Monday, September 28, 2009

Hiding In Plain Sight

Back in the 1930's no one had to worry about childhood obesity. Kids were too low on the totem pole to get extra food and too underfoot to get to stay indoors. So, they ate only what they needed, and invented games to keep occupied.

Although we ate a little more than needed, we did continue that fine tradition of outdoor gaming this past weekend at my dad's family reunion.

The game from my parents' youth that we play is a tricked up version of hide-and-seek called "Piggy Wants A Motion." One person is "it" and has to find everyone. Anybody who is found has to go to a designated central location - the (pig)pen - and call out for a motion. If someone else in the game, who hasn't been found, waves at him, then the person in the pen can sneak off and hide again.

If you are the one hiding, the trick is to be able to wave at pigs in the pen without "it" finding you. If you are "it," you have to balance finding more "pigs" with guarding the pen to prevent escapes. The game ends when everyone is caught at the same time or the hunter gives up, unable to find the last one or two cleverly hidden people.

Our game started Saturday night with about ten players. I was "it" and got to decide the perimeter and, since it was dark, use a flashlight. The ring of campers and cars was the boundary. The pen was a couple of chairs set close to where all the grownups were sitting around visiting.

People hid behind and over and under campers. Every now and then someone sitting around the camp would indicate with a gesture or a nod where to look when the pen got too empty. I finally found my brother inside a car. My niece was inside a storage bin of an RV.

In a twenty-first century twist, the kids would text each other to say where they were hiding so those in the pen would know where to look for a "motion."

My daughter took the next turn as "it." She had a slight advantage, having seen the common hiding places from the previous game. I sat with one of my older cousins and visited for a while before she noticed and called me back to the pen.

The daytime game the next morning was the most fun. The perimeter was a little larger and included the outhouse and the ruins of the farmhouse along with more cars and tractors. My sons were the most creative in their hiding spaces, going under the floors of tents and inside trash bags. My older son was a lizard in his ability to dart from place to place and blend into (or under) his surroundings.

My brother was "it" in the morning game. He had an annoying habit of guarding the pen. (He later admitted he was too out of shape to run much!) Those in the pen had to develop strategies of distraction so that some could get away.

The game allows for other stealth moves. My son-in-law waited until the game started, not hiding in the first wave. He walked up to the pen and waited for a motion. Then, hidden the rest of the game around the farmhouse ruins, he constantly set pigs free.

My brother, unable to find his daughter, stood near the pen and hollered for a motion. She obligingly popped up to wave and he called her out. She was still griping about the unfairness of it hours later.

Finally, having never found my younger son, my brother ended the game. My son sat up. He'd been laying on the ground about ten feet from the pen the whole time - his blue jeans blending into the ice chest and his red shirt the color of an adjacent camp chair.

Until next time, he's the self-declared reigning champion of the game.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On the Road Again

Well, the wagon train is heading out this weekend to southwestern Oklahoma for a family reunion. My brother and niece are flying in from Arizona, so there will be nine in my caravan from north Texas. I'll be driving the Tahoe loaded with people, food, ice, dog crate, games, fishing tackle, tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, etc. Think of the Clampetts headed to Beverly Hills and you have the picture.

The weekend should provide a plethora of postings next week.

Some topics that are likely to come up.....

What happens when you mix grandparents and hand grenades? (Really.)

How do you allocate tent space when there are an old married couple, a young married couple, an adult daughter and son and a teenage son? There will be two tents.

Who will be best at "Piggy Wants a Motion?"

What can you do with a pontoon boat on a large farm pond?

What will a small, arrogant dog do when she meets very large cows?

How does that whole Pictionary/dominos/cards thing work out when you have a group ranging from teenagers to "old" people, and you're playing the games by lamplight?

How many stars can you see on a September night when you're in the dark in the country?

Good times coming.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Using Common Sense

Which political leader would you agree with?


"The yearning for peace is universal." POTUS, September 23, 2009.


"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans." FEDERALIST No. 4, November 7, 1787.


I've got to go with Door Number 2.

I've seen the sneaky (and up front) things my kids do to each other. No yearning for universal peace there!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Almost a Love Relationship

Our number two cat is the sweetest animal I've owned. Our number one dog is figuring that out. The cat always lets the dog play and bite and maul, only using his claws once in self-defense in the last nine months. This picture is from a typical morning. While I'm slaving away, the animals are doing this.

Or this.

But sometime in between the two pictures, someone did this.

WHY was a roll of toilet paper on the bedroom floor?

WHY is a Big Boggle game on the living room couch?

WHY are work files on the living room floor?

And, WHY did the text in this post suddenly become blue and underlined as I added pictures?

Imponderables, all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Still Charmed

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my son's ability to inflict damage on others while remaining personally unscathed.

Well, I didn't "knock on wood," so in the fifth and final game of his Labor Day soccer tournament he was hit hard enough to be injured. He finished the game that Monday morning, but later showed us the bruising and swelling. When it did not significantly improve the next day, we took him to the doctor.

The doctor diagnosed an injury which will need surgery in the long run to relieve discomfort, but in the short run just needs rest. He could play again once the pain and swelling subsided. After another week and a second doctor visit, he was told to wait a few more days.

Today he was feeling fine, able to run and jump without pain, and will be back at sports full time on Monday. Today the sun came out consistently for the first time in two weeks.

Since his injury, all his soccer practices and games have been postponed due to the rain and sog. He won't have missed a thing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reality Check

Do you watch reality television shows?

My parents watch the original reality TV show Jeopardy every night and sometimes Wheel of Fortune.

My husband records and watches several - Amazing Race, Survivor, The Apprentice, Deal or No Deal and others as they come and go. Our family even made a video and applied for a spot on the Amazing Race. We were way too normal to get selected. Ricky and I are waiting until we're old enough to qualify as the "old married couple" in the race. Maybe we'll get lucky a couple of years from now - you'll know it when my blog goes dormant for a few weeks!

My highly educated daughter is addicted to shows like Bridezilla and America's Next Top Model. She could name by sight the eight children of Jon and Kate. My boys watch crazy obstacle course contests. I'm not sure how many original episodes there are, though, since whenever I ask about a particular contestant, they already know whether he wins or not.

I generally stay condescendingly above it all, maybe pausing for a peek as I walk through the room with laundry.

However, if it's "America's Got Talent" night, you had better not get between me and the remote control. I started paying attention to that show a couple of seasons ago when a local area ventriloquist, Terry Fator, won the show. He's gone on to sign a $100 million Las Vegas contract. Last season's winner was an incredible opera singer. My favorite, who didn't win, was a Broadway style singer who had lost his voice in an auto accident and gradually recovered. He has since produced a CD. (Maybe Santa will wrap it up for me this year?)

I watched nearly every episode this summer. The judges picked over one hundred and fifty contestants from auditions around the country. They ranged in age from seven to over seventy. The acts included magicians, dancers, singers, harpists, triplets playing violins, drummers, animal tricks, comediennes, chain saw juggling and anything else you could think of.

During the preliminaries you saw more of the train wrecks - the people whose friends and families did not have the guts to tell them they really weren't very good. The judges had no such scruples and their comments could be brutal. I still recall the young woman who thought it was a talent to open her suitcase on stage and have a friend crawl out. What do you say to that?

After the preliminaries, the judges culled the group down to forty, at one point giving three groups twenty-four hours to rehearse and have a dance-off for the remaining spot. The producer added eight (including one of the losing dance-off groups) and the voting season started with quarter-finals of twelve acts each. For each quarter-final, the fan votes picked the top four advancing and the judges picked the fifth. After taking two weeks to do the quarter-finals, two semi-finals were used to reduce the twenty contestants to ten with fans choosing eight of the ten. Those ten competed on Monday night.

I am proud to say that I voted every time. There were some very good acts that did not advance far enough, but all in all, the American people did well in their choices. And many of those that did not make the finals, like the guys combining trampolines and basketball dunking, carved out solid stepping stones to future opportunities.

As one of the judges mentions regularly, this show is what America is all about. The contestants come from all parts of the country and all social strata, but start on an equal footing. They are judged on their abilities alone. If they advance, it is because of their performance, not their past. If they fail, it is because they are not as talented or appealing as the other guy.

One compelling aspect of the show is the remarkable goodwill shared and expressed between contestants. Nearly every competitor, upon his or her exit from the stage, graciously recognizes the achievements of those moving on, understanding his own performance was lacking. He wasn't robbed, someone else was better. The "losers" learn from the experience and vow to try again. The "winners" appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of those that came up short.

There are some common characteristics of those that move ahead.

First, they have worked very hard and were prepared for the opportunity in the preliminary rounds. Second, they were able to use the judges' criticisms and suggestions to improve subsequent performances. Third, they were able to creatively work under pressure to improve their act or routine for the next round of competition.

Would that we applied these concepts to our own failures and successes of living and working!

It is amazing to see, over the course of a few short weeks, the finalists transform from ugly ducklings into swans using the production resources of AGT. The pretty opera singer, originally wearing a simple sundress, now has the evening gown, hair-do and bling to match her powerful voice. The former chicken catcher has emerged from the poncho and baseball cap in stylish clothes and a visible face that only enhance his ability to hold a crowd breathless with his music.

I watched ten great acts compete for the top prize. I voted forty times for my two favorites. But no matter who wins this season, I won't say "oooh." This time they were all that good.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstasy

I have umpteen tax returns left to complete before the end of the day tomorrow, September 15.

The power has been out earlier this evening, slowing me down. (All the electrical lines in our county have to be water-logged by now!) For a while I had a flexible flashlight wrapped around my neck to see my workpapers  as I worked on laptop battery power.

I have had a "blog" percolating in my head and partially drafted, ready to finish tomorrow afternoon, when the furor has faded. The blog is about the finals of my favorite television show, which I assumed would air on Tuesday night.

The show is TONIGHT, and I can't watch it later, because I want to VOTE.

Watch a little, compute a little, watch a little, compute some, vote, vote, then back to solid working.

One more day.........

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Woman After My Own Heart

Remember, I said there might be a political comment every now and then, but chocolate has no affiliation, so this is personal, not political.

The following quote was from a Washington Post article about the government spending protest in Washington, D.C. today.
Like countless others at the rally, Joan Wright, 78, of Ocean Pines, Md., sounded angry. "I'm not taking this crap anymore," said Wright, who came by bus to Washington with 150 like-minded residents of Maryland's Eastern Shore. "I don't like the health-care [plan]. I don't like the czars. And I don't like the elitists telling us what we should do or eat."
My point, exactly! Joan is a little more than fifty-something, but she can join my club anytime.

UPDATE: Why, may you ask, is the text of this post larger than the text of my other posts? I don't know. But if I try to fix the text size, the gremlins will screw something else up, so I will let it be. Now that I think about it, that's actually not a bad philosophy when dealing with computers.

A Love Relationship

A dog and a boy.

I love this picture. And the dog. And the boy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If the shoe fits.......

Women's shoes have truly mystical properties. And for you guys reading this post, don't snort and move on. I assert that high heels are the second most effective way to get a man's attention. Dispute me if you dare.

A woman can be fifty extra pounds pregnant and still feel petite wearing cute sandals. A bad hair day is washed clean with multi-color shoes that match an outfit perfectly. Funky boots can reduce a woman's attitude by decades. There's a whole line of greeting cards that are funny because they feature women wearing "old lady" sandals with socks. You know what I'm talking about.

My personal saga starts in the teenage years. I rarely had stylish shoes. That's one of the reasons I'm slightly warped. It wasn't that my parents wouldn't buy me fashionable shoes, they practically didn't exist in my size.

My current shoe size is 9AA or 9N, as in NARROW.

As a teenager and young woman, it was 9AAA or 9AAAA (VERY NARROW.) Forty years ago there were fewer shoe manufacturers, run by men. They didn't grasp the concept that a longer foot was not always a wider foot. My feet were skinny.

It was a real treat when we special ordered my pep club required saddle oxfords in a narrow size. They fit! (I can tell how old you are if you know what a pep club is and what saddle oxfords look like.) But in general, my shoes were neither fun nor attractive.

College was kinder. I lived for five years in a univers(ity) of tennis shoes and flip-flops. Adidas brand, which tends to run a little narrower, was starting to grow its U.S. market. Bass Shoes made awesome leather flip-flops in narrow sizes. I would totally wear a pair out and then replace it. My feet fit in with the feet of every other girl going to class or playing sports.

The work years hit and I had to find pumps and similar classy shoes. Unable to afford two hundred dollars a pair, I would haunt the annual shoe sales and stock up at 75 percent off and ration their use. At home I could keep living in my Adidas. At social events I wore shoes which hurt, since I had to buy shoes too short so they would stay on. But that's a girl's lot in life, beauty often involves pain.

Then I finally grew up, and the world grew up, so there are more affordable, fashionable shoes now available in my size. I don't have to "settle" for anything I don't like, that doesn't fit or I don't want to pay for.

Like Cinderella, I deserve the glass slipper every time.

That's why, over about a six week period this summer I bought SIXTEEN* pairs of shoes.

Cheap therapy, I say.

* (Nine of the sixteen pairs were purchased at an outlet store that only carried narrow sizes and cost less than $25 per pair. Don't ask me where it is, as it seems to be one of those places staying one step ahead of the law - opening up for only a few weeks in a city and then moving on. Talk about a kid in a candy store...)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday Night Lights

It's Friday night in Texas, and even though it's the start of Labor Day Weekend, the home stands are comfortably full.

The stadium is a little nicer, the scoreboard a little flashier, the helmets are a little safer, but otherwise you're looking at the same picture our parents were looking at forty years ago.

If you want a real sense of community, go to a high school football game. We've been season ticket holders for thirteen years. We started when our oldest was a seventh grader, wanting a preview of what our public high school would be like.

We first sat in unreserved seating in the snake pit section of junior high kids. The next year we moved across the aisle so that we could see the snake pit (and our daughter) but didn't have to hold them off with a torch to enjoy the game.

We've gradually migrated, as our kids aged, to lifetime option seats on the fifty yard line, twenty-five rows up. We'll be in those seats at least a dozen more years.

There is no other word for Friday nights than "glorious." There are about two thousand students at our high school and nearly five hundred participate each game - the football team, band, drill team, cheerleaders, and various spirit groups. The stands fill up with younger kids, high school kids, alumni, family members and others. Many regular attendees have no connection to the high school other than living in the community. We all come together on Friday nights with smiles and handshakes. Having center aisle seats, lots of graduates stop by to catch up with my husband, their former teacher.

The PA announces local scores throughout the game, with corresponding oohs and aahs from the crowd. At the end of half-time he calls the winning ticket of the weekly raffle, which supports a former player who lost his hands and feet to bacterial meningitis. Most of the time the winner doesn't claim the prize, so the young man gets it all. Then there is the announcement of lost keys, looks like Jaguar keys, and you can line up at the stadium elevator to make your claim.

For a few hours each week, we are a small town, like every other small town, joined in one purpose encouraging our children.

You see the football parents, wearing their son's number, agonizing over the dropped ball or exulting in the hard tackle. Our football team made the playoffs last year and ought to do reasonably well this year. (Our district's other high school team wins state championships and is playing against a Utah team at the new Cowboys Stadium on Labor Day.)

The band parents, like us, intently watch and applaud the half-time performance. The show will develop in segments over the season until the end, when our band, a state champion, will compete for a second national marching band title in Indianapolis.

If you are concerned about the youth of America, come to a high school football game. Watch the kids from both teams play their guts out. Listen to the choir group sing the Star Spangled Banner. Watch the cheerleader pick up her instrument and march with the band at half-time. See the student trainers sprint with water bottles to the huddle on the field. Hear the band playing and the fans in the stands singing the alma mater to the team after a heart breaking loss or hard fought win.

Best of all, see the kids leaving the stadium sweaty and tired, depleted by their efforts, ready to do it all over again.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Plain Talk

I need to write short posts for a while, since I must work much more for the next ten days or so. Please bear with me. Those things which can't be said with a few words must wait.

Did you notice that I only used one syllable words in the preceding paragraph? I once had to write a three hundred word essay using only one syllable words.

Today you'd call that text messaging.

For the next couple of weeks that's what my blogging will be. September 15th is a big deadline for me.

In the meantime, maybe one of you wants to take a crack at a few paragraphs using only one syllable words? Put it in a comment or email it to me and I'll post it, either anonymously or with attribution, as you prefer. (See my Complete Profile for an email address.) Such a writing exercise, which I had to do as part of my job long ago, really makes you think about the use of words.

I'll give you a hint. Pick your topic carefully - it may take a couple of tries to get one that works well with short words.