What I’ve been up to

Here’s all the stuff I’ve been doing instead of blogging lately:

1. Babysitting. My friend Linda is recovering from surgery, so last weekend, I borrowed her kids and spent the day doing kid stuff: We fed turtles and petted starfish at the Oklahoma Aquarium, had cheeseburgers for lunch in Jenks, headed out to Catoosa for an afternoon photo op at the Blue Whale, and capped our adventures with a trip to the playground at Tracy Park.

The kids enjoyed signing my car … which leads us to my next adventure:

2. Inadvertently joining an artcar parade. Really. We pulled out of the hardware store parking lot Saturday afternoon and found ourselves smack in the middle of the Tulsa ArtCar Weekend, which we didn’t even realize was going on until someone stuck a note to my car while I was at dinner Friday night. Since we were already in the middle of the parade anyway, we just cruised along with the other artcars to Blue Rose, where the participants welcomed the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar as a late, unofficial addition to the show. I didn’t have my camera with me, but Ron had his, so he got some shots of the festivities. Here are a few highlights:

This is the Rockin' Holy Roller. It belongs to C.M. and Grace Kelly Laster, a pair of Southern folk artists whose work reminds me of what you'd get if you crossed Howard Finster with Wes Freed. They were very cool and gave me an awesome "God Hates Hate" bumper sticker for the Dreamcar.
This is the Stink-Bug, a rolling statement about the evils of cigarette smoking. It is completely covered in mosaics made from old cigarette butts that have been treated with sign sealer to make them weatherproof.
And here we have the classic Splittie-turned-artcar. This great old VW Type 2 is a tribute to the owner's poodles. It is outfitted with 3-D poodles that wag their tails and a cutout city skyline illuminated by LEDs.

That was just the beginning of my Memorial Day weekend. The adventures continued on Sunday afternoon, with:

3. Feeding animals. We spent yesterday afternoon at Safari’s Sanctuary. I take back all the snarky stuff I’ve said about Broken Arrow being nothing more than a breeding ground for boring yuppies. In point of fact, it is a breeding ground for boring yuppies and kangaroos.

For the record, kangaroos totally dig Cheetos, which you can buy in the gift shop.
You can also buy frozen chicken legs to feed the big cats. This beautiful tiger really enjoyed a cold treat on a hot afternoon. I wanted to pet her, but apparently there are federal laws forbidding that sort of thing. Poop. 😦
Luckily, the feds don't have a problem with it if you want to let a California king snake climb up your shoulder.

I want a snake, but Ron won’t let me have one. He did, however, let me buy a sparkly rubber dragon to wear around my wrist at our last stop for the weekend:

3. Going to the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival in Muskogee. A couple of my students work down there on weekends, and they kept telling me how much fun it was, so we went down to see them this afternoon.

This is Gabbie. Isn't her costume cute?
Tara was selling jewelry at one of the outdoor booths.
The children's area looked like what would happen if Dave Dardis partied with the late Hugh Davis.

Hope you’ve had lots of adventures, too.


Folk Thursday: Baez honors Seeger

Love this song. I’ve probably already posted somebody singing it somewhere on some other Folk Thursday in the past, but I like this version.

I really want to post something from my classroom, but I have to wait until next week. My fourth hour Pre-AP English II class has a really quirky combination of personalities. The kids are really bright, and as a group, they remind me of the kids I knew from SIUC’s Challenge to Excellence program (affectionately referred to by alumni as “nerd camp”) … so as soon as our high-stakes tests were behind us, I decided to do something completely self-indulgent: I let my inner 13-year-old nerd camper out of the little mental closet where I store fond memories and gave her the run of my classroom during fourth hour.

In case you are wondering, my 13-year-old self teaches considerably better than my grownup self. I’m totally stealing her ideas and using them next year.

She also writes better finals than I do — especially when she’s got a roomful of like-minded partners in crime who see no reason for anything, including a final exam, to be any more serious than it absolutely has to be — so fourth hour’s final is basically a long Douglas Adams joke with a couple of literary terms, a few urban legends, and a handful of pop-culture references thrown in.

I can’t share it with you right now, lest I spoil the surprise for the kids … but as soon as finals are over next week, I’ll post it for your amusement.



It’s no secret that I think Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg may be the most gorgeous creature God ever set on this earth. My students carry me pretty high about that, mostly because they find it hilarious that anyone would consider a middle-aged man attractive. Meanwhile, I find it incomprehensible that anyone wouldn’t consider Sandberg attractive. Who cares how long it’s been since he turned his last double play? Dude is hot.

That probably doesn’t sound like the lead-in to a riff on spirituality, but bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago, while teasing me about Ryno, a student expressed horror at the thought of getting “old,” which she defined as anything past 30. Several of her classmates nodded in agreement, so I asked the kids what bothered them about the prospect of aging. Their primary concerns? Gray hair, wrinkles, and a deeply held suspicion that boredom is directly proportional to age.

By my students’ standards, I’m old. I’ve got lines around my eyes and a gray streak above my right temple. I also look better and have more freedom, more disposable income, and fewer hangups than I had at 16. But there’s a multibillion-dollar industry that depends on convincing the public that age is ugly at best and hazardous to one’s health at worst, so it’s no wonder my kids are terrified of losing their looks or their happiness in a few years.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote:

“Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise. Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand. Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness.”

I’m Madison Avenue’s worst nightmare. I refuse to buy into society’s carefully cultivated obsession with youth, and I’ve always had a thing for silver hair and laugh lines (which might explain why I find Sandberg more attractive now than when People magazine was fawning over him in 1990).

I don’t mind that my kids think I’m old. But I wish they knew that lines come from laughing too hard, and gray comes from caring too much about too many things. Maybe then they’d realize the signs of aging that scare them so much are merely the visual evidence of a life well lived, and they wouldn’t be afraid any more.


Bob’s bus

As promised, here are more photos from the interior of Bob Waldmire’s school-bus-turned-zero-energy-home. I’ve always been fascinated with small, environmentally friendly dwellings, but Bob took the concept to a whole new level. Pictures don’t begin to do his home justice, but at least you can get a rough idea of how efficiently he used a limited amount of space to create a residence with all the creature comforts anyone could want:

This is Bob's office. It is approximately two feet wide. I own a pretty cool old manual typewriter, but his typewriter kicks my typewriter's arse.
Protip: When decorating a small space, consider displaying an assortment of Micro Machines on a shelf at eye level.
Built-in bookshelves and careful attention to detail allow for the accumulation of a small library of materials related to subjects of interest.
I like the handmade ornament.
Marty Blitzstein of the Illinois Route 66 Association spends a lot of time on Bob's bus, educating visitors about his old friend's life and work.
A loft built onto the top of the bus allows for extra storage and the display of a few additional decorations.
You read that right. Bob built himself a sauna. Why? Because he could. Bob spent 30 years doing exactly as he pleased, and he was good at it. I'd be lying if I said he wasn't a major influence on my own tendency to indulge my inner child's every whim.
I love this adorable little stove. It's even smaller than the one Ron and I had at our old house in Illinois. Tiny appliances delight me for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend.
I love the window above the kitchen sink.
My mom used to have a set of tiny Tupperware containers like these. She used to fill them with gorp and pack them into my lunchbox when I was in first grade. Must be a hippie thing.
You have no idea how much this blue whale delighted me.
Everything about this kitchen is just totally Bob.
Especially this.
I think this was actually on Bob's van, not his bus, but he had copies all over the bus, too. Also, he gave me a couple of those IMPEACH BUSH bumper stickers a few years ago. I still have one on the bulletin board in my office.

Bob had dozens of copies of that little Peace Pilgrim pamphlet scattered around the bus and the van. I’m assuming he liked to hand them out to people. You can read the pamphlet online. I have, of course, added it to my summer reading list.

Bob’s bus and van are both on display at the Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac, Ill. If you haven’t been there yet, I highly recommend going. It’s a great little museum, and the bus alone is worth the trip.


I did it for Bob

People ordinarily don’t drive over 1,200 miles in a single weekend just to get a button … but the latest addition to the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar’s collection is no ordinary button.

This weekend, the city of Pontiac hosted a Route 66 festival and public-art project in honor of the late Bob Waldmire, better known to readers of this blog as the inspiration behind the Dreamcar’s elaborate paint job.

Bob was Mother Earth News on the Mother Road. Equal parts Robert Crumb, Cyrus Avery, and Gandhi, he was one of Scout’s favorite people. I adored him, and I miss him terribly. When I found out the folks in Pontiac were going to paint a mural he’d designed, I started trying to figure out whether I could manage a weekend getaway to a town 605 miles from my doorstep.

When I learned they would be handing out “I did it for Bob” buttons, I quit thinking about “whether” and started thinking about “how.”

It was an incredible weekend. A few highlights:

The mural was designed to be an interactive community project, with people’s handprints incorporated into the background. Below, Bob’s former sister-in-law, Sue — owner of the Route 66 restaurant founded by Bob’s dad — adds her handprint to the mural:

When he wasn’t driving 66 in his famous VW Microbus (which is on permanent display inside Pontiac’s Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum) or his Mustang fastback, Bob lived in an old school bus he’d customized for himself. The bus is on display behind the museum and was open for tours this weekend. I could devote an entire post to Bob’s bus (and probably will later this week), but for now, I’ll just give you a little peek:

The Dreamcar got some special treatment this weekend: The festival organizers let me park it next to the mural all afternoon.

I came back to find the chalkboard filled with friendly messages, some of which made me cry.

It’s hard to see some of them in the picture, but there’s a sweet note from Sue and a message to Bob from John and Lenore Weiss. Lenore passed away less than two months after we lost Bob. She and John started the Illinois Route 66 Association’s historic preservation committee, which was instrumental in turning my mild interest in 66 into a blazing passion for the road.

I hadn’t seen John in ages, but when I found his message, I went looking for him. I found him, obviously, and we had a great visit.

I have more to report, but I’m wiped out, so I’ll have to fill you in on the rest later. Hope your weekend was good, wherever you were.



It’s been a pretty productive weekend. Ron and I spent Saturday morning out at the Blue Whale, helping the Fins get ready for the big Blue Tie Affair, which is scheduled for this Thursday evening.

Other highlights:

* Got the first copy of this year’s Oklahoma Route 66 Association Trip Guide in the mail Friday. It looks pretty good, washed-out color on the cover notwithstanding.

* Chased Songdog all over the neighborhood Saturday afternoon after he bolted out the front door (which apparently didn’t latch properly behind Ron) and decided to take himself for a walk.

* Responded to Song’s obnoxious behavior by taking him to the dog park and marching him around the outside of the fence while Riggy went in to play with the other dogs. I made Song work off-leash for 15 or 20 minutes while I subjected him to every kind of distraction and stress I could come up with: walking at heel while I changed directions as erratically as possible; walking at heel over a pile of debris; sitting and staying while I walked around him, stood in his kill zone, stepped over him, etc.; sitting just outside the gate while I went inside without him; and sitting quietly while a much larger dog sniffed him. He really needed the lesson, because he’s terrible about ignoring us and bolting when he’s excited. I think one of my summer projects is going to involve getting both of our dogs ready to take the Canine Good Citizen test.

* Spent part of Sunday afternoon touring the Campbell Hotel on Route 66, which is undergoing renovations and was open to the public this weekend for the Designer Showcase, which is a fundraiser for the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.

Here are some photos from Saturday’s Blue Whale work session:

Properties Plus, a local real-estate company, brought a very large, enthusiastic work crew out to clear brush around the pond. They did a great job.

One of my students and her friend came out and helped pull weeds in an area that will eventually be a flowerbed. They had fun touring the property and climbing around on the whale while they were out there.

Love the cell phone.

Hope your weekend was good, wherever you are.