Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Art of Surviving Halloween

Readership is down.  Prairie Eydie is panicky.  I keep assuring her that she is still valued.  "Your personal worth is not measured by your blog view numbers, " I tell her.  "Romania and Indonesia still love you."   Besides, it is the day before Halloween. Judging by what I have seen in the stores, this is becoming the premier crap holiday of the year.  It takes time to buy and display all of that crap--time that has to come from somewhere--perhaps Prairie Grlz blog reading time.

The grandkidlettes stayed overnight on Saturday.  MaeLi is 7 and David is 5.  The minute they walked into the house, they wanted to know 1.) if they could do a little quality control testing on my Halloween candy, 2.) where were the decorations, and 3.) why those pumpkins on the front steps didn't have faces. 

I am a Halloween failure.  There was no candy, the decorations were still hiding in the basement, and I was enjoying the pristine blank canvas of those pumpkins that could easily slip into festive Thanksgiving decor in a couple of weeks. 

To be honest, I have never really liked this holiday.  When I was about David's age, I was terrified to say, "Trick or treat."  My brother or sister would take me around the neighborhood, and I would stand before each door as a silent specter.  I was certain that the words wouldn't come out right.  Yes, I was one hot mess of anxiety.  I remember that one man dangled a 5 cent (that was no "fun size" in 1960) Butterfinger in front of me and said, "You can have it if you say the magic words." However, "please" was not what he was asking for, and I just turned and left without the goods.
The costumes are OK, as long as they don't have any fake blood or masks.  I have never been terribly comfortable with masks or scary.  As a result of my staunch stand, my daughters were forced into a childhood of puppies, kitties, butterflies, and bumblebees.  A skunk was perhaps my most daring concession to Halloween costumery, descented of course.  On Sunday my grandson told me, "Grandma, it is ok for grownups to wear costumes sometimes, especially if they hand out candy."  I told him that I was wearing my "happy grandma" costume, and no, he wasn't getting a Snickers for breakfast.  

We always had one big pumpkin when I was growing up, and my dad was the official carver.  I don't think he had any special artistic talent, but he was the most likely not to lose any fingers.  My brother had a rather nasty run in with a knife on a camping trip when he was quite young, and he was never quite trusted with anything sharper than a Popsicle stick ever again. I guess my parents looked at my obvious lack of grace as a sign that perhaps it was best to keep sharp implements out of my hands as well.  My sister was in college, so who knows what she was up to.  She did pierce her own ears without incurring a frontal lobotomy, so I guess she inherited some ability from Dad.

I use to beg for a happy face on that pumpkin, and my brother would equally beg for the slasher special.  Because my father really appreciated a good night's sleep, and couldn't get it with a sniveling, frightened child in his bed, my face usually won out.  I still only put happy faces on my pumpkins.

Back to this week-end.  I did feel a bit guilty that I hadn't done a thing to prepare for the 31st for my grandchildren's sake other than purchase two violently orange cupcakes at the grocery, so  I dug out the box marked "Halloween" from the basement shelves and let the two have at it.  They found the puppy ears, the butterfly antenna, the kitty tail, and a variety of ancient plastic crap my daughters had once deemed worthy of saving. They played for a couple of hours trying on various costume combinations and trying to scare each other with very non-scary materials.

Today I will trudge off to the store and try to find some union-produced candy to dole out.  I suspect that all that will be left will be those nasty peanut butter taffy things in the black and orange wrappers.  Those are always the least desired treat---really more of a trick, if you think about it.  I'll probably sacrifice one of my homegrown pumpkins to the knife so that my front step will be adequately adorned.  Rest assured, that pumpkin will be smiling.  Silent specters always get candy at my house.  No "trick or treat" is necessary.

Prairie Sherry         

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Art of Buying Long Sleeved Shirts and Pink CowGRL Boots

I do not like spending money on buying practical clothes for my children.  It is so boring.  Yawn.  However, yesterday I was able to compare how my children looked next to their peers at the Madison Children's Museum.  Prairie Friends, it was NOT good. 

Leonard's arms were dangling "Lurch Style" out of his sleeves.  Gus had two holes in the knees of his jeans.  His pockets were sticking out and his "barn door" was unzipped.  Lulu looked adorable because I told her she couldn't go to the children's museum unless she wore what I told her to.  (The little darlin' had picked out white cotton capris, that she refused to wear all summer, and a white NYC t-shirt with glittery letters.) The outfit I chose for her to wear was to highlight the new, sensational, pink cowGRL boots I bought her at Target.  

Let me backtrack.  I have been visiting a pair pink boots at Target for the last three weeks.  (I don't want to admit how many times I have visited the boots.)  Cons?  Impractical from the get go.  Slippery soles.  Side zippers that she would never be able to zip up independently.  No insulation.  Pros?  Super duper cute!!!  What girl wouldn't want a pair of pink cowGRL boots?  

Friday I broke down and bought the boots.  (It was retail therapy.  My third consecutive sinus infection had left me depressed and in desperate need of all things "cute.")   Lulu went insane over the pink boots.  She immediately put them on and hasn't taken them off since. (Yes.  I had to help her with the zippers.  Yes.  She skidded unsafely down the hall.  Yes.  Her feet are probably cold.)  She even wears them with her pajamas. 

Flash-forward.  After hours of fun at the Children's Museum (Prairie Sherry's idea of hell), I put on my "Practical Mom" hat.  I had some Boston Store coupons, so I dragged all three kids to the mall.  I let Leonard choose long sleeve shirts.  He was hoping to find a long sleeve shirt featuring a dog wearing glasses and a tie, but Boston Store isn't that cool.  Gus found some jeans with adjustable waists and a new pair of  winter gloves.  (Yet another SNOREzone purchase.)  Lulu got some unexciting leggings and jeggings.  The shopping trip was a practical success, but I just couldn't leave without buying some boots for myself. 

I bribed the kids with Lego Star Wars Wii time, if they sat nicely in the shoe department while I found some boots.  Game on!  I have a hard time finding boots that will slip over my "athletic calves" (i.e. chunky), so it was easy to rule out super tall riding boots. (One might point out that since Eydie is certainly a bit more petite than moi, on her riding boot would look more like a full body cast.)  

The "Hallelujah Chorus" played when I found these black, motorcycleISH boots that make my "athletic calf" appear slim.  Now, I hate all things motorcycle.  I can even think of a couple motorcycles that I would like to push off of a cliff.  BUT.  I am not so frivolous to ignore a pair of motorcycle boots that make me look like Kate Middleton.  (Extremely slight exaggeration.)  I bought the boots and absolutely love them.  And yes.  I did wear them with my pajamas.

Prairie Eydie

Obviously, Prairie Eydie's new allergy meds are kicking in, but then it would take something a bit more than a violent reaction to dust mites to keep her from the Boston Store during a mega sale. Those boots on the bed have given me inspiration for Wednesday's post. Stay tuned!

Prairie Sherry  

Friday, October 25, 2013

NEWS FLASH: Prairie Grl Allergic to Housework?

I received a somewhat cryptic text from Prairie Eydie late last night:

"I have no post for tomorrow.  Another confirmed sinus infection.  My dr thinks I am allergic to dust mites."

So, I was lying in bed thinking:

  • Poor baby!  No wonder she has had one continual cold since last February.
  • EEEwwwwww, dust mites!
  • I really need to get up tomorrow morning and dash off an explanation to our Prairie Readers  as to why they are missing their splash of witty and insightful Prairie Eydie prose.
  • EEEwwwww, dust mites!
  • What would have happened to my dear friend if she had come up with this allergy on the real prairies of the 1800's?
This morning  I arose, head stuffed with a sympathetic mite reaction and scratching like crazy, still wondering what happened to Prairie Grlz who couldn't pull their load.  Did Grlz like Eydie get booted out of the dugout when they couldn't sweep the dirt floor or fluff the straw tick?  Just imagine the mite population in a straw tick! Would a Prairie Pa have been sympathetic when his Prairie Ma awoke day after day with swollen eyes, a pounding sinus headache, and excessive drainage?  Would he have sent her off to the edge of some slough (a real test to see if you actually read any of LIW's classics) to spend her final days?
The prototype for a box of Kleenex, circa 1863.
I am just thankful that my dear Prairie Friend can zip off to her allergist next week, go through a few tests, and get some 2013 drugs so that she can return to the living.  Rest and get better, dear friend.

Prairie Sherry 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Art of Selective Amnesia: The Winter Months

"Hey Eydie, whatcha doin' with that bag? 
Been shopping?

I think that those of us who live in the snow belt must have  a little selective amnesia when it comes to the onset of winter.  We always seem a bit surprised when our lovely gold and red dappled fall days descend like the thermometer into the depths of the frozen tundra.  What is that fable about the ant and the grasshopper?  The ant busily prepares for the cold winter that will most surely come while the grasshopper dallies away his time perfecting his mojito and salsa recipes for fair weather entertaining.  Well dang if the mint and the tomatoes didn't freeze last night, and the grasshopper will soon be a popsicle if she doesn't get his act together.

"When is the next flight to St. Thomas?"
It is not like I haven't experienced the ravages of an early winter.  In 1991 winter blew in on October 31st with a 13 inch snowfall and didn't leave until mid April. Those forgotten pumpkins looked pretty darn nasty when they finally appeared out of the melting snowdrifts.  That winter caught us all unprepared, and you would think that after an experience like that I'd all follow the ant's example on a regular basis.

Yes, I look just like this--perky and cozy.  God bless
Cuddl Duds.
Don't get me wrong.  I love winter.  That is one of the many reasons I live in Wisconsin. But  a northern winter requires preparation.  The leaves must be ranked, the garden beds put to rest, the gutters emptied, the lawn furniture stored, the windows washed, the snow removal equipment primed, and the car serviced for the eventual cold.  As the week-ends approach, I go through this list in my mind and promise myself that I will tackle at least a portion of the items when a Saturday and Sunday roll around.  Then one of two things happens.  Either we have a glorious two days of perfect weather that brings out the grasshopper in me  (Would you like a bit more lime in that mojito?), or (like this past week-end) it is so cold and rainy that any thought of venturing outside of the abode out seems insane.  I just want to put on my Cuddl Duds and make some cocoa.

So another week-end is on the way.  The leaves aren't raked, and it is suppose to be 28 degrees on Saturday morning.  That will seem downright balmy in January, but for now I just want to pull my down quilt over my head and pray for some ant friends to save me. That's what happened in the Land of Disney.

Prairie Sherry   

Monday, October 21, 2013

Guest Blogger Prairie Pa on Nick Names

Dick "Night Train" Lane
My sister's grandson called a kid "Fish Face."   As a result, her grandson had to go to counseling for bullying. If the same rules applied when I was a lad in Peshtigo, Wisconsin half the town would have been sentenced to counseling.
Seems like everyone had a nickname and hanging nicknames on people was an art form. In the pre-politically correct era, when self-esteem was unknown, most kids were called names, worse than Fish Face. The really good and bad nicknames stuck, some for life.
Nicknames included:
  • Bugs (last name was Bundy)
  • Squeak (had a very high voice)
  • Mouse (a small guy)
  • Nazi (a little, edgy guy)
  • Sweet Roll (dad owned the bakery)
  • Mush (I have no idea)
  • Chicken (not a gutsy football player)
  • Stink (spent a lot of time at the local stockyard)
  • Bull Neck (football coach who repeatedly told us to keep a bull neck when blocking)
My mother, whose real name was Dorothy, was called Sara.  My father, Henry, was called Red and my brother, Dan, was Ringo (after Packer Center Jim Ringo).
Most of the time my name was Bulldog, which was not bad because the Peshtigo sports teams were the Bulldogs. Truth be known, I preferred “The Rocket” after Maurice "The Rocket" Richards of the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately no one would mistake me for Maurice with my short legs and boxy body. Or I would have liked “Night Train,” after Dick “Night Train” Lane, a NFL defensive back. When Dick tackled you, it was like being hit by a train traveling at night—silent and painful.
I guess everyone survived without bully counseling. Stink became a doctor, Mouse a high-ranking officer in the air force, and Squeak director of the local park and recreation department. Never did find out what happened to Chicken.

Prairie “The Rocket” Pa
(The nickname Prairie Pa had for me was "Sweetie Eydie."  Awww.  Prairie Eydie)

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Art of Eating a Little Crow (with a lengthy explanation of personal past history)

"She also co-teaches in a variety of subject areas that are reading heavy. Translation:  You won't find her in a tracksuit bouncing basketballs."

Well, I would like to apologize for this  blooper from my last post (October 14, "The Day Job: A Little Vent").  A dear co-worker, a physical  education teacher (and an English minor, I might add, and a Prairie Grlz reader...) reminded me that reading and writing are most certainly a part of the physical education curriculum in our school district.  And I know this, and I am willing to run a few laps in penance, but I don't think they do that in phy ed any more. Physical education classes have risen to a higher plane than those of my youth.  I come from a time that the "gym" grade was largely determined by the number of times your gym suit was laundered during the quarter.  I couldn't throw a free throw to save my life, but my gym suit was spanky clean.  Cleanliness saved my GPA, certainly not my athletic prowess.  

This was the gym suit of my teens.  Seriously, this is what we had to wear!  No wonder I have an aversion to sporting equipment of any type.  Those are bloomer-like legs.  I think this was suppose to keep the boys, who were locked up in another gymnasium far away, from looking up our shorts. We coupled this with white anklets and white Keds. The look was stunning.  No wonder so many women of my generation suffer from body image issues.  Being beanpole skinny and giraffe tall, my suit lacked length for my torso.  Oh the binding discomfort when we were forced to touch our toes or do jumping jacks.

We were required to have our last names written above the breast pocket like we were in the military.  Trying to show off my home economics skills, I embroidered mine, and my suit was promptly stolen the first week of school.  I think the pink embroidery floss and curly script made me an easy target. 

When you didn't have a suit, you had to go to the lost and found and wear whatever rag was available.  There were a few castoff suits, with broken snaps right at the waist so that your pale stomach would peek out (Belly would probably work better here, but I have always hated that word.).  And these suits, not having rightful owners,  did not conform to the cleanliness doctrine that was espoused by our teachers. The underarms were so stiff that they provided you with an instant shave.  I had to wear one of these for several weeks until my suit was finally discovered crammed behind a toilet in the girls' locker room. You can bet that it was laundered sixteen times before it touched my body again. 

Each gym class started with the girls (Remember, the boys were locked far away so that our presence didn't drive them to immoral acts.) sitting in neat rows called "squads."  The teacher would call out the row number and each of us would bark out our last name. Again, this was very militaristic, which seemed a bit odd since we were in the middle of the protests over the Vietnam War.  

Yes, the showers at Central Junior High
were just this bad.
Gym class ended with us lining up to run though the gang showers with our towels held high over our heads.  The only way to achieve extra credit (and boy did I need that with my ball handling skills) was to make multiple runs through the showers.  You got one point per run. Once I made enough  to make-up for a less than stellar performance on both the balance beam and the uneven parallel bars.  That may have been a school record.

How I could go on with this sad tale.  I have yet to describe the swimsuits--cottony fabric with a little panel so any evidence of a crotch was covered.  They grew six sizes in the water and became so water-logged that it was difficult to exit the pool.  The lives that were lost due to those suits.  No, I won't tell you about water ballet (shudder), and the two sports that I was not allowed to participate in after a couple of unfortunate incidents.  Let's just say one involved bouncing a bowling ball into the next lane and causing costly damage to the wood floor and the other may have required stitches after the golf ball hit the teacher. 

During my phy ed days I would have sold my soul to be allowed to write a paragraph of poetic prose describing field hockey to supplement my poor showing on the actual field.  Reading an article on the finer points of volleyball would have served me well (pun intended).  Taking a written test on scoring in tennis would have filled my heart with far more love (oops, did it again) than actually trying to hit that ball with the racket.  Reading and writing was something I could do without endangering my life and the lives of others.   

Dear phy ed teachers of today, I do appreciate you and thank you for including literacy in your curriculum and providing a glimmer of hope to those, like me, who wince at the sight of a bat and have nightmares that include cleats and shuttlecocks. 

Prairie Sherry    

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grace Gifts - The Challenge

This is my fabulous grace gift - photographed sideways!  Note the construction paper hearts and paper star pin.  Love, love, love it!  Jess is a gal who pays attention to details.

My friend, Jess, sends me the most awesome grace gifts.  (If you need a review or first time glimpse at my favorite grace blog, check out Prairie Grl Finds Grace at Culvers, August 20, 2013.  OR.  If you want to reread my favorite blog of all time, read "Prairie Grl Tosses Fiddle Aside in Favor of Allen Stone, June 28, 2013.)  

Let me back up.  Last week I was headed to Costco with my friend, Lena (who gracefully lets me use her Costco membership to keep my kids stocked in snacks.).  I thought I'd check the mailbox to see if my new "O" magazine had arrived.  WOOT!  Even better.  A box was crammed between the Aldi's flier and utility bill.  When I saw the sparkly skull and sequins under the packing tape, I knew I was in for a treat.  

Again sideways.  But look how she sprinkled sequined goodness under the tape.  Prairie friends, this is SO inspired!

"Grace gift!  Grace gift!" I announced climbing into Lena's SUV.  I wrestled for awhile with the packing tape before collapsing against the window - defeated.  Lena was having none of that.  She pulled to the curb and started attacking the tape with her keys.  So worth it as this was the Mother Load of grace gifts.
There was a felted rainbow necklace, (Jess and I were going to make felted necklaces at one point in our lives. 
We even ordered the wool.  I think we just had to soak the wool and spend hours forming it into perfect spheres.  HA! But then I had Gus and Jess got pregnant and then she moved and ....  you get the picture.) a Wisconsin Love sticker for my Mama van, chocolates, cupcake tissue paper, and paper hearts.  I am still loving the grace gift and the Fabulous Jess so much.  So much that I created the Grace Gift Challenge.
For one week, seven days straight, I am going to give a different person a grace gift.  It may arrive in their mailbox, or on their voice mail, or left on their door step, or I might hand it to them with my sweet lil' prairie hands.  They will be "Graced."  I am three days into the challenge and am already blessed by the challenge in ways I never saw coming.  Next Wednesday I will report the results of my Grace Gift Challenge.
Prairie Friends - I am throwing the challenge out to you.  Join me. Why not?  This is a journey worth taking.  And I want to hear about it. 
Prairie Eydie
“I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kind of things. Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in the silence, in the dark.”
Anne Lamott,

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Day Job: A Little Vent

Let's talk about the day job for a bit--the teaching gig.  Eydie and I have avoided this topic not because we don't love our profession, but frankly it is difficult to talk about it without writing about students and parents (even if we change the names to protect the innocent and the guilty), and with all of the anxiety that this profession is fraught with these days, we won't chance it.  Let me just say that teaching is not as enjoyable as it once was.  I think I can say that without getting my derriere canned.  Teachers worry about that a lot lately. 

Eydie doesn't look anything
like this.
Prairie Eydie is a reading specialist for a 6th and 7th grade middle school.  She works with students who are not "proficient readers." Translation:  They don't do well on the standardized tests we are required to give with greater and greater frequency.  She also co-teaches in a variety of subject areas that are reading heavy. Translation:  You won't find her in a tracksuit bouncing basketballs.

I don't look anything like this.
I am an 8th grade English teacher in an 8-9 upper middle school. Yes, I can hear you gasp.  First, you are noting all of my grammatical and mechanical errors.  Just stop it!  This blog is my release from conventions.  Second, you are pitying me because the thought of spending 8 hours each day with 14 year-old insanity strikes terror in your heart.  Medication and the wine bottle get me through it.  I AM KIDDING!!!  Don't you dare forward this to my principal.  I am in enough hot water as it is.  I really do love this age group, and that is not the Merlot talking.

So why isn't teaching as fun as it was back in 1985?  Well, I  have become a whore to the Common Core. Yes, yes, this is the educational initiative that is going to bring American education back to the forefront of the world (violin music rises to a crescendo).  Test the bejeezuz out of these kids, and they will reach educational enlightenment.  Oh yes, and teach to the test because that is always the great motivator.  The creativity is being sucked right out of the classroom.  If you find that glorious teachable moment, you had better find a Common Core standard that speaks to it.
Of course, a fancy-dancy graphic will also improve
student performance.  Just make sure to use
lots of arrows.I think I counted 11 here.

My math ain't so good.

Yes, I know I sound like a cynical old bat.  It is just that I have had enough initiatives thrown at me during the past 30-some years to have developed a rather high degree of skepticism.  Just let good teachers teach, and let those good teachers mentor the new ones. The mentor-ship initiative (there is that word again) in my school district has teachers with less than 10 years of experience in leadership positions.  I'm not sure if I knew how to empty the pencil sharpener at that point in my career.  I thought I was a great teacher, but I was barely adequate.  When districts hire, they hire young.  Young=less dollars.  Master teachers are encouraged to retire before age 60.  Old=expensive.  The result is that education today has lots of overflowing pencil sharpeners. 

While I was visiting my daughter's university last week-end, I had an opportunity to go to a fabulous concert featuring 300 students from Lawrence's music conservatory. While looking at the concert program, I noticed that the vast majority of the professors who had taught these fine musicians were my age or older.  When these professors joined their students for the final curtain call, they met a standing ovation from administration, parents, and students. Experience and wisdom were honored.  These halls of higher education are what we hope for our students in middle and high school.  Why don't we want the same level of experience in our teachers for these students as they prepare to enter colleges and universities?  When is the last time the seasoned veteran teachers in your school district met with a "Standing O?"  Maybe mine will happen as I enter my first hour class this morning.

This isn't really heading anywhere.  I am just venting, and thank for for "listening."  As my dad would have said, "Buck up, girl," and that is just what I will do today for the 6,120th time.  If nothing else, I am persistent.

Nothing more romantic than taking a little grading to bed.

And if you send this to my principal, just remember that my real name is Eunice Schnifflebottom, my school is in Outer Mongolia (no internet), and you will need an international airmail postage stamp on that envelope.  No extra charge for yak delivery from the airport. 

Prairie Sherry

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Art of Book Clubs - THE FINALE!!!

Without being in a book club, I have the freedom to read whatever I want and can wear a tiara while reading whatever I want. 

I was talking to Prairie Sherrie yesterday about my Book Club blogs.  It turns out that she has never been invited to join a book club.  She has been asked for book recommendations, but has never been in a club. My book club blogs have been very painful for her to read.  I had several other book club installments outlined and ready to go, but I am ending my series today.  (Just so you don't feel too sorry for Sharon, she refuses to join my Bruce Springsteen book club and says that I am not serious in my intent.  Well!!!) 

The Top 7 Things I Have Learned From Book Clubs

1.  Sometimes you will read fabulous books that you never would have chosen on your own.  I read Anna Karenina because it was a book club pick.  I loved every single page. 

2.  Don't expect people to actually talk about the book you all just read.  I was in a book club where the discussion centered around when members threw the book across the room.   We couldn't read books that had any sort of conflict or sadness.  I had to quit the book club because I don't throw books and I like my book to have a conflict or two.

3.  People will not like reading the same books you do.  No one liked my picks of Becoming Madame Mao (Anchee Min) or  A Gesture Life (Chang Rae Lee). 

4.  Expect to have lots of catty conversations about other members between book club meetings.  If you are working on not being judgmental and gossiping you should definitely not join a book club.  Also, don't join if you don't like being gossiped about.

5.  Expect to buy a lot of books that you will never read. 

“We buy books because we believe we're buying the time to read them."  Warren Zevon

6.  You will spend at least fifty dollars at every book club meeting.  Factor in the Italian dinner, next month's book, a half caf vanilla latte, and gas money.  PLUS, the home decorating magazine you bought impulsively at the checkout. 

7.  Having your own personal book club is awesome.  Read what you want to.  Read a lot.  Challenge yourself when you feel like it.  Buy new books.  Reread personal favorites.  Go to the library. Share books with people you love. Religiously read the Prairie Grlz blog.  

Prairie Eydie  

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”    

Anne Lamott

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Continuing Art of Letting Your Child Go

Yes, the Lawrence campus is this pretty.
This past week-end I went to Appleton, Wisconsin to visit my daughter at her new home-away-from-home, Lawrence University.  We hadn't seen each other since that day in early September when I helped establish her into her dorm room.  Jo and I have always been extremely close (as long as you discount those first weeks in China when she eyed me with a certain degree of loathing), and this time apart has been hard for both of us.

That aside, my girl is settling in beautifully.  She has become friends with some charming young women (I wrote girls, but then remembered to delete.  My daughter might read this.).  I know I wasn't that poised at age 18.  She enjoys her classes, although she admits that the expectations are very high.  She is even juggling a number of on-campus jobs. Would I have ever had the nerve to accept a job as a telemarketer???  "But Mom, I get to wear a headset!"  What a geek.

Not Jo, but what she might feel like after 5 hours of calls.

It has been a while since I spent time on a college campus hanging with underclassmen.  In recent years when I take my required continuing education credits for my teaching license, my classmates are other teachers in various stages of mental and physical decline. Being around such an amount of youth jogs my memories of an earlier time.  Some things seem so familiar, but yet today's university experience is very different from my own--back in the day when we slugged around stone tablets and chisels to write our term papers.

Yikes, these late teens sleep a lot, and now with no parents to dictate, micro-manage, and scold, they sleep even more.  Granted I am sure that they aren't ready for bed by 10, but I wonder if some see the sun during the week-ends.  Did I spend a good portion of my week-ends in dreamland?  I don't remember it, but if Mom were still alive, she might enlighten me.  I do seem to have a vague recollection of eating breakfast at 3 in the afternoon. 

David Hasselhoff as Snapper Foster--memories!
I'd even jog so I wouldn't miss his pretty face.

The young ladies I was with certainly seemed to be much more health conscious than I ever was at that age.  They talk about their exercise regimes.  As a freshman, my regime was walking from my history lecture hall to the union at a fast pace so I wouldn't miss the beginning of The Young and the Restless.  Going to the gym?  Hiking on the river trail?  Joining an intramural volleyball team?  It never crossed my mind.  And as they talk about their athletic endeavors, they seem to view them with enjoyment rather than dread--like a social event.  Who would of thunk that running on a treadmill could be turned into a party?
As Prairie Eydie would say, "Yummers."
And then there is the university cafeteria.  Where are the steam tables of greyish mashed potatoes and meat substance floating in gravy?  How about the iceberg lettuce with dried carrot shavings and the bowl of phosphorescent french dressing ?  The hockey puck hamburgers on damp buns? Welcome to 2013! How about thin rice noodles tossed with a light soy ginger sauce and shrimp.  Hungry for pizza?  Do you want arugula with fresh mozarella or roasted baby beets on your thin crust?  Longing for home fare?  A cider pork stew served with a buttery polenta and fresh green beans sauteed with equally fresh mushrooms might be just right.  No wonder my daughter was a bit disappointed with our restaurant breakfast on Sunday morning.  As she poked at her rubbery french toast, she sighed, "Lawrence makes a really great Sunday brunch."

If this guy would have been sleeping
in that lounge, Jo would have been
coming home with Mommy.
Dorms?  Pretty much the same as in 1975.  They're are really small, a bit scruffy, and the bathrooms look like they could be in a prison.  The lounges are filled with low-esteem furniture wallowing in self-pity.  The lounges also seem to contain the same group of characters who took up residence in the mid 70's--hollow-eyed youth that either never found their dorm rooms on September 10th or can't remember how to get back there.  Do they ever leave those sagging chairs?  They are proof that at age 19, you can sleep anywhere.

I didn't look too hard for the sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Ignorance is bliss. I am sure all the darling co-eds I met only think virginal thoughts.  The students of Lawrence are obviously operating on a much higher plane of intellectual enlightenment than the UW-EC Class of 1979.  And if they're not, I don't want to know about it.  I don't sleep much past 5 am, and I want to enjoy the few hours I do get.

Prairie Sherry   


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Art of Book Clubs - Part II - "The Leaders"

Hey!!!  Does anyone want to start a book club that
 only reads books about "The Boss"?  I am pretty 
sure I could join that book club. 
What?  No???  Come on!!!

I hope you enjoyed meeting the members of my former book club in Wednesday's blog, "The Art of Book Clubs - The Members. Part I"  If you missed it, scamper on over to the achieve before continuing on to meet the leaders. 

Our book club couldn't seem to keep a leader.  Was it the members' general crankiness?  The club's freakish allegiance to dead Russian authors?  Or, that the members were better read than the leaders?  I guess we'll never know, but let me introduce you to our leaders.

Our first leader was a little sprig of a guy.  So cute you wanted to put him in your pocket and take him home.  I can't remember his name.  Brad?  Brett? Bison?  I dunno.  But I do remember that he posed the hopelessly insane question of how people in concentration camps had sex.  We were reading "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" at the time.  Really?  My uncle suggested that maybe people were more interested in finding a crust of bread than getting it on with fellow prisoners.  I am glad to say, (even though he was "elfish") we never saw "Brad" again after that meeting. 

Our next leader was nicknamed "Matey."  She dressed like a pirate, with white blousy shirts and pants that bloomed over her knee high boots.  All she needed was an eye patch and a treasure map.  "Matey" seemed scared of us and ran off questions from the internet for us to answer.  I think the poor dear applied to be a book club leader because she thought it would be fun.  Nope.  No fun for her.  After a few meetings, "Matey" started leaving the internet questions on a table in the book store's cafĂ©.  A scrawled note would accompany the questions, explaining how she was sick, busy, or just disinterested.  Finally the questions stopped showing up and we were on our own.

Who could lead us?  Could Vicky take us down the yellow brick road in her red shoes?  What about Betty who could only discuss books she chose and already owned?  Remember, fabulous Pam had already quit the book club?  So she is not an option.  Yep.  I am leaving you with a cliff hanger.  

Tune in Friday, for the riveting conclusion of "The Art of Book Clubs - Part III"

Prairie Eydie 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Art of Creating a Home

No, this is not my house, but it is the color that I would like
my house to be.  Sage green, yes.  Halloween barf, no. 
I love my house.  Not because the actual  building is anything extraordinary.  It is a 1980's two-story--3 bedrooms, 1400 square feet.  From the street, it makes me wince a bit.  It is a rather jarring pumpkin brown color, which it will stay until Prairie Grlz becomes a rocking financial success.

I love this house because I have been able to make it mine.  

This became my sanctuary after a marriage to a man who would go into an apoplectic fit if I moved a chair six inches to the right.  He wanted everything to remain the same, right down to keeping the garish wallpaper that his ex-wife put up in 1992.  I tried to hide a few bits of furniture that I found particularly offensive, but this was the man who would repeatedly recount the 2005 disappearance of half of a lime from his (this pronoun is important) refrigerator. Seriously, the lime was sporting a grey Afro and was walking on its own legs. Seriously, that story got really old after the 100th retelling. Seriously, tossing that lime may have saved his life.  And here is where I had better stop.

When I left the marriage, I regained my sanity and the right to decorate. With the help of dear friends who donated everything from a couch to drapes, I reordered our lives with an eclectic mish-mash from those friends, antique shops, and curb finds.  The result will never make it into Better Homes and Gardens, but it is purely mine.  I walk through my front door, and I am truly at home.

And in the words of Priaire Eydies' mentor, sage, goddess, and guru, Oprah Winfrey--

"These are a few of my favorite things..." (Hey, she stole that line from Julie Andrews!)

The photograph of the mother bear nursing her cubs use to hang in my bedroom when I was little.  It is now at the top of the second story landing along with bracelets I purchased in Guatemala and in China when I adopted my three daughters. 

This is my crazy dining room set with the mismatched chairs.  Everyone needs mismatched chairs.  It is so liberating!  You really must try it sometime. 

This is a little chest of drawers I found in a resale shop.  It was the first piece of furniture I bought after my divorce.  A friend encouraged me to buy it after sopping up my tears the night before. Too much sorrow and too much red wine is not a good combination.  She thought a little retail therapy might help, and it did.  I love it with my Grant Wood canvas.  He is my favorite American artist, although I am not terribly fond of "American Gothic."

This was one of my first larger collage pieces.  It is an old wooden desk.  Those are paint chips from a local hardware.  Yes, I did feel like I was stealing when I took them, but I buy most of my spray paint there, and I do use a lot of spray paint (see "Malbec, a Chair, Lucille Ball, and Baked Zucchini Cakes"--August 7th).   It says, "Your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow." Check out the song "True Colors" as sung by Eva Cassidy.

This is my guest bedroom.  Sometimes I just go in here and sit because it is a calming space.  My grandchildren love to sleep in this bed.  That fact, in itself, makes this room special.

If there is something material I would save if my house were on fire, it would be the pictures on this wall.  These are the adoption announcements of all three girls, the earliest pictures I have of them, and a picture of my grandchildren on the day they met.

This is the basket where I toss shoes that I find littering the floors each day.  I would not save this in the event of fire.  In fact, I may go upstairs right now and torch it.  Then I will retire to my guest room where I can regain my composure.  Even my little paradise has its few flaws.

A good friend told me that after you have been in a bad relationship, where you move, no matter how large or small, will always hold a very special place in your heart.  She said, "When you walk in, a huge weight will be lifted from your shoulders."  She was absolutely right.

Prairie Sherry