Help from the Fox, the Dog, and Miss Phelps

Miss Phelps was my high school typing teacher.  I’m sure that her long-term objective stated: “Each student will be able to type a jillion words per minute by the end of the semester.”

Sitting in a basement classroom filled with ancient typing machines, I viewed Miss Phelps as a demanding taskmaster who had no life beyond the dimly lit room where she persistently attempted to squeeze from us at least one more word per minute.

The most important sentence to master in typing was, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  This sentence was the practical application of all of the letters of the alphabet, requiring the brain to notify the fingers to locate the correct letters while racing against the clock to correctly complete repetitions of the sentence until the bell rang. It was then that all fingers had to be in the air and visible to Miss Phelps. Trying to type one additional letter after the bell meant no credit, regardless of how many points might have been earned without that small infraction.

Many of my fellow classmates aspired to get by with the grade of “C.” This was the lowest passing grade. Our high school did not recognize “D” as a grade.  I, on the other hand, was the uptight student striving each day to beat my own record from the previous day. If stress actually produces ulcers, by the end of the semester I was a candidate for them. And it was a miracle that my teeth were not all cracked from the fifty minutes of clinching each afternoon. 

Many years have passed and I now have great appreciation for demanding Miss Phelps. Whenever I am in an airport or restaurant and watch the younger generation (that would be anyone younger than me) using two index fingers to enter things on their computers, I am grateful for Miss Phelps, the brown fox, and the lazy dog.  Thanks to her, I can type quickly without ever looking at the keyboard. I really can’t imagine what it would have been like to type my novel with two fingers.

My brother recently wrote a blog titled, “Not All Change is Progress” http://vanilla-ststt.blogspot.com/2011/08/not-all-change-is-progress.html. In his blog he wrote about the abandonment of “skills” by our educational institutions. His blog made me ask myself: What happened to all of those correct ways of doing things? Did those things make us intellectuals or just get in the way of our creative thinking?


Parties and My Diet

It was a great party!  I have a plan that I rehearse repeatedly in my head before I go to a party. “I will avoid seconds, I will avoid seconds, I will avoid seconds.” For the most part psyching myself up brings success. But at this party, the very high calorie drink being served was Iced Coffee Frappé.

I sipped my little punch cupful of the delicious drink for a long period of time. Finally, the cup was empty and I reasoned that just one more cup (the cups were small) would not add significantly to the girth of  the hips. So I headed for the canopied patio and the punch bowl. 

There was only one other occupant of the patio and he was very much enjoying the drink that was showcased with beautiful decorations.  I returned to the other guests and the conversation, empty cup still in hand!

You guessed it!

+ innocent looking 
= sticking to my diet plan.

Recipe for the delicious drink:

Iced Coffee Frappé
Stir together:
¼ cup instant coffee
½ cup chocolate syrup 
¼ cup sugar
1½ cups boiling water

Cover and chill

Before serving:
Pour the coffee mixture into a punch bowl.
Add 2 cups Half & Half
Scoop 1 quart vanilla ice cream on top

Put the cat in a cage!

Images from dreamtime.



In the past, where I chose to shop was based on experience and value. I like stores that are well-organized, have high quality merchandise at reasonable prices, and do not employ helicopter clerks.

In my opinion, helicopter clerks are some of the world’s most interesting people in that they have the ability to sustain a conversation based solely on what they say while they hover over customers who are attempting to ignore their presence.

Conversations with helicopter clerks go something like this:
HC (Sweetly):                        
Are you looking for something in particular?
Me (Sweetly):                        
No, thank you. I’m just looking.
HC: (In head):                        
Bet me!  No one is allowed to “just look” in this store.
HC (With set jaw):                  
What size do you wear?
Me (Sweetly, sort of):              
I’m just browsing. But, thank you.
HC (With eyes narrowed):       
What colors do you like to wear?
Me (In head.):                         
Okay, Ms. Helicopter, now I’m going to ignore you.
HC (Picking up an item):          
We are having a sale on our summer tank tops. 
ME (Turning away):                 
I’m ignoring the whirring sounds in this room.
HC (With disgust):                   
I’ll be by the cash register when you need me.
ME (In head):                          
That’ll be the day!!     

Until recently avoiding helicopter clerks was my biggest shopping challenge. But that was before buying things made in America became an issue. It was when Diane Sawyer and ABC challenged us to purchase things made in the USA that I discovered I was mostly shopping Brazil, Indonesia, China, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, South Korea, & Cambodia.

So where is that helicopter clerk when I need her to help me read the fine print on the tags?


Don’t Steal the Cherries

It was in my friend’s yard on Saturday that a little cherry tree caught my eye. I’ve always loved those plump morsels of fruit, so I went over to take a look.  No cherries.  But even if there had been I could not have reached out to pick one and put it into my mouth. That’s because my friend wasn’t home so I could ask him for a cherry.

My paralysis when it comes to picking a cherry from someone else’s tree is the result of an experience I had as a three-year-old.  An action I took + my mom’s reaction = an impression that has lasted a lifetime.

We lived in Cañon City, CO, where my dad pastored a church.  The Mobleys were our next door neighbors. In the Mobley’s yard stood a large cherry tree that, in season, was loaded with beautiful red fruit.  Once the cherries were ripe, the branches became so heavy that they hung close to the ground, just within reach of someone about thirty-three inches tall. Since there were no fences between our houses, and because the Mobleys were such nice people, I assumed that picking and eating a few cherries would be an okay thing to do.

When I arrived back in my own yard after my feast, and my mother saw the cherry juice on the front of my dress, she became quite upset. But her distress was not because of the juice on my dress.  Her distress was caused by the sudden awareness that her daughter was a thief.

It took a week of “chores” to earn the three pennies Mom had decided would be sufficient payment for the cherries.  In the early ‘40’s, Dad’s salary from his church consisted of one of the Sunday offerings and I’m sure even a few pennies took a bite out of the family budget. (What a deal! If people don’t like something the preacher says or does, they just withhold their offering. But I digress.)

At the end of the week, Mom escorted me to the Mobley’s house where I was required to confess that I had stolen the cherries and give Mrs. Mobley the money. My very gracious neighbor forgave me. But on that day stealing made my “Things to Never Do Again” list.

It was not until years later that I learned Mrs. Mobley returned the three pennies to my parents. 


I’m Not Getting Old …

I’m sure I’m not.  It’s just that my cell phone has a way of moving, unbidden, to places I would never dream of putting it. 

I was getting ready to leave the house and wanted to be sure I had my cell phone along. So I went to pick it up from the exact spot where I had put it only minutes before. Magically it had moved.

I have a lot of patience – well, at least I’m somewhat patient.  Okay, I’m not patient at all and when my phone is no longer where I remember leaving it, I talk to it and say things like “Okay, where did you go this time?” 

For some reason it’s difficult for me to make the decision to go to my home phone and ring my cell. So I attempted to reconstruct previous movements with regard to my cell phone. I remembered unplugging it.  At least it’s good that I remembered that much.  But beyond unplugging and thinking I laid it on the desk, nothing else was retrieved from memory.

Finally, I gave up and used my land line to dial my cell.

So why was my shoe ringing?

Throughout my childhood I laughed at the idea of goblins. Now I’m not so sure!

 At any rate, I’m trying to catch my goblin in the act of hiding my cell phone - and I just might catch him hiding my glasses.

Goblin from ClipartHeaven.com