Friday, September 28, 2007


There's a storm a-brewin'.....and I hope it rains enough so I don't have to turn on the water in the garden. We're still getting green beans, tomatoes, and papaya pear squash - YUM!!!

Homecoming - Who is it REALLY for?

I attended the Homecoming festivities at the local high school today, and the experience made me stop and reflect on this tradition that's - well - a misnomer. The name doesn't accurately describe the term since one key element is usually absent from the festivities: graduates.

Princeton's wordnet defines homecoming as a return: coming or returning home. It's a tradition in most American high schools and universities, but high schools miss the mark. There's dress-up days, daily pep rallies, a bonfire - sometimes complete with the tossing of a dummy mascot of the opposing team, hall decorations, parades, class competitions, a coronation, and typically, a dance. Of course, all of this is done in the name of "school spirit." If you need to devote one entire week to school spirit and then watch it vanish from school hallways during the remainder of the year..... Right, that's a topic for another entry!!

Where are the graduates? Oh, that's right. There aren't many of them there.

I went to one homecoming football game and cornation after I graduated from high school. Honestly, I've attended more homecomings since I started teaching than I care to remember. And yes, I could probably name the homecoming queen and king for each year I taught in each respective school. Blame the photographic memory on my father, but I just remember stuff like that. Right, that's a topic for another entry!!

I'll admit that when I was in high school, this week-long event was important. Getting asked to the dance was the primary topic of conversation leading up to the week, and usually, if you didn't have a date at least a week ahead of time, you probably were going solo. Organizing hallway decorations became my speciality. I handed out a list of who was responsible for what, and if I remember right, my class won three of the four years I was in charge.

Two homecoming highlights stand out in my mind. The first was from third grade. Rain spilled from the sky so our homecoming parade was in the gym. I placed second in my class for my homecoming parade entry. I'll also admit that I don't remember what I had on or what the catchy slogan was (I'll blame that one on my mom....only because I know she'll be reading this), but I'm certain that she made the poster I carried. She was the creative force behind all art work and posters.

The second highlight came during my sophomore year. I had a crush on a boy in my class since fourth grade. He asked one of my friends to the dance. After the parade that day, she told me she didn't want to go with him, so she talked to him, told him she couldn't go to the dance, and asked him to take me instead. So he did. I got ready for the dance at another friend's house, and our dates picked us up at her place. I can honestly say we had a good time at the dance - until friend number one walked in around 11:30. My date asked me if I knew she was coming (which I didn't). Things could've turned ugly, but he, along with the other 22 kids in my class, ignored her the rest of the evening, which in high school dance world was only about a half hour since the dance ended at midnight. You know, it's the Cinderella syndrome - the car turns into a pumpkin, the dress disintegrates into a t-shirt and pair of jeans, the glass slippers become a pair of flip flops - at the stroke of midnight. We dropped off our two classmates, went for a drive, and discussed the evening's events. Then we kissed. Kissing followed by more talking. And then, headlights. No, those lights are red. And here comes a County Sheriff's Deputy to the car.

After a little chat with the officer, we silently drove back to town. He walked me to the door and gave me a kiss goodnight. We never dated again during high school, but we were best friends. In fact, when he got married, I was there and when he introduced me to his new bride, she told me that she'd heard all about me. Right, that's a topic for another entry!

But I digress. Where are the graduates? If homecoming is about returning home, shouldn't schools do more to entice graduates to return on a crisp autumn evening and take in a football game? Wouldn't that add to the school spirit? Should a graduate be more involved than a yearly alumni banquet where you eat a piece of rare roast beef or chicken and cold mashed potatoes, share silent conversations with classmates you had nothing in common with when you were in school, noting how the divide has widened remarkably, and suddenly realize that these people that you spent twelve - 13 if you were in Kindergarten - years of your life with really don't know you at all.

Maybe homecoming is really about a sense of community - a sense of building a rapport with every person in town. Maybe it's about participation. Maybe.

Perhaps all this comes about from teaching and experiencing the lack of education that occurs during this time. Perhaps it's because I wasn't homecoming queen. Nah, that didn't bother me then and it doesn't bother me now. Perhaps it's a week of bragging rights for parents and extended family. "Well, two of my four kids were homecoming king or queen...."

Perhaps it's because in the scheme of life, it's one week, one day, and it truly doesn't matter. Yes, it's time to be proud of a child's accomplishments. And yes, it's a time to celebrate school spirit, but shouldn't communities and schools be doing that on a daily basis?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Parental Expectations

Several passages from The Jane Austen Book Club resonated with me as I read the book. One passage especially stood out:

All parents want an important life for their children - a happy beginning, a
happy middle, and a happy ending. No plot of any kind.
How true! I thought about my children - all three living distinctively different lives - and I realized that even though I want them to be happy, they have definitely laid the groundwork for the plot associated with their lives.
There is jealousy, happiness, strength, resentment, love, courage. There have been failed relationships, successful marriages, monetary struggles, personal expectations, careers beyond expectations, less than desirable jobs, death. But through it all, these mini-dramas have shaped them into the people they are today.
Granted, mom might not always like the direction they are headed, but at some point, you take a step back, let them fly on their own, and watch them write the plot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jane Austen Book Club - Modern Classic?

I finished reading The Jane Austen Book Club for a book review for Curled Up With a Good Book. If you enjoy books - and most importantly - if you enjoy Jane Austen's works, then you're in for a treat! The novel fuses themes and character portraits from Austen's six novels into its very threads. Delightful. Possibly a modern classic. Well, maybe a modern classic for Austen fans.

I admit, I've only read Pride and Prejudice. Yesterday, I asked my dad (my high school English teacher) if we read the book in class or if I read it in college. He wrinkled his nose and said, "Do you really think we'd read a Jane Austen novel? Ick. You definitely read it during college." What's this? My dad....the voracious reader....scowling at Jane Austen? Yup.

What caught my attention while reading this book is that life is full of drama. It's a concept I've always known - or at least it's a concept I definitely learned during high school when we read Shakespeare, Hardy, Plath, Sexton, Twain..... And if we just look around and soak up the drama, we, ourselves, are the basis of a novel. That doesn't mean all of us are faced with a catastrophe each day, but it's the mini-dramas that we experience that tell our stories.

I often say "You can't judge a book by its movie." I'm wondering how the movie based on this book will be. The novel contains several flashbacks, and I'm wondering how consistent the screenplay is.

It might seem like chick lit to some readers, but it's not. Perhaps, though, Jane Austen was the inventor of chick lit. Perhaps Austen is the original Sex and the City gal....telling tales of desire (but leaving the clothing intact).

Saturday, September 22, 2007


I've been trying to break into a magazine for a while now, and they finally liked one of my ideas and wanted to see clips. I picked out two feature stories to share - stories that I've received positive feedback for - and sent those, along with two examples of different types of writing that I'm experienced with.

Then came the rejection. "The clips don't do it." What exactly does that mean?

At first I was upset. I believe I'm a good writer, a strong writer, and I know I'm capable of writing a quality feature for the magazine. I talked with another editor I write for and was reassured that I have the talent.

But the more the situation weighed on my mind, the more questions popped into my head, leaving unanswered questions. Did I send the wrong kind of clips? Do I not possess the voice or tone the magazine desires? No, I didn't send the wrong kind of clips. Clips show what you have accomplished and fit the style of the publication you were writing for. And yes, I do possess the voice, the narrative look of the landscape that can tell a vivid story. Yet, I was still disappointed that I hadn't landed the assignment.

The next day I was reading the August issue of Writer's Digest. And there was the pep talk I needed to hear - an article entitled "Try, Try, Try Again" by Jodi Picoult. Jodi explains her journey through the publishing world and how she experienced rejection early in her career. Two points in the article spoke directly to me:
  • The writers who succeed are the ones who refuse to buckle under the failures that are heaped upon them; who reject the notion that they aren't as mediocre as industry professionals say they are.
  • After landing a book on The New York Times bestseller list, an influential agent from NYC wanted to talk to Jodi. She declined, explaining that she was happy with her current agent and did not plan to switch. Picoult says, "I'm quite sure that this New York City bigwig doesn't remember that she was the very first agent to reject me, but I never forgot."

I refuse to buckle under the failure heaped upon me. I know I am not a mediocre writer. And although this wasn't the first piece I've had rejected, it hurt the most. Why? Because the publication is one I respect and enjoy reading. I know I would be a good fit.

So now what? There are literally thousands of other article ideas and publications I'm ready to tackle. In fact, I have several in the works. And like Picoult says, "That's the loveliest thing about failure. Without it, you'd never know how delicious success tastes."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Countdown to Game Day

It's the eve of . . . OK, it's the day before the . . . actually, tomorrow is one of the biggest hyped games in Husker history. USC is in town, and it's #1 vs. #14. Big game. The USC Trojan marching band travels to Lincoln. Will Ferrell is dropping in from Hollywood. Guessing Larry the Cable Guy will be in the skyboxes. And ESPN's Game Day is live from Memorial Stadium.

Sure, there have been other games of monumental importance before this one. But the last time I really remember this much hype was when Nebraska played a pumped up team from Oklahoma and we ended up losing. Badly.

I've heard talk this week about what the Huskers need to do to win, what the Huskers shouldn't do in order to stay competitive, and what the Huskers should do to survive this slugfest with the number one team in the nation.

One of the best pieces of advice I heard from a sideline coach was that Nebraska shouldn't have Sam Keller pass until there's two minutes left in a quarter or right before the half. He's proven he's a two-minute man.

What he hasn't proven is that he's able to perform consistently. He looks tired, and at times, he seems unsure of the offensive scheme. Not a good sign from the leader on the field.

Another sideline coach thinks we should revert back to what Nebraska does best: run the option. Wouldn't that throw those California boys for a loop? But in a sense, the idea of returning to the running game of old - even if just for this game - isn't a bad thought. I wonder if Coach Bill has considered it.

My first prediction is Huskers winning 15 - 14. Not sure if we can keep those maroon and gold uniforms to only scoring twice. Maybe a more realistic score would be 24 - 21. Huskers on top.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lady Huskers pound Texas

The Lady Huskers proved last night why they are the #1 volleyball team in the nation as they defeated Texas handily in three sets. Sarah Pavan led the team with a .520 hitting percentage, but two other players really stood out in last night's game.

Tracy Stalls had an outstanding night hitting the ball between the Texas defensive players. In my opinion, she is one of the most underrated players on the Husker squad. And that's really not true since she's received All Big 12 and AVCA player honors, but it seems when games are broadcast, she tends to be overlooked because there are two other National Players of the Year on the team.

And sophomore setter Rachel Holloway made several amazing sets and hits of her own. She's made major improvements from last year; she seems more at ease and her play is much more consistent than it was last year.

One of the best parts of last night's broadcast on NET was when Husker coach John Cook explained the 6-2 v. 5-1 offensive schemes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Can She Handle It?

I had about an hour-long talk last night with the person who replaced me at my former job. She had called and asked for some help and she needed some questions answered.

I'm worried. I know, I know. I resigned from that job to freelance full-time, but I invested a lot of years in that position and pushed the envelope in my department to get it to the point it was at when I left. She's scared, she's young, and she admitted that it's taken about five people to replace me (which was a nice compliment to hear), but I think eventually, she will be fine. It takes time to develop a rapport with kids and fellow workers. I just hope she isn't overloaded and struggling.

And then I think 'hey, why are you worried about it?' because you don't work there anymore. And that's very true. I don't, but sometimes it's hard to let go of something that you've built - almost from the ground up. It's like taking your baby to daycare for the first time or walking into kindergarten with them for that first day of school and then leaving, a tear in your eye because you're unsure of the unknown, the 'what-if-this-happens.'

But you also let go and you walk away. It's time for me to do that, too.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Big Girls Don't Cry. I am stuck on this song right now and just can't listen to it enough.

Escaping Winston-Salem

Whew! We made it out of Winston-Salem with a "W" and although the numbers don't look too bad, this was not an impressive game. The two-minute drill at the end of the first half was the best series of the game. Marlon Lucky made a spectacular block that allowed Sam Keller to throw the winning touchdown pass. But while I was listening to the post-game show on the radio, I kept thinking that we'd watched different games. Perception. Guess it depends on where you're sitting.

It just seemed like the enthusiasm wasn't there. Perhaps they were looking ahead to this week's showdown with USC. Perhaps it was the 90-degree heat. I've lived in NC, so I know that 90 there is different from a 90-degree day in Nebraska.

Maybe a win is just a win and it doesn't have to be pretty and neatly packaged.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Give me a newspaper

I'm listening to the Husker pre-game show, and I'm feeling a sense of disconnect from the world right now. As much as I enjoy living in the country - in the middle of nowhere - along the fingertips of the Sandhills, there are days when it seems like the world is so far away and I'm scrambling to hear a single piece of news.

Yes, there's satellite tv with locals and the radio offers a variety of AM/FM stations, but it's just not enough sometimes, and I can't quite get a handle on why it isn't enough. The local radio station is very local - 30 miles away. There's Lincoln, Kearney, and Hastings tv stations available on satellite.

I want more. What I miss is the feel of the newspaper. We could subscribe to the Omaha paper, or even the Norfolk news, but it comes through the mail and the news is a day behind. But there is just something about holding the pages between your fingers and smelling the ink on the newsprint and that is really what I miss about living here.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Is she too sexy to fly?

This morning on the Today Show, Matt Lauer interviewed a young woman who said she was told her outfit was too sexy and that she was being kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight. I saw the Today Show segment, I read the story on Today's website, read an opinion from MSNBC, and purused a couple pages of discussion on MSNBC. Seems everyone thinks the airline was out of line. Ok, almost everyone. But if you saw the segment and read the commentary thoroughly, I think people are missing the main point.

When she is seated, you can see.


NBC even blurred the shot on the Today segment. Personally, I think her skirt is too short, but the top seemed ok. I've seen more cleavage flashing at the local brew pub on a nipply Friday night. No pun intended. ;)

But that's still missing the point. Southwest proclaims they're a family airline. Did it occur to anyone - and I believe one of the online stories even mentions - that someone on the flight had complained about her outfit? If I'm a parent and have kids on the flight and can see up her skirt, I'd complain too. How many seats are on a flight? As an airline, you're there to make everyone happy, which I think is the idea that the Southwest employee was trying to convey.

Problem is, this "Keith", the flight attendent, went about it all wrong. He shouldn't have chastised her in the front of the plane. He should have discussed the situation with her quietly, instead of broadcasting her business in front of the entire plane.

Oh wait. SHE was broadcasting her business when she sat down and you could see up her skirt.

The young lady proclaims that she was sitting with her legs crossed. If you saw the Today Show, then you also had to notice that she's fairly tall. And the seats on Southwest are fairly close. One of my daughters is 5'10" and she can't cross her legs in front of her when seated on a Southwest flight.

This isn't an issue of an airline abusing customers. I fly Southwest and will continue to do business with them. I've never had trouble on any flight with this airline, and I've never seen a problem that flight attendents haven't been able to handle.

This is an issue of decency, and it's as old as the beginning of time. What one person deems appropriate, another views as scandalous. And someone on the flight obviously thought the young lady was a bit, um, risque. Yup, it's hard to believe that someone would think that in this day and age when younger celebs show up in the skimpiest outfits available and nothing is left to the imagination. But someone on the flight WAS offended. And since every U.S. citizen has the right to voice his or her opinion, this "someone" did.

She complied with the directive given by the airline. She showed her whitey-tighties (or thong) to a national viewing audience. If she sues, will she win? I believe when she flashed America, she lost any chance she had of winning in a court of law. And one more thing: she lost her credibility.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Husker v USC - How much is a ticket worth?

How much would you pay to attend the Husker v. USC game on September 15? According to a story on, some ticket prices are as high as $4,800 dollars.

Now I'll admit it - I've never had to pay over the face value for a ticket. My parents have season tix and we use those tickets. There have been a few times I've let my kids take those seats and I've bought a ticket outside the stadium, but I have never had to pay more than the face value set the the University.

I'll also admit that I know I wouldn't pay that kind of cash for a seat in Memorial Stadium. As much as I enjoy Husker football, I can't justify that kind of expense. Yes, it's a big game. ESPN Game Day is coming to town on Thursday. People have been discussing it in small-town coffee shops big-city bars since last year's game in Pasadena. There's hype, there's tradition, there's an electricity buzzing around the state contemplating the "what if we beat the Trojans" scenarios.

But is it worth $4,800? Maybe if it were the National Championship game.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Along the road to Winston-Salem

Looks like Wake Forest's QB Riley Skinner will miss the game this week. How will that affect the outcome of Saturday's game? Let's look at some of the other factors.

How many Husker faithful will be in the stands? Might not matter since Grove Stadium only holds 34,000 fans. I'm betting that at least 15,000 of them will be from Huskerland. And hopefully the fans who are there will show why they are the best fans in college football.

The Huskers can not look a week ahead and glimpse the future if they upset USC. It's cliche, but it's true: you have to take it one week, one opponent at a time.

Keep the running game going strong. They provided 400+ yards in Saturday's stomping of Nevada. Marlon Lucky had an outstanding day! Walter Camp player of the week award winner, too! Great start!

Kellar has to connect. Heard alot of comments saying he needed to make sure he connects with his receivers, but come on folks, that's a two-way street. The receiver also has to catch the pigskin, especially when it's right in the pocket. Too many dropped passes the other day, but quite of few of them were dead on.

Let's go Huskers!

Teens and Responsibility

What has happened to today's teenagers? When did they become couch-sitting, reality tv-watching, sorry-but-I-can't-get-out-of-bed-until-11 AM sleeping, and I-don't-have-any-respect-for-anyone spouting kids?

I must have missed it. Or maybe I was embedded in the tunnel vision of parochial school education for too long. I don't know. Yes, there were kids in parochial school who weren't perfect and fit the above description. Show me any kid who is perfect. Oh yeah, that's right. There's only been one, and his name was JC.

I know there were things I wanted when I was a teen, and I'd wish for them, but if I couldn't afford it with money that I earned on my own, I didn't hassle my parents until they purchased it for me. Nope. I waited until I was 40 to do that! :)

Ok, honestly, I've raised three daughters and taught hundreds of students during my career, but I look at my youngest and my SO's two oldest and I worry about what their attitudes say about teens as a whole as well as this generation and where they're headed.


But on the other hand, there are thousands of teens who are responsible and do care about the impressions they make. Too bad there aren't more of them.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Football, Family, and Quickies

Spent yesterday watching the Huskers with the extended family in the bro-in-law's garage. Interesting concept, hanging out in the garage, downing a few beverages, munching on the goodies, cheering on the Big Red machine.

Looked a bit shaky there in the first quarter. I could just hear the guy who sits behind our seats in Memorial Stadium complaining about Sam Kellar. See, for about the last four years, he's complained about every quarterback. I remember the first year after Joe Dailey had graduated and the guy behind me was voicing his opinion quite loudly - or should I say he was coaching from the grandstands - about the new QB and why he shouldn't be playing. Finally, my daughter turned around and said, "Hey, I bet you wish Joe Dailey was back here, huh." One of the funniest moments in Husker football history. Okay, maybe only one of the funniest moments in Husker football history if you sit in Section 30 and have to listen to this guy. I know quite a few people got a good chuckle out of her comment, and since that time, the armchair coaching has quieted down some.

Also looks like the Huskers will have a good season, although I'm still not sure about how they'll handle the "big game" teams coming up on the schedule. It's going to take a stronger mental attitude, not only from players, but from fans. And I'm positive I'll take a lot of guff for this comment, but it's only football. And, these young men are between 17 and 23 and shouldn't shoulder the weight of the game for all of the State. They are, after all, human. And part of being human is that life is unpredictible.

Reminds me of another Husker story - when Nebraska played in the Big 12 championship game and lost. Some friends of ours were at our house, along with my parents, cheering for the Huskers. Well, Nebraska lost. My friend was complaining about not being able to win the championship. After a few minutes of listening to him, my mom told him that the sun will still come up tomorrow and life will go on.

The next morning, it was cloudy. :)

What's that tell you about Husker football?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Tunnel Walk

Heard last night on KLKN that there's some speculation that the famed Tunnel Walk might be changed. Come on, people! How many traditions are going to fall along the wayside? Later in the broadcast the reporter aired a report that said actually there's going to be a change in the pre-tunnel walk. Kinda like a prelude to the big event. Now we're talking!!

Last year's tunnel walk - complete with Keith Jackson talking about Husker Nation and why I'm a Husker - was amazing. It was the first year the team entered from the northwest corner of the end zone instead of the southwest end, and since our seats are right there in section 30, it was an amazing view. Great fireworks, too! Hope someone tapes today's and puts it on YouTube!

Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the U.S.A" right after and then the flyover was awesome!

God, I'm gonna miss not being there today, but.....there's always ABC!