A Boy Named Sue

As many of you know, I’m going to have a grandson in mid-February, and I’m most delighted. My daughter and son-in-law are considering names, but their choices are currently more plentiful than John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Plus, each week I’m told another set of possibilities. Thus, they two grandmothers-to-be decided to take control, particularly since both are first names are Sue.

Not wanting to spend a lot of money on our foolishness, I found a copy of the sheet music, complete with Johnny Cash plastered across the cover. I put it in a cheap frame and pasted a note on top of the frame glass: Both Grandmothers Agree. The expectant couple face-timed both of us giggling, grandmas when they opened it. Talk about a BOMB! Neither my kid, nor my son-in-law had ever even heard the song, let alone could understand the grandmas’ humor!

Our joke was met with meh. (What is a meh, anyway? A muffled sound emitted from a wired-shut mouth?) Yet, all was not lost, for I learned an intriguing trivia fact about A Boy Named Sue. So intriguing I posed this question last week in one of my monthly gigs: Who wrote both the music and lyrics to this Johnny Cash hit? I waited. A few random guesses. I coached–think outside your boxes. A few more random guesses.

Shel Silverstein. See, you learned a random conversation starter for a dull party. You’re welcome.

HELP! If You Can.

In the last two weeks, I’ve heard or been sent this plea three times. Once on behalf or a school, once on behalf of the school district within which I reside, and again at weekly trivia in the neighborhood grill. Our trivia host made her plea on behalf of our local food bank. Now, none of this in itself is surprising, but all three were in need of the same things! Not food, nor clothing, but personal hygiene supplies.

The most pressing needs were for toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, followed by diapers, toothpaste, shampoo, bath soap, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies. It seems the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or the old term food stamps can only be used for food. And while I agree food is the basic priority, I think in America we should also assist with personal cleanliness. Diseases can be easily spread from dirty hands and from disgusting filthy bathroom habits. Both of my grandmothers, who survived the Depression, not only fed their children, but made sure they went to school in clean clothes, regardless the condition of their patched jeans or oversized jackets.

This week I was sickened to hear stories about girls who wouldn’t go to school that proverbial time of the month because they had no sanitary pads, nor tampons. They didn’t want to be the laughing stock of the seventh grade. I guess if the males in this country want to control my body, they should at least give me a discount on such products once a month. I guarantee if the situation was reversed and men endured cramps and periods, things would change!

Please check with your churches, food banks, and schools to find out if the needs of your community are similar to mine. If you can help, please do so. Do unto others.

Annabel Lee Revisited

In 1849, Edgar Allen Poe published his last poem, Annabel Lee. Earlier this week I was prompted to remember this poem, in fact, one of the various poems I memorized by American poets. I’ve blogged before about my eccentric, quirky fifth grade teacher, Miss Peddler, who made her students memorize one poem a week, as well as learn to march around the classroom singing while she played patriotic songs on the piano. She’d rip up student papers in front of the class if she found their handwriting unacceptable, she never hesitated to swat a boy’s backside, and once in a fit of anger she threw a potted plant out of our second story, classroom window. Further, she sent two students to the home ec room every morning to prepare her breakfast, which she enjoyed at her desk, while listening to Arthur Godfrey on the radio. No one was permitted to either approach her desk, or ask a question during that time. But probably, the most outrageous thing she did was send two students every other week to her bank (on a four-lane highway) to cash her paycheck.

What is my point? In the last year, I’ve lost two dogs to old age. Six months ago, I bought a mini goldendoodle, who is the spawn of Satan. I decided the cause of her bad behavior was partially due to lack of entertainment; she needed a companion. During my Face Time conversation with the breeder, she asked, “What are you going to name her?”

“Good question. I’m an English teacher, probably something theatrical or literary. Something like, Annabel Lee.” I still have NO idea why I said that. Then I added, “We loved with a love that was more than love, I and my Annabel Lee.” I’m sure the breeder thought I was a nut job, crazy woman.

Miss Annabel Lee was delivered from Salt Lake City yesterday morning after a ten-hour road trip. My other pup, Harper, seems delighted. And to my dear Miss Peddler, the terror of Washington School, thank you for teaching me how to memorize–an invaluable skill, and for trying to improve my handwriting. You lived and taught at the right time, for you would have been fired 100 times over today.

(PM me if you want to see; I’m conducting an experiment with my kids. HA!)

Dr. Suze Studies Boys

As many of you know, hopefully, I will become a grandma in February to a grandson. I’m delighted to be sure, but I’m more delighted it’s a boy. Now, I know nothing about little boys, except I have a slew of great nephews–eleven to be exact, so most of my knowledge comes from observation.

I just returned from Houston last night, where I observed four of them. They were far from interesting; they we’re hilarious and provocative. In fact, one of them argued with me that math was more important than reading. Imagine someone trying to argue that point with me!

But the most intriguing was my fourteen-year-old great nephew, CT. CT is a freshman and the center on the Freshmen Football team. To me, he’s uber handsome, yet shy and reserved, so I can hardly imagine him grunting on the front line. With homecoming a few weeks away, he asked a freshman girl to be his date. A topic, which was discussed at dinner Saturday night. My sister (his grandma), my two nieces (his mom and her sister), and I all peppered him with questions; he just beamed and grinned as he answered. (However, I was surprised with his bravado when asked if he knew how to dance. He laughed, “Of course I know how to dance!”)

This is where I learned something, for I always wondered what boys thought about. CT had his own questions. First, he had to ask her again in a creative way–I guess that’s a new thing, and he needed help. We obliged. Next, should he give her candy or flowers when he asked her? Finally, where should he take her to dinner?

Now, I’m not sure we four busybodies helped him. He’s yet to figure out the details of suit or sport coat, transportation, or after dance event. Just then his younger brother joined our conversation, “CT, why are you making such a big deal of this? I thought you asked her as a friend?”

CT grinned. His sunburned cheeks shone. His eyes danced with merriment. “Because you never know what may happen between friends.” Be still my heart.

The Eve of Destruction: National Archives

As I perused the news this morning, once again the vigilante lemmings have lifted up their torches to threaten and bash yet another victim: The National Archives. My disgust led me to refresh my understanding of the purpose of the national agency created in 1934.

As early as 1790, America’s founders recognized the need to preserve their new country’s history. Some early states, like Massachusetts establish a historical society early on, but a national effort remained at a standstill. Due to numerous fires into the early twentieth century, much historical documentation was lost.

Allan Weinstein, former national archivist director said, “archivists are the designated custodians of America’s national memory.” They preserve items as proof events occurred and document how things happened. Among such items stored are acts of Congress, presidential directives, federal regulations, and items of national security. The agency is also charged with providing public access to its holdings. For example, at its museum in Washington, one can view the original Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the US Constitution. (Yes, you can verify John Hancock did sign.) Through social media, you can browse the extensive collections. I accessed a photograph of the public hanging of four co-conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination for a book I was writing. Military and genealogical records are also accessible, as well as copies of congressional acts,etc. Additionally, the Archives administers fifteen presidential libraries and museums, and fifteen research facilities across the country.

Most every American is familiar with the quote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (Santayana) Imagine a country, who has another Alex Jones’ clone, screaming to the masses John Hancock didn’t sign anything. He was a paid Hollywood actor! Or Christa McAuliffe is still teaching at Concord High School.

At my age, I can’t remember where I left my glasses, what I had for dinner last night, or when my next hair appointment is. It’s even trickier when I attempt to recall my one of my numerous passwords. So, to destroy and dismantle the “guardians of our national memory,” because of one person is absurd.

Ignorant and Free

Yes, I know this is one of my favorite Thomas Jefferson quotes: For a nation to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be. Enter Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Yale and Harvard educated attorney and US Navy veteran, which would lead one to assumed was educated. However, DeSantis jumped on the elite bandwagon of extremists proclaiming public schools were evil. Of course, this belief snowballed and once again, and the age of ignorance banned books. While some will argue that Huckleberry Finn, Atticus Finch, and Lenny have no business in schools, school districts in Florida are in a uproar over the Rotary International Dictionary project. In the early 1990’s Rotary Clubs across the world began donating paperback dictionaries to every third grade student. In my school district over 500 children each received his/her/ their own dictionary each year–sometimes the first book they ever owned. Now hundreds of dictionaries are stockpiled in storage, due to the passage of HB 1467, which requires books be “approved for suitability” by state-approved, media specialists. This includes all texts, library collections, book fairs, and of course, free dictionaries. DeSantis believes this law helps prevent indoctrination throughout the school system. (Or guarantees a nation of really bad spellers whose word choice is nonsensical.)

Indoctrination? I opened my dictionary and looked up its meaning. Depending on the dictionary, the definitions vary:

Cambridge: The process of repeating an idea or belief to someone until they accept it.

Merriam Webster: To instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments or to imbue with usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

Oxford: The process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

For over ten years, I taught a university, graduate course: The History of American Education. US schools were founded on the principle of making “good” Americans. Even Daniel Webster published an American dictionary with American spelling. In England, it’s honour, in America, it’s honor; theatre morphed into theater, etc. School children were taught to be educated citizens with rights and responsibilities; they recited the Preamble to the Constitution, pledged the American flag, cut out silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln,and sang, The Star Spangled Banner. Children, as young as five, were stolen from the reservations and placed in boarding schools to turn these “savages” into Americans.

Yet, based on the definition of indoctrination, which I hope you read carefully, it could easily be applied to politics. I find the Cambridge definition to particularly ring true. I trust you can figure it out yourself. Oh, to my Arizona friends, a similar version of HB 1467, takes effect in Arizona, January 1, 2023.

Bad, Good Enough, and Excellent

Years ago, Dr. John Merrow of Harvard, produced a series of PBS programs on American schools, in which he categorized schools as bad, good enough, and excellent. Those categories can be easily be used to evaluate my week. The roofers came to repair my warrantied roof and skylight leaks. They supposedly resealed the skylight but said the one on the roof was a stucco issue. My favorite painter garage mates repaired and sealed. They conquered my dry rot problem.

Since I’ve known these boys since they were in kindergarten, I took them to lunch, where they regaled me with horror stories about a subcontracting job they’d recently done for Arizona State University. They were to repaint dorm rooms, which had supposedly been cleaned prior. My boys are custom painters, who do excellent, exceptional work. (I know; they painted by entire 4,000 square-foot interior.) They spent hours cleaning, before they could paint. When they finished the first room, they said to the supervisor, “This room was so filthy it needs another coat.”

The supervisor replied, “It’s good enough.”

When they entered the next room, they spent the first half-hour sweeping up thousands of dead cockroaches–one-half black trash bag full. They looked at the walls that ere obviously stained with vomit and other unknown body fluids, and they told the supervisor they were terminating their contract.

The supervisor replied, “I’m surprised you lasted this long; custom painters rarely do. And by the way, that was the custodian’s room; he died in there about three months ago.”

Excellent, good enough, and now to the bad. The moment Friday night’s monsoon began I heard plop,plop, plop. Yes, the skylight was leaking above my island cook top. As the stormed raged, water began to stream all over the island and kitchen floor. The ceiling bubbled, as I captured over 2.5 inches of rain in my scrub bucket. Bad is truly not a “good enough” adjective to describe my assessment. Trust me, I’ve spent most of the day collecting words for my Monday call to the roofing company, deleting expletives along the way. I wouldn’t want to be the receiver of my wrath.

Do Termites Lives Matter?

You probably think I’ve recareered as an entomologist with my musings about cockroaches and now termites. Perhaps, it is the monsoon which has driven me into the mad,mad world of insects. For the most part, I like bugs, like lady bugs, butterflies, dragon flies, and honey bees to name a few. On the other hand, scorpions and termites are on my detest list. (When I lived in Ohio, Japanese beetles were also on my nuke list.)

But this week, I discovered termites in a wooden beam on my patio. From English, to French, to Spanish I swore every awful word I could remember. WTH? Damn termites. I made my painter boy garage mates come and look, and they removed all the molding around the beam. They confirmed my suspicion. “Damn it, Sue. You’ve got termites.”

I wrung my hands. “Damn it! What am I supposed to do now?”

They stared at me like I was from outer space; I knew they thought I was being a blonde–bottled blonde, that is. “Call an exterminator. I think they’re pretty pricey, and they may have to drill holes in your wall.” Visions of dollar signs danced in my head.

This revelation drove my research into the life of termites. These ancient creatures are blind, and live in colonies, similar to ants. There are workers and soldiers who are sterile. One male, the king, is not, and he mates with the queen for life. The life span of a queen can be from 30-50 years long. (A long time to be popping out eggs.) Of course, just like cockroaches, termite lives do matter in an ecological sense, as they decompose dung and vegetative debris. In many countries, they are considered a delicacy for consumption by both humans and livestock and adapted for medicinal uses.

Yesterday, the termite inspector arrived to determine treatment options. Who knew exterminators had a bureaucracy too? “Sue, you don’t have termites.” He paused. “You have dry rot.”

WTH?

“You obviously have a roof leak. It could also be on the inside of the wall, so you need to call a roofer, as soon as possible.”

Yeah, right. Good luck with that–a roofer during the monsoon. So, now I’m standing in line, awaiting a visit from my roofer, as the storm clouds form overhead, the wind rages, and the lightening skips across the sky. And to all the termites roaming our planet, my apologies. Just stay out of my territory. Thank you.

Where Is It?

Perhaps, you recall my tale of lost luggage a month or so ago and my missing blender bottom last week. My luggage was eventually found; my blender, not. One of my longtime friends called me the other day to tell me about a simple device for luggage. While I rarely advocate for a commercial product, this one may be a keeper.

For under $28, the Apple Tag tracks your luggage. It’s a small disc you place in your suitcase, which enables you to track your bag(s) on your other Apple devices. After my last frustrating adventure in the new world of COVID travel, I will not leave home again without one. I do wish this simple device would have been available years ago; I could have used it to track my kids and their boyfriends!

You may be delighted to learn I haven’t misplaced anything this week. Just don’t ask me how long it took for me to find my sunglasses today…I was wearing them.

The Mystery of the Missing Blender

(I was going to blog today about the new assault rifle being sold to civilians, which is not only twice as powerful as the AR-15, but it capable of shooting through bulletproof vests. The horror of that makes me nauseous and causes me great fear for America. I believe we’ve lost both our moral compass and our minds.)

Let me assure you, I’m no Jack Reacher, nor Nancy Drew. But yesterday, I was making a fruit dessert and went to use my blender. I set the glass container on the counter and filled it with a variety of pineapple, mandarin oranges, and cherries. I opened the pantry to retrieve the bottom motorized part, and spent the next twenty minutes searching for it–to NO avail. Due to the loss of time, I was forced to adapt. This morning, I took the entire pantry apart. Of course, I discovered a lot of items I didn’t know I had. I rearranged everything and threw stuff away. (Who really saves a half-eaten small bag of chips from a holiday party?)

Regrettably, the blender bottom remains MIA. I’ve no idea when I last used it–maybe a few months ago or maybe a year ago. I was about to put the glass container in the donation box, but I knew if I did, I would eventually find the missing piece. Thus, I just shoved it back in the pantry to gather dust. If and when the occasion calls for a blender, I’ll throw another tantrum when I can’t find the bottom. I have NOT lost my moral compass, but I have, indeed, lost my mind!