Daybook for Nov. 29

For today…

Outside my window… a chilly late fall evening.
I am thinking… that I could save myself a Starbucks run this evening if the cat didn’t insist on “helping” every time I sit down to grade papers.
From the classroom… a stack of algebra papers to grade and a copy of Hamlet to mark up for an upcoming lesson.
I am thankful for… the progress one of my students made during my algebra tutoring session this evening. I’m really proud of him.
From the kitchen… two big bowls of potato soup.
I am wearing… the most comfortable thing I own: Webster sweatpants and a raglan-sleeved Drillers shirt.
I am reading… The Physics of Baseball. Really. I am not making that up.
I am hoping… my kids do well on their algebra tests this week.
I am creating… a homemade teacher’s edition of Hamlet.
I am praying… to express more patience.
Around the house… shredded paper strewn about the floor. Walter has been busy today.
One of my favorite things… seeing kids catch on to concepts they previously had trouble understanding.
A few plans for the rest of the week… kempo, last scholar bowl tournament of the year, jogging, candymaking, hopefully something insanely creative.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…

San Francisco two summers ago. The alley connecting City Lights Books to Chinatown is named after Jack Kerouac. I still think Tulsa needs to swipe this idea and start naming alleys after local authors.


Roadside Oklahoma

As part of my ongoing quest to visit every attraction listed for Oklahoma on, I talked Ron into taking a little field trip to Pauls Valley yesterday to see the Toy and Action Figure Museum.

On the way to the museum, I got out the iPad and discovered a new addition to the Oklahoma listings: Edmond’s “Wigwam Church,” which was designed by world-renowned architect Bruce Goff and constructed by church members in 1951.

The church, closed for many years, has fallen into disrepair, but efforts are afoot to restore the mid-century structure.

Taking U.S. 77 south to Pauls Valley, we found another bit of RA-recommended roadside kitsch in Lexington:

The primary goal of this trip, however, was to visit the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley. We’d heard good things about the museum, and we were not disappointed.

A vast collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles confronted us from shelves and display cases, brandishing weaponry of all types:

I especially liked the Lego variant above. Note the Smurf in the lower left-hand corner of the photo and the superhero flying dangerously close to Raphael’s blade.

G.I. Joe was there …

… along with the usual comic-book heroes. I particularly liked the creativity of the displays. In this tableau, a piece of cheesecloth serves as a makeshift web for Spider-Man and three companions …

… while Batman and Robin scale a wall in another display case:

The museum has an extensive collection of Batman memorabilia, including some incredibly shameless merchandising:

There’s an outsized Balrog prototype …

… but the most fun display of all was the enormous replica of an adult toy collector’s bedroom, where we found the Wild Things starting a wild rumpus with a couple of Thundercats and the members of Spinal Tap …

… two variations on the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man …

… the gang from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse …

… an assortment of characters flying from the ceiling with the aid of monofilament …

… and a frightening horde of superheroes, villains, rock stars, and childhood companions of all stripes:

Here’s the hilarious placard that appears in front of the elaborate display:

Before heading back to Tulsa, we visited two more roadside attractions: a muffler man near Wynnewood …

… and this strangely pretty sculpture outside a welding shop near Stratford:

By the time we found the butterfly sculpture, we were running out of daylight, so we called it a night and headed back to Tulsa by way of Shawnee, where we stopped for dinner at Van’s Pig Stand.

Hope your weekend was full of kitschy goodness.



Christmas at the Blue Whale

Ron and I went over to Catoosa this evening for the lighting of the Blue Whale, which a group of volunteers from the Catoosa Chamber of Commerce decorated for Christmas.

I thought they did a pretty nice job. They used a lot of LED lights, which have a bluish tone that really looks good on the whale.

In addition to the whale itself, the nearby Noah’s Ark replica — part of the former Animal Reptile Kingdom (ARK), a roadside zoo and amusement park that included the Blue Whale and several alligator pits — was lit for Christmas.

I was particularly excited about seeing the ark, as it had been obscured by vegetation for many years. Seeing it uncovered would have been worth the trip out there; the lights were just the icing on the cake.

The event’s organizers are thinking about doing some historic preservation work on the ark. I hope they can pull it off.

The event also afforded us the opportunity to see the whale from a different angle: Thanks to the recent cold snap, most of the vegetation had died back, and we were able to walk down a little trail on the back side of the pond that gave us a different view of the whale.

During the festivities, a group of carolers sang in front of the whale’s mouth:

I was amused by this theft-prevention effort:

I am assuming this was the handiwork of Blue Whale caretaker Blaine Davis. It certainly looks like Blaine’s sense of humor.

I climbed up inside the whale’s head to get a better look at the snowflakes hanging in the portholes. The effect from inside was pretty nice. Photos don’t really do it justice, but this was the best I could do:

The lights will be on at the Blue Whale from dusk to midnight daily through Christmas.


Productive break

Thanksgiving break has been incredibly productive thus far: Last night, I cleaned the kitchen, decluttered the living room, put away the clothes that had started to pile up on my spare desk in the bedroom, cleaned Hedwig’s cage, watched the kids win three basketball games (JV boys, varsity girls, and varsity boys), and washed three jackets that apparently hadn’t gone through the laundry before being packed away at the end of last season.

This morning, I had a 10 a.m. kempo lesson, followed by lunch with Ron. After lunch, I went out to run errands and wound up doing almost all of my Christmas shopping in the span of about three hours. (I am pleased to report that everything I bought today came from mom-and-pop businesses: the Route 66 Nut House, Lee’s Feed, Starship Records, and The Learning Shop.) Ron joined me for a quick grocery run and a trip to Target and Office Depot to pick up gift wrap, matte-finish photo paper, and A2 envelopes, and then I came home and started another load of laundry; put the turkey breast in the Crock-Pot; embellished some stuffing mix with sauteed celery, onions, and mushrooms and a handful of chopped pecans; made a batch of pumpkin fudge; brushed the cat; and designed this year’s Christmas cards. Go, me!

For my next performance, I will use my new paper cutter (thanks, Mom!) to cut apart the Christmas cards, then wrap the Christmas presents and move them off the couch so Ron has a place to sit while he watches football tomorrow.

I don’t particularly like turkey, but the house smells kind of awesome right now. Earlier this evening, I threw a turkey breast in the Crock-Pot with a couple of halved lemons and most of a head of garlic, sprinkled it with Scarborough Fair spices, and doused it with olive oil. We’ll see how it turns out.

Hope your day was productive and enjoyable, wherever you are.


Out for a jog

My friend Jackie and I ran the Route 66 Half-Marathon this morning. We had a pretty good run. The weather was just about perfect — warm enough to be comfortable, but overcast enough to keep us cool — and we saw some really pretty trees as we ran through the neighborhoods in midtown.

I’ve been pretty lackadaisical about my running the past few years — I’ve been content to pace rookie half-marathoners and all-night ultramarathoners and log a few junk miles here and there when the mood strikes — but I started looking over some of my old race results last night, and I think maybe it’s time to quit resting on my laurels and start pushing myself again. I’m not sure whether that means aiming for another full marathon, chasing a faster half, or stalking a PR in a 5K, but I think I’m about to find out. The prospect of some fast 5Ks sounds really tempting.


Home improvement

After six years of service, our $20 discount-store showerhead started leaking like a sieve, so I picked up a replacement at the hardware store down the street. The new model was fairly elaborate and significantly more expensive than the old one, and Ron told me I could have it if and only if I was absolutely sure I could install it myself.

Upon hearing this, the hardware-store owner was incredulous (he said he had some female customers who did their own household repairs, but I didn’t look like “the type”) and wanted to see a picture of my handiwork when I got done, so Ron got out his camera and documented the project for posterity this afternoon.

I’ll go ahead and file this post under “Ask the Hippie,” since it does answer a question.

Q. How do you install a showerhead?

A. Like this:

Step 1: Remove the old one.

Step 2: Peel off the old teflon tape and replace it with new tape to prevent leaks.

Step 3: Install the valve for the new showerhead. If it has flat sides, use a crescent wrench to tighten it. If it has smooth sides, a faucet wrench (shown below) comes in handy.

Step 4: Connect tube for handheld showerhead. (The model we bought has two heads — one handheld and one stationary. On a simple, single-head model, you obviously won’t have to mess with so many steps.)

Step 5: Tape the threads for the wall-mounted showerhead to prevent leaks.

Step 6: Install wall-mounted showerhead.

Step 7: Connect hose to tube for handheld showerhead.

Step 8: Tighten.

Step 9: Tape threads on handheld showerhead and connect to other end of hose.

Step 10: Brandish handheld showerhead menancingly, lest husband get any bright ideas about trying to commandeer the shower before you’ve had a chance to try out your handiwork.

Plumbing is pretty easy. You just have to remember to tape all the threads and get everything good and tight to prevent leaks. If you don’t have a handheld showerhead, I highly recommend getting one. They’re relatively cheap ($15 to $20 for the simplest models) and easy to install, and they come in very handy for bathing pets.

Hope your Saturday afternoon is productive, wherever you are.



Folk Thursday: Vince Guaraldi

OK … this is totally not folk, but I heard an instrumental of it the other day in a store and immediately came home and downloaded the original.

It hadn’t occurred to me until very recently that this song is one of my earliest Christmas memories, though I never really think about it at any conscious level. Most years, I don’t even hear it. I can’t remember the last time I watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special, and I hadn’t realized what a huge part of my holiday memories it was until I heard the song playing faintly in the background and instantly recalled an image of the Peanuts characters whirling on a frozen pond and the smell of a real Christmas tree somewhere in my distant past.

That little scrap of memory — simultaneously vague and vivid — was so powerful that I caught myself looking forward to Christmas for the first time in many years.

May this little clip conjure up fond memories for you, too.




I wasn’t sure the leaves were going to turn at all this year — we’re behind on rainfall, and that usually means the leaves are green, then brown, then gone, with no dazzling colors in between — but at some point in the past week, every tree in Tulsa seemed to change color all at once. I didn’t have time to go out and do them justice, but here are a couple of quick shots I got today:

These trees are always among the prettiest in town. I consider them proof that God loves people who get sidetracked and daydream during church, because they’re right outside the windows. 🙂

Another shot from the church parking lot.

And a terribly cluttered shot from the car window as we negotiated a construction zone on 66 near TU this afternoon.

Hope your Sunday was blessed with beauty.


Daybook for Nov. 12

For today…

Outside my window… a cold, damp evening.
I am thinking… that an eighth-hour student’s decision to read the role of Creon in a hillbilly accent actually made Antigone more accessible and understandable for his classmates. That probably shouldn’t have surprised me, considering I once hooked a group of sophomores on mythology by retelling the myth of Cupid and Psyche in a North St. Louis accent. (Note to self: Insist on funny accents when we read Hamlet.)
From the classroom… a few algebra papers to grade and a few lesson plans to write.
I am thankful for… a few quiet moments to enjoy Cristofori’s Dream on a rainy afternoon while my kids worked on an assignment.
From the kitchen… Irish soda bread.
I am wearing… a school shirt, jeans, and Crocs.
I am reading… Ryne Sandberg’s autobiography. It’s woefully out of date and not terribly revealing, but the parts where he goes into detail about how he plays — e.g., the mechanics of his swing or the difference half an inch and a couple of ounces will make in the way a bat performs — are great. He really ought to do an instructional book for kids who are just learning the game.
I am hoping… our scholar bowl team does well at regionals tomorrow.
I am creating… lesson plans. Always lesson plans.
I am praying… to know that my kids are perfect expressions of divine intelligence, even if they do act goofy sometimes.
Around the house… the smell of freshly baked bread.
One of my favorite things… getting to work with a few minutes to spare on a cool, drizzly morning.
A few plans for the rest of the week… tournament, church, dog park, and maybe some watercolor painting if time allows.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…

Irish soda bread is such a lovely snack on a fall evening.