore one. No mercy.

We did so-so with "Jeopardy!" There were answers we knew but couldn't blurt out in time. An example went something like so:

ALEX TREBEK: "In 1805, he rose to fame writing his epic poem, 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel.'" (I think the category must have been EUROPEAN.)

ME: "Oh, it's that Scottish author...what's his name...not Burns...oh, hell, I know it!"


ALEX TREBEK: "Time is up. I'm sorry. The answer is Sir Walter Scott."

ME: "Of course! #@%&*!"

I would never make it on "Jeopardy!" Alex would kick off my lame brain for grumbling swear words instead of the correct answers.

Although Mom Bore said she was glad to have me around to pass away the rainy day, I think she was looking forward to my departure. The daily newspaper from Independence was soon to arrive. It has a crossword puzzle in it, the same one that's published in my big sister's local paper, from Pittsburg, and Mom would want to get started on it. They check their results via a phone call each evening. Brainiacs always have to keep their minds sharp for their next heated competition.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Is it just me, or have the Democrats' 2008 presidential primaries been dragging on for the past 20 years? Will the madness ever end? Well, there's still another month left of them, seven total, and Barack and Hillary are still slugging it out, both having won a state last night. The political pundits predict neither will garner enough primary and caucus delegates and that the final decision will be made by "super delegates." When I first heard this term used, I pictured cape-wearing, muscle-bound Democrats duking it out in an arm wrestling competition to determine who'd be declared "super"--as opposed to being just a plain old delegate. Now, I know that it's a title given to those with powerful, loyal party ties, like the good ol' guys who tried keeping Bill Clinton's Oval Office hanky panky a secret. Wink, wink.

Even though I hate politics, I can't wait to get to the editorials and letters to the editor in the newspaper each morning to read the opinions of the political pundits, as well as the know-nothings like me. Some opinions seem thoughtful, while others have as much logic as pea soup. One yesterday explained his reason for supporting Hillary: "....she's paid her dues." Yeah, I suppose being married to Bill and putting up with his shenanigans for over 30 years is proof of that.

Lately, Obama's longtime minister, a Rev. Wright, has been getting a lot of negative press because of some of his racist how the US government created AIDS to do away with black people. Obama has tried to separate himself from the wrong Wright, but I've seen results of polls that show there could be a backlash. Some people think he must have the same beliefs as his minister. I haven't been so big on "gentlemen of the cloth" being all that influential, however, since my former Methodist pastor, whom I once thought walked on water, was convicted of child molestation years later.

Good luck to the candidates, and may the best man, or woman, win.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Yesterday I received an official letter from the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, titled "Understanding Your Economic Stimulus Payment." Hey, when it comes to receiving some extra cash, I understand that I'm mighty happy to receive it--even if it is likely borrowed money from China--and I also understand that I'll be mighty happy to spend it, as well.

The instant President Bush announced his big dollar giveaway, Big Bore and I decided that our "stimulus" money would be spent on a vacation to Colorado in September. The cabin in the mountains is already rented (pictured above). The packing list is underway. Soon, we'll be ready to go, go, go. Hope we can be patient and wait, wait, wait the four+ months until departure. We're already getting antsy to stimulate the economy.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Last Wednesday night there was a nasty storm in the area. Eureka missed the tornado warnings, but Mom Bore was driven to her basement by sirens blaring in Fredonia several times. Her next door neighbors have no such shelter, so they joined her--four adults, two little kids, and a dog. Where in the world they all positioned themselves, I have no idea. I later told Mom she would have been better off staying upstairs. Her basement is small, cluttered, and (shudder) spidery.

I have little room to badmouth Mom's underground quarters, though. Although my basement is much bigger and more organized, thanks to Big Bore's orderliness, it is damp. If it wasn't for the sump pump, I'd have drowned long ago. It does serve the purpose of providing safety, however, if the tornado sirens start wailing, which has happened twice in the 26 years I've lived on St. Nicholas Street.

The last time this happened was around ten years ago. Now, being the good cat mom that I am, I wasn't going to leave my three "kids" behind, so I tried rounding them up to take them to the basement, which, unfortunately, has an outside entrance. I had two cat carriers, so it wasn't so bad getting Shadow and Babe downstairs, other than getting drenched and freaked out by the wind and lightning. Corralling Little Bit, however, was a different story. Upon hearing the sirens, he glued himself underneath the far corner of my bed and wasn't budging.

I begged. I pleaded. I prodded him with a broom. He wasn't going anywhere.

"We're going to die if you don't come out right this instant, Bitsy!"

No movement. Finally, I shimmied under the bed, grabbed the back of his neck, and yanked him out. I was determined that the next morning's headline was NOT going to be, "Woman Loses Life Saving Stubborn-Ass Cat." Down the basement stairs we fled and stayed there until the all-clear sign.

---When I spoke to Mom on the phone the day after the big storm, Big Bore, eavesdropping in the background, had me ask her if she took her cat Annie down in the basement with her and the neighbor crew when the sirens went off.

"Hell no!" she said. "I just worried about myself."

Ah! I guess that explains how she raised five kids by herself and has lived to be 84 years old, independent and unscathed. Survivor Instinct.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I had fun judging at the state speech tournament yesterday. My assignments were humorous acting, prose, and informative speaking. The best performance I saw all day was by a squirt of a kid with a mouthful of braces who presented a hilarious piece about a little boy being chased up a tree by two bears. The premise was lightweight, but the kid's delivery was heavy duty. I was mesmerized at his ability to tell this goofy story, and in no time I, the usual straight-faced judge, was busting up.

I always like judging the informative speeches to see if I can learn anything new about the world. The ones I heard were on agribusiness, malaria, laughter, flirting, the honey bee, and aspirin. I awarded first place to the honey bee girl. She was so sweet--yikes!! I got to thinking about what informative topic I would choose if I were in a speech contest today and got it narrowed down to: "How to Take a Bubble Bath" and "Cleaning Up Cat Upchuck." I'm already an expert on these subjects, so little research would be required.

The only thing I didn't enjoy about yesterday was having to rise and shine at 4:30 AM in order to get to the judge's meeting on time. I'm not a morning person, but the oldies on KEYN radio helped to keep me awake at the wheel. Freddy and the Dreamers, Connie Francis, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, I thank you very much! You rock!

Friday, May 2, 2008


Tomorrow I'm going to Clearwater High School to judge a state speech contest, something that I've done for probably the last 15 years or so. What makes me such a fine judge of public speaking is that I was once the most pathetic member of my school's debate/speech team.

I never got along with our highly-esteemed coach, who I considered a bat out of hell and not just because she drove like one. (Perhaps Literary Diva can recall her driving 70 mph and writing debate rebuttal cards AT THE SAME TIME! and passing them back to her horrified passengers.)

My speech season didn't start off well when I questioned a particular "humorous reading" she told me to present. It was called "The Macbeth Murder Mystery," and the big problem was: I found nothing funny about it. It might have helped had I been a Shakespearian authority at age 15 and was familiar with the tragedy, so I read it and I STILL didn't understand what was so slap-happy hilarious about the piece I'd been assigned to memorize and perform before the critics.

"I don't see how this is humorous. Can't I do something else?"

"Do it!" The Bat flew off.

So, reluctantly, I presented "The Macbeth Murder Mystery" for the speech contests--to lukewarm reviews. I think during the whole season maybe two judges actually cracked a slight grin. I wanted to ask them afterwards what they found humorous about it, so I could learn a little something, but I was afraid they would respond that they were just giving me a sympathy smile.

Now that the table has turned and I'm a judge, I try to give constructive criticism, and I always write at least one compliment, even if it's just, "You have nice posture." I have been in their shoes before--and I know exactly how god-awful uncomfortable those shoes can be. Ouch!

Thursday, May 1, 2008



During my first year of teaching high school English, I used a line from "Intimations of Immortality," by William Wordsworth, "....feel the gladness of May...." to prompt my students to write a brief journal entry about why the month of May made them glad. Only one of 72 sophomores wrote about May baskets. The rest, I was to later find out, were clueless about this ritual.

"Why, this is a tragedy!" I was genuinely stunned. "You didn't make them in grade school? I can't believe you kids don't know about May baskets!"

Of course, they demanded to know more...anything to keep me from giving them homework...and so I digressed and explained the intricate details of creating colorful construction paper baskets (some kids used rolled paper plates), filling them with candy and flowers, dropping them off at friends' homes around suppertime on May 1st, yelling, "May basket!"--then running like hell back to Mom's car and speeding off to the next home.

"What was the point?" one student asked.

"It was something fun to do!" I said.

Fun was probably an understatement. My longtime pal Rick, jumping the gun by a day, wrote in an email last night that he ranked delivering May baskets right up there with Halloween and Christmas. I agree.

I've tried to figure out why May baskets have become extinct. Do grade school kids have more important items on their social agendas? Is it not politically correct? Do parents no longer have the time (or maybe the gasoline) to haul their kids around town? I don't know. It's a shame.

What I DO know is that I've once again made a May basket for Big Bore today. It is pink and purple and has four little compartments filled with mini-Hershey candy bars. When he gets home from work, I'll wait until he gets settled in his easy chair, then I'll slip outside, ring the doorbell, yell, "May basket!" and leave his treat on the porch before running to the backyard. (I don't think I'll go so far as driving off!) He will laugh at me and dig into the chocolate.

You're never too old to enjoy the sweet, first day of May.