Sleeping with bears


Let’s say you find yourself living with a bear. Let’s also say you are around 5’3” and said bear is almost 6’2”. You like bear; he cooks, does dishes, and changes the oil in your car. Bear is good.

But you must sleep with bear. In his bed. It is his because he needs all of it. The bed bears your name: Queen. That is a misnomer; it is a bear-size bed.

Sleeping with bear involves something we shall call cuddling. Cuddling is good. That is where baby bears come from. Or not. Either way, it’s nice to cuddle.

But sometimes you need to sleep. This is the hard part. Where are you going to put yourself? The bear is big and a little fluffy. You need guidelines. (Not on the bed, although that is a good idea.)

Guideline #1: Bears have diagonal dreams, so they must sleep diagonally. This means you must learn to sleep triangularly and will probably have a number of dreams involving an unsuccessful search for a lost hypotenuse.

Guideline #2: Bears need all of the blankets.

Sub-guideline 2a. Dress appropriately. If your birthday is in the summer months, your birthday suit may work. If not, I suggest pajamas. Long johns are de rigueur in the winter because they prevent the rigor associated with mortis.

Sub-guideline 2b. Bears care about the floor more than you do. Floors get cold, ergo the floor needs the blanket more than you do.

Guideline #3: Bears often snore, especially when they lie on their backs. When this happens, roll onto your back and shake your entire body as if you are one giant twitch. Continue to the point where the bear almost wakes up, then gently push on his side until he rolls over. Be careful not to fully awaken him. This leads to more cuddling and less sleep.

Guideline #4: Bears like your pillow. Several times during the night a bear may try to snuggle into your pillow. If he is a mouth-breather, he will huff and snuffle and blow on your face until you wake up. Grip your pillow tightly, roll over with your back to the bear, and secure the pillow in your corner. Sometimes you will notice a portion of the blanket on your side. Proceed with caution. Pull it gently toward your corner, and enjoy it while you can.

(Note: Sleeping with bears is an alternative lifestyle. As is my wont, I did extensive research for this post and discovered that there was more to the story of Goldilocks and the three bears than you were taught. The girl in the story actually had brown hair, but Brownilocks didn’t sound as good. The story didn’t end with her running away. She went back to the house in the woods in Wisconsin, got to know the family, and fell in love with baby bear, who was actually the same age as her. They got married and he has slept happily ever after. )

Remember: Bears shun parallel sleeping

Remember: The leading cause of triangular dreams is triangular sleeping

Remember: Those who dare to dream diagonally will live and sleep diagonally

World domination: Not for rats


Rodents are on my mind. Not literally, although if they were, that would mean my brain was cheese. And if I had a cheese brain, it would surely be Swiss: not very sharp and full of holes. That in turn would give new meaning to the term “Cheesehead,” which refers to a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Which reminds me: We are the World Champions!


Did I mention that I had caffeine this morning?

Okay, back to rodents. I had two epiphanies this week related to them.

The last name is Burger. Why do you ask?

First, a confession. Up until now, I have been unable to describe myself in one word. In interviews and team-building exercises, I shyly stutter and stammer something about being slightly silly, but sentient. (I tend to alliterate when I’m nervous or upset.) But on Thursday, the word I’ve been searching for my entire life was revealed to me; it is “mouseburger.” Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that no one cared enough to tell me about it. It’s been around since at least 1971. But then, I’m used to that sort of thing. That’s what happens when you are “a drab, timid, or unexceptional woman.”

The song Nat sang that wasn't about me

If I had to describe myself with a song, it would be Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” except that I would have to remove the prefix –un and replace it with the word “so.” Ironically, no one usually remembers Irving Gordon, the man who wrote the song.

As proof of my forgettability, I offer the following. A number of times, I have been introduced to someone (let’s call him Nat and let’s say he has an incredible silky baritone voice and should really be a singer, but he’s not because he’s at the kind of gathering I attend). We chat a bit, say goodbye, and then I run into him later at another gathering. On being re-introduced, Nat will invariably say, “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met.”

Okay, maybe that’s happened to you once or twice. But don’t start feeling smug yet. When my children were in high school, I met a woman I’ll call Lethe. The school was small, so we’re not talking about thousands of parents. We met at a school concert and talked a bit. The next time I saw her, someone asked her if she knew me. No, she didn’t believe we had ever met. Then it happened again. And again. Yes, three meetings after the initial introduction. She seemed to remember everyone but me. So, don’t try to tell me you are more forgettable. I am drabber, more timid, and more unexceptional than you. So there. I win. Mouseburgers don’t usually win, so this totally makes my day.

This makes me want to rename my blog “Mouseburger” with the tagline “The tale of a mousy woman.”

The second epiphany came while listening to a story on NPR about rats working to free a fellow rat trapped in a cage. You can read or listen to it here. When a rat hears a caged rat in distress, it tries to help it get out. I know what you are thinking. Yes, Lassie could have been played by a rat. “Jimmy, help Lassie out of that rat trap, I think he’s trying to tell you something.”

Rats are sympathetic or empathetic – no one knows for sure because no one can clearly define the difference between the two. So, are they going to rise up in solidarity, form unions, and bring down this great nation of ours while corporations are left with nothing but boxes and boxes of greenbacks to dry their tears? I think not. Read the following and you’ll understand why.

Not only will rats frantically work to free their trapped cage mates; they will do so even when there’s a tempting little pile of chocolate chips nearby, the study reveals. Instead of leaving their pal in the trap and selfishly gobbling the candy all by themselves, rats will free their cage mate and share the chocolate.

Rats are all heart and no brain. World domination belongs to those of us who know the value of chocolate. In other words, Blogmate, suppose you are trapped in your blog and you can’t get out. So you whine about it. I will try to help you. Why? Because I am a sentient being with empathy and/or sympathy for other whining sentient beings. But, I will not share my chocolate. Why? Because I’m not a rat.

It’s been a good week. I can now describe myself in one word, and more importantly,  I can explain why I cannot share my chocolate with you.

Investors, forget blue chips. World dominators invest in chocolate chips!

Fear of the dark


(K) The older, photogenic one

When my father died, I was eight and my sister (K) was ten. Mother’s world collapsed and she found it impossible to function. She stayed in bed under heavy medication for days, until our oldest sister (C) told her she would lose us to daddy’s relatives if she didn’t get up and start living again. Our oldest sister was 23 years old at the time and already a mother of three. We lived a complicated childhood, visiting our oldest sister and her children but hiding it from our father. He wanted nothing to do with mother’s past.

When mother got up out of her bed of despair, she couldn’t get any more medication from the doctor. So she self-medicated. And nothing dulled the pain better than booze.

Together with her best friend from work, mother began to “run the roads.” It’s what she called bar hopping. There’s something lop-sided about this story that no amount of explaining will set right. Mother said that daddy was the one she loved like no other, and yet within two months she was out most nights, drinking, dancing, and looking for love. I don’t try to explain it; I just tell the story as I know it.

During that era, I don’t think it was unusual to leave children our ages alone at home. But maybe at night it was. Mother needed somewhere to go, to find companionship, and to have a few drinks to help her forget. The bars all had a Happy Hour, and although she never found happiness there, at least the drinks were cheap. Rather than leave us at home, she would take us to a theater to let us watch the latest movie, often a horror movie. This provided me with lots of reasons to fear the dark.

Before the years struck me so hard

A few years ago, I was talking with my sister (K) and mentioned all the scary movies we saw when we were kids like The Blob,

The Tingler, The Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. I remember sitting the theater, my feet on the chair tucked under my dress, clutching my sister’s arm, thinking that if I held on tight enough the monster couldn’t get me.

She asked me if I remembered what happened after the movies on those nights mother dropped us off. I told her I didn’t have a single memory of what came before or after.

Have you ever heard someone tell a story about an event that you were part of but that you have absolutely no recollection of? What she told me stunned me.

More than once, after the movie or double feature was over, we waited out in front of the theater long past the last showing. One of those times, we were still there when the lights were shut off and the last person left the building. Then mother would show up smelling of whiskey, cigarette smoke, and sweet perfume. Beautiful, lonely, half-drunk, working hard to forget her pain, and doing such a good job that she forgot her girls out there in the dark, lonely and afraid.

For my sister the horror show started after we left the theater. She was too young to carry so much responsibility, but she had no choice. I clearly couldn’t take care of myself. I think the fear I felt during the long wait in the dark was too real, the sense of abandonment too raw to face, so I transferred it to the movies and thought they were the source of my terror. My sister was the brave one and faced the darkness for both of us. And for all these years, she has had to carry the memories alone. I cannot remember. And that’s one of the reasons I love her.

Much of my childhood I lived under water; the people and events blurred and distorted. Light is refracted when you are below water, so things are recognizable but they don’t line up. I’d come up for air now and then, then dive back under. Some of it I understand; some I don’t. I know one thing: I cannot watch horror movies. They make me afraid of the dark. I know, too, that love is strong and can carry the memories we cannot bear ourselves. But even love feels lonely sometimes.

The imaginary line


Bunk bed kit does not include alligator pit.

My sister and I had bunk beds part of the time when we were growing up. Since my sister is older, she had first dibs on the upper bunk, but I know I slept up there at least once because I remember falling out of bed. My parents came into the room and my father picked me up to check for broken bones. I even remember dreaming that I was falling into an alligator pit.


My fear of alligators stemmed, I’m sure, from the fact that there was an alligator park in our downtown. City planners could have built a botanical garden, an amusement park, or a duck pond. Instead they built a pond full of alligators.


“Kids, get in the car and let’s go see Oscar and Sally, the alligators with the big, shiny teeth. Did you know that they can chase you down if you fall in and try to run away?”


Maybe you’re living in Florida where people have these as pets, or in Louisiana where people hit them over their heads for their shoes and then eat them. The alligators, not the shoes. But I’m talking El Paso, Texas out in the middle of the desert. And all that separated little you from big them was a short “protective” fence.


But back to sleeping arrangements.


My sister and I also shared a double bed at one point. Since my parents couldn’t find a bed with a built-in wall down the middle, my sister drew an imaginary line to keep me from entering her territory.


Honoring the line was easy in daylight, but not at night. I was petrified of the dark. After alligators, my biggest fear was that my sister would turn into a witch. Perhaps because I had bonked myself silly, I believed that if I touched her, she would remain my sister, and I would save her from witchiness. So, I would dutifully remain on my side, waiting for her to fall asleep and then would slowly slide my hand or foot across the no-fly zone to touch her. And, of course, she would always be awake and yell, “Mom, she’s touching me!”


The sliding, the touching, and yelling would happen several times each night until one or the other of us fell asleep. It was exhausting.


In private, when my sister and I share these memories, I always say, “See what happened. You should have let me touch you.”


But I never say that in public.


(The picture is from:

and you can build one yourself.)



From slug to superhero


Thank you for dinner, dear. I think I'll just crawl over to my rocking recliner if you don't mind.

At night I often try to write something for the blog, but there’s something in the food I eat at dinner that turns me into a slug. A rocking slug, who sits in her rocking recliner reading blogs and growing more and more sluggish.


I trust that when I awake I will be able to crawl to the coffee pot for some of that magic potion that transforms me from slug to the little known super hero called The Texan WordSlinger. That’s what all my imaginary fans call me. Armed with a dictionary and a thesaurus, I go through the day slinging words at the less fortunate. Very much like Robin Hood, except that I merely borrow words from the treasures of the OED, and I always put them back. And yes, sometimes they get mangled in the process, but I mean well.


And since we are on the subject of hoods, I am reminded of the unnamed girl who had a red one for riding. And since we’re on that subject, here’s a revised version, good for raising genius children or grandchildren. It has big words and a lot of awesome and almost aimless alliteration.


(Note to reader: My morning brain tells me what to write each day, and I always listen to it because it’s very loud. Today, it gave me a choice, this story or some of my poems. Be glad I chose this. And remember, people in China are counting on you to read it all the way through.)



         One time before this time, there was a little lass with the nickname of Small Scarlet Steering Shroud. She domiciled with her female human parent in a habitation hard by a heavily wooded area. One out of every seven solar days, Small Scarlet Steering Shroud would traipse through the timberland to tend to the mate of her mother’s male human parent.

During a certain twenty-four hour period, Small Scarlet Steering Shroud’s primary care giver solicited her to tote some tasty treats to the moldering matriarch.  Shouldering the sweets and swaddling her own person in her scarlet steering shroud, she sallied forth.

At the selfsame second, a large predatory mammal of the genus Canis lupus was masticating the mother’s mother that Small Scarlet Steering Shroud was meaning to meet!  After digesting her, he donned her duds, placed her spectacles on his proboscis, simulated her smile, and awaited the arrival of Small Scarlet Steering Shroud.

When she appeared at the abode, she announced her advent.

“Oh, issue forth Small Scarlet Steering Shroud,” the pretending pettifogger peeped forth.

“Why, mate of my mother’s male authority figure,” she marveled, “what huge hearing organs you have!”

“Most preferable for perceiving your parlance, my pretty peach,” he proffered.

“And what whopping winkers you have!” Small Scarlet Steering Shroud spoke, as she sauntered within spitting distance.

‘An advantageous assistance in appraising your appearance,” he


Nudging near the nefarious no-good, the chary child chimed in, “What monumental molars you have!”

“The more desirable for devouring darlings like you,” he declared, diving out of bed to dine on the dainty dear.

Unexpectedly, upturned the underbrush and timber trimmer, who heeded the hollering he heard rising from the residence. Availing himself of his axe, the feller of forests proceeded through the portal and cracked the crown of the miserable miscreant. The delighted damsel arranged her upper appendages around the area of the Adam’s apple of the axe applier and asserted her affection and appreciation.

After a few rotations of the earth around the sun, Small Scarlet Steering Shroud marched through maturation into matrimony with that male mower of green growth.  And they existed endlessly enjoying each other.


The night I didn’t hear Pink Floyd’s music


A couple of months ago, a good friend at work invited me to a concert. She had planned to go with her husband; in fact, he was the one who bought the tickets. However, he was delayed on a business trip and couldn’t get back in time. He is a huge fan of Pink Floyd, and the concert was a tribute band playing all their songs.


If I had a list of least liked types of music, the genre that includes Pink Floyd would be at the top, but I decided to go for three reasons. First, I like my friend, and I like spending time with her. Second, the invitation included dinner. Yes, free food. It’s amazing the things I will do for a free meal. I only put this as the second reason because I thought it would look bad as the first. And third, the city orchestra would be playing with the band. So, how bad could it be?


After a lovely Chinese meal, we headed over to the local performing arts center. It looked like Woodstock but for fluffy people with less hair, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. I, on the other hand, dressed up because the orchestra was playing. One wears a dress and heels to such events.


We had good seats in the middle of the aisle in the middle of the auditorium. We had to skooch past an older couple who were also dressed up. When I say “older,” I mean older than me. Ancient to some of you. They were probably in their eighties. I suspect they were season ticket holders and were lured in, thinking the orchestra would be doing Pink Floyd light. They sat to my left.


The first song was introduced by the soft sound of stringed instruments, which always makes my heart sing. So with happy heart and full belly, I settled down into my seat for an evening of delight.


Then wouldn’t you know it, the minute the band began to play, someone turned on a whole array of power tools. I could hear an electric drill, a jack hammer, and, oddly, a leaf blower, or maybe it was just someone banging on the furnace. And it happened every single time the band began to play! Every. Single. Time. I couldn’t hear their music because of all the noise.


The concert also included a light show. In other words, they showed lights. Flashing lights with grainy videos behind and around the band. Just for fun, they would suddenly turn the lights on the audience, temporarily blinding us. The people in charge of the lights were having a lot of fun because they did this repeatedly. Sometimes they’d leave the lights shining in our eyes for a long time. I kept waiting for a voice to boom out, “And where were you on the night of August 15th?” But, of course, that didn’t happen, or if it did, we couldn’t hear it because of the power tools.


I felt sorry for all the people who paid good money to hear Pink Floyd’s music and missed it because some selfish people needed to do repairs in and around the concert hall that very night. Everyone put on a happy face (this is the Midwest), and I didn’t hear any complaints. The dear couple to my left spent a lot of time looking at the concert brochure and whispering to each other.


I had a really good time that night because I was with my friend. Also, we had a good meal together and got to hear the orchestra play bits of music. And I absolutely loved the ending. The repairs were apparently done and they turned the power tools off. I stood up and clapped for that like everybody else.

Floyd's pink power toolkit


What? You know I can’t hear you


What? You know I can't hear you

In the last few years of my mother’s life, it became clear that she needed a hearing aid. No matter what you said to her, she responded with “what?”


“Hi, mom. Your hair looks nice.” “What?”


“I lost my job, and I live under the freeway now.” “What?”


“The house is on fire!” “What?”


“I think Congress is doing a great job.” “What?”


It didn’t matter if you told the truth or lied and said you thought Congress was more than a group of self-serving bootlickers, mother’s response was always the same. She knew she wasn’t hearing well, yet she resisted getting a hearing aid. The people around her had to repeat everything several times. The echo made people want to pull out their hair.


After months of reasoning and piles of hair all over the house (others, not hers), she agreed to see an audiologist and get fitted for a hearing aid. She wore the device for several days, and then began leaving it in the dresser drawer. The dresser began to hear everything that was said and eavesdropped on several conversations that were none of its business, and mother again started punctuating every statement and question with “what?”


I was visiting my brother and her when this happened. He was at work, so it fell to me to take mother back to the audiologist. Mother explained that the device didn’t fit properly, so the doctor fiddled and adjusted and asked several questions to make sure that it was comfortable. She was very patient with mother and didn’t rush her. Mother said yes to every question about how well it fit and we left.


On the way home, we carried on a normal conversation. And we had several days of echo-free talk. Then late one afternoon, I went into the kitchen to make dinner. Mother went to her room for a book, came back into the living room, and sat on the couch to read. The house had an open concept floor plan, so we could see one another. The first time I shut the cupboard door, she said, “What?”  I laughed and said, “I didn’t say anything.” She looked puzzled, so I repeated it. She sighed, put her book down, and said, “You know I can’t hear you.” I walked over, told her I hadn’t said a thing, and that I had just shut the cabinet door. I asked her where her hearing aid was. Of course I knew. I also knew that the dresser could now hear everything we said, so I listened patiently as she explained that the hearing aid felt uncomfortable.


I went back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, I shut another cabinet door and she hollered, “What?” Again, I had to walk over to her and explain that I was not speaking to her. I assured her that if I had anything to say, I would walk over  to tell her. She actually called out, “What?” one other time during that meal preparation. I have never cooked so quietly in my life.


At the meal, my brother and I asked her why she didn’t tell the audiologist that it still didn’t feel right.  She looked at us, incredulous that we would even ask such a question, and said, “I didn’t want to bother her.”


We laugh about it now. You don’t bother folks you hardly know. Bothering is for the ones you love, the ones who love you back. And now I miss all the bother that mother was.






After exhaustive research on the web, which is to say, several hours, I have been unable to find any reference to what my mother called bonking. Yes, I know it’s a euphemism for sex and that’s not what she meant. People, including me, use it to describe colliding into another object, something my head does when it goes in search of open cupboards. It was also used during World War I to refer to shelling with artillery fire.

The manic metronome illustrates what mother meant by bonking. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

But not a single reference to how my mother used it. When I was little, my favorite method of comforting myself was to rock my body back and forth, as if every chair, couch, or car backseat were a rocking chair. I would start with a gentle rocking motion, and slowly build up speed until I reached competition-level rocking. Thud, thud, thud, back and forth, like a manic metronome, I pounded out the rhythm of whatever music was playing in my head. This is what mother called bonking. I broke the springs in one of our couches because I could not sit on the couch to watch TV without bonking the entire time.

I also bonked across state lines. We used to drive from Texas to Arizona to visit my grandma, and I remember asking my mom once when we were going to get there. She said, “If you hadn’t been bonking so hard, we’d have already been there.” I guess the force of me bonking so hard in the backseat cancelled out the force of her foot on the gas pedal. One mile forward, half a mile backward.

Rocking is fairly common in babies. It soothes them. The rhythmic movement is calming, and most stop doing it around the age of three. I obviously needed a lot of self-soothing and comfort because I bonked passionately until I was at least eight years old.

I don’t remember anyone ever talking to me about it or trying to discover what compelled me to do it. My parents just accepted that I was a weird kid and that I’d probably grow out of. I did, kind of. I still love a rocking chair better than other kind of seating arrangement. And I still do some gentle rocking at times when I’m standing and waiting. And who doesn’t rock while listening to the blues?

Caption #1: Yearstricken rocks! Caption #2: Apple rocks! Caption #3: Yearstricken is off her rocker!

If I were a child now, I’d probably  have to see a shrink once a week, be on medication, have two or three psychological labels sewn to my psyche, and attend special classes for children who bonk.

Sometimes children have behaviors that require intervention, sometimes not. Sometimes kids are just weird. That, after all, is where all the weird adults come from.


This post was written from a rocking recliner.

Lovesome words and politics


Why, why, why didn't I download that dictionary app when I had the chance?

Defenestration is my new best word friend forever (BWFF) or until a smarter looking one comes along.


First, it has five syllables, which makes it what is known in etymological circles as a “big” word. Big words are not only a sign of intelligence but can also be used to flummox your friends. Because no one wants to admit that they don’t know the meaning of a big word. Like, really.


Here’s how flummoxing works:


You: I’m so tired!


Your friend: Why? What did you do on the weekend?


You: I was reading a book without a proper ending and I got so riled up, I defenestrated it. It felt so good that I went through the house and defenestrated things for hours. How about you? Did you do any defenestrating over the weekend?


Your friend: Uh…well…yeah, actually…oh, I think I have a message on my phone. Excuse me for a minute.


At this point, your friend will pretend to be checking his or her phone for messages but actually will be looking the word up. But only if the now former friend remembered to download the dictionary app. (Did I mention that flummox is French for “confuse and lose friends”?)


Flummoxing aside, I love the word for the story behind it. The Thirty Years’ War in Europe started in 1618 when some Bohemian nobles threw two government officials and their secretary out of a window to protest the violation of their religious rights. Throwing people out of windows was apparently a common pastime of Bohemians of that day, but up until then, no one knew quite the right word to express it.  The three human projectiles that set off the war landed on a pile of rubbish, and so escaped, bruised and smelling of rotten cabbage, but alive. Thankfully, video cameras had not been invented back then; otherwise, defenestration would become a meme like planking, and people who don’t know big words would be defenestrating all over the place.

Elections: windows of opportunity to practice defenestration

This pane-ful act gave birth to the word we now know as defenestration, which means “to throw out of a window.”  It combines the prefix de-, which gives the meaning of something removed or put away, with the Latin word for window, fenestra.


You see how lovesome the word is. Its story reminds me that there are a number of government officials that I would like to defenestrate, particularly those who have failed to compromise and do what’s right for the country, instead of licking the boots of lobbyists and big money contributors. Election time is our window of opportunity, people. Rise up and defenestrate.









Misplaced cow pies


Where is that cow pie? I've misplaced it again!

Ever since I mentioned “misplaced cow pies” in my post about stories without a resolution, I have been pondering that phrase.


Before we go further into this post, I’d like you to step (carefully) over here. ➨  Isn’t it interesting that I said I was pondering and that a synonym of “ponder” is “ruminate”? Which animals ruminate? Cows! And which animals make cow pies? Cows! Holy cow, you say, what’s going on here? Well, that’s why I am here; to tell you what. There is only one degree of separation between deep thinking and cow pies!  In layman’s terms, it means that when you are in a department meeting, listening intently, and pondering the meaning of all those sounds flowing out of your supervisor’s mouth, you are essentially deep in cow pies.


Okay, you can step back over here to the main idea of the post. If you did a lot of deep thinking, please wipe your shoes. I try to keep this a clean blog. When I wrote “misplaced cow pies,” I had no idea where it came from. I still don’t. This happens to me a lot. But somehow the phrase expressed my irritation with elements in stories that the author puts in for no good reason. Stuff like violence, sex, crude language, and abuse. There’s a time and a place for all of these, just like there is for cow pies. But sometimes it seems the storyteller or the scriptwriter can’t think of what comes next, so they go out to the meadow and haul some cow pies in to make things smell earthy. I think it smells more like bull.


Writer gathering cow pies to misplace in his story.

But the real reason I think that phrase extruded out of my brain was to give me fodder for another post. Brains can be nice that way sometimes.