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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Memoirs of a Six-Year-Old

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for Memory Lane Condo

When I think of nostalgia, I picture some old couple sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs lecturing to the "young'uns." Usually the lecture begins "When I was a boy, we walked six miles to school, uphill, both ways in six feet of snow." Or, more recently, "Kids today don't know the meaning of work."

I never figured it applied to six-year-olds. While I write mostly of what it is like to be over 65 raising children, I forget what it must be like for six-year-olds and ten-teens to be raised by elderly "parents." For example, the ten-teen has appointed herself Chief of the Fashion Police. Before we leave the house, I'm checking for folders, ballet bags, homework, backpacks, and lunches. The Chief is checking to see that my breakfast isn't on my shirt, my shoes match, and that I'm wearing make-up and all required undergarments.

The six-year-old constantly asks "How old are you now?" or "You don't look as old today" which lets me know he's a bit concerned about this whole aging process. I read to him every night after he locates my glasses. He told me the other night that before long "I'll be reading to you." The ten-teen struggles with fifth grade reading vocabulary but she is an expert at reading Crestor, Lipitor, Nexium, calcium percentages and other directions from the miniscule printing on my medicine bottles.

The kids also pick up on all our discussions. Yesterday during P.E. class my first grader told the coach he couldn't run today because "My knees are killing me." On Friday, we deliver chocolate to the elementary teachers. I'm accumulating brownie points for a later date. As we walked down toward the kindergarten classes, he said "I miss this old hallway. I miss my old teacher. She doesn't teach kindergarten anymore," which made me wonder if teaching him had been the last straw. Got to remember more chocolate on Friday.

While the children are providing me with a number of topics for my book-ette, I'm sure they are compiling stories for the sequel "Acne and Social Security, It Isn't What it Used to Be"





Sunday, October 23, 2011

Smurf’s Up

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for anything blue

I attended a meeting of our six-year-old's school PTO (Penalizing Their Offspring) meeting. I figured I would score some brownie points for future use. The topic was the upcoming Fall Festival. It used to be called a Halloween Carnival. I guess to be politically correct the name was changed to downplay witches, goblins, and ghosts. Did I mention the school mascot was the Blue Devils?

Besides the usual assortment of booths for dunking, pie throwing, food, and games of chance, there would be a table set aside for silent auction items. As I had no desire to be dunked and felt all pies should be taken internally, I quickly volunteered to create an item for the silent auction. But what?

I glanced at my last blog post about handcrafted memories and decided I would make a quilt. Ok, "quilt" is like saying you want a coke with that burger when you really want a Dr. Pepper. It was two weeks till the festival, so there was no way I could actually quilt a quilt. I opted for a combination of tacking and quilting. I needed a gimmick to get people to bid on my project. Sometimes my quilting can be like my cooking…got all the required ingredients but it doesn't look like anything edible.

My six-year-old is in the first grade, class of 2023. I would have all the first graders put their handprint on quilt squares and then sign their name beneath the handprint. With eighty-two first graders, that should get at least eighty-two parents submitting silent bids. If there are a lot of divorced parents, I might even get a hundred bids. Factor in grandparents, ex-grandparents, and warring grandparents, it might even evolve into some kind of bidding war. My one quilt could be responsible for adding an entire new wing to the elementary school! The Jody Worsham Wing! I was excited!

First I had to get material. Six yards should do the top plus six yards of blue print for the backing, then batting, paint, and paint pens. I carefully figured how much space to allot for each handprint. I should get this out in a couple of hours. Now, I admit I have only fed, clothed, and signed report cards for eight first graders. I've never actually done anything with 82 of them. I wisely visited with the first grade teacher…first.

"Paint pens are not a good idea. Blue Sharpies are better." Ok, I could swap the paint pens for Sharpies at Wal-Mart. "Oh, and I'll bring soap and paper towels." Ok, I hadn't thought about getting the paint off their hands. "And you should paint their hands with a sponge brush, don't put the paint in a paper plate." Ok, I'll return the paper plates and get a foam paint brush. "And I'll send them to you a few at a time so you can supervise hand-washing at the sink." I have to supervise hand-washing? How quickly I forgot my one day as kindergarten sub .Ok, I'll supervise hand-washing.

On hand printing day, I would have made the FBI proud. I was organized. I was prepared. I was clueless.

First, I quickly discovered that the name should be printed BEFORE you do the handprint. Some archeologist will discover this quilt a thousand years from now and will offer it as proof that the hand had evolved to seven fingers. Unless the parent of my seven fingered print thinks their child is really special, I don't think they will be bidding on this quilt. Second, the longer you hold a Sharpie to fabric, the more the ink will spread. Some first graders write more slowly than others. That is why some names will appear as a big blue blob. My number of potential bidders is dropping. Third, the child with the smallest hand will have the longest name printed in the largest letters. Fourth, a lot of names were spelled with backward letters, thus dropping my pool of bidders even further. Fifth, you do have to supervise hand-washing. Evidently you should not leave a bottle of blue paint next to the bottle of soap at the sink. "Blue Paint" and "Soap" are not on a first grader's sight word list. Ruined shirts on Monday will not encourage bidding wars on Friday.

After eight hours of printing, painting, wiping, and washing, all eight-two Smurf marked children had been hand printed. I spent the next three days trying to transform blobs of paint into actual names, performing finger-ectomies, and offering to replace ruined shirts. It took two days to assemble the quilt

I fear that the bids on this quilt will be silent and absent. I may have to buy my own quilt. At least if Ruby Lee dumps my sweet six-year-old in ten years, I can point to this quilt and say "See, you are better off. Look at how her hand had seven fingers back then and she wrote her R and B backwards."

Ok, maybe I won't.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hand Crafted Memories

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for something NOT made in China.


Americans have witnessed an increased interest in handcrafted items over the past few years. More and more people are learning to crochet, knit, sew, and quilt. Handmade toys made in America are highly sought after items. Festivals featuring hand made in America items, some even restricting to items made within that state are springing up in ever increasing numbers. Most of these items could be mass produced at a lower cost so why the resurgence in handmade items?


One reason might be the search for something unique and individual. In an age of mass media advertising, items are available to almost everybody at the exact same time regardless of where you live. What you have is just like what everybody else has.


Perhaps it is a way to connect with the past. With computers, i-phones, i-pads, the internet, we can immediately connect to people around the world instantaneously. But how do you connect to the past? One way to experience the past is through crafts that have literally been "handed down" to the next generation or by learning a skill as it was done in the past such as quilting. Hand quilting is done today in the same manner as it was done a hundred years ago.


What makes the handcrafted items so "valuable" is the story that goes with it. It could be the doily your grandmother made that was the centerpiece of the dining table every Christmas. The pillowcases your aunt made from flour sacks, then hand embroidered with your name, hold special meaning. The christening gown your great-grandmother made and trimmed in tatting , brings forth special memories each time a new baby wears it.


Handmade quilts add more than physical comfort when wrapped in memories of snowy Thanksgivings, camp outs under the stars, or pallets on the back porch in summer. Quilts don't have to be old to be treasured. I have a quilt that was made by my 4-H Horse and Pony Club. My group used crayons to color in the outline of a horse on cotton squares to match the horse they rode. They added their name and the name of their horse on the square. I pieced the squares together, put a backing on it and then took it to the next 4-H meeting. The kids helped tack the layers together. The quilt isn't valuable in terms of skills or materials, but rich in memories. A couple of the kids have since passed away. I wouldn't take for my quilt. A modern quilting machine can make the stiches; it can't stitch the memories.


Whether you are seeking that one of a kind gift, connecting to the past, or passing on skills to future generations, handmade carries with it the love and care those hands used in the creation of it. Handmade, from my hands to yours.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Once and Future Mascot

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for Mascot Training Camp

From what I can remember of my theatre history classes, the shaman or medicine man would don a mask, usually that of an animal, to do "business with the gods." Once he put on the mask, he embodied all the qualities and characteristics the animal mask represented. And thus began the practice of athletic teams adopting an animal as their totem and having someone who can't play the game, wear the mask and costume and become the mascot.

In Texas we have over 2,000 schools boasting all kinds of school mascots, each hoping to imbue their team with all the power and attributes associated with their chosen mascot. Usually mascots are lions, tigers, bulldogs, hornets, eagles, or even marlins. You want your mascot to be something that strikes fear in your opponents.

I first became aware of the impact a mascot can have on a team when I entered Pattie Welder Jr. High. A clue should have been the giant insect painted on the wall as you entered the school. Being a city girl, termite did not first come to mind. Already self-conscious about our size, no junior high athlete wants to be called a termite. Now granted, a termite can render an oak floor to a pitiful pile of sawdust over time, but did we really think our opponents were going to shake in their cleats over facing the mighty termites? What were the cheerleaders going to yell?

     "Go Termites Go! Chew ! Chew! Chew!

Reduce them to sawdust! Boo Hoo Hoo!"

As a child, our family moved a lot. After the termite incident, I did some research on various mascots in Texas. My sister coached at a high school in Lewisville. Their mascot? The Fighting Farmers! I could just see the costumes for their drill team, little checked skirts with white aprons and a sunbonnet. No thank you. I didn't want to go to Itasca and be a Wampus Cat. I didn't even know what a Wampus Cat was. I didn't want to be a Red Ant, so Progresso High School was out. New Braunfels seemed promising, the Unicorns, but I wasn't sure how aggressive they were when it came to athletics.

Hutto looked like it might be an option until I realized they were the Hutto Hippos. I suppose when they were voting on mascots one of the board members or coaches had just seen a National Geographic episode detailing the ferociousness of the hippopotamus, Africa's most violent animal. That is the only reason I can see voting for the hippo to be your mascot. Being a Lady Hippo did not do anything to raise my self-esteem.

We finally settled on Blooming Grove ISD, home of the Lions in central hot Texas. Our arch rival was a school five miles down the road, Frost High School. Their mascot? The Polar Bears of course. Most of our football games were played in 99 degree heat. Go figure.

Over the years I've thought a lot on the subject of mascots and I have noticed some omissions. For example, we have the bulldogs, but no Shih Tzu or pugs; hornets and yellow jackets, termites still, but no brown recluse spiders or red bugs (also known as Chiggers). We have cowboys and plowboys but no carpenters or mechanics; jets but no submarines. We have tornadoes, hurricanes, but no tsunamis.

There are no mascots to represent our modern times. Since we all know competition drives education in Texas, I propose the following mascots. For the high schools for the visual and performing arts, I suggest the Butterfly. For the technical schools we could have the Geek Greeks, the Modem USBee's, or the Galveston Giga Bytes! For the School of Art and Fashion Design, they could be the Van Go's. For the all-girls school of graphic and web design, the Web Debs would be perfect!

I have yet to find a school embracing the ultimate mascot in terms of viciousness, tenacity, stamina, agility, versatility, speed, and vision…the common housefly. Now think about it for a minute. Their bite is ferocious and irritating. You can't run them off. They keep coming back. They can cling to ceilings and hide in places you can't get to. They can fly around forever no matter how many times you "shoo" them away. They can cling to the backs of chairs, screens, moving ceiling fans, and beneath tables. They are faster than most rolled up newspapers, flip-flops, fly swats and chop sticks, well except for Mr. Miyagi. And talk about having eyes on every opponent! Nothing beats the house fly. They love hot humid weather, and yet I've found them in the dead of winter.

No, you can have your lions, your tigers, your hippos, your dogs. Give me the common house fly as a mascot to be reckoned with! Go, Flies, Go! Buzzzzzz!