Hand-Written Notes for the New Year.

Although emails connect us quickly and tweets convey pithy little messages, a hand-written note that is thoughtfully composed connects us more intimately and deeply. The action of taking pen to paper during quiet moments and writing to one individual creates a contemplative environment. Choosing words carefully, stringing them together into cohesive thoughts, playing with ideas, and squeezing them onto a piece of paper through a well-worn pen communicates a deep caring for the other person.

Too often, our reliance on technology blurs the reality of our human condition. We are not wired like chips. We are wired through our senses. The instant gratification technology offers does not gratify. Rather it isolates and creates an underlying selfishness. Too much too quickly does not nurture a peaceful spirit. Enhancing the spirit through our natural wiring brings us closer to an irrational eternal reality which humanity has recognized as the Deity for eons.

This past year I lost a friend of 53 years. Margaret and I have written to each other since we were 15. She lived in England. I live in the States. We met once. A glorious 10 day vacation. Over the years, we rejoiced, consoled, and journeyed through life through hand-written notes. I will miss her greatly. I will miss the intimacy of our letters in ways I cannot yet fathom.

As the old year transitions into a new year, promises and goals are often set. This year, I hope to increase my note-writing. Personally, I know how it effects me. Hopefully it will evoke a positive response in the receiver. And maybe – just maybe another letter-writer will be born and the Spirit will be blessed.

Whose Tree Is It Anyway?

Once upon a time in a midsize village in northeastern Illinois dwelt a little dog named Mitchell and Dog-Mom. Dog-Mom dutifully walked Mitchell at least twice if not thrice or even four times a day if the weather was willing. Mitchell always was willing…unless the weather was not.
Mitchell always knew where they were going. Sometimes they would head west toward Auntie Karen’s house. Sometimes they would head east toward a different subdivision with lots and lots of cul-de-sacs. Dog-Mom would find out which way they were going because Mitchell always picked. and Dog-Mom had little to say about the matter.
Anyway, every tree, bush, blade of grass, water hydrant, and mail box bore Mitchell’s dutiful mark, and he would check each one on the various trails as he and Dog-Mom went on their merry way. (If Hansel and Gretl had Mitchell with them, they would never have needed bread crumbs.)

One day, Dog-Mom and Mitchell met a new puppy on their walk, and Mitchell decided to let the puppy know whose neighborhood it was.
A conversation ensued.

Puppy peed on one of Mitchell’s trees.
Mitchell peed on his tree, and then kicked grass in the puppy’s face.
The puppy peed on the tree again.
Mitchell re- peed the tree, and then peed in the puppy’s face.
This pee conversation continued endlessly as the two Dog-Moms watched and laughed their asses off until the puppy finally gave up and rolled over on his back in total submission.

Mitchell was finally happy. It was his tree after all, and puppy learned a valuable lesson. Don’t pee on any tree while Mitchell is around, or you might need a bath.

This Library Girl’s Mental Marbles Are Definitely Missing

Retirement is a good thing. No….scratch that….Retirement is a great thing. Getting to sleep late, enjoying unhurried morning coffee, walking away from the stressors that legalized slavery (work) brings to life. are all good. However, not having a direction during this well-deserved play time can be kind of boring if one does not have hobbies or a large social circle. Not many hobbies, short on the social circle – I have a dog– So for me, staying active meaningfully is on the imperative list. Fortunately I have skills that are in demand – I’m a retired teacher, school librarian, have an associate degree in accounting, and can program a computer in COBOL – that do not necessarily require a long term commitment. So I volunteer in schools and occasionally substitute teach.

I like substituting. Usually the lesson plans are well laid out. The day is short. There is no commitment – not really – and the money isn’t bad….Nice pocket change. I only substitute in Catholic Schools because the paperwork and drama involved in substituting in a public school are just not worth the effort. And I prefer working with schools in blue collar neighborhoods because the families and children do not feel the sense of entitlement that is often found in well-heeled neighborhoods. Coming from a blue collar environment, I can totally relate to the culture.

One fine day, I accepted a substituting position at a Catholic School in a Latino community. While eating lunch in the faculty lounge, the usual conversation took place. Basically a friendly background check…During the course of the conversation, it became apparent that the school had lost their volunteer librarian a few years ago, and they were desperate to find someone to fill the gap.

Here’s the deal about libraries and librarians…most people don’t have a clue about the profession and are dealing with negative stereotypes that involve “bun-ladies” walking around shushing people. Many people see libraries as dinosaurs from past ages because print is dead. First of all print is not dead. Print is very much alive. Reading print is deep reading because it involves tactility. Tactility provides a direct pathway to the brain that digital does not provide. Besides there are so many e-books at a library – who needs Amazon if you have a library card? Really.

Finally librarianship is hard work. It takes a Masters degree. And it’s not just about circulation. It requires organization skills, selection, marketing, fund raising. communication skills, advocacy and passion. Librarians are the first to stand up and defend First Amendment rights. No passion, no library. Consequently, I wasn’t really thrilled with the idea of being the volunteer librarian because I knew if I got involved, I would want to completely fix whatever needed fixing. However, I also wanted more substituting gigs, and volunteering to run circulation one day a week would be one way to get my big toe in the door…..Hmmm…Lots to think about.

After some serious consideration, circulation one day a week….how bad could that be? As long as the teachers didn’t just dump their kids off and run, I can stamp books with the best of them. So, I emailed the principal and indicated that I would be willing to run circulation once a week – mind you — this is without stepping one big toe in the library– and he jumped on the opportunity. (Librarians are in high demand as long as we’re free, and just stamp books. When we start planning programs, suggesting research protocols, and actually instructing faculty and students, we get into trouble…Nobody wants to pay for that . Busy-body librarians!)

I met with the principal, and he took me down to the basement. This should have been my first clue to bolt and run. Libraries with book collections should not be in basements where mold grows. He opened the door, and asked me if I thought it needed life support. Stacked from floor to ceiling were old smelly books. There were books on shelves. Books on the floor. Books in boxes on tables. Books on window sills. The EPA needed to look into the air quality. And I thought privately that a bonfire in the parking lot would be more appropriate than life support…Put these poor books out of their misery now. This was not a library. This was a moldy disaster.

Just out of curiosity, I pulled a book off the shelf and opened it to the title page. It was a college textbook about philosophy that was published in 1944. In a children’s library? Really? Obviously, this was a fine example of a parish trying to start a library and accepting donations from anywhere. Without a clue. Without a mission statement or direction. At that point running away in the opposite direction was still an option. Yet, at the same time, the part of me that dives into impossible challenges itched to fix this mess. This library needed me, and I needed it. So, I told the principal exactly what I was thinking about identifying what would be appropriate reading material for elementary students and throwing out the rest…starting with the philosophy text book…then examining the cataloging situation. I later found out that there were over 13,000 poorly cataloged books in the room. He was completely in agreement, so I delved in. Watch out…here comes organization woman.

Step one:

Team Teacher and the Weeding Process (Oh no! you can’t really mean we are going to discard this book!)

Get the teachers involved. The more faculty involved in the process, the more likely they will understand the monumental task involved and become true stake-holders. They showed up, and I pointed them in the direction of the collection that they most suited their expertise. Social studies teachers – history, geography and culture. Science teachers – pure science and applied science (inventions to the rest of the world.) Math teachers – math. Primary teachers – picture books. Pretty simple.

Like a healthy garden, libraries require aggressive weeding in order to remain healthy. This library was weedy field – definitely not garden-like.. After the teachers got the hang of it, and got over their squeamishness of getting rid of books much weeding took place. Discover books – a company that takes books away for free, sells them, donates them or recycles them responsibly – showed up with a truck, and took the first truckload away. (Yes, first truckload…There would be two more, and I’m working on the fourth.)

Step Two:

Organize the mess.

Yes, I use the Dewey Decimal System. Why? It’s actually not that hard to understand. Many small libraries use it, and some long-suffering librarian somewhere along the line cataloged most of the 13,000 plus books using Dewey. Notice…I didn’t say anything about modern cataloging…that’s another story. But at least there was a starting point. So, using the existing spine labels, an intrepid hard-working mom volunteer and I started shelving the books in sort of order.

Delving into the project, glitches surfaced.. First of all, many of the books were not classified properly.. For example, I found a collection of Grimms Fairy tales in fiction. Fairy Tales has a Dewey number and actually belong in what is incorrectly called non-fiction. (More on classification later.) Biographies were a mess. Science books were classified as great literature. Did I say it was a mess? Yes, I did come to think of it.

Despite much planning, we kept running out of shelf space because – you guessed it – more weeding. A small library does not need six copies of every Little House on the Prairie book written. Besides, kids don’t read Little House on the Prairie books much anymore.. So the two of us continued bravely into the shelving/organizing and weeding step. Tear-shedding and discussions occurred. Eventually, a system emerged, and Discover Books came for the second truckload – which included five volumes of Little House on the Prairie. Someone will read them..

Mom-volunteer and I ran across possibly valuable old books. For example, a 1911 copy of A Visit From St. Nicholas – that’s The Night Before Christmas for those of you who aren’t familiar with the classic’s authentic title. A designated book shelf for possibly valuable books served nicely for books that might be available for future sale. Who wants to let an elementary student get their hands on a 100 year old book and destroy it? We found an entire book case of Spanish Language books purchased with Title I moneys. (Title I books belong in classrooms – not school libraries. It’s actually a federal law.) So the Spanish teacher got a whole book case of new material. Anything else stamped Title I went straight to the Reading Resource Teacher. Old encyclopedia sets marched out the door. Scholastic Book Fair paperbacks were sorted into dollar store bins. And still no cataloging had taken place. My intrepid volunteer-mom was chomping at the bit to begin that process. Little did she know what was ahead.

Step Three:


By spring we were ready for cataloging. The hardest class in library science is cataloging. Cataloging requires meticulous, detail-oriented, rule-ridden, picky. effort. Standard grammar rules do not apply. I am not a master cataloguer, and rely on decent library management systems that provide importable standardized records. An online catalog that volunteers created by volunteers using freeware existed, but it was….well, it was crap. Search for Cinderella, get dinosaurs. No lie. So scrap the existing crap, and start fresh.

Cataloging requires actually opening the book and looking at it. Opening old books has build-in dangers. Health dangers. Mold dangers. That old-book smell everyone loves? Mold. Book mold often lands librarians into ICU with major respiratory issues. I managed a sinus infection because I wasn’t wearing my mask.

Eventually, the school subscribed to a reasonably priced library management system and cataloging began. I took over the non-fiction section. Non-fiction is a pain. Non-fiction requires content pages, summaries, accurate subject headings and consistent application of Dewey numbers (that’s classification.) Using the new library management system, searches using the Library of Congress and consortia of large state public libraries like OHIOLINK provided much of the cataloging records. Next on the list – assigning classification, barcodes and recording ownership information in book gutters and on sticky notes. Non-fiction cataloging is beyond a volunteer’s efforts. There’s entirely too much tinkering needed with raw records. While struggling with non-fiction, more weeding occurred, and soon a third truckload of books emerged.

Time to tackle fiction. Fiction is pretty easy. Classification requires an FIC prefix, and the first three letters of the Author’s last name as a suffix. Enter teacher power! We were off and running with fifteen minutes of instruction, the use of the technology lab and a pizza party. (Teachers will do anything for pizza.) In four hours Team Teacher located records for half the fiction collection. Teacher power rocks!

Step Four:

Let it go and take time off

I needed a break. Summer break began, and despite the fact that 75% of the project was completed, I really needed a break…I was at the breaking point. I was on the brink of blithering idiot. So I took one. Volunteers get to set their own schedules..hee…hee..hee.

Mid-summer I met with the pastor and the principal, took them through the library and explained point by point what was accomplished, and what needed to be accomplished before the library was ready for children. Exposed screws needed to be ground down. Shelf height to accommodate taller books needed adjustment. New spine labels, mylar coverings – that plastic stuff over the dust jackets Picture Books, the Christmas collection and the pesky paperbacks still needed cataloging. Decisions were made, I returned to summer break and I didn’t come back until September. By that time, blithering idiot status was put to rest.

Step Five:

Looking back and looking forward

Where are we now?

Cataloging Status

Fiction is done. Non Fiction is done. Christmas is done. Picture books are about. 30% done.

The catalog itself is fairly decent…Search for Cinderella, find Cinderella. Search for dinosaurs, find dinosaurs. Probably needs more finessing…..but that will have to be another day.

Shelf Ready Status

That’s a completely different conversation. Supplies are coming. Hopefully they will arrive soon, and I can begin to prepare the Christmas Collection for circulation during November so that the teachers and students can use them during December this year.

There’s still tons to do. Print and apply new spine labels. Use label protectors to protect – you guessed it – spine labels and bar code labels. Mylar covering over dust jackets. I know this can happen. It just takes time.

Losing my marbles and finding them again….or out of chaos comes order?

Sometimes I really do think I’ve completely lost my mind. Many of my librarian colleagues think so too. But when I consider where this little library was year ago, and what it looks like now, I am convinced that by the end of the year, we’ll have a working library, and my mental marbles will return.

Think about it. Librarians are the superheroes of organization. The keepers of the information. We might not have all the answers, but we know where to find the answers! And we love finding answers. (Kind of scary when you think about it.) We promote new authors, point researchers in the right direction, organize, connect, and preserve. We verify, research, discover, and share. Where would the world be without librarians? Information would be in total chaos. Oh= kind of like it is today….Do you have any idea how underfunded libraries are? Hmmm could be a correlation between underfunding and the proliferation of “fake news.”

When you begin to think libraries and librarians are archaic dinosaurs, ask yourself this…”When was the last time I actually stepped foot in a library?” Maybe you should. Lots of stuff going on there. Stuff that you might actually find exciting Face it, people….You need us, and we are not going away..

One last thought…Bat Girl is a librarian by day and super-hero by night. Librarians are today’s unappreciated superheroes. Basically, we rock! You have no idea how much.

Overcoming Quakes and Shakes

Once upon a time in a small village in northeastern Illinois, lived a little dog named Mitchell. Mitchell quaked and shaked, and wouldn’t come out from under the chair, or out of his crate, or from behind large pieces of furniture. He was just afraid. He wouldn’t let Dog-Mom touch him..Mitchell was sad…Dog-Mom was sadder.

Finally Dog-Mom got super hero Doctor Vet and the beloved vet-tech Meredith to come to the house and visit Mitchell. They helped a lot. Within two days, Mitchell started taking short walks outside with Dog-Mom…and he allowed her to rub gently behind his ears, and give treats . Mitchell likes a good ear rub, and peanut-butter flavored treats are good too.

Soon Dog-Mom took Mitchell on a great adventure. They went to a small magical summer home nestled in a wooded area. The wooded area was filled with all sorts of wonderful woodland creatures….deer, and turkey, and owls, and rabbits, and coyotes, and…well a lot of wonderful woodland creatures, and lots of human types who walked their dog-friends. The smells were wonderful., the other dogs were ok, the other human types …not so much. Long walks were good because there were lots of opportunities for potential friend encounters. Soon Mitchell was willing to sniff the human types, but they did not and still do not have the privilege of touching him. Mitchell is very personal space conscious when it comes to human types.

Dog-Mom made sure there was a crate for Mitchell at the small magical summer home too…because Mitchell still liked small spaces for hiding when nasty fear got the better of him. He decided it was the perfect place to sleep. One night, Mitchell made a momentous decision. Mitchell decided Dog-Mom might be ok to sleep with. So…in the middle of the night, Mitchell put on his big-boy pants, bravely walked over to Dog-Mom’s bed, jumped in and started snuggling. Mitchell has snuggled every night since, and has never returned to his crate. In fact, snuggling at night, sitting next to Dog-Mom, getting ear-rubs, and head rubs, and nose rubs are his favorite things.. But only Dog-Mom and Beloved Meredith, the vet-tech, are allowed the privilege.

Mitchell, Ride In The Car????

Once upon a time, an anxiety-ridden puppy named Mitchell came to live with Dog-Mom in a small village in northern Illinois. Mitchell was so timid, and frightened of Big-Evil- Scary-Dog-Mom, that he cowered in a corner for two full weeks and only came out when Big-Evil-Scary-Dog-Mom brought neighbor Lucy – the westie-bichon -frieze down the block – over to play. Mitchell loved Lucy.

Big-Evil-Scary-Dog-Mom was so mean, she invited the vet-doctor-person over to the house to examine Mitchell and prescribe some sort of medicine to help Mitchell get over the cowering. The vet-doctor-person helped leash Mitchell so that he could take walks. Once leashed, Big-Scary-Evil-Dog-Mom made Mitchell wear a leash in the house for a week, and when they finally were able to take walks…she put a second leash on him.

The first walks were scary. Mitchell would only walk half-a-block before putting on the brakes. But Dog-Mom who was neither evil nor scary anymore – just big – persisted, and eventually convinced Mitchell that they could walk the two whole blocks to that cute neighbor Lucy ‘s house whom he missed greatly.

Mitchell learned to love a new phrase…”Want to go for a walk?” He started bringing his leash to Dog-Mom who was no longer that big anymore either.

Still, Mitchell needed to learn how to ride in a car. He didn’t like it. For over a year, Dog-Mom would lift him up and plunk him down in the back seat for a ride in the car. Sometimes they would go to visit the vet-doctor-person…and Meredith, Mitchell’s favorite vet-tech. Sometimes they would go to Dairy Queen, and Dog-Mom would let him have the end of her ice-cream cone. Other times, they would go to the Little Trailer in the Big Woods where owls, and deer, and turkeys, and other strange things lived nearby.

Finally after almost a year of “rides in the car”, Mitchell connected the words with the experience, and joyfully jumped around the house making snuggly noises in total anticipation of the car-ride experience.

The Big-Evil-Scary Dog-Mom is now just Dog-Mom and is the only privileged human-type – besides Meredith the vet-tech – who is allowed to rub his ears.

Mitchell and the Weird Wind Demons

Once upon a time in a village in northern Illinois, dwelt a scared little dog named Mitchell. After rescue, adoption, vet care and a lot of reassurance from dog-mom, Mitchell blossomed into the confident little bad-ass he was intended to be. He discovered the joy of playing tug of war with Lamb Chop. (He now has four in various stages of disembowelment). He fell in love with the vet techs who watch over him and spoil him rotten when Dog-Mom has to travel. (They create the Mitch-suite for him complete with comfy bed, toys and a welcome mat…No exaggeration!!!) He accepted the fact that dog-walker Martha is not going to dognap him and is there to help on days when Dog-Mom has an extremely busy day. He learned that long walks in the forest preserve are fun, full of great smells and potential friend encounters. He even discovered that all human types are worth at least a sniff…but maybe not worthy of petting him. (Mitchell is very picky about what human type can rub his ears.)

Today, Mitchell realized that dog-mom needs protection from the evil wind demons that live in trees on windy days and make weird windy noises. (Sometimes the evil wind demons try to gain entrance through the chimney…then they make even weirder noises) These demons deserve to be growled, threatened, barked at and attacked because they threaten Dog-Mom who needs constant protection…

Today wind demons….Tomorrow dust mites.

Again..Dog-Mom feels so safe.


Being Mindful….Sort Of

OK…I know I’m a klutz (Hell, I got an F in volleyball in high school.)….But I’m not an octogenarian….yet.
Yoga class….I’m trying so hard because I need the flexibility badly.  I cannot bend myself into a pretzel-yet…but I can stretch.  I’ve been attempting yoga for about a month now…big emphasis on attempting.  On better days, my yoga teacher helps me get my uncooperative carcass in the right position, and I stretch as much as I can.  Yesterday, my yoga teacher suggested I start working out in her chair yoga classes because I would get more out of it.  Sorry, I’m not ready for the “sit in place” exercise crowd yet. Not yet, Cookie.  If you know anything about me, you should know I don’t give up.
Step One:  Deep tissue massage…It was wonderful…And my muscles are now responding properly. (And I found a wonderful massage therapist down the street a bit…I think once a month is in order.)
Step Two: Create an exercise space on the “landing.”  At the top of my staircase is an ill-used 10X10 space which has a couple of rocking chairs, an end table,  a mid-century modern lamp,  and a gutted vintage radio cabinet that I use to store cleaning chemicals….(comes in handy when polishing the bamboo floors.)
Move the small TV from the seldom-used spare
bedroom  into the radio cabinet.  (It fits!)
Download the free Yoga apps to the Roku.
Store Yoga stuff in the cabinet or in the conveniently-located linen closet.
Purchase a salt-lamp and a eucalyptus-scented candle for atmosphere.  (I’m going to find an inexpensive water feature as well.)
Start stretching…Mitchell, my dog,  growls at me from a distance, but does not try to interfere with my efforts.
Take that, yoga teacher!!!  Pretzel-pose….Here I come!

Mitchell To The Rescue

Once upon a time, a little dog named Mitchell was afraid of his own shadow, and a dog-Mom named Marianne was totally bereft from grief after having lost her beloved Moose. The two met, and Mitchell went home with Dog-Mom…but he wasn’t real crazy about the situation. .or Dog-Mom….or any other human types for that matter.  He cowered in a corner and hid in his crate.  After awhile Mitchell came to appreciate that Dog-Mom was not Satan’s spawn, came out of his crate, and decided that Dog-mom required protection. A growl and bark were needed. He discovered his image in a mirror and growled at the foreign dog that recently and unexpectedly moved into the house (too funny).. He discovered a backyard invasion of bunnies and squirrels and decided to growl and bark at them. (I’m dying to see what he thinks of the coyotes around here.) He discovered geese and threatened them. The silly birds flew away.. He saw a skunk in the back yard, and went berserk. (Fortunately Dog-Mom and Mitchell were both safely inside the house and behind a patio window while the skunk was outside in the yard.) He even discovered that growling at Dog-Mom was ok when playing tug. Today he discovered mourning doves. Guess what he’s decided to growl at now? Dog-Mom feels so safe.

Research Questions and the Ten-Year-Old Mind

As a school librarian it is my task to teach research skills to my students.  In library circles.the new nomenclature for what was once research skills is now information literacy.  Whether you call the skill by its older more familiar name – or its new appellation, it all boils down to the same thing.  Basically, what’s your question, where do you look for it – not necessarily on the internet – and how do you extract credible information from your chosen sources.  My biggest challenge is to get the idea across that all research begins with some kind of question.  For example, the question “How do you make chocolate chip cookies?” is for all intents and purposes a legitimate research question.  I like it…I like cookies.  Because kids often confuse reporting with legitimate research convincing them that off the wall questions constitute legitimate research  and is far more interesting than mere reporting, true research pursuits often need a little nudging. The goofier the example the better.  Does the light in the refrigerator turn off when the door closes?  hmmmmmm? 

Stories are great ways to nudge kids.  So I told my story which I shall call, “How do toilets flush?”  A legitimate research question, I think.  Certainly worthy of my ten-year-old-self’s pursuit – much to my mother’s despair.  

I was often roped into helping my father with repair work around the house.  “Hold the flash light, and hand me the wrench.”  In many ways I was like the assisting nurse in an operating room.  By the time I was five, I knew the difference between a flat-head and a phillip screwdriver.  I didn’t mind.  I wanted to help.  I wanted to tighten the screws, and pull out the bent nails.  I wanted to do what I wasn’t allowed to do.  I held the flashlight.  And I watched….carefully.  Sometimes too carefully. 

Dad had to fix something in the toilet one day.  I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I was recruited and dutifully handed him the required tools and pointed the flashlight in the right direction.  He removed the lid on the toilet tank, and started fiddling around with the mechanism within. I watched, and took mental notes.  Many mental notes. 

About a week later, a research question hatched…How do toilets flush?  Curious minds want to know.   My best source of information was the trusty set of encyclopedias ensconced in the bookcase in the dining room.  So I crystalized my research question down to one keyword – toilet, retrieved the encyclopedia’s “T” volume, and located the entry.  Lo and behold…not only was there a concise history of toilets (Did you know, that Sir Thomas Crapper was credited with the invention of the flush toilet? Hence the “crapper” came into being. Recent researchers dispute this factoid…more research is needed to verify the etymology.  (I sound like a librarian, don’t I…geesh!)).  More importantly, within the article resided a detailed diagram of the inner-workings of the mysterious tank.  I hit the jackpot!  I think I read the article about ten times…flappers, ball cocks, etc., etc., etc. I knew the history! I controlled the vocabulary! I possessed a detailed diagram! I was ready to rock and roll. 

Vicarious experiences never satisfy my curiosity.  If I read about something, I want to experience it.   Time was of the essence, my mother was in the backyard hanging up the wash.  I wanted to see if what the encyclopedia said about toilets was really true.  So, I snuck up to the only bathroom in the house, locked the door, and began the experiment. 

Step one – remove the tank lid.

 Mom covered the tank and the toilet seat with these fuzzy things that were the rage in bathroom trappings, so removing the fuzzy covers was a must.  That was not as easy as one might think, because she didn’t always buy the user-friendly ones with elastic bands…Oh no…draw strings kept those little suckers in place.  

Once the tank lid was undressed, and the lid was on the bathroom floor, I started playing with the stuff inside.  Chains, and flappers, water, and ball cocks…That part was pretty easy…But it led to another question…How does the water know when to stop filling the tank so that the tank doesn’t overflow?  That wasn’t covered in the encyclopedia article.  More experimenting.  More flushing.  Did you know it takes several gallons of water to flush a toilet?  When a family is on a one-salary budget, the water bill is an important controllable expense.  Multiple flushings for childish experimentation are not appreciated. 

Laundry done, mom returns.  She hears multiple flushes. 

“What are you doing up there?”

 “Nothing!” Desperate attempts on my part to  clothe the toilet tank with the fuzzy things.

“Why are you flushing the toilet so much?”

“I have an issue!”  Working harder to get the fuzzy things back on the toilet without breaking the porcelain tank lid. Breaking out in a sweat.

“Do you need any help?”  (Moms are great, aren’t they?)

“Nope, got it covered!” Literally – the toilet tank had its fuzzy clothes back on.

“Let me in there!  Right now!”  Banging on the door.  Busted!

I was toast…she knew…. The fuzzy things weren’t on in mom-perfect fashion. No more experiments – grounded for the day. 

The good news is…I’m still here to tell the story.  The better news is that my students are beginning to understand that their questions are legitimate research questions.  The bad news is that some of my students are starting to look at those toilet tanks with gleams in their eyes…. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell them about how I eliminated my knee wart.  (Encyclopedias are great, aren’t they?) 


Winding Down For the Summer at the Little Trailer in the Big Woods

It’s been an eventful summer.  The long lazy days of childhood were remembered but not necessarily enjoyed.  This summer is best described as productive.  I worked – almost every weekend and for at least 4 solid weeks at the little trailer in the big woods, and accomplished much…

  • With my brother’s well-outlined instruction, I patched and sealed the screened porch roof. (I’m still sealing.)  The scariest part is getting off the roof…not getting up there.
  • Dug up and burned a termite-infested walkway, and planted grass in its place.
  • Built a fire pit..(really – that was pretty easy for someone who spent hours with tinker toys and Lincoln logs….The challenging part? I bought the first row of concrete blocks at a Home Depot near home, and the little trailer is in Menards land.)
  • While my long-suffering brother trimmed several trees, I burned the wood in my neighbor’s fire pit…then cleaned the fire pit.
  • Cobbled together a deeply discounted TV set (don’t do this unless it has a remote – trust me..most deeply-discounted floor model tvs are sold without the remote…Universal remotes are not always universal.), and got the streaming stick to work properly…
  • Sprayed for insects – twice. (Again thanks to long-suffering brother with excellent instructions)
  • Killed moss on the roof. (Picture a 66 year old woman perched on the peaky part of a roof – balancing a two gallon insect sprayer filled with bleach water…aiming the nozzle at the moss, and praying)
  • Again …long-suffering, much appreciated brother hung the blinds in the screen room…Now there is privacy for guests using it as second-bedroom.
  • Cleaned the outside of the trailer with a fertilizer hose attachment and a brush…Power washing is unnecessary.
  • Washed many windows.
  • Applied privacy film to storm door of screen porch that faces street….for privacy.
  • Purchased futon for screen room – Thank you to long suffering friends with pick-up truck who brought it here.
  • 86’d 16-year-old living room furniture with help from above-mentioned long suffering friends with pick-up truck
  • Moved new upholstered furniture from screen room (what’s up with that picture???) into living room where 16-year-old seen-better-days furniture once lived – again with the help of long-suffering pick-up truck owning friends.

Threw out or found homes for an overabundance of junk left by the previous owner which included

  • Large primary-colored plastic objects most likely used by their grandchildren
  • Two weed wackers. ( I have never wacked a weed in my life..and never intend to…That’s what landscapers are for.)
  • Non-functional electronic components including but not limited to an eight-track tape deck.
  • Non-essential speaker wire.
  • A band-sander
  • A satellite dish
  • Miles of coax cable.
  • Mouse droppings in shed (Yuck)

Things I have learned

  • Even though I am confident that I am quite able of fixing  pvc leaks at elbow joints, it is worth $60 to pay the handy-guy to do it for you….especially when the fix requires crawling under the skirting where God-knows-what lives.
  • Praying every time while descending a ladder is a good thing.
  • Peanut is a keen observer of human behavior and generally knows when I am packing the car for a trip.
  • Despite his age and eyesight, Peanut will chase deer and threaten them to within an inch of their lives.
  • Putting things away in the same place…like keys…prevents time lost looking for them. ( I knew that J)
  • A second set of hand-tools is essential.
  • Work clothes get yucky, but are necessary. T-shirts are inexpensive if bought at craft stores.
  • Friends and family are great cheer leaders. Love them and appreciate them.
  • After the water is shut off, and the trailer is winterized, it is possible to create hot water with the coffee maker.
  • Bleach is my friend.
  • Rain on the roof when the electric heater that resembles a fireplace is on is magical. Especially when accompanied with wine and fuzzy slippers.
  • Good neighbors are a blessing. (I knew that too. J)
  • Network TV and cable are unnecessary if you have a streaming stick.
  • Television and the internet are black holes.  Turn them off and rediscover your creative self..
  • A Catholic home is not a home without a crucifix and icons – even a trailer home.
  • When friends spend the night, they get the bedroom. (I am, if nothing else, a good hostess.)
  • Clothes line is an essential commodity for getting things off the roof.
  • When on the roof, if a tool or a bucket of something falls to the ground…so what? Tools and buckets of something are not you.  Let it go.
  • Living near wild life is a good thing.
  • Starlight and moonlight are magnificent.