Celebrate the holidays


The English language learners I teach struggle with pronunciation for several reasons. Often it’s because English has sounds, like “th,” not found in their first language.  Other times they cannot hear or distinguish between two similar sounds, such as “b” and “v.” And there are times they simply mishear. For example, after hearing a short speech by a native speaker, one of my students asked me why the young woman was advocating for hippos. In fact, she was talking about pit bulls.



Native English speakers also mispronounce and mishear. Children learn “Silent Night” and then ask you why baby Jesus has to “sleep in heavenly peas.” (This is called a mondegreen.) These language errors can cause English teachers who have to grade papers to howl in horror or howl in laughter.



Language is verbal clay and there’s nothing more fun than grabbing a handful to play with. That’s one reason we read and write, isn’t it? The delight in words.


Yesterday at our Thanksgiving brunch, as one of the students left, she said, “Happy Tanksgiving, teacher.” I thought about that all the way home. What if we had a holiday for that?



Tanksgiving: Day of gifts from the Pentagon to the military


Angstgiving:  Yearlong gift-giving from teenagers to their parents


Spanksgiving: Day to give to the naughty  (You know who you are.)


Banksgiving: Government day to give bailouts.


Franksgiving: National Barbecue Day


Pranksgiving: National Tricksters Day


Shanksgiving: Inmate to inmate prison celebration


Yanksgiving: U.S. Foreign Aid Day


Thanksliving: Lifelong celebration of the good things in life





You always hurt the one you love


The Mills Brothers

Do you ever wonder what your brain is doing while you sleep? If you’re like me, you also  wonder what it’s doing while you’re awake.


This morning I woke up with two rhymes in my head. The first (thankfully) has only one stanza, the second has two.


Like the majority of  people who majored in English, I’m a failed poet. That doesn’t stop me from writing it, of course, but when I fail, I tend to fail in free verse. I’m not going to try to fix or clean up the rhymes that were in my head this morning, so if you have a weak stomach, I suggest you avert your eyes from the rhyme scene. It may be too gruesome for you. The first goes like this:


Have you seen how love ebbs and leaves the shore

Flowing out to sea, seen no more?

Have you felt the chill when love shuts the door

Quietly because it has other places it must go?


I’ve written some posts about my mother recently and have been thinking how she spent her whole life looking for love. She found it for a while, but then lost it when my father died in an accident.


One of her pet phrases was “You always hurt the one you love.” She would often say it in a teasing way to my sister or me, but I never paid much attention to it. I learned later that it was from a hit song The Mills Brothers sang in 1944. Mother would have been in her second marriage then, getting beat up on a regular basis. For her, perhaps, it was a hit song in more ways than one. Here are the lyrics:


You always hurt the one you love,

The one you shouldn’t hurt at all.

You always take the sweetest rose,

And crush it till the petals fall.

You always break the kindest heart,

With a hasty word you can’t recall.

So, if I broke your heart last night,

It’s because I love you most of all.


I attribute my morning’s first rhyming thought to mother and the elusiveness of love. But I mentioned there were two rhymes in my head this morning. Here’s the second one:


Little Billy Martin

liked to pick his nose.

He liked to poke, he liked to prod

Then wipe it on his clothes.


When friends saw Billy Martin

They always liked to shout.

Stop it Billy Martin

and take your finger out!



Don’t ask me where that one came from. I don’t have a clue.


Bloggers Anonymous


This is where I stand up and say, “Hi, my name’s yearstricken and I blog. It started in October of this year. The blog, not the writing and the drawing. That’s been going on for years. A lot of it (most?) done in secret. For years I’d make late night walks to the curb to put “stuff” in the recycling container. I didn’t want anyone to see the amount of paper I’d written or drawn on or question me about the amount of time I’d spent scribbling.


I have used up more paper than I care to admit. I’m saddened to think of all the trees that had to give their lives to satisfy my needs. As restitution, I have put most of my writing on my computer. The drawings require paper, but I erase a lot, which is a form of recycling. It’s been a while since my husband has innocently picked up a piece of paper thinking it was a harmless grocery list only to find he was face to face with a poem in free verse. That was awkward and unsettling for both of us.


My poor family has had to endure a number of painful and uncomfortable moments when I have either thrust a piece of paper into one of their hands or cornered one of them by saying, ‘Would you like to hear what I wrote?’ It’s the equivalent of being accosted by a dirt-encrusted wino who puts his arm around you and asks for some spare change. Except the wino lives with you and is called mother or wife. That’s me, folks.


But that’s not the end of my ability to unsettle. Earlier this year, I started sending out my words to a select group of strangers, called editors. You have no idea the amount of sorrow and regret I caused them. Response after response came in saying, ‘We’re sorry…we regret to inform…’ Talk about guilt.


So I started blogging. My family is visibly relieved. Editors throughout the United States are sleeping better. And I discovered that blogging is an acceptable form of begging for spare change, or in blogese, asking if someone would like to hear what I wrote.”




The world of blog is full of creative, kind, funny, brilliant, and generous people. And kind, I mentioned that, right? One of these shiny beings who creates ten beautiful things before breakfast every day (or so it seems) nominated me for an award. Her name is kathryningrid. She lives over on kiwsparks street. She has regular parties there, and if you go, she will encourage you to dance, sing, paint, make pictures, and build castles out of words. Thank you, kathryningrid.


I am supposed to share seven things about myself you don’t know.

  • I have never owned a house.
  • I deliberately shoplifted once when I was a teenager: a tube of Coppertone. This year I had to have cryosurgery on two small patches on my face because of too much sun exposure when I was young. See, crime never pays. Back then, Coppertone didn’t protect your skin.
  • A few years later, I accidentally shoplifted a tube of lipstick. I was at a drugstore looking at makeup sets and was wearing a wraparound skirt with large pockets. When I got home, I found the lipstick in one of the pockets. It must have fallen in when I was picking up the sets. It was bright red, not my color. I didn’t know how to explain it to the store clerk, so I threw it away.
  • I love music from the likes of the Carter Family and their album Gold Watch And Chain: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1933-1934. My children prefer toothpicks in the eyeballs to this kind of music. Oddly “toothpicks in the eyeballs” is not the name of an actual band.
  • I am not particularly musical but during a very difficult time in my life, I wrote two blues songs.
  • I find it difficult to talk about myself. Writing is different. It’s more like what you do in a confessional: talk about yourself with the hopes that whoever is eavesdropping will forgive you and love you anyway.
  • The first time I took a blood test, I passed with an A-. Not bad, huh?

One of the rules of the award is to nominate others. Three of these websites I was going to pick had just been nominated, so I didn’t include them. Once I have time to work more on my website, I will make a blog roll like I see on the real bloggers’ sites.

  • k8edid – funny and nobody makes buttons like this woman
  • corpora – an applied linguistics researcher who plays with words
  • Boomerrantz – funny boomer ranter who now goes by her real name
  • kvenna ráð – bring oxygen, she may take your breath away

In the desert looking for love and radioactivity


My mother and father met in Arizona in a little town out in the middle of the desert. Mother had the bad habit of marrying abusive men and had just fled her second marriage to come live with her mother. She arrived in desperate need of a dentist, having had several teeth removed, without any anesthesia, by her second husband’s fist. She left two children behind with their paternal grandmother and brought the two oldest with her, a boy and a girl from her first marriage. They traveled three days by bus from Alabama, with no money for food. Other passengers took pity on the children, who didn’t even have shoes, and shared some of their food. Her own mother didn’t recognize her when she got off the bus.


Once her teeth were fixed, mother started working as a waitress in a restaurant owned by her Aunt Vern. Mother’s mother, my grandmother, worked there as a cook. At first, mother and the two children stayed with Aunt Vern — a hard woman known to cheat her employees, even those who were relatives. After a few months, they were able to move into their own place. Neighbors and customers donated beds, a table, chairs, and a stove.


Early one evening, on the other side of sober, my father walked in. Originally from Texas, he was in Arizona for a job. As soon as he saw mother, he asked her out on a date. She told him to go home, sober up, and come back at 9 p.m. when she got off work. She never expected him to show up, but he did, and he had sobered up a bit. As they were leaving the restaurant, he said , “I want you to know that I’m not the marrying kind. I just want company, somebody to share a beer with and to dance with.”  She responded, “That’s fine with me.”


I guess the beer and the dance weren’t enough for either one. They married not long after they met.


The desert doesn’t seem like a very romantic place to find someone. Not many go in for moonlit walks among the cactus and rattlesnakes. But that’s where they found love. Later they moved back to the vast desert area of  west Texas, and one of their favorite things to do was to drive out into the desert with their geiger counter and go prospecting for uranium. In the early 1950s there was a uranium craze in the southwestern and western states fueled by the nuclear weapons program developed by the U.S. government. Prospectors armed with geiger counters searched the desert looking to strike it rich.


My parents never found any radioactivity, but I like to think they found what they were really looking for. There’s more than one  way to strike it rich.

The Law of the Toilet and Stephen Hawking


This is a rant and it’s short. Like my temper sometimes. Or my dollars. (A day late and a dollar short.)


It’s bad enough that toilet paper in public places has to be locked up in plastic boxes. Boxes designed to hold two rolls: a new roll on one side and a roll with five sheets of paper on the other side.


There’s a reason for this. It’s the law. Physics said so.


You may remember learning about the law of the toilet in physics class. This can be written as N > 5. Let N stand for the need of the toileter who gets down to business and 5 stand for the maximum number of toilet paper sheets allowed on the first roll.


Dispenser designers are constrained by this law. They must obey. This means you have to put your hand up the contraption to push open the plastic flap that is hiding the new roll of toilet paper. Said plastic flap only opens about an inch, so you have to use your fingertips to spin the toilet roll in hopes that you can find that loose piece of paper that gets the whole thing rolling. Good luck with that.


That was actually my pre-rant.


Maybe the designers had an Edison moment and all their light bulbs turned on at once, or maybe they heard that some talented people with long, skinny fingers were getting the second roll started and so the thrill was gone. We’ll never know (unless we hunt them down and force them to talk). But one day, they decided to make it easy for us to get all of the toilet paper we want.


They designed dispensers with a small hole at the bottom. These have one gigantic roll of toilet paper in them, and there is always a sheet or two hanging out for you to start pulling. Go ahead, take as much as you would like. Thoughtful, no?


No, because as you pull it through that hole in the bottom, the nice flat sheets of toilet paper are transformed into toilet floss. Yes, just like the floss you use for your teeth, only not as strong.


The two-roll dispensers obey the law  N > 5 and are based on mechanical physics. The new dispensers are based on string theory. I blame Stephen Hawking.


Pushing the right buttons


Last month when my brother came to Wisconsin for a visit, we spent the weekend driving around to admire the changing colors. On that Saturday, my brother, husband, daughter, grandchild, and I spent the day up north taking pictures, visiting a pumpkin patch, and enjoying the weather.

We went in my car, but my husband drove. My brother sat up in the front with him, and the rest of us were in the back seat. When we came home that evening, we were all tired. My husband pulled into the garage next to his car, and everyone got out except me.

When I reached in my purse, I must have hit the alarm on the key fob, setting off the horn. I started punching the alarm button, but nothing happened. So, I started punching the other buttons that have nothing to do with the alarm. Makes sense, right? While doing so, I locked the doors.

Flustered by my lack of results, all I could think of to do was to keep punching that same button again and again. (The classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.) My husband could see that I was punching the right one. So he thought, if it isn’t her car alarm that is bursting our eardrums, maybe it’s mine. So, he pushed the alarm button on his key fob. Do you see how well suited we are for one another?

Now, both car alarms were blaring. My husband was standing by his car pushing his button, which made his alarm go on and off. I was sitting in the back seat of my locked car doing the same, wondering why my car wouldn’t listen to me.

My brother and daughter were standing next to my car laughing and talking above the din. He said, “Do you think she will figure it out?” My daughter shook her head, “I doubt it.” Then he yelled something over to my husband who knocked on my window and yelled at me to unlock the car.

He opened the door and said, “It’s your other key fob.”

Yes, I have two key fobs. One is actually a remote starter, and the other one came with the car. I had been sitting in the back seat pushing the alarm on the remote starter. As soon as I punched the button on the right key fob, the alarm went off.

My brother and daughter said it was a lot of fun watching us. I wish I could have seen it, but I was too busy sitting in the back seat pushing buttons over and over.

Fall color in Wisconsin

The reds and oranges

Corn for the silo