A child after my own brain

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Brain disorders run in my family. People are often surprised to hear this because they didn’t even know that we had any brains to disorder.

 

I diagnosed the disorder, Foerster’s Syndrome, after reading about it in a book. As a diagnostician, I rank up there with the best – probably a full colonel or possibly a general. Once I am given the symptoms of a disease, I have the uncanny ability to discover it in either myself or my loved ones. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved my life by catching a disease early.

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Just last month I narrowly escaped a serious problem after reading an article about a man with a runny nose who mistakenly thought he had allergies. My nose happened to be running when I read the story, so I realized I probably had whatever he had. And what he had was a leaky brain. Every time he blew his nose and even when he didn’t, brain fluid leaked out.  Please stop for a minute and re-read that last sentence.  Brain fluid! Leaked out! Of course, the first thing I did was tell my husband that I loved him but I wouldn’t be able to do anymore housework. I needed to spend my last days savoring life and the box of dark chocolate truffles in the cupboard.

 

Miraculously within a week and most of the box of truffles, I recovered. My brain stopped leaking and I went back to finding excuses not to mop the kitchen floor.

 

I’ve diagnosed a number of family members with Foerster’s Syndrome, which causes compulsive punning: my husband (moderate), brother (severe), brother-in-law (chronic) and me (egregious). Due to excessive exposure, both of my children are allergic to puns, which thankfully does not cause their noses to run. When the punning becomes excessive, they themselves run, taking their noses with them, but that is a different problem, one I’m still trying to diagnose.

 

My despair over not having a child who can put up and pun up with me vanished last week, however, when we visited family in Texas. Three conversations, all with my grandchild, convinced me that the brain disorder would not die with me.

Fried_egg,_sunny_side_up

The First: My grandchild discovers that Uncle Harley’s grandchildren call him Pawdaddy.

 

“That’s because his dog has paws!”

 

The Second: My daughter mentions to the child that the eggs are excellent.

 

“That’s because they’re eggs—cellent.”

 

The Third: My niece shows the child a picture of a tarantula taken at their ranch.

 

“It must be a ranchula.”

Texas_Brown_Tarantula

My daughter is still trying to recover from the pain and shock. I, however, feel delighted. A child after my own heart. A child after my own brain.

 

Photos: Paw Egg Tarantula

Deep in the spleen of Texas

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Now and then a person’s ears need some loving, so this week I took both of them to Texas for a vacation. They are now happier than a dog with a dead skunk. Everywhere I take my two ears, I hear people using Texas’ most personal pronoun, “y’all,” which like the humdrum pronoun “you” can be either plural or singular. (Note to you grammarians  and punctuationists out there: I know some of you write the possessive for Texas with an extra “s” as in “Texas’s most personal pronoun.” However, I don’t like it and if I see it I’m likely to ask you to move your “s” elsewhere.) My heart’s been soothed hearing people speak proper and without those accents the Yankees are so fond of.

 

I have been traveling with my daughter and grandchild visiting family in Houston, basking in hot and humid weather and enjoying every minute of it. That’s what Wisconsin’s 9-month winters will do to a person.

Bayou_Scene,_Houston,_Texas_(postcard,_circa_1907)

 

Houston is a great big old city built on a bayou. Unless you are from the South, you may not know that “bayou” is a fancy name given to rivers and ditches to make songs more interesting. Just imagine if the refrain in Hank Williams’ song Jambalaya “Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou” were “Son of a gun we’ll have big fun at the ditch.” It just don’t sound right and kind of makes your toes stop tapping right in the middle of the song. And yes, that “don’t” is there on purpose, thank you very much.

 

Our last few days of vacation, we have been staying in Katy, Texas which is just down the road from Houston. We were able to make a run up to San Antonio, but we never made it to the heart of Texas, which approximately 5500 people swear is Brady, Texas. (That’s the population of the city and please don’t tell their mommas about the swearing.)

 

Houston has set up home near the Gulf of Mexico and southeast of the heart of Texas, so I believe it’s appropriate to consider it the spleen of Texas. Spleens store and filter blood, and Houston does the same with oil, which is pretty much the blood of our nation, so the analogy seems to fit.

 

I have never lived in Houston myself, but if I did and if I had a son, I would name him Billy Rueben just because it would tickle me every time I thought of my sweet Billy Reuben living in the spleen of Texas.

 

Today we return north. I sure do hope they didn’t have summer while we were gone. I’d hate to miss it.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Grown-up tattling

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My husband grew up in the Midwest, Land of a Thousand Kindnesses, and came from a family who speak kindly of one another. The first time I met his parents and five siblings, I was shocked. They reminded me of The Waltons, the popular TV family of the 1970s. At family gatherings when my husband’s family told stories about one another, everyone minded everyone else’s feelings, so at the end of their stories, you expected everyone to stand up for a group hug and one more family photo.

 

My family grew up in Texas, sometimes, but we moved now and then just to see if growing up somewhere else would make us any different. It didn’t. We were the people from Peyton Place no matter where we lived. The soap opera known as Peyton Place first aired in the mid-1960s, shocking some and entertaining others with its stories of divorce, infidelity, imprisonment, and revenge. Just like my family, except that our show ran every day, while Peyton Place only ran two or three episodes a week. At our family gatherings when we told stories, no one worried about anyone’s feelings, we told the most embarrassing stories about each other that we could remember and ended up rolling on the floor hooting and hollering, and sometimes snorting through our noses because none of us could believe the dumb things the others were capable of.

 

In my family teasing has always been a sign of affection, and our favorite way of teasing is to tell on one another. When you are a child, telling on someone means you are tattling: trying to win the favor of whoever is in charge, either to look good or avoid punishment. Our grown-up tattling is after the fact and has no other purpose than to point out the obvious: we be dumb now and again. And the more we tell the stories on one another, the kindlier we feel toward one another.

 

So when my husband met my family, he was shocked. It didn’t dissuade him from marrying me, however, because I made sure we were already married before he met them. (Note to reader: Contrary to what my family says, I’m not as dumb as I look and sound.)

 

If, in the telling of a story about a sibling, we see signs of embarrassment or hear attempts to explain or justify, that story will become a signature story, one we will tell again and again, every chance we get. Because that’s what love does.

 

My mother never took part in any of this teasing. Of the four siblings I grew up with, only two of us shared the same father. The other two had their own fathers, yet we all share the same sense of humor. Maybe mother was merely the carrier of the slightly off-kilter humor that manifested itself in her children.

 

Of course everything I have written up until now is just an excuse to tell on the two siblings that I know are still alive. One of these posts I will explain more about my known and unknown siblings. But until then, here’s me showing some love to my brother and sister.

My brother in a littler time

Brother story

Until my brother came along ten years after me, I was the baby of the family. Mother indulged him not only because he was the youngest, but also because he was a boy, something I had been expected to be, but failed. When he was five years old, we lived in military housing in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. One day when he was shopping with mother at the commissary, he asked for some strawberry preserves. Mother tried to talk him out of it and told him he wouldn’t like it because it had chunks of fruit inside, but he insisted. The next day she put the preserves on his peanut butter sandwich, and after one bite, he knew mother was right: he didn’t like preserves. Mother insisted that he eat the sandwich, and then left him alone in the kitchen. He pulled the two pieces of bread apart, thinking he might be able to salvage the peanut butter side. It, too, was ruined. I’m sure that we had a garbage can in the kitchen, and I know that my brother had seen people throw things in the garbage, so it wasn’t as if he didn’t know how to dispose of the bread. He must have feared that mother would see the uneaten sandwich languishing in the trash, so he did what any reasonable person would do. He picked up the rug in front of the kitchen sink, placed one slice of the bread on the floor, and carefully covered it with the rug so that it was hidden. Then he took the other piece, opened the basement door, and flung it down the stairs. After all, who would think to look there? He doesn’t remember if mother found the first slice before or after she stepped on the rug; he can’t remember any consequences at all. Since he was the youngest, there probably weren’t consequences.

One of the few days the world left my sister's hair alone

Sister story

As a young girl and teenager, my sister suffered from Tourette’s of the Hair. Most nights she lathered her hair in Dippity-do, wrapped the strands in pink pokey, plastic rollers; large, bristly, netted curlers; or soft, spongy snap-ons in the belief that she could make her hair bend to her will. More often than not, it didn’t. Some nights the hair wriggled out of the curlers; other nights the curlers twisted the wrong way. When she commanded it to flip up, it flipped down. Or if she ordered it to swoosh that way, it drooped the other way. This made bad words come of her mouth. She developed two theories based on her hair. First, she believed the world had an interest in how her hair turned out each morning. Nice hair displeased the world; it was completely and utterly against her quest to be the best tressed at school, and, in fact, wanted her to go to school with failed hair. Second, she convinced herself that the answer to obedient hair resided in the bathroom counter. She hypothesized that by striking the counter hard enough and often enough with a comb, brush, or curling iron, her hair would suddenly flip or swoosh the right way. It took a number of years and a pile of broken hair appliances before she accepted the fact that the counter was merely an innocent bystander. She told me later with some regret that she passed this problem onto her daughter. She is still working on the problem of the world being against her.

In the interest of fairness, I should include a story about myself. Unfortunately, I have run out of space. Really. If I write any more I will bump into those little icons under this sentence.

Too busy to blog

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Yearstricken is a whiner. I love her and all that (I’m her beloved iPhone), but seriously, she is a whiner.

We talk a lot, so I know all about her schedule this semester: six different classes plus student event scheduling. In fact, I know it by heart because I’ve heard her say it a hundred times or more. Yes, two of her classes are in the evening, so she has some long days, but, people, I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week! You don’t hear me whining about it, do you? I have to hear her repeat the same things over and over, day after day, and do I complain? No, I do not. And do you want to know why? Because I am not a whiner.

She said this morning that she was tired and didn’t have time to write on her blog, so I thought I’d do it for her. Right now it’s 9:37 a.m., and we’re in the classroom. She’s at the board writing and I’m in her pocket. It’s a lower level English class and they’re working on pronunciation, one of her favorite subjects.

She’s had them practice saying “Good morning, y’all” and “howdy” for the last 10 minutes, so they’re pretty good at it now. On the board she just wrote three of the possessive adjectives: his, her, your. Next to those she wrote: “Bless _____ heart.” The students can say “Bless his heart” and “Bless her heart” without much problem. She’s careful to tell them not to pronounce the “h,” so in unison they repeat several times “Blesses heart” and “Blesser heart.” It’s taking a bit longer to get them to pronounce “your” correctly. She writes on the board “Bless yer heart” and underlines “yer.” Then she blabs on about how people in Wisconsin speak a dialect; it is not Standard English, which is the correct way to speak and which happens to be spoken in Texas, where she is from. It’s warm there most of the times, she says, as the students watch her mouth move. Then she whines about how people in Wisconsin say “You wanna come with?” and then leave you hanging because they don’t finish the question, so you don’t know if the person wants you to come with you or me or her or him or them, and if you don’t know who you are going with, how can you know if you want to go. This way of talking, she says, has something to do with the weather; it’s cold, too cold to even finish your sentences. Her students, of course, only hear and understand two words of what she said: Wisconsin and cold. They all nod and smile, some of them even repeat the word “cold” out loud, so she’s satisfied they understand. She loves her students for that.

She prides herself on teaching her students proper pronunciation, or as she calls it “talking purty.” When her students have classes with the other instructors, those teachers have to try to break the students of talking “purty.” Yearstricken feels like she’s doing a great job and even thinks the other instructors are complementing her by calling her “Miss Pronunciation.” I love her for that.

A name by any other name

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Texas' most famous Hogg - Governor during the 1890s (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

If you are from Texas, you already know about Governor Hogg and his daughter. Before Hogg, governors had to be brought in from out of state; he was actually born in Texas and served during the 1890s. I heard about him when I was a very young child and immediately loved him because he named his daughter Ima. At the time, I didn’t consider how Ima felt about it; I just liked the sound of it. When I heard he had another daughter named Ura, I wished that my parents had loved me enough to name me Ura Hogg. Later I found out that Ura didn’t exist. I have lived with a broken heart ever since.

 

I can’t trace my love for wordplay to the story of Governor Hogg, but it definitely taught me that people’s names are fun to play with. (Note to reader: I am doing my best to stay away from pig puns. With a name like Hogg, that’s hard to do. But for your sake, I will gird up my tender loins and get out of this paragraph as fast as I can.)

 

Here’s what got me to thinking about Hogg. Yesterday, we saw a car with a license plate from Iowa. From deep within my brain, a wish came bubbling up; a wish that my last name was Lott and that I was from Iowa. Then my online name could be Iowa Lott.

 

The lovely Ima Hogg kept her name all her life (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

In the privacy of my own mind, I do this kind of nameplay all of the time. I once worked with a woman whose last name was Mennen. When she told me she had a grown daughter, I was quite excited. Before I could offer to be a matchmaker, she told me the daughter was already married. I dreamed of fixing her up with a man named Black. She would use a hyphenated last name: her maiden name and her husband’s last name. I imagined her wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and a black suit to work. When people asked her name, she would answer simply, “Mennen-Black.” Had I been more careful about who I married, I could have had a name like that.

 

There’s more, of course, but today is the first day of classes for this semester and I need to get there early. I always look forward to my classes. The people sitting in those chairs are not just students to me, they’re names.

Y’all write purty and you’re mighty kind

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So many of the bloggers I read write purty. They corral a bunch of words and make them  do all kinds of tricks that make me ooh and aah and say, Boy howdy, how do they make those critters do that?

 

Poet lariat

After I read their posts, I start thinking that I need to get me one of them poet lariats and lasso me some of those big words and teach them a thing or two. I’ve hung around the corral enough to recognize a big word when I see one, so the problem is not with my sight; I just can’t steer them in the right direction, no matter how many puns I make. Even if I caught one, which is highly unlikely since I don’t know how to use a rope, I’m not sure what I would do with it after I got it. They have pointy horns, y’all.

 

Some of you don’t even need a lasso; you tame them with your voice, like some kind of word-whisperer. Then the words do whatever you tell them to do. How do y’all do that?

 

 

 

*******The above portion of this blog was brought to you by my inner Texan********

 

Dick and Jane, along with their pets, Spot and Puff, taught me how to read in the first grade, and while I can read just about anything, I have never been able to write much beyond that level. In fact, my blog is suitable for your average 11-12 year old who is in sixth grade. How do I know? I went to www.read-able.com and typed in my website address. This could explain why I often feel like the only non-grownup in the room.

 

If I have visited your blog, you know that this extends to the comments I make. I often write one or two paragraphs in the comment box, reread them, and decide I had better erase them to save myself embarrassment. Then I write, “I see the words, The words are good. I see the good words. Run, Spot, run. Come see the good words.” I know I’m exaggerating; I hardly ever express myself that well but on better days I do.

 

In spite of that, I have received several awards in the past month. I assume this is because you think I really am an 11 year-old hiding behind the gravatar of a more mature woman and are impressed that I have a blog. Or maybe it’s my juvenile sense of humor.

 

For whatever reason, both Susan at susanwritesprecise and Elyse at fiftyfourandahalf were kind enough to nominate me for the Awesome Blogger Award which involves writing something about yourself using the ABCs. I just put my blocks away or I would take pictures of them for the list. The links to Susan and Elyse are to the posts that have the nominations. Please be sure to read more of their posts.

 

Things I like:

 

Before we go further, raise your hand if you read the word for U as underpants. That’s what I thought. Although I like underpants, it’s the underparts, or hidden parts of stories, and lives that I find interesting.

 

These same two writers, Susan and Elyse, nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award, which requires me to write 10 things about myself.

  1. I thought Kreativ was spelled “creative.”
  2. Nine times out of ten I write “blooger” instead of “blogger.”
  3. I like the word “blooger.”
  4. My cat, Puff, likes the word “blooger.”
  5. I don’t have a cat.
  6. I have an ice orchid.
  7. I think some of you reading this will google ice orchid.
  8. I am already counting the days to summer vacation.
  9. I am planning to go to Europe this summer.
  10. I am planning not to fulfill the requirements of these awards.

 

Elyse has a soft spot in her heart for junior high bloggers and also nominated me for the Red Educational Shoe Award. Thankfully I don’t have to write anything about myself, just nominate five supportive commentators. Here are some of the top commentators listed on my dashboard. My mom and I thank you.

 

Worrywarts-guide-to-sex-and-marriage

Just Add Attitude

Kate Crimmins

Kathryn Ingrid

RAB at youknowwhatimeant

Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

 

 

The last award I want to mention is the 7×7 Link Award from vixytwix at stayoutofmyhead. She also has a lot of good things to say, so be sure to read more of her posts. The requirements for this one are as follows:

1.  Share something about me that no one knows

2.  Link 7 of my posts that I think are worthy

3.  Nominate 7 bloggers for this award and notify them

 

Number 1: I often don’t want to push the publish button.

 

Number 2: Here are the 7 posts I think are worthy by virtue of being some of my oldest posts:

Furniture Envy

People I have a hard time trusting

Gobsmacked

You were here

Whinge

In which she rationalizes her addiction by blaming her mother (I miss you, Mom) and realizes that the title to the post is probably going to be longer than the post

After finding a cure for breast cancer, would someone please answer my question

Number 3: Here are the 7 bloggers I nominate:

 

dan4kent

Blondzombie

Rob Slaven

ShimonZ

JSD

Sam Flowers

Kojiki in Japan

It’s always hard to pick other blogs because there are so many good ones. I didn’t want to nominate people that I know have already received awards. Enjoy your reading.

I have to go now, I hear my mom calling.

In the desert looking for love and radioactivity

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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.