The left doesn’t know what the right is doing


It happened again. In a blatant act of partisanship, my right hand conspired against my left, made a wild grab for power, momentarily grasped it, and blocked my left hand from taking any action.


I was almost ten the first time. John F. Kennedy, winner of the Democratic nomination for president, chose LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) as his running mate. Kennedy would have preferred someone else, but Johnson, a homegrown Texan, guaranteed the southern voters that Kennedy needed. The two men came to El Paso in September 1960 to campaign. I stood among the crowd lining the streets. (I have no idea who I was with, and my fact checker (AKA older sister ) doesn’t remember it at all.)


As Johnson’s motorcade drove by, he stuck out his hand. I rushed forward, thrust my right hand through the crowd and grabbed hold for two seconds. I don’t know what thrilled me more, that I had touched a famous person, or that I had discovered that fame resided in a hand just like my own, five-fingered with an opposable thumb. Like all famous hands, it  had a much wider span than mine, but it was attached to a man who could have been my neighbor or my teacher.


The second time happened last Friday, September 28. Earlier in the week I gave up all of my personal information for a free ticket to attend a speech by Michelle Obama at nearby Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. I arrived later than I had planned because I had morning classes. About 400 other people were late as well. Most of them stood in front of me, waiting to get through security and into the auditorium. About one hundred stood behind me. By the time I got out of the security area, a young volunteer directed me away from the auditorium toward a small tent next to the building, saying, “The fire marshal won’t allow any more people into the building. You can hear the speech from inside the tent.”


Was I unhappy? Yes. If I had wanted long lines, endless waits, and annoying security, only to be turned away at the gate, I would have booked a flight.  No one seemed happy, but we remained civil (this is the Midwest) and followed directions, mooing and lowing as we crowded into the fenced area beneath the tent. I amused myself by exchanging complaints with the others and by watching the well-dressed Secret Service men walk back and forth talking to their wrists. Forty-five minutes past the scheduled time for the speech, a group of grim wrist talkers guided Mrs. Obama around the perimeter of the holding pen. When she got close to me, I whipped out my phone, took some quick videos, shoved the phone into my left hand to distract it, and grabbed her outstretched hand with my right. Her hand felt just like mine, only more famous, and attached to a woman much taller in person than on TV.


Still picture from my iPhone video.

After the gripping event, I left, as did almost everyone in the tent. Watching the speech online appealed to me more than standing in a covered corral listening.


Later that day my husband asked if I planned to wash my hand. “Better yet,” I said, “I plan to sell it on eBay.”


Let me know if you’re interested.




I am yearstricken’s right hand, and I approve this message.


I am yearstricken’s left hand, and I don’t.




Wisconsin accused of vowel play in Senate race!



Accusations are flying right and left about the upcoming Senate race here in Wisconsin. Of course, most, if not all, of the alleged accusations about vowel play originated on my computer because I needed a catchy headline for this post.


But I didn’t make up the part about the vowels. Wisconsin’s fate hinges on vowels – those joiners of consonants, the chatty members of the alphabet who always make their voices heard. They are the ones who mingle at the word parties and call out, “Group hug!” Vowels pull in the recalcitrant consonants who would just stand there speechless otherwise.


So on November 6, Wisconsinites will play political Wheel of Fortune and pick a vowel – an “a” or an “o.” Our next Senator will be a Tammy or a Tommy, that is, a Tam or a Tom.


The Tam, Ms. Baldwin (whose last name may already predict the outcome), threw her hat into the ring one year ago. I like to envision her throwing a tam into the ring (one of those woolen bonnets with a pom-pom on top, worn by the Scots and called a Tam o’Shanter.) Sadly, for no one else but me, Ms. Baldwin was not born into the O’Shanter family. By winning the election, Ms. Baldwin hopes to put a feather in her tam. The feather, of course, would be one plucked from the Tom she is running against.


The Tom, Mr. Thompson, hopes to defeat Ms. Baldwin and change that “a” in her last name to his favorite vowel, the “o.” It’s easy to snicker at the fact that tom is short for turkey, but remember, Benjamin Franklin, famous for ousting other presidents off the one hundred dollar bill since 1928, wanted the turkey to be our national symbol instead of the eagle.


As you know if you read this blog (and if you do, you have my sympathy), I have chosen to keep my thoughts on the best choice to myself. I plan to choose a vowel on November 6, but that’s between me and Alex Trebek.



Sink me! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day



If I hadn’t been sailing around in a fog for the last month, I would have gotten my t-shirt made and would be wearing it today. I planned on it, thought about it, bookmarked the website, and just in time didn’t do it. Folks, I post more pone than most people ever dream about; in fact, I put the “Pro” in procrastination. Now that it’s too late to wear the t-shirt, I will get right on it and show you my creation as soon as I actually get it done, which will be sometime between now and Christmas, whichever comes last.


I also failed to find out where the nearest Krispy Kreme donut shop is. Online (here) I read that you will get a big surprise if you walk into one of their donut shops and say, “Arrr! Avast! Ahoy! Betwattled or be marooned, you chocolate-bellied, sugar-sprinkled landlubber! Hand over the booty! I be needin’ a free donut!” The website says you will be given a free donut if you talk like that, but the real surprise could be that you will be restrained and held against your will until the police arrive. Apparently, if you wear full pirate regalia and talk like that, you will receive a dozen donuts. I suppose it’s worth a try. The worst that could happen is that you end up at a place where lots of other people talk like pirates, think they are Napoleon, or think they are some kind of god. (And no, I’m not talking about your workplace.)


But back to the day and my shivering timbers. Pirate talk is a combination of growling German Shepherd, Dutch, Irish, and High Deppish (derived from classical John). So, to celebrate, I thought I would splice the main brace and add a wee bit of rum to me coffee, then crack me some cackle fruit to scramble. Unfortunately, I don’t have any rum or eggs in the house. Also, I have to go to work and arriving there squiffy is frowned upon by me Captain, who could very well make me walk the plank to meet Davy Jones.I don’t know about you, but he’s not someone I want to monkee around with.


Spit wit’ ye eye to eye later.




If you want to translate your words into Pirate, go here.








In the park on an angry day



The house was full of too many words,

so I took the train to town and walked

in the park through the silent, soft

afternoon light among red maples, and

yellow ginkgos. The lake was infested

with greedy ducks. A long orange carp

followed me, or perhaps I followed it,

along the bridge. Ducks paddled over

its head begging for bread. Twice it

surfaced and looked as if it would speak

to me, but apparently thought better of it,

and went back underwater. At the bridge’s

end, a father and his little girl fed the mob

of ducks. The carp swam under the bridge.

We parted without speaking.

If you see a big dog, duck


A few weeks ago on my morning walk, I looked up ahead on the sidewalk and noticed a jogger heading my way, pulling a dog on a leash. As soon as my imagination saw the dog, it starting telling me it was the vicious Pit Bull I had read about online.



I considered crossing the street, but there was too much traffic, and I was afraid if I started to run, the dog would attack me in the middle of the street. I edged over as far as I could to allow them plenty of room. The jogger ran along the opposite edge of the sidewalk, leaving the dog between us, no doubt to allow it easy access to my legs. Once I was down, it would be just a matter of time before the dog went after my jugular. Then the jogger could finish her run and get on with the day.



As often happens when I take my imagination out for a walk, the closer the jogger came, the smaller the dog grew. When I squinted, it started to look like a small Doberman Pinscher who had a bone to pick, a bone that belonged to me, the one I  carry between my ankle and knee.



The jogger, a young woman wearing Princess Leia earphones and slim hips, drew closer, but never looked at me. She did, however, look at her pooch and repeat three or four times, “Don’t bark!”



Up close, the dog looked a lot like a frisky little Spaniel. When we passed one another, the woman looked straight ahead, lost in her music, but still repeating, “Don’t bark!”



In an effort to be neighborly, I smiled, the sun glinting off my canines, and said, “I’ll try not to.” I was pretty sure she didn’t hear me because of the earphone muffs, so once she had passed me, I barked out loud two times, “Arf! Arf!”



Oddly, I haven’t seen her since, even though I have walked the same route for the last  two weeks.


Crop circles



After much cogitating and looking up the definition of cogitate in various dictionaries, from which I learned its connection with “agitate,” and the idea of something revolving around in your head, much like the mind on the spin cycle, I finally decided to put an end to this first sentence. It was getting out of hand. If you’ve been reading along, you should be right about here by now. And since we have gotten past the awkward first-sentence introductory thing, we can move on. After all, you’re not here to diddle and dawdle. You’re here for answers, and unfortunately that’s what you’re going to get.


Since this is a blog post and not a dissertation, I can only scratch the surface of the topic. And although I know you are itching to hear my theory; first, I must address the rash of ideas out there about what causes crop circles.


I have to talk about other people’s ideas, which frankly don’t interest me much, but it’s necessary to try to appear fair and open-minded. One theory attributes them to hoaxsters (AKA pranksters), probably just youngsters who are hipsters and jokesters. Another blames Jerry Lee Lewis and his “Great Balls of Fire.” People with video-editing skills have captured pictures of these flaming balls of light on video (AKA moving pictures).


As to be expected when there are unexplained phenomena around, sandwiched somewhere into the plethora of theories, you’ll find a BLT (Burks, Levengood, and Talbott). These three biophysicists have checked out crop circles and discovered they could use a lot of biophysical words like node, expulsion, macroscopic, anomalous alterations, and magnetite to describe crop circles, but not explain how they got there.


Additional ideas have to do with the earth’s magnetic personality (AKA fields), the diatonic scale of music, and, of course, UFOs. Like I said, the theories are like a rash.


If you’ve read this far without having any idea where this is going, I both congratulate you and sympathize with you. I really don’t know how I got here either.


It had something to do with realizing the similarities between crop circles and cowlicks. Close-ups of crop circles whirl and swirl in the same pattern as the cowlick on the back of my head, which made me think of cows in space, soaring through the Milky Way. I’m pretty sure there’s a post in there somewhere, and I promise to publish it as soon as I can write myself out of this one.



(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

For Emily


                                    I do prefer a book

                                    to laboratory looks

                                    at writhing specimens

                                    each dancing on a pin.

                                    I’d really rather read

                                    of how the hero bleeds

                                    than try to staunch the flow

                                    and feel my heart go slow.

                                    The lab’s the class to miss

                                    and if I had my wish

                                    I’d have a textbook life

                                    and skip formaldehyde.

Books I almost wrote


The Midges of Bradison County


This is the riveting story of a well-endowed female entomologist, Roberta, who travels to Bradison County in the wilds of Wisconsin to take pictures of midges for a journal article she is writing. In a completely uncontrived way, she runs into Francis, a Wisconsin bachelor farmer, but he suffers only minor injuries. When she discovers that Francis not only has a few cows but also raises sorghum, she falls in love with him because she is writing her article on Cecidomylidae, the gall midges that infect sorghum. Over a period of four days, in between taking pictures of midges, Roberta does her best to seduce Francis. To fill out the middle of the book, Roberta spends several chapters wearing not-appropriate-for-work clothes trying to pique Francis’ interest, but her revealing cleavage only reminds him that he needs to milk the cows. Just before the book is about to end, Roberta throws herself at Francis and misses. When she stands up, she promises to explain how to eliminate his midges, and Francis takes Roberta to a Friday night fish fry. Roberta leaves town sadder but wiser; Francis doesn’t.



Fifty Shades of Grayscale


Oddly, this is another riveting story, but this time it is about an insanely rich female photographer, Christina, who eschews color photography because she likes the word “eschews” and thinks it’s way cooler than “avoids” or “shuns.” In a somewhat contrived way, a young man from Ace Hardware shows up at her mansion to interview her for his blog. He has a photo blog, and it just so happens that he is into black and white photography too!  It takes Christiana a few chapters before she asks Andy, the blogger/clerk, to be her assistant in her dark room, with the emphasis on “dark.” As their relationship develops, he discovers she has a bandage fetish. Christina introduces Andy to the various kinds of bandages, showing him how to apply the four main kinds: strip, roller, tubular, and triangular. First she gets him to wear an Ace bandage, which he finds somewhat binding, but then makes a link to his former job at the hardware store: a “hard-wear” Ace bandage. Somehow this makes it okay. He moves onto wearing a bunch of strip bandages and experimenting with tubular bandages. A lot of the chapters are about how things get weirder. One day in the dark room,  Andy realizes they just don’t have the right chemistry; he put the wrong chemical in the pan. After he cleans up, Andy leaves the dark room sadder but wiser; Christina doesn’t.



Midge photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The watermelon



I carry the watermelon like a newborn and place it gently in the sink to rinse away the dirt. The bands of green barbed wire are smooth as ice.



I see the face the watermelon showed the world, that cheerful summer green blending in with leaves and grass. Beneath its bright belly, it hides the scars of waiting. I turn it over, touch the mottled, yellow skin that carried the weight of sunlight for me. This is the face I love. I trace the days of waiting for the bees, waiting for the sun, waiting for the rain. In stillness, the watermelon yielded to the world and all its wars, growing great with a blood-red secret. The more its heart grew large with wonder, the more the rocks and stones pressed sharply, marking it forever.


Now it waits for me to reveal its beauty with my sharp knife.



Inside the watermelon’s succulent heart I find seeds, teardrops black as night. The sun never knew its sorrow. Even watermelons want to leave behind some sweetness, some memory of the summer when the red-winged blackbird sat on the fence watching the sun do its work.