Saturday, December 24, 2011


Tomorrow is Christmas when everyone gathers around the tree, rips open presents, say the appropriate words and then eats. Recently, I have been trying to remember special gifts I received over my many years even when I was a child and I can’t remember anything. So either I am one step closer to the home, or those aren’t the gifts I should be trying to remember.

I remember our hip, modern aluminum tree that the branches had to be put in one-by-one. I remember the multi-colored light that shown on the tree and magically the tree changed colors. I remember my brother, Brad, and Caren sitting in front of the tree for hours oooooooing and awing over its beauty.

I remember the family gatherings of close family and distant crazy cousins. The best thing about family gatherings was the food: turkey stuffed with sage dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry jelly from the can with the can ridges prominently displayed and PIE. I remember everyone hanging out in the kitchen bugging my mom while she was trying to cook, and waiting for the turkey to come out so we could pick at it.

I remember the laughter. The same stories are told at every gathering and the stories still cause uproaring laughter. In the gathering of the Cunningham girls it doesn’t take long before one of us is shouting our mantra, “Stop, I am going to pee!”

I remember the competitive game play. The hours of Scrabble, 10,000, Left-Right-Center, and Yahtzee. Watching the Yahtzee victory dance never gets old. Caren won’t let anyone win, not even small crying children. When someone would say, “Caren, he is only two. Let him beat you at a game of Candyland.” Caren would reply, “The kid has to learn to lose sometime, now is a good time as any.”

I was watching Glee, (yes, I am a Gleek) and one of the characters, Quinn Fabray, said while serving food to the homeless, “I’ve been spending too much time focusing on what I don’t have rather than what I do have.” The next time you open a gift and find it wasn’t what you wanted, remember to focus on the gifts you do have. The real gifts: the gift of love, the gift of family and friends, the gift of laughter, and the gift of life.

Paco’s  Perspective
Do you like the little gifts I leave for you in the bathroom ever once in awhile? It’s all about the element of surprise.

The Flip Side
I like that gift of a doggie door. I can see the lizards and get outside to get them quicker. The Gecko Master lives!

Monday, November 21, 2011

If You Have Chocolate, They Will Come

I am at home with pneumonia. Janet keeps asking me, if I want to go to the hospital. I hate going to the hospital everyone always seems too busy to care for my needs. I get so much better care at home. Believe me a RN does not like to do assisted coughing. So when Janet asks if I am ready to go to the hospital, I always answer, "Nope, I am not seeing angels, yet." That is the only time I go to the hospital when I am seeing angels. 

When I had my car accident in the late nineties, I spent over two weeks in the hospital and many more weeks in rehab. I was the youngest person on the "no hope" ward. I had broken all my bones from the waist done and I was already handicapped it wasn't like they were going to get me to walk again. Also, I was only there because I didn't have anyone that was able to care for me at the time. I really only saw nurses at breakfast lunch and dinner. I am not putting down the nurses. I didn't ring and they didn't come. One night I rang to ask to go to the bathroom and I waited and I waited and I waited until I couldn't wait anymore. There is nothing more embarrassing than having an accident as an adult.

Later, I was sharing my tragedy with a friend and she said, "If you have chocolate, they will come." The next day she came with a big bowl of candy with lots of chocolate and placed it in the farthest point from the door with a sign that said, "Help yourself!" From that day on I saw RNs, nurses assistants, janitors and rehab coordinators throughout the day and because they had to walk all the way into the room to get to the chocolate they had to make eye contact with me and say, "Is there anything I can do for you?" The next four weeks were a breeze.

Remember, if you have anyone that has to have an extended stay in the hospital or rehab centers, if you have chocolate, they will come.

Paco's Perspective

If you have treats, I will come.

The Flip Side

If you have lizards, I will come.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Recently, I was hanging out in the hallway between the library and the lounge, I was chatting with some students. At the end of the hallway is a door, which one can exit out of but not come in. All of our exits are like this because our students are precious gold so they are locked in like the gold at Fort Knox. The students aren’t allowed to exit out this door. This is another way to keep tabs on the students. One of the students I was talking to happened to casually saunter over to the door, open it, and walk out. As I was about to say, “Hey, Buddy, you can’t go out that door,” the three other students’ eyes became as big as saucers, their chests filled with excitement and all three of them in unison yelled, “SHORTCUT,” and they bolted through that door and were gone.

I laughed. It reminded me of my brother-in-law, Caren’s husband, Darrell. Darrell is a Montana boy through and through, born-and-raised. He knows every highway, byway, farm road, dirt road, path and trail in Montana or so he thinks. We call him Shortcut. Every time Caren and I get ready to prepare our route to travel around Montana or across country Darrell will pipe up, “Hey, I know a shortcut.”

We grimace and mumble under our breaths, “Oh, no, not a shortcut.” Darrell has sent us on “shortcuts” that the digital voice on my phone’s GPS system robotically states throughout the trip, “You-must-turn a-round-make-a-u-turn-at-the-next-exit-turn-now-turn-now-turn-now!” I swear she mumbles under her robotic breath, “ Oh-no-not-a-Dar-rell-short-cut!”

Whenever Darrell sends us on a shortcut it always happens to go through the town of Moesha. Caren and I always start giggling when he starts to say, “I know a shortcut that goes through Moesha.”

Here is the worst part, well, for us, not for Darrell. We argue, squabble, giggle and shout our mantra, “Stop, I am going to pee,” but we take the shortcut and he is ALWAYS right. We bounce over washboard roads. We count and dodge cows as we drive through a farmer’s pasture and we still shave time off of our trip. Caren I could be lost for an hour and a half trying to find the wooded horse trail to Moesha and still shave two hours off our trip. And we raise our fists to God and shout, “Why does he always get to be right? Just once, God, just once!”

And then it happened. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there but here is the story as Caren told it:
Darrell and I were in Montana and I wanted to go for a hike. It is a hike that I have done before. It is two miles in and two miles out.  I generally hike about two miles per hour. I have done the hike many times. I like it because I know where I am going, it is a strenuous hike and it only takes two hours. Darrell decided was going to go with me. I believe the reason that Darrell always wants to take shortcuts is that he gets easily bored and doesn’t like looking at the same trees and bushes. So, I specifically said to him, “Darrell, if you go with Osa (the dog) and me on this hike, we will stay on the trail. There will be no bushwhacking. There will be no shortcut.” He sheepishly agreed.

Well, the three of us hike to the end of trail. It takes exactly one hour. I proceeded to turn around and start my one hour back and Darrell says, “You know, Babe, if we go this way, just over that ridge is a trail back to the car and we will get there much quicker.”

“No, Darrell.”

“Come on, just walk up to the ridge with me and I will show you.”

“No, Darrell. I have things I have to do at home. I told you we were going to stay on the trail. One hour in, one hour out, please.”

“But, Babe, this will be better. Have I ever steered you wrong?”

Darrell was absolutely positively sure that we would come to a road and we could take the road to our car that was parked about five miles south of our house near Flathead Lake. As any good obedient wife (which I AM NOT) and faithful dog would do, we followed Darrell. Two hours hours, and no water left in our bottles later, we came upon a road where Darrell proceeded to start jogging down the road with obedient wife and faithful dog lagging behind. As Osa and I stopped to catch our breath I shouted, “Darrell, I don’t think this is the right road. This doesn’t look right. I don’t recognize any of the trees.”

“This is the right road. How do you recognize a tree? They all have brown trunks and pine needles.”

“My Indian name happens to be She-Who-Recognizes-Trees!”

“Look. We can see the lake so we are not lost.”

Four miles and over two hours later, we end up at the exact same spot that She-Who-Recognizes-Trees (that would be me) told Darrell that it was the wrong road.

Our dog, Osa, sat down next to Darrell, she eyed the trees knowingly, got up, walked over to me, sat down, and looked at Darrel as if to say, “My Indian name is The-Faithful-Dog-of-She-Who-Recognizes-Trees. Where she leads, I will follow.” I led us through the bushes to the RIGHT road where I recognized the trees. If we stood just right and held our right arm in the air, we could get cell phone service. Darrell called his mom and told her to try and find us. I don’t know how she was going to do that, but Anne knows the huckleberry picking roads better than Darrell. I looked at Darrell and said, “Osa and I are flagging down the next truck that passes our way. I don’t care, if it is occupied by the next Montana serial killer, Osa and I are getting in the truck.” I flagged down the next truck, we jumped in the back of the truck and the driver dropped us off at the Ferndale Volunteer Fire House that happens to be eight miles northeast of our house. I called Darrell’s mom to come and pick us up. She had packed food and water for all of us. Good thing the sun doesn’t set in Montana in the summer until 11:00 p.m.

Anne dropped Osa and me off at he house and took Darrell to get the car. Darrell insisted we take the car to look for the trailhead we missed. We originally missed it by about thirty yards. Our four-mile, two hour hike turned into a fifteen-mile, eight hour hike.

If you ever happen to be hiking in the vicinity of Bigfork, Montana and you see She-Who-Recognizes-Trees and the-Faithful-Dog-of-She-Who-Recognizes-Trees followed by a obedient husband with thinning blonde hair shout, “Hey, He-Who-Thinks-He-Knows-A-Shortcut-Through-Moesha, how’s it going?”

Paco’s Perspective
Hey, I have been hiking with Darrell on one of his “shortcuts” and my Indian name was Short-One-with-Thistles-Stuck-to-His-Butt. Never again!

The Flip Side

My Indian name is Flip. Right?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Recently, while Caren was in town we had a small meeting of the “sistah”hood. We had made special plans to gather for an initiate, and the initiate had the audacity to not show. Well, at that moment I decided there had to be some rules.


1.    Always attend a meeting of The “Sistah”hood, unless you have a doctor appointment, dentist appointment, gynecologist appointment, neurologist appointment, any other appointment or a date with a child, husband, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, or someone you like a whole lot better than the “sistahs”.
2.     Always be prepared to gather when a “sistah” calls, unless you live out of country, out of state, out of city , out of block or you are out of your mind.
3.    Don’t bring a non”sistah” to a “sistah”hood function, unless she has treats, bottles of our favorite wines, and she is prepared to dress like Snookie, sing the official “sistah”hood song and dance on the table. 
4.    Always be prepared to help a “sistah” on and off the table of any drinking establishment and never walk away from a “sistah” dancing on a table, unless her antics are just too embarrassing.
5.    Always be prepared to pick up the tab, unless you have devised a plan to sneak out or to run to the bathroom when the check comes.
6.    Always be kind to a “sistah’s” family, unless it consists of asinine jerks or you just don’t like they way they look.
7.    Always be prepared to speak in some kind of an accent, unless you don’t know how to do accents, and then be prepared to not speak at all.
8.    Always make a “sistah” aware of a wardrobe malfunction, unless it is just too darn funny watching her walk around in public with her dress stuck in her pantyhose and toilet paper stuck to her shoe.
9.    Always lavish your “sistahs” with expensive gifts, unless you have no money then lavish them with compliments, and please do it without giggling.
10. Always wear your “sistah”hood pin and memorize the words to the official song (frontwards and backwards). Oh wait, there is no “sistah”hood pin or song.

After reading the above, forementioned rules, and you would still like to become a “sistah” fill out the application below:

Legal Name:


The name you would like to be called:

Address: (don’t put a real address, unless you want everyone’s junk mail sent to you)

Dream address:

Sex:                                             How often?
If you could who?

Favorite book: (fill in only if you read)

Favorite song:

Favorite movie:

Secret crush:

Who would you like to be deserted on an island with? (Warning, trick question!)

Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
Are you willing to be?

Religious preference: (just in case)

References: (Really important people you know, don’t list your mama!)

After filling in the above application and you still want to be a “sistah”, all right, already, you can be “sistah”, unless you are a male and that could probably be overlooked (“sistahs” love pocket gays). If you get an outfit, you can be a “sistah”too.

Paco’s Perspective

I have lots of outfits. Which one should I wear? I have a pig, devil, spider, elf, reindeer and funny nose and glasses. I would be willing to share with the “sistahs”!

The Flip Side

Am I a sistah? What is one called after “the operation”?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is

As I have stated in the past I am a big fan of the Wizard of Oz and I don’t know why. Dorothy spends most of her time whining about how she wants to go home. Home to a dusty farm. Home to an elderly aunt and uncle which means someone didn’t want her in the first place. Home to three inept farm hands which happen to be with her in Oz.

I have been pondering on the idea of home. What is home? Where does one feel at home? Home can’t be just where you live.  Home is that feeling in one’s heart; that feeling of peace, love and safety. There is an old cliché, “home is where the heart is” that I believe to this day. I feel at “home” in many places.

When I am with family and friends I am at home. I don’t have to worry about anything with family and friends. I can let my guard down with family and friends. I don’t know why we separate family and friends. Many cling to the word “family”. I have heard people say, “We are a family. Families must stick together.” What if some people in your “family” are asses? Does one always have to stick by jerks? I believe that one should pick the best part of one’s family and put them together with one’s real friends and create a “framily”. I love my framliy. I happen to live with a framliy. Whenever I am with framliy I am at home.

I am at home in Montana. I have spent the past twelve or thirteen summers in Montana. At first, I only went for a week or two, so it was like a vacation. But then I started spending the entire summer with Caren in Montana. I have had some of my greatest adventures in Montana. I have had some of my greatest laughs in Montana. I have definitely partaken in some of the greatest picturesque views in Montana. I have many framily members in Montana. I call Montana home.

I am at home at my church. When I lived in Estrella Mountain Ranch I started attending Estrella Mountain Church. When I first attended it there were only about fifty people in the pews on Sunday and now there are about two hundred eighty-five people in the pews on any given Sunday. Since I moved away from Estella Mountain, I very seldom attend church, but when I do I always feel like I am at home. It is filled with framily. It is a place where everybody remembers my name, even though it has a huge membership. It is a place where I feel loved. If you don’t have a church or a temple, find one. If you don’t believe in God, go anyway it’s worth it. Find a church or a temple or a commune and you will find a home.

Believe it or not I am at home at work. I am a hermit, so it is the only place I make friends. I love my job! I love the students! (Okay, maybe not the kinders!) I love working with the teachers! I love the stress! I love the hard, sometimes impossible work. I have been doing this for thirty-four years and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Recently, I was asked if I was ever going to retire and my answer was why would I want to do that.  

Home is the place, people and things you would miss. I would miss going to work. I miss my framily (that includes DaBoyz) daily. I miss Montana. I miss going to my church. Dorothy was right all along. She missed her home in Kansas and when she got to Kansas she probably missed her home in OZ.

Paco’s Perspective
Hey, I got an idea! Let’s take Flip somewhere and see if I miss him.

The Flip Side
How come I always just miss catching lizards?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thank God, We Forget

Over ten years ago I was involved in a car accident that impacted my life forever. To this day I still don’t know what really happened. I was driving. I wasn’t feeling well. I came to a stoplight . . . . . .the next thing I remember is being crumpled up under the dash and some woman very calmly saying to me, “Don’t worry, Honey, I am a nurse and you won’t remember any of this.” She was right I didn’t. I only have little snips of memory over the course of the two weeks I was in the hospital. Thank God, He has us forget.

Thanking God for forgetfulness permeates my school teaching career, also. The reader must know I do not like kindergarteners. I think they are mean, unruly crybabies. The reader must also know that 60% of the kindergarteners at Tomahawk don’t speak a word of English, and by state law teachers are not allowed to communicate with them in Spanish. I stay as far away from the kinder building as possible. At the beginning of this school year, I was rolling across campus a little too close to the kinder building, and I spied a kindergarten teacher on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She was trying to explain bathroom and drink procedure to a bunch of those Kinder Kreatures, and to top it off they were the English Language Learners. Now, HollyJane is a go-with-the-flow kind of gal. She is not a wave maker. She won’t even splash in the kiddie pool. She looked at me and started stuttering, “I . . . I . . . . I just need a break.”

“Okaaay, I’ll take care of them for a few minutes,” I replied with a look of fear in my eyes and hesitancy in my voice.

“No, no, no that’s okay. I can handle this. I’m just . . . I’m just . . . . I’m just . . . .,” she started stuttering again.

“Go to the bathroom, get a drink (of water), and take a few deep breathes. I don’t think I’ll kill them in that small of amount of time,” I said with a fake smile and look of confidence. The reader needs to know that in all my years of teaching I only taught a primary class one year. I make all primary kids cry. It might be because I talk to them the same way I talk to fifth and sixth graders.

When HollyJane returned twenty years later, okay it just seemed like an eternity, they were all shaking in their boots and one was crying that was I. HollyJane and I took them inside and I taught for a little bit and only one more started crying that was her. As I edged closer and closer towards the exit and I was planning my escape from Alcatraz in my head, HollyJane gave me that look: the puppy-dog-eyes-with-the-pouty-lip-please-don’t-leave-me look. I shrugged my shoulders, mouthed the word, “Sorry”, and ran like a schoolgirl from a haunted house.

A few days later HollyJane caught me as I was tiptoeing passed the kinder building hoping not to wake the lions and she laughed and said, “I don’t know why I always forget what it is like the first weeks of school. I have been doing this for a long time, and I only remember the good stuff at the end of the year.”

“Yep, seven weeks,” I quickly responded as I dashed away.

“Seven weeks what?” she queried.

It takes forty-five days to build a habit. The many years that I taught with Colleen I would get so frustrated at the beginning of the year. I would be in a crazy-ready-to-jump-over-the-edge-mumbling snit and Colleen would smile at me and say very calmly, “Seven weeks, Cathy, seven weeks. Just give it seven weeks.”

“If they aren’t doing what they are suppose to do after seven weeks, then we can knock them off and bury them in the playground, right?” I would ask excitedly.

“Mounds of dirt on the playground might be a little too obvious,” she replied.

“Cement shoes,” I giggled.

“This is Arizona, no water. In seven weeks you won’t want to dig a single hole or buy a single bag of cement anyway,” she laughed.

She was right. Colleen was always right, even though, I would never let her know that. After seven weeks, the class was always wonderful and the ones that weren’t so wonderful I loved too much to plan a hit.

Thank God, we forget the bad stuff. Women forget the pain of childbirth; soldiers forget the anguish of war; teachers forget the first weeks of school. Women have more children; soldiers re-up; teachers continue to do what they do.

Paco’s Perspective

I wish I wouldn’t forget what it feels like to get zapped by the bark collar. One would think I would learn!

The Flip Side

What are we talking about? I forgot! It pains me to think, sometimes, okay, all the time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Have You Ever Heard a Bunny Scream?

The scream of a bunny is a horrible noise. Unfortunately, living where I do, near farmland and the WhiteTanks Mountain Range, I get the opportunity to hear that sound often.

Imagine what it is like to be a bunny near my home. You’re a very happy bunny doing your bunny thing. You have a great den under the creosote bushes where the coyotes can’t get to you. You know the exact time the coyotes come down from the mountains to search for food, so you know when to hide in your den. Those people that moved in during the winter have planted some succulent grass, tasty flowers, and they’re keeping things watered in order to keep everything green. You’re in bunny munching heaven. At night you and your friends sneak in through the fence, lie on the cool grass, nibble on the new shoots, eat the tasty flowers, and sometimes you practice your bob and weave moves that you need to use just in case those little, yapping shits come running out the door and try to make a pathetic move to catch you. There are even times when you and your friends sit just outside the fence and point and laugh at that those yappers. There you are giggling your fluffy-tailed ass off when out of the corner of your eye you see movement. You think in your itty, bitty bunny brain that it can’t be a coyote because it isn’t Coyote Time. Then you suddenly realize the yappers aren’t yapping at you they’re yapping at something behind you and quickly you turn, and there it is, a pack of coyotes bearing down on you and your friends. The pack is between you and your den and you start your bob and weave move, but you are out of practice. Then you hear an ear-splitting scream and wonder where that is coming from, and you realize it is coming from you!

Sometimes I feel like that bunny. I’m a very happy person doing my thing. Every once in a while I practice my bob and weave. There I am hopping along at my happy bunny pace, giggling and having a great time, and then someone comes along and bites me in the ass and I scream like a bunny being caught by a coyote!

Paco’s Perspective
Don’t worry I won’t let those coyotes get you. 
They don’t call me Sir Barks A lot Who Thinks He Is Lion-Hearted for nothing.

The Flip Side
I kinda like chasing the bunnies more than the lizards. They are bigger and I don’t lose ‘em in little tiny places.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

When I Grow Up

There are many people that I have grown to admire throughout my life. There is the obvious: my parents for not allowing my disability to be a reason for failure, my mom for raising four wonderful children with two of them being disabled, the Little Sis for being my go-to caretaker, the Big Sis for making her faith andfamily a priority, the Payne family for asking me to be a part of their family so I would no longer have caretaking issues, and Janet for everything she does for me and for her ability to teach ELL children.  “When I grow up”, I pray I will have just a small thread of what I have learned from each one of these people woven through my soul.

But “when I grow up” I really want to be like my “sistah” Rhonda. Rhonda is one of the ooooooooriginal “sistahs”. Caren and I have always called her our "sistah from anothah mothah". I met Rhonda eons ago. She was an office aide at Peralta Elementary where I taught for twenty years. I also had the opportunity to teach her daughter, Erica in the fifth grade. From that moment on we became fast friends. Rhonda moved to Iowa many years ago, and usually a huge mileage separation ends a friendship, but not with Rhonda.
I admire Rhonda for so many reasons.

First, the “sistah” worked her way up from elementary school office aide to John Deere Corp. muckity-muck. She works in the golf division and travels all over the country checking on equipment used by golf courses. P. S., she is not that great of a golfer, but that is because she doesn’t have the time to practice for the sport. Rhonda has the job that Caren would kill for. It is a good thing Rhonda is a “sistah”, or we might find her shoved in a John Deere golf bag floating in a water hazard somewhere.

Rhonda is always happy. I know that is a big, fat lie, and I know she spends many hours being sad, but she doesn’t let anyone know. She is always facing adversity, but she does it with a smile on her face. Many times it is a smile with gritted teeth, but it is a smile.

Rhonda is a mother bear. She will fight for her cubs. Rhonda has a younger daughter (not Erica) that has given her an exorbitant amount burden, but the mother bear is still fighting for her cub. She and her daughter, Erica (I taught her everything she knows. :), are now caring and fighting for the younger daughter’s cubs. I can’t imagine what could have happened to Rhonda’s grandchildren, if Rhonda and Erica hadn’t taken on caring for those cubs.

Rhonda has road rage. Now, the reader might think that road rage is not an admirable quality, but I believe her road rage is catharsis for all her burdens. Her participation in road rage releases all her anger. When Road Rage Rhonda is chauffeuring me I spend most of my time giggling. I wouldn’t give Rhonda the keys to any heavy equipment, but I would give her the keys to a tank. She would take care of the problems in the Middle East.

Rhonda is always up for an adventure. Rhonda used to drag race. Not like drag race on Central, but on a real track in an actual dragster. (That is probably when the road rage started because she is used to driving at high speeds.) Rhonda is up for anything. Rhonda is the one that is always saying, “Come on, Cathy, let’s go for it!” That is why she and Caren became such great friends. I have always thought Rhonda and Caren should participate in The Amazing Race. Rhonda would make sure that Caren bungee jumped without whining.

Rhonda is a caretaker. When I met her she was caring for her brother-in-law that had been injured in a diving accident. I believe that is why she honed in on me. Deep down in her caretaking heart there was a drive to make sure that I was okay. She still travels to Phoenix a couple times a year to “care” for me. She disguises her visits as trips for work, or to bring the grandchildren to visit, but I know she just wants to “see with her own eyes” that I am okay.

Rhonda is a warrior. Years ago she began her battle against cervical cancer. Rhonda spent years going through many different kinds of treatments. She spent endless nights lying on the cool bathroom floor next to the toilet and then dragging herself off to work everyday with a smile on her face. Rhonda has lived on a diet of Popsicles because it was the only thing she could keep down. Rhonda has kept her faith. She has never once wavered in her love for God. And during her long, hard-fought battle Rhonda has always gone to work and done her job well, cared for her family and friends, and continued to fight. Only once did Rhonda call me and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” And I selfishly replied, “You can’t give up because you are my hero and heroes don’t give up.”

Warrior Rhonda won her battle against cervical cancer, but she has yet to win the war. Due to the many side effects of her many cancer treatments, Rhonda is now facing a complication. She has a problem with circulation to her extremities. A few weeks ago some of Rhonda’s fingers started turning black and she had to spend a week in the hospital, and she has puzzled the doctors. Rhonda is in tremendous pain. By the way, don’t ask her a basic on a pain scale of one to ten question; she prefers the wine pain scale of one glass to an entire bottle. Of course, she will lie and say she is at two glasses when she is really at two bottles. I know things are bad because Rhonda canceled her trip to meet Little Sis and Big Sis in Dallas for a Women of Faith Conference. When Rhonda turns down a “Stop, or I’ll Pee” giggle festival with the “sistahs” one knows thing aren’t good.

I am sure Rhonda is at home right now figuring out how she can mask her pain, hide her fingers, and get to work. And to all the drivers in the Des Moines area, if you happen to look in your rear view mirror and see a wild-eyed, skinny blonde shaking her fist at you, don’t worry it is just Road Rage Rhonda working through her pain.

Rhonda is my hero. When I grow up I want to be like Rhonda. Rhonda’s thread that weaves through my soul is golden. Please keep “sistah” Rhonda in your prayers because she needs more warriors in her platoon.

Paco’s Perspective

“Sistah” Rhonda doesn’t like d-o-g-s, but she always pretends that she does. Hmmmm, a woman that fakes it! What’s new?

The Flip Side

“Sistah” Rhonda is an adventurer? I wonder if she is up for a lizard hunt?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

I hate Captain Underpants books! Dav Pilkey has written and illustrated some of my favorite picture books, so I know he is a wonderful author. Captain Underpants has no substance, unless, toilets, poopypants, and boogers are substance. I know, I know, I know kids love them because they are funny. But I don’t believe one can become a better reader by reading Captain Underpants. One doesn’t need to do any thinking when reading Captain Underpants. Readers of Captain Underpants can become bad spellers because many of the words are spelled incorrectly.

I am sure Dav Pilkey is laughing all the way to bank because Captain Underpants has made him a megamillionaire. He has even started a new series of books with even more misspelled words and poor plots, Ook and Gluk.

I don’t want anyone to have the only memory of books read in school to be Captain Underpants. I want the students at Tomahawk to experience some real books: Al Capone Does My Shirts, Mockingbird, Swear to Howdy, Hatchet, Moon Over Manifest, My Louisiana Sky, A Year Down Yonder, The Graduation of Jake Moon, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  (I would also like to give props to Dav Pilkey’s beautiful picture book, Paperboy.) I could list so many more great children’s books that could take Captain Underpants in a literary rumble any day! Captain Underpants will never make the reader sigh, cry, or wonder!

Here is an imagined wrestling match between Captain Underpants and Edward Tulane:

Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemennnnn, get ready for the epic literary battle of the century! In this corner, weighing in at less than five pounds soaking wet. We know he spent endless months at the bottom of the ocean. Reaching three feet tall is that literary great, Edward Tulane, recently back from his miraculous journey!

Audience: (wild applause) Edward! Edward! Edward!

Announcer: And in this corner, weighing in at twenty pounds and wearing only his Fruit of the Looms and a ridiculous cape is Captain Underpants, recently back from the Underwear Festival in Piqua, Ohio!

Audience: (applause) Poopy pants! Poopy Pants! Poopy pants!

Announcer: Captain Underpants needs to take caution because it looks like Edward Tulane has already become filled with ennui.

Captain Underpants: N-U-E? Nue? He doesn’t look nue to me! He looks like an old doll!

Announcer: Oh, that’s right, Captain Underpants wouldn’t know what ennui means. The books that he appears in have no vocabulary. The toughest word is toilet and most of the words are spelled wrong!

Captain Underpants: Let’s just get this thing over with. The nue kid is made of glass! I’ll break him in no time.

Announcer: Poor, Captain Underpants, again he has shown his stupidity! Edward isn’t made of glass. That is porcelain, my friend. I know porcelain has three syllables, which is too much for a guy in underwear. Gentlemen, please proceed to the center of the ring to parle with the ref.

Captain Underpants: Pro Seed? I am not wrestling a plant! Parsley? What does parsley have to do with wrestling?

Announcer: ( whispering) Hey, Buddy, just  go over to the guy in the striped shirt. (shouting) Ladies and gentlemennnnnnnn, let’s get ready toooooo rummmmmmmble!

Referee: Gentleman, good readers make connections, visualize, infer, question, synthesize, and use their schema. How can your books help readers become better readers?

Captain Underpants: Kids like toilets and poop.

(Edward pushes Captain Underpants to the ground.)

Audience: Ouch!

Announcer: Edward has thrown Captain Underpants to the ground. Edward’s readers not only connect with Abilene losing Edward but they can connect to the way Edward feels throughout his miraculous journey.

Captain Underpants: (panting) My readers don’t have to visualize everything is drawn for them. My books are like comic books drawn by ten year olds.

(Edward employs a chokeslam on Captain Underpants.)

Audience: Ooooooooooo.

Announcer: Edward has performed the crushing chokeslam on Captain Underpants. Visualizing is one of the most important comprehension skills that a reader needs. Readers can “see” Edward being kicked off the train as Lucy howls her discontent. Readers must use their visualizing skills throughout the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Captain Underpants: I, I, I don’t know what infer, synthesize, or schema means.

Announcer: Of course, Captain Underpants doesn’t know what these comprehension terms means. Unfortunately, neither does the reader of Captain Underpants books. Captain Underpants will never go down in literary history as having a plot that involves the reader actually having to think!

Audience: Good readers are thinkers! Good readers are thinkers! Good readers are thinkers! Good readers are thinkers! Good readers are thinkers!

(Edward lifts Captain Underpants above his head for an airplane spin, and pile drives him into the mat with a back body slam. He then pins Captain Underpants for the count.)

Announcer: And the crowd goes wild!

Audience: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Referee: (while pounding the ground) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. (The referee grabs Edward’s hand and raises it in the air. Captain Underpants crawls back to his corner where Ook and Gluk are playing with his water bucket and picking their noses.)

Audience: Edward! Edward! Edward!

Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemennnnnnn, The new, (looking at Captain Underpants) that would be new, n-e-w, Champion of Literature, EEEEEEEED-WARRRRRRD TUUUUUUUUU-LAAAAAAAAAAANE! And he did it without wrinkling his jaunty outfit or dropping his watch. (Edward takes the championship belt, shaped like a book, to his corner and gives it to Abilene because he knows he would never have won without her love.)

Captain Underpants: I can't believe I was smacked-down by a bunny made of glass wearing a suit! He didn't even say a word.!

Abilene: Edward Tulane has learned to be a good listener. He does need to speak to show his merit.

Announcer: It's time to face the music, Captain Underpants, you are a LOOOOOOOSERRRRR!

Paco's Perspective
Flip has a Captain Underpants book hidden under his bed. He is so uncouth!
Has anyone seen my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird?

The Flip Side

Poop? I like poop! Dav Pilkey writes books about a big, giant lizard. I love lizards!
I think I am in love with Dav Pilkey!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster is a picture book written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. It's about riding a roller coaster. When I first read this book I hated it. I thought it was lame, and then my students led me to an epiphany.

When I first read this book to my class it was obvious that I wasn't impressed with it, as one of my students observed,"Miss C, I am thinking you might not like this book."

"You're right. I'm sorry, I should not have read this to you, but I feel like there is a great read aloud experience somewhere in this book."

"Have you ever ridden a roller coaster?"

"No, I have not."

"Well, duh, Miss C. You don't like this book because you can't make a connection to it. Think about what you taught us." 

A few days later, I read the book again. I had the students sit in a line in pairs, and we rode the roller coaster together. We locked ourselves in and when the roller coaster jerked forward to begin its ascent, we jerked forward and leaned back as we climbed to the highest peak before the drop. "Clickity-clackity, clickity-clackity, up, up, up, and then . . . . " At this point my teaching partner, Colleen, would scream at the top of her lungs, "AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" Roller Coaster is  now one of my favorite picture books. I use it to teach text-to-self connections. 

The reader may be thinking what kind of a lousy lead in is this? I want to ride a roller coaster. I want my heart to pound with excitement when I begin the ascent. I want the centrifugal force to push my dumbo ears to the back of my head. (Maybe if I rode more roller coasters, my ears wouldn't stick out.) I want to throw my hands in the air and scream with semi-delight and semi-fear. And when the ride is over, I want to look at my friend and shout, "Let's do that again," as we run on our wobbly legs to the end of the line. And again, my heart pounds with excitement . . . . . . .

But, I do ride a roller coaster everyday. Here comes the tacky cliche, I ride the roller coaster of life. I teach. Everyday my heart pounds with excitement when I step on campus to begin our students' ascent to excellence. As I zoom from one classroom to another, the wind whips through my spiky, short hair and causes my ears to flap. When I finish teaching a lesson that I know was spot-on I scream with delight. When I teach a lesson that bombed, I throw my hands in the air, scream and then I start thinking about how I will make it better. When the day is done and my dear friend, Janet, and I are making  our way home at dusk, (I know the reader think teachers only work 8 to 3, but that is wrong. Most teachers work 12 hour shifts and carry a bucket-load of work home every night.) we look at each other and shout, "Let's do that again!" And the next day, my heart pounds with excitement . . . . . . . 

Paco's Perspective

I ride the roller coaster of life. I share air with Flip. 

The Flip Side

I ride the roller coaster of life. I . . . I . . . I don't understand tacky metaphors.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Wendelin Van Draanen is one of my favorite authors of children's books.  She writes the popular Shredderman and Sammy Keyes series. She understands teenage angst and writes in a way that helps her readers understand it also. When reading some of her books, the reader will laugh until he cries and then just cry. She has written some of my all time favorite books for children: Swear to Howdy, Runaway and Flipped.

Flipped has two main characters: Juli Baker and Bryce Loski. Juli Baker is an odd girl and she is madly in love with Bryce, and has been since she moved across the street from him in the second grade. Actually, Juli has stalked Bryce since the second grade and Bryce wants nothing to do with her. Bryce thinks Juli is weird. This book is great for teaching point of view because the book's chapters alternate between Juli and Bryce telling their individual sides of events in their lives. Near the end of the book, Flipped flips, the relationship between Juli and Bryce flips, their personalities flip, also.

The book Flipped reminds me of my dog, Flip. Flip has flipped not like in gone crazy, but his personality has flipped. Janet's husband, Dave, rescued Flip. On his way to work almost two years ago Dave spotted a matted ball of fluff dodging traffic on Lower Buckeye Road. After watching the fluff ball almost get hit three times, he stopped his truck, got out and shouted, "Get over here!" Flip ran directly toward him and jumped into his arms. Dave brought him home, put him in my bedroom with Paco and they have been rival companions ever since.

I named him Flipflop because he had one ear that flipped up and the other flopped down. Now both his ears have flopped. It was obvious that Flip had not been cared for, and it seemed that he might have been on the road for some time. Everyone fell in love with Flip, even Paco, but he won't ever admit it. We made a slight valiant effort to find his owner with the emphasis on slight. He was taken to the vet to be scanned for a chip. Dave and Alyssa put up signs to try and find his previous owners. (Okay, there were only two signs and they were put up only on our block.) We all secretly prayed that no one would call for Flip.

I became Flip's "owner" because I offered to pay for all the vet and grooming bills. Also, Flip and Paco were meant to be best buddies, I mean rivals. I never really wanted one dog let alone two, but now I am so glad I have both. Janet was right, again, I needed a buddy to love, and every animal and human needs and deserves a companion. Flip has never been afraid of my chair and jumped in my lap the first time he saw me. He would lay in my arms for hours when we first found him. Actually, Flip is not "owned" by anyone. Flip is his own man, I mean dog.

Flip makes me laugh. He is obsessed with chasing things, especially, lizards. He talks to everyone. He talks to his reflection in the mirror. He still hasn't realized that his reflection is him. Flip is a bit of a knucklehead. But everybody loves Flip and that really makes Paco pissed. 

Flip has flipped! He no longer talks; he sasses back. He is no longer a knucklehead; Flip is a noodlehead. (A noodlehead is someone that pretends they are dumb, but happens to be very smart.) Flip knows everyone loves him; he has become conceited. Flip no longer wants to hang out with me for hours; he rather be outside just in case something runs by. Flip's sweet, kind demeanor is no longer. As a matter of fact, the other day I swear to howdy that Flip flipped me off.

After moving into this house, the realization was made that something need to be done to keep Flip contained. There is way too much land to explore and Flip will travel far and wide in search of bunnies, prairie dogs, and lizards. Janet, Dave, Breann and Ben spent many weekends putting up a chain link fence and planting a lush yard to keep Flip in and happy. Caren even helped dig ditches for the sprinkler system. After spending over two thousands dollars on fencing, sprinkler parts, grass and plants just to keep Flip contained, Flip found many ways to get out of the fenced area. So Janet dug down around the entire length of the fencing and placed bricks underground, so he couldn't dig out. Yahoo, flip was contained. WRONG! He climbs under the gate right by my door. There is no digging to place bricks because the gate is over cement. Whenever I see Flip out chasing lizards, I go out and call him and he comes back and crawls back under the gate with his head lowered in shame. But not anymore, when I call him he comes to the gate and lays on the sidewalk just outside the gate and glares at me. No more head hung in shame, just that "Ha! What are you going to do about it?" look. (That look that teenagers give their parents.) Recently, I caught him scooting through his escape hatch and shouted, "Whoa, Buddy, get back here, NOW!" Flip backed out of his escape hatch, turned and gave me that "look", walked directly to the escape hatch, lifted his leg and peed and peed and peed all over the gate. The ultimate flip-off.

Flip has Flipped! But I still love him, and he is a perfect fit in my amazing eclectic family.

Paco's Perspective

I hate to be an I Told You So, but I told you so!

The Flip Side

Sunday, June 26, 2011

So . . . . . .I Was Just Thinking

WARNING-This communication may be offensive to some, many or all.-WARNING

While traveling the Interstate-10 in Phoenix I spied an electronic billboard. An ad for Abel's Funeral Services appeared and it was advertising a complete cremation for $586.25. So . . . .I was just thinking how much does a partial cremation cost and what part?

As I was sharing my thoughts with the "family" about the difference between a complete cremation and a partial cremation, I also explained  my dilemma about my funeral plans. I want my "sistahs" to scatter my ashes,  and I want an extremely long funeral procession. I want to mess up traffic. I want to mess up traffic so much that  my number one rule for my funeral is: There Shall Be NO Carpooling! I concluded that when the casket is open only the top half is open. So . . . . I was just thinking I could kill two birds with one stone. ( I know this is a bad cliche for this blog, but I figured I have already offended so many readers what the . h . . .oops, there goes another one.)

Then Ben, Janet's son, suggested that since I am such a fan of The Wizard of Oz, maybe I should switch things up, if you know what I mean. I wonder if one has a choice with a partial cremation. I wouldn't have to worry about an outfit for the funeral. So . . . . I was just thinking, striped socks and sparkly red shoes. 

I know that many readers think I am disgusting and morbid, but I tried to warn everyone. First, Abel's Funeral Service should not have advertised a complete cremation. Second, I am fifty-five and my parents were told that I wouldn't live past the age of sixteen, so . . . . . . it is time I start thinking.

I want to put the f-u-n into funeral, so . . . . I was just thinking!

Paco's Perspective

Doesn't Dorothy have a little dog that she takes "home" with her?
What if I am not ready to go "home"?
So . . . . I was just thinking, Flip?

The Flip Side

So . . . . I was just thinking. . . . .
No I wasn't!
Just kidding!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Way of a Hermit

I have always teased my friend, Colleen, about being a recluse. When she lived in Arizona we taught together, and I would always ask her to go places and do things with me and her answer was always, no. We got to the place that I wouldn't even ask. It was easier that way. Colleen was and still is a hermit. Now, she is a hermit in Arkansas.

The other day, I came to the realization that I have become a hermit. You know you're a hermit when you come out of your bedroom just to chat and everyone looks at you with raised eyebrows and says, "What do you want?" You know you're a hermit when you can't remember the last movie you saw except those played on Lifetime. You know you're a hermit when you shout out the answers while watching the Game Show Network in hopes that the contestants will hear you. You know you're a hermit when you have a complete conversation with the dog.

As Colleen has always said, "The way of a hermit is not a bad thing." A hermit doesn't get a broken heart. A hermit doesn't have to dress to impress. A hermit doesn't have to primp. A hermit doesn't have to deal with the shtupid. A hermit doesn't have to worry about saying the right thing. A hermit doesn't have to worry about others. A hermit doesn't have to worry.

As I have mentioned, I am a worrier. The other day, Janet and I were driving to work and there was a dog walking in the road. When we saw the poor dog we both sighed and said, "Ahhhh, poor thing," at the exact same time. When we stopped at the stop sign the dog came trotting toward us like he knew us. Knowing that we do not need one more rescued animal at our house, we continued on and left him behind  and all day long I worried about that dog. A few days later when Janet and I were running errands, I mentioned how much I worried about that dog. She looked at me and said, "Me, too! We should have picked him up and brought him to work. The least we could have done was call the pound."

As we continued to talk about the poor dog, we both happened to spy an old man barely able to walk. He was ambling on the side of the oad in the worst looking tennis shoes we had ever seen. He was carrying an empty water bottle. And I said, "And now I am going to spend days worrying about that man. If he is going to spend his life walking the streets, he needs some good walking shoes, but I don't have any on me."

Janet replied, "We could go back and give him some money."

"Yea, but would he spend it on shoes? And when I want to help someone I always have in mind that memorable random act of kindness. Besides, we don't have any money. We've spent every dime we have fixing up the house," I said.

"You're definitely right about that. But wouldn't it be nice, if we could save the world?"she said.

"This is why I have decided to become a hermit. A hermit doesn't want to save the world. A hermit doesn't want to see the world. A hermit just wants to be a hermit. Home, James, take me back to my hermitage, please," I requested.

"Hermitage?" she queried.

"A place where hermits live," I answered.

"But if there were a bunch of hermitsssss, then they wouldn't be hermits. They would be just a bunch of old, smelly, dusty guys living in the same place," she explained.

"Okay! Home, James, please. Home to the seclusion of my bedroom where I only come out when I want something. Home, where I don't have to see people or animals on the side of the road that I worry about," I ordered. "Hey, speaking of old, dusty guys on the side of the road, do you ever wonder where the Whirlygig Man is?" I asked.

"Shhhhhh, now I am going to wonder about him all day," she whined.

I haven't been out of my room since then. My fellow hermit, Colleen, is coming to visit next week. And when I asked her if there was anything she wanted to do or any place she wanted to go, guess what her answer was? Yep, it was no. I wonder, if she will even come out of her room while she is here. I hope she doesn't expect me to come out of mine.

Paco's Perspective

Is a female hermit called a hermitess?

The Flip Side

A female hermit is called a hermitch. Get it? A female dog is a bitch, so a female hermit is a hermitch!
Get it? Get it? Ha, I crack myself up!