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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Neutrons, Protons...and Morons!

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for Boomerang Science Project

As a teacher I was accustomed to students asking “When will I ever use this?”  I even asked the same question as a fifth grader.  “Miss West, why do I have to learn the parts of an atom?  I am never going to need this.”   “You’ll thank me one day young lady, now finish the project.”  And I silently thought “Not in a million years.”

I reluctantly went back to punching holes in ping pong balls, then gluing them onto wire and securing the wire onto the bulletin board.   My protons and neutrons were colored cotton balls glued to the center creating the nucleus.  It was an impressive three dimensional representation of an atom on a three by twelve foot bulletin board complete with labels and assorted blurbs of atomic trivia.   When the project was finished and I received my A, I filed away the experience in a remote part of my brain reserved for totally useless information and experiences.

Fast forward through 39 years of teaching, bringing up six children through high school and college, and never once having to access that part of my brain. ..until this past weekend.  The thirteen-year-old came home and announced “I have to do a project over the atom.”

They say a traumatic experience will cause your life to flash before your eyes in an instant.  In this case, and at my age, it took about ten minutes to rewind to Miss West’s fifth grade science class.  “Ok,” I said shakily, “when is it due?”  “I don’t know.”  “Well, where are the instructions?”  Blank stare.  “The sheet that has the requirements?”  Continued blank stare.

Now any of you who have reared children to adulthood know of what I speak.  Somewhere in the midst of junior high and hormone high, the future Presidents of the United States turn into  brainless-I-can’t-remember-any-thing-except-the hottest-300-rock-stars-and-the-lyrics-to-every-song-they-ever-wrote person thing.   

I located the instructions in the third trash can I went through.  Hey, I couldn’t have the “Presidential Memoirs”  revealing how I allowed the potential President of the United States to fail 8th grade science due to a hormonal imbalance of the brain could I?

Like an amnesia victim, there were bits and pieces flashing through forgotten recesses of my brain.  Proton?  Neutron?  Moron?  What kind of moron wants you to build a 3ft by 12 foot atom?  No wait, wrong century, right brain cavity.  Thanks to Google and copious cups of coffee, the project began to take shape in my brain.  No bulletin board this time.  A simple Aluminum atom, atomic number 13 on the Periodic Table of Elements made out of Rice Kirspies and jelly beans!  Perfect.  I gathered the supplies while the teenager, BeatsSolo2 clamped and booming in her ears, googled the information for her report. 

“Let’s use food coloring to differentiate the valance.  Black jelly beans can be the electrons and you choose 13 proton jelly beans and 14 different colored jelly beans for the neutrons in the center.”

“Pretty cool.  An edible science project.”

The Rice Krispy aluminum atom model made it to school unscathed and uneaten and on time.  When the thirteen-year-old returned I asked how it went.

“Good.  I made a 95. Everybody liked my project.  They were starving.  How do you know so much about atoms, Mom? ”

“You’d be surprised!” 

Ok, and it didn't take a million years, only 61...and thank you, Miss West.   






Monday, May 4, 2015

Where are My Peeps?

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for F.B.I. (Friends By Internet)

You are probably thinking “Well, Jody, Easter is over and the blue rabbits, yellow chicks, and assorted colored globs of mystery flavored goo have returned to the freezer, the one reserved for sugar coated foam bits.”   But I am not talking about those kinds of Peeps.

 I’m talking about my peeps, the ones I met through the internet, my Net Wits, my Humor Writers, my Southern Humorists, my blog commenters, the ones who were there for me when I had those 2 a.m. feedings, the ones who were always up and ready to e-mail regardless of the time zone, the ones who guided me through potty training, I-phones, computer software crashes, magazine rejections, and the birth of my only book.

 I miss the exchange of what contests are where and link to enter.  I miss the critiques you would give on my writing attempts.  I miss the sharp repartee that would send my brain into that humor writing zone.  I miss the hyperventilating laughter you cause when I click on my e-mail each morning.   I miss knowing what everyone is working on, trying to work on, or never want to work on again.

Has the laundry piled up so deep that your computer overheated?

Are you over scheduled with podcasts, radio spots, and book tours?

Are you trying to lose 20 pounds before your Oprah TV debut?

Did you win the lottery?

Did you find another source of inspiration, stimulation, and feedback?  Tell me, I want to go there, too.

Have you gone back to china plates and now have to actually wash the dishes?

Are you in the throes of potty training kids, puppies, or senior citizens?

Are you snowed in, waterlogged, or in the Bahamas?

Have you contracted fingernail fungus thus unable to type?

Have you fractured your funny bone?

Has everything funny been written?

I PROMISE I will not ask you to buy my book, send me money, or give your e-mail address to the Home Shopping Network.

I miss my funny Peeps.




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"McFarland, USA" a Review and a Wish

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for writing lessons and lessons learned

If you have not yet seen the Disney movie “McFarland” do not read any further.  If you have, read on.

If an exceptional movie is based on telling a story that loops through your brain night and day, makes you laugh and cry  at the same time, and finds you thinking, thinking, and still thinking weeks after seeing the movie, then “McFarland” is that kind of movie.

This movie spoke to me on so many levels.

As a Caucasian , I identified with Coach White on his first day in town when he and his family were leaving the restaurant and a group of cars with Latino males drove up.  As a teenager I remember walking around the block to keep from having to walk in front of a store where several teenage Latino boys were leaning against the storefront windows.  They spoke a language I did not understand and that frightened me.

The Diaz boys were on the bleachers just before school was out when their Mama pulled up in a truck to pick them up before class was over.  Coach White told the boys to stay.  “That’s our Mama” the boys said as they left.  “Tell your Mama she can wait.”  The boys laughed and said “You tell her that” and they jumped in the truck.  Family over school.

That first team worked in the fields starting at 4:30 a.m. as pickers before school and after school.  When it was time for school Mama Diaz called out “Run to school.  Show respect to your teachers.”  Respect, always.

When the cross country team had their first match, a white team member from another school commented “I’ve never seen a Mexican run unless a cop was behind him or a Taco Bell was in front.”  McFarland’s team did not respond with anger or hatred; no response was necessary or would have changed anything.  Running the race was the challenge. When McFarland won their first match, the team immediately knelt in prayer and thanksgiving.  God first.

Mr. White was known as White or Blanco to his team until the morning he showed up at 4:30 a.m. to work in the fields alongside his team.  The boys told him to bend his knees to save his back.  They shared their lunch with him.  When he couldn’t work any longer, they had him lay down and worked on his back to relieve the pain. He was soon Coach.   No judgment.  No ridicule.    Only encouragement and acceptance. 

Coach White got the team shoes for their next race.  Mama Diaz and the other ladies were organizing a tamale sale to raise money for the team.  “Why you buy the boys cheap shoes?  You don’t think they deserve good shoes?”  Being poor is an economic state, not a measurement of value.  That kept me thinking for a couple of days.

There were so many other incidents in this movie that had my brain thinking all night. 

As a writer, I appreciate the script for this movie.  It presented so many lessons that sneak up on you in retrospect. It struck common chords in us as human beings.  Mama Diaz pulling her son off the top bunk by his shirt for breakfast had me laughing.  Coach White receiving the phone call that strikes ice in the veins of any parent whose child is out with other kids at night.  No words, silence then “We’ll be right there.”  In the car only murmurings “Please God, no. Please God, no.”  Deafening chords of silence resonating within all parents.   All this without a curse word.

The cinematography and screen writing was so subtle yet powerful.  In one scene the track team runs down along the fence line of the nearby prison before turning a corner.  The white car pulling out and blocking the quincenera parade and then cutting away to the phone call to Coach White.  And the next picture of the ambulance, the police lights, the firemen.  Without showing me any of the graphic details, I shuddered.  The next picture is the store owner hosing down the parking lot in front of his store.  Such a picture!

“McFarland” was never just about a cross country track team.  It was never about just getting out of poverty.  It is about character and discovering who you really are.  It is a journey that simply continued for the Dias boys but along another path provided by Coach White.   For Thomas, it was a chance to make a difference in lives similar yet different from his own.  Victor made his choices and used that experience in his life.   For Coach White it was seeing through different eyes, the same things we all value, the importance below the surface. 

With the exception of Thomas, that first track team still lives in McFarland along with Coach White.  They still run with and encourage McFarland’s cross country team.  It was never about escaping from McFarland; it was always about God, family, respect for themselves and each other and home…..wherever that may be.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"No Thanks, I prefer Alpo!"

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for Canine Thesaurus

Mark Berryman wrote about a device being developed by the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery (NCID).  Developer Eric Calderon claims to be able to record your dog’s thoughts and translate them into words. Fluctuations in dog brain electrical signals are picked up by a microcomputer.  So far they have detected patterns for “I‘m hungry, I’m tired, I want to pee.” 

 Now I would be the last to burst somebody’s NCID icicle, but I think they may be suffering from a little brain frostbite.  Dogs have been communicating that information for hundreds of years and without wearing a doggie head set.  If they are chewing on your hand, your shoes, pawing at the refrigerator door, they are hungry.  If they are stretched out in front of the fireplace, draped across the door steps, eyes closed, they are tired or dead. Not too hard to tell which it is.  Suspicious puddles, wet spots on the carpet, or crossed legs with severe whimpering are a dead give-away that there is a doggie bladder in distress.  That is also an indication that you have a toddler or senior citizen in the house.

 Now I am not saying Roy Roger’s dog Bullet or RinTinTin  wouldn’t have something worthwhile to say if they have been on the trail of the bad guys.   And maybe it would be useful to the CIA if super spy lap-dogs could relay sensitive information, but they would need some really smart dogs. 

I have just ordinary yard dogs.  I’m not sure they even have brains. The other day I was sitting on the porch watching them in the yard.  Even without this cutting edge technology, I knew what they were thinking.

 Gypsy:  Does my tail make my butt look big?

Rover:  Just a minute, I’ll check.

Gypsy:  Whoa, your nose is cold.

Rover:  Sorry.

Gypsy:  Does my butt smell like other dog butts?

Rover: I’ll have to compare and get back to you.

Gypsy:  Forget it, I’ll check mine myself.  Nope, don’t smell a thing.

Rover: How about mine?

Gypsy:  You might want to do a little grass wiping.

Rover:  Check.  Doing it now.

 Maybe the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery should focus their efforts on reading the brain patterns of our politicians; that's assuming, of course, they have brains.   The microcomputer could put their thoughts into categories:   What I am supposed to think, what I really think, what I was told to think and I have no thoughts.

 In the meantime, “Gypsy, Rover, keep your noses out of other doggies' business and I don’t care what you say, no Alpo.  It’s leftovers or go catch a rabbit.”



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Shih Tzu + Maltese = ???

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for new breed

I have had this talk with Miss Tia Mia before.  I told her that if she didn’t want to sit at the Wal-Mart parking lot with me again peddling illegitimate pups, she had better behave herself.  I thought she understood.  I did not count on male perseverance, the strong sense of procreation, and the tiny body hidden beneath a mound of fluffy hair that enabled this determined male Maltese to slink between the slates of a very sturdy picket fence.

When I discovered their indiscretion, I noted the date on the calendar.  We are pro puppy, after all. She gained the usual puppy pregnancy weight but this time was different.  She would just lay around and only cut those shaggy eyes up when I walked by.  Guilt, I’m sure.

 Sixty-one days came and went.  No puppies.  No digging in the closet for a maternity ward.  No eating binges or lack of eating.  Just a lot of whimpering, heavy breathing, and a strong need to be held by Dr. Hubby.  I was worried.  At 66 days she was way overdue so it was off to the vet for x-rays. The vet asked how many days and I told her 66. 

“66 days from the last encounter?”

“Uh, no from the first encounter.”

“Oh, you have to count approximately 62 days from the last encounter.”

“Oh,” and I glared at Miss Tia as if I could possibly make her feel more miserable.

 “Yes, there are five puppies in there and yes they could arrive within the next three days and yes that will be $130 please.”

And yes she had the first one two hours after we arrived home, not in the nicely prepared birthing box I had for her, but on the bottom book shelf on top of Hubby’s t-shirts.  By morning all five puppies had arrived. Now how to market them.

My niece said to advertise them as “Designer Pups”.  Ok, Designer Pups, but they needed a cute name like those Peek-a-Poos to reflect their heritage, a Shih Tzu mama and a Maltese daddy.  Would that make them Shih- Tese? Tzu-Malts? Tzu-Tese?  Shih-Malt-Tzu-ese?  Mal- Shihs?   None of those sounded very “designer-ey”.  This was not looking good for the Wal-Mart Parking Lot Puppy Sale.

Six weeks flew by.  I put an ad in our local e-trade newspaper.  I simply said Shih Tzu/Maltese puppies, shots and wormed, six weeks old, $200  A week later and we had sold two and given one to my oldest daughter.  By now the nine-year-old and the thirteen-year-old had named the two remaining “designer pups”…Tatter Tot and Two-Spot-the-Runt, not exactly the kind of names that would generate big bucks. 

Then the oldest daughter got a promotion at work which meant traveling so her puppy came back to our house.  I should have named her Boomerang but she only stayed a day. She was sold the next day to a nice family.

Spring Break and Tatter Tot and Two-Spot-the-Runt went to the RV park with us.  It was my lot to walk the two puppies around the RV park while Dr. Hubby walked Miss Tia in the opposite direction.  I’m sure he was thinking somebody in one of those half-million dollar motor homes would like a Designer Puppy to go along with the other dogs they had. One lady did stop me and ask the price of Tatter Tot.  Without twitching an eyelash, I said “$1600.”  Ok, I had become attached to the little thing.  And the price doubled when asked about Two-Spot-the-Runt.  Well he’s little and fluffy and would have gotten lost in a big old motor coach.

“Have any luck while you were walking the pups,” asked Dr. Hubby.”

“Some, but I think the price put them off.”

I have since received at least fifteen calls from people wanting a Shih Tzu/Maltese puppy. I told them I did not have any more for sale and that is the truth.

I  have two very special unique puppies valued at $3,200… me.

And Miss Tia has an appointment with the vet next month. 

The Maltese will be so disappointed.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chair Yoga, or The Modern Day Rack

by Jody Worsham
All right reserved for a massaging, vibrating, heated recliner
Our Senior Center offers free excersize classes.  Free classes and the indisputable fact that I am, indeed a senior citizen, led me to my first ever Chair Yoga Class.

Now before you start visualization folding chairs in the Crouching Dog position or wing backed chairs in the Cobra position, I shall explain.

At the Senior Center there are various levels of yoga.  There is Chair Yoga, Floor Yoga, and Flat-on-Your-Back-Can't-Get-Up Yoga.  I had experienced the Flat-on-Your-Back-Can't-Get-Up Yoga sometime in the past decade so I decided to begin with Chair Yoga.  At least I would be closer to the floor if I fell out of my Tree Pose.

The first time I went to class, I asked the receptionist at the door for the yoga class.  Perhaps it was my accent, or my weight, because she said "The yogurt machine is right down the hall."  When I explained I wanted the Chair Yoga class, she said "Good!" and pointed to the right.

I was hoping I would not be the oldest living person there.  I was not.

The instructor had us spread out a yoga mat on the floor and place our chair on one end of the mat, then sit.  Ok, this I can do.  I was sitting in my chair, swinging my feet back and forth waiting for her to begin the relaxation music when I realized everyone else's feet were touching the floor.  While I was taller than the other ladies from the knees up, I was definitely on the short side from the knees down.

The music started. The instructor was facing us.  She told us to reach our left hand straight above our head, then slowly bend to the right as far as we could and hold it while breathing. I reached my right hand above my head, (I was copying her, mirror image and all) then I bent to the left as far as I could (about 12 inches) which put me face to face with the octogenarian who continued leaning until she had the palm of her hand flat on the floor.  I may not be the oldest, but I'm definitely the stiffest.

This modern torture version of the medieval rack continued.  We did stretches, pardon me, “poses” for another 29 agonizing minutes. No pose was done more than twice, but every muscle in my body argued vehemently that this was a lie. My hamstrings pinged like a guitar string.  My deltoids screamed.  Muscles that heretofore had no names let their presence be known. New words raced through my brain that even sailors did not use.

After class as I sat in my chair, breathing hard, with flushed face, and giving thanks for the short distance to the floor which I was sure I would soon be seeing up close, my chair mate quipped "Not much of a work out today.  Maybe the Floor Yoga class next will be more of a challenge."

I remember thinking "If I grab the legs of my chair and give a little jump, maybe I can work my chair over to the door frame where I can pull myself into The Standing-in-Severe-Pain pose. Then, in an hour or two, maybe I could make my way out to the car."

As I was sitting there, a 90 year old man came in with his walker and sat down next to me.

"Want me to put that away for you?" I hopefully asked.


With the aid of several wrought iron trellises normally used for climbing ivy, I “walked” myself to the exit.

At the receptionist’s desk, I paused.  The Suggestion Box tempted me. If they are going to call it Chair Yoga, shouldn’t the chair for beginners have wheels? I was about to put the suggestion in the box when a coupon for BenGay caught my eye.

Pain relief trumps suggestions any day.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"They call me Katherine that do talk of me"...or Some Name Like That

By Jody Worsham, aka Jo, aka Worsham, aka Mrs., aka Mable, aka MayBelle

All rights reserved and with apologies to Willie Shakespeare and Southern Moms everywhere

For over 65 years I have been known as Jody, the nickname I was given in the first grade, the name on my book “Kin We’re Not Related To”, the name on this blog, and the name I am known by to all of my friends and professional colleagues.

Name problems seem to have started when I married.  My husband had six brothers and sisters which, over the years,  netted four “Mrs. Worshams”.  During holidays when all the daughter-in-laws were home, you could not call their home and ask for “Mrs. Worsham”.  If you did, four different women might come to the phone or no one, each thinking the call was for the other one. Mostly “Mrs.” referred to the elder mother/mother-in-law.  It did not get much better with the Raymonds either.  There was Raymond the father-in-law, Raymond the son-in-law, Raymond the nephew, and Raymond my husband. Hence you always had to call a Raymond by both his first name and his middle name in order to get the correct Raymond’s attention, well except for Raymond the father-in-law.  I don’t think he had a middle name but since he was the first Raymond and the only one without a middle name, everyone knew the Raymond you were referring to if you just asked for Raymond.

Then for almost 40 years, I was Worsham to my students. They used Worsham in the same way athletes used "coach." It was faster for my students to get a response with “Worsham, fire” or “Worsham, light falling” or “Worsham, principal coming!” (I was a very creative and unconventional theatre arts teacher who made principals very nervous) then to call me “Mrs.” Worsham and wait for me to process that “Mrs.” was referring to me. But then my husband was also a teacher and his students referred to him as “Worsham” as well.  His brother, too, was a teacher and his students called him “Worsham”.  Over the years, any educational convention would find students and former students having to qualify which “Worsham” they were referencing.

Jody and Worsham served me for 50 years except for the choir teacher, who called me by my official name, Jo, and my mother, who insists on calling me by both my first name and the middle name she put on my birth certificate.  When I needed a passport, official birth name only was required.  Doctors began using computers and social security numbers for identification and part of my prescriptions are under Jody and part are under Jo.  I am afraid to buy Sudafed at the pharmacy for fear it will look like two people trying to buy the decongestant at the same time using the same social security number and a driver’s license that that did not have Jody on it

The name problems have followed me into decade number 7.  My nine-year-old and my thirteen-year-old go to a small rural school where all the students say “yes, mam” and “no, mam”.   Those that don't are probably transfers.  As a substitute teacher it is refreshing to hear "yes, mam" and "no, mam".   I did notice that when I would work in the concession stand for Little Dribblers, I was always referred to as “Mrs. Worsham” even though all the other mothers and dads with nine-year-olds had first names.  In Parent Teacher Organization meetings again everyone had a first name except me.  Finally I said to the other parents in the PTO (by way of Facebook of course):

 “Ok, why is it that everybody has a first name like Susan or Kathryn, or Holly, and mine is “Mrs.?”  I move that I be called Jody or Jo or Worsham.  Or I’ll even take a new first name like Betty or Tammy.  I’ll take a double name Mable Rae or Ethel Mae.  I may be twice your age…ok three times your age but with a nine-year-old, I forget how old I am.  You have my permission to forget it to.”

Of course one of the parents is a former student of mine.  She had trouble calling me Worsham even as a teenager but she promised to try “Jo .”  I could tell at the slight hesitation before “Jo” that she expected her Mama to pop her on the head any minute for being disrespectful to a teacher and the elderly.

I guess I will just have to answer to anything.  At my age people will just say “SORRY, MRS. WORSHAM.  I WAS HOLLERING FOR MINNIE LOU.”