Tuesday, January 31, 2006

ROASTER EVOLUTION

Footnote to Monday’s lament about cleaning Old Beige, our long-neglected garage refrigerator, from a reader who tells one on herself:

“It reminds me soooo much of the time I found in my basement's old refrigerator a whole turkey roaster full of mostly gravy. I TRULY think (her husband) must have taken it downstairs when I collapsed after a holiday -- I don't remember which one but probably Thanksgiving.

“I cannot honestly say how many months had passed but I DO know that I had started my own little world in that roaster. I was sure I saw life forming in the brown depths of the remains. Probably little amoebic things that were getting ready to become seas, mountains, rivers, and even some little Texans.

“I wish I had taken a picture of it but of course I couldn't do THAT! Lawzy me, I didn't want any of my friends or cousins (let alone my mother -- or sister-in-law) -- to know.”

Monday, January 30, 2006

OLD BEIGE

I’m starting an international contest for the most boring household cleaning task, and I think I have a winner. No, it’s not scouring the drip pans, or scooping out the fireplace ashes. It’s . . . drum roll, please . . . cleaning out the garage refrigerator!

Like a lot of Americans, we remodeled our kitchen several years ago. But we couldn’t part with Old Beige. It still works great, even if it looks embarrassingly “so, so ‘70s.” So we put it out in the garage as a party overflow fridge and extra meat freezer.

I don’t think it has been thoroughly cleaned out for six or seven years. So this weekend was D-Day: Defrost, De-Food, and Disinfect. Do you know how many removable parts there are in one simple little fridge? There were some foil-wrapped turkey legs, unidentifiable leftover casseroles in Cool Whip containers, and other artifacts of undiscernible origin.

Feels great to have it cheerfully empty and sparkling clean again. Now my exotic, thrill-a-minute life story can turn the page to the next exciting chapter . . . until seven years roll by again, and it’s time to revisit Old Beige.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

WHY DO TREES WHISPER?

For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth;
the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
-- Psalm 72:12

There’s a hubbub in the Omaha area about whether there is “equity” in our public schools. The big center-city district, the Omaha Public Schools, wants to consume most of its three richer, whiter suburban neighboring districts. It has far more poverty, absenteeism and dropouts, and far worse test scores. And it’s screaming for help.

But the ‘burbs are screaming back. Soccer moms are putting up yard signs urging the urban oppressors to keep their greedy mitts off their schools. Bean counters are pointing out that OPS already spends far more on disadvantaged pupils than on other kids. Inner-city private schools do a better job with almost 100% minority and low-income populations, and spend less, too. More money’s not the answer, they contend.

It’s the Clash of the Titans, as the superintendents battle at public forums and in the paper. Then they return to their home turfs to rouse the footsoldiers in this big, ugly class war, with emotional rallies and stirring letters to their partisans. At night they must sock down the Maalox and count the days to their retirement on a full pension with annuities, all taxpayer-provided, of course.

Meanwhile, the politicians are busily throwing out proposed solutions, each one costlier, more chaotic and more micromanaging than the next.

But I can’t stop thinking about a boy I met years ago in a writing workshop for the Boys and Girls Club in inner-city Omaha. It’s for kids like him that I’m seeking a better way.

He taught me that poverty doesn’t define children, and shouldn’t keep them from their dreams, if we can help it.

And we can.

The kids in my workshop, most all minorities, were about 13. They were at risk for gangs and drugs, from some of the toughest home situations in the state. But they had academic potential. I had volunteered to help them with their writing.

First, I had them write about whatever they wanted. Their spelling, grammar and punctuation were horrible. I don’t think there was a single error-free sentence. All they wrote about was the NBA, NFL and “doent taek druggs.”

Sheesh. This was hopeless. I called them up individually, circled their misspellings, and pointed to the dictionary.

They gasped. Turns out their teachers in the Omaha Public Schools never pointed out their writing errors or made them fix them. No wonder they couldn’t write!

One by one, they brought their corrected papers back. I praised them. They beamed.

Hmm. Maybe they aren’t hopeless. Maybe they just haven’t been taught right.

Next, I asked the kids to pose any question they wanted, and answer it creatively.

We were sitting under some cottonwoods, grand, old trees that never grow in the matchy-poo suburbs. There’s wealth and beauty in the inner city, too . . . if you look.

That’s when this kid amazed me.

His question: “Why do trees whisper?”

His answer: there’s a tree named Bob, and he’s a terrible gossip, and the other trees don’t want him to know their business, so when you hear leaves rustling in the wind, it’s them whispering. . . .

Now I was the one gasping. It was creative. It was funny. It was wonderful. His writing conventions were a “D,” but his ideas were “A++.”

Goosebumps! I went from pitying these kids . . . to believing in them.

I told him he had a God-given talent. I hope he can still feel my hug: “You’re going to be somebody someday.”

I made a promise that day to do everything I could to help disadvantaged kids get a better education. That’s why I’m always harping on it. They don’t need more money. They don’t need more integration. They need the old 3 R’s, and they need them now.

They already have everything else they need: imagination, people who believe in them, and God on their side.

Let’s be like those trees: quiet down and stand tall . . . put our heads together . . . ask God to whisper to our hearts . . . and together, dream up a better way.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

A man was walking down the street when he was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless man who asked him for a couple of dollars for dinner.


The man took out his wallet, extracted $10 and asked, "If I give you this money, will you buy some beer with it instead of dinner?"

"No, I had to stop drinking years ago," the homeless man replied.

"Will you use it to go fishing instead of buying food?" the man asked.

"No! I don't waste time fishing," the homeless man said. "I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive."

"Will you spend this on greens fees at a golf course instead of food?" the man asked.

"Are you NUTS?!?" replied the homeless man. "I haven't played golf in 20 years!"

"Will you spend the money on a woman in the red-light district instead of food?" the man asked.

"What disease would I get for ten lousy bucks?" exclaimed the homeless man.

"Well," said the man, "I'm not going to give you the money. Instead, I'm going to take you home for a terrific dinner cooked by my wife."

The homeless man was astounded. "Won't your wife be furious with you for doing that? I know I'm dirty, and I probably smell pretty disgusting."

The man replied, "That's okay. It's important for her to see what a man looks like after he has given up beer, fishing, golf, and sex."

Friday, January 27, 2006

QUIT CARPING, AND HAVE A HAPPY WEEKEND

Today's DailySusan depicts two big, strapping men grinning broadly and holding up (barely) and even bigger, strapping CARP. Or maybe it was a catfish. All I know is . . . it was bigger than a breadbox, and had much longer whiskers.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A BAD 'DO' IN CLONING

Today's DailySusan is a set of weird photos that depict hypothetical boo-boo's in cloning. A stately eagle head merges onto a wolf's body; a bat sports tiger's teeth. The graphic transformation is deft. Unfortunately, images can't be posted on this blog. It's just another reason why you should subscribe to the DailySusan email! See www.DailySusan.com for details.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

HAVE A NICE . . . TRIP . . . TO THE GYM

We have joined the new fitness center in our small town, and it’s great. It also has a number of fun classes to divert young children while their parents attempt to reshape their maggot-like bodies. (Speak for yourself, eh? Well, “accuracy in media” is my middle name.)

Anyway, Maddy was excited about this new development in her otherwise routine house-bound winter schedule. She was getting a little bored with giving her Furbys rides on her skateboard on our wood floors, setting up a play school for her stuffed animals, and drawing endless pictures of flowers, hearts and teddy bears.

Hours before her first tumbling class, though, she was worried about all the food I had put on her plate for lunch:

“I can’t eat all this, because then I would be too pudgy, and I couldn’t go STUMBLING.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

AD INUNDATION

A friend clued me in to the number you have to call to get your cell phone number taken off the sucker lists of telemarketers. They soon will be able to make unwanted junk phone calls to your cell phone, eat up your free minutes, and eventually you’ll even have to PAY for these calls.

But if you call this number, you can opt out of that whole shebang. At least, I HOPE this is legit:

(888) 382-1222

Advertisers are already flooding our mailboxes, email inboxes, and regular telephones with annoying regularity, trying to sell us something or get our money somehow. Now cell phones. Then there’s all the ugly billboards and building signs, flyers, brochures, skywriting. . . .

What’s next? Little plastic-encapsulated ads that come through your WATER FAUCETS?

Monday, January 23, 2006

KITE CHOREOGRAPHY

This is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a long time. Click on the attached. Your spirits will soar higher than a . . . well, you’ll see.

(The .wav file can't be attached to this blog; it showed 81 hang-gliders in formation like a gigantic human kite)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

EXHUME THE POSITION

Remove not the ancient landmark,
which thy fathers have set.
-- Proverbs 22:28

They’re talking about making a great, big, honkin’ lake over my dad’s hometown, submerging the little house in “Mortgage Hollow” where Dad grew up, and the darling old Carnegie library, and the sunny little cemetery where our ancestors are buried.

It’d be a huge boost to economic development and recreation in southeastern Nebraska. They’d spend $2 billion to build a dam and an 80-square mile lake where now there are only quiet farms and fields, and the little town of Ashland.

Of course, “Mortgage Hollow” is no longer there. The Wiggenhorn mansion is gone. The curious little shack where “the king of the hobos” lived on the edge of town has disappeared.

Linoma Beach, the riverside waterpark with the kitschy white lighthouse where Dad was a lifeguard eons ago, was almost deserted last time we went. I think the bank where Grandpa worked is a coffee shop now, and the car-repair shop is a little gas station.

The high school’s consolidated; gone is the classroom of the beloved teacher, Miss Duty Vaughn. The meat market’s defunct. Most of the places where Dad hung out, and most of the people he hung out with, are no more.

So I shouldn’t be sad and worried about this lake. But I am. Because . . .

. . . PEOPLE are going to be BOATING AND WATER-SKIING right over Grandma and Grandpa’s GRAVES!!!!

AAAIIIEEE!!!

We can’t have that! How disrespectful! They’ll be doing human pyramids, and mooning, and drinking beer in the boat, and dropping trash over the sides. I can see it now: an old boot, some Bud cans and a Cheetos sack obscuring the “DARST” on our beautiful granite headstone, 30 feet under!

AAAIIIEEE!!!

It reminds me of that scary dream from “Deliverance,” where the dead hand pops up out of the lake!

AAAIIIEEE!!!

We can’t HAVE that!

So . . . if this goes through . . . our family will have to go through the gruesome process of exhuming the bodies, and moving them to higher ground.

We may have a couple of decades to get it done, though. This thing would be more complicated than all the storylines of all the dysfunctional families of all the soap operas ever made.

The plan is to dam the Platte River along Interstate 80 between Omaha and Lincoln, and make a lake bigger than anything from Lake Michigan to the Great Salt Lake. There’d be 145 miles of shoreline for homes and businesses, public marinas, space for resorts, a private airstrip and all kinds of upscale development.

All that makes the old alley where Dad used to work on cars, the little grocery store his friend’s dad ran, and the somber funeral home where we said goodbye to Gram, seem kind of irrelevant and inconsequential.

But are they?

Of course not.

And they’re not really going to be “lost” if this happens, anyway. Any place that’s ever been a part of your life transforms into spiritual capital, stashed away in your heart. No one can ever take it away. Or flood it.

Now, my heart already grieves for all the Ashland residents who would be forced out of homes, farms and businesses that have been in their families for generations. Eminent domain hurts, and hurts bad.

But you’ve got to look at the big picture. Progress happens. And I’ll be for it, if this project survives all the arm-twisting of federal regulators, and legislative wrangling, and financing headaches.

It would be wonderful! It would be worth it.

The Bible says not to remove the ancient landmarks – but that doesn’t mean houses and towns. They can go.

They aren’t the real landmarks. It’s justice and respect, family and friendship, mercy and love that we’re supposed to hang onto, no matter what. All the good things about “Ashcan,” as Dad affectionately called it, are never-ending and eternal.

Dam it!

Or not!

I say, “water” we waiting for? Exhumation won’t be that bad: I can . . . dig it.

As long as Grandma and Grandpa are buried where they can rest in peace, I’m not going to rock the boat.

-------------------------

Here’s a neat history of Ashland with colorful content about “bull whackers” and other pioneers. It lists my grandfather, G.R. Darst, as a charter member of the Ashland Rotary Club in 1935:
http://www.rootsweb.com/~nesaunde/1983hist/saco83-p44.html

Saturday, January 21, 2006

SNOWING CREAM

What do we have in our freezer this morning? A great, big container of frozen shaving cream.

Why do we have a great, big container of frozen shaving cream in our freezer? Because we haven’t had any decent snow since ‘way before Christmas.

What does that have to do with shaving cream? Well, I was buying toiletries for a neighborhood Eagle Scout’s project to help the homeless, and I saw a can of shaving cream on sale for a dollar. I got it for Maddy to play with on our kitchen island, which is granite. You know: snow on rocks. Lots and lots of “snow,” actually. Her favorite part was noisily spraying it out into big clumps.

She had a whee, playing with all kinds of kitchen utensils in the gooey pseudo-snow. The potato ricer was her favorite. She buried her little rubber turtle in a mini-mountain, and galloped her little plastic zebra through the snowy “tundra.”

That’s why we have a great, big container of frozen shaving cream in our freezer. I think it’s going to snow again today . . . in our kitchen

-------------------------

Did you see the upside-down piano player on the Jay Leno Show last night? Laura Dooling was radiantly beautiful, funny and talented, representing Omaha and Marian High School with aplomb. Turns out she and our daughter Eden used to play the piano like that all the time when they were little. Next time, maybe they can play an upside-down duet. Heck, they should have their own show!

Friday, January 20, 2006

WHEN THE WHALE WENT FREE

This is reportedly from Page One of the San Francisco Chronicle this past Dec. 15:

A female humpback whale had become entangled in a spider web of heavy crab traps and lines. She was weighed down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line (rope) wrapped around her body -- her tail, her torso, even a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radio’ed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. That was a very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer. They worked for hours with curved knives, cutting rope by rope, and eventually freed her.

When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushing them gently around – thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

The story comes with a wish: “May you, and all those you love, be so blessed as to be untangled from the things that you might think are binding you.”

What a whale of a nice tale. Happy weekending!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

THE UPSIDE-DOWN PIANO PLAYER

I’m excited: a girl who’s been a friend of our family since kindergarten is going to be on the Jay Leno Show Friday night with her special teenage talent that you won’t want to miss:

Laura Dooling plays the piano upside down!

Not the piano, that is. She lays backwards across the piano bench so that she’s face up under the piano, and then she brings her hands onto the keys and flawlessly plays a silly song!

Yes, I tried it, when I was sure nobody would be home to witness my humiliation. I could barely wedge my middle-aged form between the bench and the piano. It was difficult to mentally reverse the thumbs and pinkies in chords. Finally, I almost had a tune going, except my back was giving out, I looked totally ridiculous, and the dog thought I had gone insane and was licking my face. So I gave up, yielding to youthful talent and superior muscle tone.

Maybe I’ll try again after I watch her do it on national TV Friday night. I guess there will be a couple of other terrific teens doing “stupid teen tricks” on the same show, which will be fun.

Laura went to kindergarten with our Eden. They’re now seniors, and have gone to separate schools since fifth grade, but have remained friends. Laura’s mom and I shared many laughs in a yearlong “Hags On Nags” horseback riding club, with many stolen long lunches since then spent in paroxysms of laughter and friendship.

They’re just wonderful people. I hope you make a note to watch the show Friday night. No, you don’t have to sit upside down while you watch it; but it might help Laura if you hummed along.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

DON'T KNOCK-KNOCK WINTER

To liven up the carpool, we’ve been telling winter knock-knock jokes:

Knock-knock!
Who’s there?
Snow.
Snow who?
‘Snobody special.

Knock-knock!
Who’s there?
Ach!
Ach who?
Did you sneeze? Need a Kleenex?

Knock-knock!
Who’s there?
Freeze!
Freeze who?
Freeze a jolly good fellow. . . .

Knock-knock!
Who’s there?
Icy.
Icy who?
Icy a big polar bear! Run!

Knock-knock!
Who’s there?
Grrrrrr!
Grrrrrr who?
What are you, a polar bear or an owl?

Knock-knock!
Who’s there?
Ice cream.
Ice cream who?
Ice cream if you throw me into the ice cold water.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

MEDS ON THE MARCH*

You can tell on the sill
We’re not feeling very well
As the cold season marches along.

From Kleenex to eyedrops
Which cost 60 bucks a pop
We would like to give sickness the gong.

So it’s Kaopectate!
An inhaler that works great.
Advil! Sore throat drops! Sinus pills!

Only one thing’s worse
Than a cold, and that’s a purse
That’s been emptied by fever and chills!!!

(* to the tune of Caissons Go Rolling)

Monday, January 16, 2006

BUMPER SNICKERS

Today's DailySusan delivered by email was a collection of silly bumper stickers. Graphics unavailable on the blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

SON OF LIGHT

Ye are all the children of light,
and the children of the day:
we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
-- 1 Thessalonians 5:5

She had three children with another on the way when her husband’s job moved them to an Upper Midwestern college town. She didn’t know a soul. But as her pregnancy advanced, she managed the move. Ten days into their new house, she gave birth.

He had white hair. She didn’t know enough to use the term “person with albinism” instead of the offensive horror-flick epithet. But she “knew.”

“I really was a wreck and it got progressively worse,” she recalled. “I didn’t want this, wasn’t up to it at all.”

The next day, the doctor told them albinism is simple genetics: two recessive genes match up. It affects one in 17,000 people.

And guess what? The world’s leading expert on albinism genetics happened to be with the local university. He dropped by.

“Hi! I’m Dr. So-and-So . . . and this is going to be OK.”

Those were words she needed to hear, but didn’t yet believe. He said people with albinism lead good lives. In fact, the dean of the local law school had it, too. The biggest challenge: low vision because of a lack of pigment in the eye. But ophthalmology had answers.

Her pediatrician asked if a resident at the local medical school, also with albinism, could come over. His first name: John, the same as their son’s. He was 28, and delightful.

His visit “really brought a sense of normalcy,” she said. He urged her to call his mother.

They bonded. She sent her a beautiful letter with pictures of her John growing up, driving a boat, being active. “She wanted me to know all the things he could do.”

Others counseled her. Would everybody stare? Maybe. But hey: they were in a college town among Scandinavians galore. EVERYBODY’s light-haired and light-skinned, or had body piercings and mohawks. He’d blend right in.

Would kids tease him? Well . . . who DOESN’T get teased?

Would he see well enough to drive? It turns out a local ophthalmologist was an expert on albinism. And John sees better than expected; he very well could drive. The doctor couldn’t get over it. “Well, there’re a lot of people praying for him,” the mother said. “That explains it,” he replied.

Still, she went through a desert time, depressed or raging against God. “Things like this didn’t happen to people like me. I was in shock. I realized I never really had control over my life before. That was a huge lesson I had to learn.”

Her mom, sisters and other friends called her often. “You can do this,” they’d say. “Things have a way of working out.” A local priest helped, too.

Then one day when John was about 2, she was in the pits. “Just give me a sign, God, and it’d better be clear,” she pleaded. A while later, she went into John’s room. He looked up. “It’s going to be OK, Mom,” he said.

A few years later, she got a call from the mother of a newborn with albinism in a nearby city, desperately upset. “I really think you ought to come and meet John,” she said. So they did. They spent the day. They went to his soccer game. They saw how smart he is, and how much fun.

As they were leaving, the other mom said, “You don’t know what this meant to me.”

She replied, “I think I do.”

She’s grown so much, through it all. Her relationship with God has deepened and sweetened, like a longtime marriage when you’ve been through the mill together.

She sees the light.

And that’s what you think, when you see John. His hair, his skin . . . they’re light, that’s all. He’s 11 now, and quite the scholar, artist, musician and comedian. He’s writing a book, a real swashbuckler. What’s he going to do next?

“Write the sequel, of course,” he says.

He likes himself. He’s light-hearted. Everybody was right: this is going to be OK. More than OK.

And there’s a Light above Who knew it all along.

--------------------

For more about this condition, see
www.albinism.org

Saturday, January 14, 2006

THE KISS RULE: KEEP IT SIMPLE, SCIENTISTS

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity.

To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside-down, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 C.


The Russians used a pencil.

Your taxes are due again. Enjoy paying them.

Friday, January 13, 2006

OH, PUN SEASON

A GOOD PUN IS ITS OWN RE-WORD
Energizer Bunny arrested - charged with battery.
A pessimist's blood type is always b-negative.
Practice safe eating - always use condiments.
A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.
Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.
I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.
Marriage is the mourning after the knot before.
A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
Is a book on voyeurism a peeping tome?
Sea captains don't like crew cuts.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.
Without geometry, life is pointless.
When you dream in color, it's a pigment of your imagination.
Reading while sunbathing makes you well-red.
A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
Dijon vu - the same mustard as before
When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.
A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two-tired.
What's the definition of a will? (Come on, it's a dead giveaway!)
In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism, your count votes.
A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft, and I'll show you a flat minor.
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.
The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.
A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.
He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
Every calendar's days are numbered.
A lot of money is tainted. It t'aint yours and it t'aint mine.
A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
He had a photographic memory that was never developed.
The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
Once you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.
Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.
When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.
Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
Acupuncture is a jab well done.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

THERE'S THERAPY FOR THIS

I’ve got news for all you who think the “hunter-gatherer” community of cave-man days is long gone. Around here, the Mr. has become “CAMO MAN,” and everything he does revolves around his new hobby of hunting. He got our daughter – our precious 5-year-old daughter in pigtails and pink fingernail polish – a camouflage jacket for Christmas. Why? So she can sit next to him in his matching one, driving his camouflage ATV around the neighborhood, pretending to be on a father-daughter hunt, I guess.

As if that isn’t bad enough for our reputation, now I’ve been caught as the Ultimate Pack Rat. A neighbor is doing that excellent kiddie creativity activity, Destination Imagination. I worked a lot with our three older kids in its predecessor, Odyssey of the Mind. Teams I helped coach twice made it into the top five at Worlds. Woo hoo! You only have $100 to spend over the six months or so of the competition. So the coaches and kids got good at scrounging all kinds of odd freebies to make their sets, costumes, props and such.

Well, I got into the habit of saving my dryer lint. That’s right: I scoop a gross little gray handful up after every dryer load and put it into a plastic sack. The kids used it as no-cost stuffing for their various plays. But it’s been at least five years since they were involved, and yet I’m still saving my dryer lint. Doctor, doctor! I can’t stop!

This caused my neighbor to hoot – although, as a current creativity coach, the reason she was calling was that she was scrounging around among her neighbors and friends for SHREDDED PAPER. “May I come over and borrow a cup of shredded paper?” That’s just as anal as dryer lint.

She made me feel better, though. She knows the owner of an embroidery shop who’s addicted to saving scraps of thread. You know, little three- and four-inch lengths of unused thread. She’s got an enormous supply.

Soul sister!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TRUE SENTIMENTS

This letter was sent to the principal's office of a middle school after the school had sponsored a luncheon for the elderly.

An old lady received a new radio at the luncheon as a door prize, and wrote this thank-you note:

Dear Safety Harbor Middle School,

God bless you for the beautiful radio I won at your recent senior citizens luncheon. I am 84 years old and live at the Safety Harbor Assisted Home for the Aged. All of my family has passed away. I am all alone now and it's nice to know that someone is thinking of me. God bless you for your kindness to an old, forgotten lady.

My roommate is 95 and always had her own radio, but before I received one, she would never let me listen to hers, even when she was napping. The other day her radio fell off the night stand and broke into a lot of pieces. It was awful and she was in tears. She asked if she could listen to mine. . .

. . . and I said, “Kiss my ___.”

Thank you for that opportunity.

Sincerely, Edna Walters

. . .

(And you thought this was going to be another one of those heartwarming stories. . . .)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

PINT-SIZED CYNIC

It was our 28th wedding anniversary the other day. Maddy, 5, still hung over from an exciting, colorful Christmas with all kinds of celebrating, gift-giving and travel, wasn’t quite up to speed on what was going on.

She noticed the cards on the kitchen table and saw that the grandparents had sent a gift and some flowers. Both parents were scurrying around making preparations because we were having people over for a dinner party to help celebrate. In this day and age, long-time marriage is something you SHOULD celebrate, we believe. It’s kind of like watching Halley’s Comet.

“It’s Mom and Dad’s anniversary,” one of her older sisters told Maddy.

“What’s the big deal?” she replied.

Well, think about it. There were no presents in it for HER. . . .

Monday, January 09, 2006

UNSUSPECTING HAMS

Yes, my favorite TV show has always been “Candid Camera” and yes, I love this clip and am just thankful it wasn’t me:

http://www.youtube.com/player.swf?video_id=vEWLwz6JRNE&l=357&s=B4BC767

Sunday, January 08, 2006

ALAMOJO

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. . . .
-- Ephesians 3:14,15

There was a Darst at the Alamo. One of the heroes who gave his life to win freedom for Texas was my great-great-great-grand-whatever.

We’ve always known it. But it wasn’t until a relative stopped in at the old mission in San Antonio a while back that we realized how big a deal it really was.

She mentioned the connection to Jacob Darst.

Their eyes lit up. Bells rang. Sirens sounded. Staff members poured in.

“WE HAVE A DESCENDANT! WE HAVE A DESCENDANT!”

They shook her hand. They gave her a stack of specially-stamped brochures.

They wanted to give her a private tour of the 1836 massacre, and how it happened. They showed her the bronze plaque with his name on it, and the enormous oil portrait of Jacob hung in the gift shop, one of only six commemorative paintings. They said the Kentucky native was married to Davy Crockett’s niece; that’s how he wound up at the Alamo. They told her she could never get a job working there; that would be sacrilegious.

What a hero! That’s the good news.

The BAD news is, Jacob was found shot in the back. That meant . . . gulp . . . HE WAS TRYING TO GET AWAY.

“Yeah, and he was probably in women’s clothes,” my husband added sarcastically. You know, trying to “pass.”

Aw, he was just jealous. HIS family is related to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. At his funeral, the Liberty Bell cracked. That’s a biggie to see in Philadelphia. My beloved had strutted around, bigtime, about that. But I had just pointed out that our San Antonio Riverwalk hotel had given us a takeout menu in the room with this item: “Tijuana Phillysteak.”

He got mad. Is nothing sacred?

Anyway, when we went to San Antonio after Christmas to see the Huskers play in the Alamo Bowl, I was excited to visit the Alamo and get the ego-boosting red-carpet treatment, too.

Our relative had been there on a weekday, at closing time, the only visitor at the time. But our Christmas Week crowd was enormous; the line to the Alamo sprawled around the block.

Maddy gaped up at the mission fa├žade and asked, “Is this the White House?”

We should have known it was not going to go well. There was a big hold-up in the line. My beloved spotted a tall guard facing the other way, with long hair cascading over an 1830s uniform’s epaulets. “Maybe we should tell HER who you are!” he whispered, loudly.

Just then, the guard turned around. “’. . . Tell HIM!’” he corrected. I saw a shadow pass over the guard’s face. He put his back to us again.

So much for the red-carpet treatment from HIM. But that was OK: the reception desk was coming up, and that’s where our relative had received her idol worship.

Bursting with prideful anticipation, chest sticking out, I told the guy, “I’m descended from Jacob Darst!”

He studied me briefly.

“That’s nice,” he said, stamping my brochure.

THAT’S “NICE”?

THAT’S IT?

He saw me sag, and said with pity, “You can take cuts in line if you want.”

Take CUTS?

Stomp on the rights of others?

After Great-Great-Great-Grand-Whatever Jacob had given the last full measure of devotion, whether or not in ladies’ clothing?

I declined.

It was embarrassing. Oh, my foolish pride. People get puffed up over connections to celebrities, sports teams, colleges, hometowns . . . but there’s only one family name that really counts, and that’s God’s.

Thus chastened, I took the tour. It was all very interesting, anyway.

I finally stood before the big portrait of Jacob. Heyyy! My dad’s wide-set eyes! That flowing, blond, Germanic hair! That dashing, jaunty, Darst-like pose!

He looked so good, so brave, so larger-than-life, that I got my mojo back. Yeah! I’m mainly related to God . . . but also to HIM!

And then I swear he winked, and said, “Remember the Alamo . . . and Go Big Red!”

Saturday, January 07, 2006

VODKA: HINTS FROM (HIC!) HELOISE

And they say being a housewife is boring. Consider what you can do with vodka:

-- Dissolve adhesives stuck to glass.
-- Remove a bandage painlessly.
-- Spray-clean bathroom caulking and kill mold and mildew.
-- Clean and disinfect eyeglasses.
-- Keep your razor in a cup of vodka between shavings to disinfect the blade and prevent rusting.
-- Spray-clean vomit stains.
-- Dab a little on a cotton ball to clean your face and tighten pores.
-- Add a jigger to a 12-ounce bottle of shampoo; the alcohol cleans your scalp, detoxifies your hair, and stimulates growth.
-- Spray-kill bees and wasps.
-- Make an ice pack in a zippered plastic bag with ½ cup vodka and ½ cup water for aches, pains and black eyes.
-- Have a fever? Put vodka on a washcloth and rub it on your chest and back as a liniment.
-- Foot odor? Wash with vodka.
-- Jellyfish sting? Vodka will alleviate the pain.
-- Poison ivy? Vodka removes the oil from your skin.
-- Toothache? Allow your gums to absorb some of the alcohol to numb the pain.

Speaking of numbing . . . ‘salso a perf’ excuuuuusss f’not gettin’ m’housssssework done. . . .

Friday, January 06, 2006

JELLY BELLY DANCING

One of my friends has taken up belly-dancing classes with her grown daughter, according to her Christmas card letter. There wasn’t a picture with it, unfortunately. I’d like to see her in one of those “I Dream of Jeannie” outfits, whirling dust rags around in the air like beautiful scarves, and clicking together her maxed-out credit cards instead of those metal castanets. Instead of a huge jewel in her navel, she would have her car keys, which she’s always losing, anyway. Hey! They’d be great! They’d jingle, jangle, jingle and add to the mystique!

If it were me in that belly-dancing class, they’d have to make sure all the other students were blind; anyone else would collapse laughing if they saw me trying to shake my voluminous tummy left to right while everything else was jiggling up and down. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. I’d build up so much leverage, I might just launch myself up through the roof.

Or maybe they’d need to put me in a remedial section – the bunny lane. I never could do the hula hoop or any kind of ballroom dancing; what makes me think I could get the rhythm down? Just having the hot blood of embarrassment course through my veins from being there would be exercise enough for my heart and lungs.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CHRONICLES OF MADDY-A

Classic literature is coming alive on the silver screen and blowing out the violent, oversexed, R-rated trash flicks in the box office. “Pride and Prejudice” has been a huge hit recently, and “The Chronicles of Narnia” is No. 1 right now.

Woo hoo! It makes me do my “I told you so” strut. A few years ago, I butted heads with a left-wing English teacher in a local middle school over the crummy books the school was assigning to the kids instead of classic books like these.

She said today’s audiences don’t find the classics interesting or relevant. Riiiiiiiight. How many kajillions have movies like “Narnia” made in recent years?

Our heated discussion took place after I had quietly opted my daughter out of the rotten, R-rated contemporary novel she had assigned in seventh grade English class, and substituted the famous C.S. Lewis “Narnia” book that now is thrilling audiences worldwide. She thought I was hopelessly out of step with what kids need to be reading.

So there! I hope she gets it by now.

But maybe the “Narnia” magic, fantasy and excitement has gone a bit too far. Maddy, 5, received not one but two age-appropriate “Narnia” books at Christmastime and has loved them. Yesterday, she was busy at her little table on a worksheet sent home from kindergarten. She was writing a row of “8’s” for practice. She showed them to me. One had a tiny upstroke on the top.

“This one’s a unicorn 8,” she informed me.

Now, that’s a character not even C.S. Lewis thought up.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BACK FROM VACATION?

We missed you, but we've been busy . . . today's DailySusan is a series of practical jokes on office cubicles, including a blizzard of sticky notes, a foil wrap on every inch, and a complete fill job with pink packing noodles.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A DIFFERENT KIND OF BOWL RECORD

There’s all kinds of talk about various records being set in the football bowl games. Some of them are pretty commonplace – yards gained, fumbles lost – and some are stats that only total football nerds could ever care about.

You know, “The East Dakotalinafornia Bohunks have just set a Salad Bowl record for the Number of Quarterback Pump-Fakes in an Unsuccessful Third-Down Conversion Attempt Before a Field Goal of Over 40 Yards!!!”

But I witnessed a bona fide, incredible Alamo Bowl record that may never be broken:

“Biggest Smile That Ever Transformed Into the Biggest Frown In the Shortest Amount of Time”

This is because, for various reasons, I accompanied my extremely gorgeous college-age daughter to a rowdy piano bar, “Howl at the Moon,” on the San Antonio Riverwalk on the eve of the bowl game. It was full of revelers getting fired up.

She took three steps into the place and was hit on by a beery, salivating and not-half-bad-looking fellow, obviously there to scope out the hot college babes. He gazed down at her with a radiant, delighted, beaming smile as he delivered what he thought was a suave opening line.

She pointed back at me and said, “I’m here with my MOM!!!” . . .

. . . and as his eyes darted toward my prison-matronly presence and then back to her, that delirious upward curve of a smile melted into the most disappointed downward curve of a frown you’ve ever seen in your life, breaking all speed records.

Too bad he didn’t get her number after all. We need to know where to mail his trophy!

Monday, January 02, 2006

A NEW YEAR'S GOTCHA BY GOD

A story goes that a man prays to God at the start of a new year.

God appears and the man says, "Lord! Our billions of years are Your one second. Our billions of dollars are merely a penny for You. Could You grant me a penny?"

God smiles and says, "Certainly! Back in a second" . . . and disappears.

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CHRISTMAS KINDNESS: Thanks a million to all those who opened their hearts and their wallets to all kinds of good causes and needy people last year. It is so heartening to hear about donors, especially anonymous ones, who just want to help people for the joy of it. My favorite offshoot of DailySusan charity suggestions was a generous reader in California who shot over a check for $500 to the domestic violence project of a group of Omaha nuns. I don’t know who the reader is . . . but bless yo’ heart, bigtime.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

FELIZ!

(F)or the joy of the Lord is your strength.
-- Nehemiah 8:10c

When Christians have a big problem that goes on and on, we’re not supposed to strike back, cuss, kick the dog or stick pins in voodoo dolls. Hit men are out. Nunchucks, verboten.

All we can do is pray.

To the outsider, it must seem as if the Christian lifestyle sucks. It’s too hard! It’s no fun! The bad guys are winning!

Ah, but then you have moments like mine, right before Christmas – moments that thrill you with the indisputable truth that there’s an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. And He’s on your side, and He’s got your back.

That’s the joy of Christmas. That’s the good news we celebrate all year long.

Just as He did that night in Bethlehem, the living God comes to us and abides with us. He comforts us and saves us, day by day. And He does it in exquisitely personal detail.

Just ask for His help . . . and prepare to be amazed.

Now, I’ve been grappling for years with a complicated problem. I’ve nagged about it to God frequently, with repeated pleas and “suggestions” for what He should do to fix things, chop chop.

When He sees my prayer emails coming onto His supernatural screen – “You’ve got mail! It’s that pest from Omaha again” -- I’m sure He sighs, and deletes it: prayer spam.

I mean, He’s the living God, Author of the universe, the One Who perfectly engineers every circumstance. You think He’s stumped on how to help me? You think He FORGOT?

I knew He has His reasons for letting things drag on. It has to be this way. But it’s been hard, waiting.

Then, a couple of days before Christmas, I got a phone call with some stunning good news. There’s been a breakthrough in this longtime problem! Typical of God, it’s a change I never would have imagined, and it would do everybody involved some good.

Elated, I jumped into my car to do errands, thinking back over all the hurts, and musing that they might end. Immediately, bitter doubts flooded my mind. Naw. Can’t be. It’ll fall through. I’ll be in this torture chamber the rest of my life.

Just then, a pristine white car changed lanes right in front of me. My eyes locked onto its license plate:

FELIZ II

My hands clutched the wheel. Our Christmas card this year featured our dog Sunny in a sombrero, with a play on words: “Feliz Navidog.”

Feliz: celebrate!

It’s a long story, but “Two” or “Two Two” are my nicknames, for “Sue” or “SuSu.”

Celebrate, Sue!

Suddenly, I realized that on the radio at that moment was “Feliz Navidad,” the song I put on our electronic Christmas card to go with the funny dog picture.

I gasped. God! How do You DO that? Tears flowed. I sang along at the top of my lungs.

The white car sped away. At the next intersection was a big, white truck. My eyes were powerfully locked as by an outside force onto its sign:

PAUL DAVIS DAMAGE RESTORATION

Damage restoration? As in, the damage to ME . . . was going to get fixed?

Feliz, Sue!

Celebrate!

Oh, for heaven’s sake. Get a grip. You’re reading too much into this.

I continued to my destination 100 blocks away, got out of my car, and started for the building. But parked right in front was a gold PT Cruiser . . . from the same company:

PAUL DAVIS DAMAGE RESTORATION

In case I missed it the first time. . . .

Celebrate, Sue! I’m going to make it up to you!

I came and saved you at Bethlehem, and at Calgary, and now I’m going to do it again.

Now, let’s see some Christmas cheer, Kid! Feliz!

Laughing, sobbing, I realized that I’d forgotten to use the strongest defense in the universe: the joy that comes from the hope that comes from faith.

I broke out in a smile. Finally! That’s how you win. That’s what He wanted to see all along.

Feliz to the world . . . the Lord has come! And oh, the wonders of His love.

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Please visit
www.DailySusan.com to see the family Christmas e-card mentioned in this story. Feel free to send in your prayer requests through the website. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


1/1/06 • Radiant Beams • Copyright 2006 • Susan Darst Williams,
www.DailySusan.com, is a writer, wife and mother of four who lives at the base of Mount Laundry, Nebraska. Visit her website for lifestyle features and entertainment aimed at the heart of the home.