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The Leg You Break May Be Your Own

We were at the football game Thursday night and I was only casually watching the game. A player was down. “Hey, that’s your son,” the lady next to me said.  I watched and waited for him to get up and he didn’t, though I could see his arm move.

“Can I go out there?” I asked.  There he was, lying up looking up at the sky, breathing hard, stiff with pain. The trainers and coaches and a doctor who’d been in the stands were there, and quickly diagnosed a broken leg, 

At the time it was all happening, I couldn’t really think. I stifled my first impulse to try to rope D into going with him to the emergency room when I realized how serious the injury was. We’d both be going. I noticed – or someone else told me – that I was shaking uncontrollably, even after the girls’ basketball coach put a coat on me. It took a while for the ambulance to arrive. The coaches commented how tough he was. They were amazed that he didn’t scream, whine or cry.

I’ve spent the last two days at Cook’s Children’s hospital. V’d broken his femur – that’s the thigh bone. Two hours of surgery.  Six to eight weeks in a cast.  Four to six months layup.  Good-bye basketball season, maybe baseball as well. 

I’d noticed before – I think I’ve written before – that football is a high-contact sport and the guys get hurt, though usually in small ways. It’s hard to watch your son be injured. You’ve protected him for so long and now you have to restrict your protective operations. Right now, I’m in the hospital expecting him to be discharged. He doesn’t feel great, he takes Vicodin and then it wears off and he sits there waiting for more. And the coffee in the hospital is horrible.

I take comfort that V has hung tough through his ordeal. We’ve had an outpouring of support and visits from the school, including two groups of beautiful girls bringing encouragement and various games and cards. But the most inspiring of all was V, who told me as he lay on the field, the pain was so great he thought he was dying, and he said a prayer, consigned his soul to God, and waited to see what happened next. In my mind, that’s an excellent way to live, whether you’re injured or not, and I’m proud to be his mom.  

Outsider Mom Goes on Boy Scout Campout

 I'm doing some blog posts at a Fort Worth arts and culture blog I'm working on with D.  This is the first of my Boy Scout campout thread, and since it seems pretty much in the general vein of my usual posts, I thought I'd co-post it here. The rest of the story will be posted sequentially on this week. 




October 17, 2008


I decided to attend my first-ever boy scout campout this weekend. My son B wanted me to, and they are doing orienteering, which sounds like fun. I don’t know how to do orienteering, but I’m a learn-on-the-fly kind of gal. 


But doing things on the fly is inimical to the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” What will happen to a woman who signs up to go with her son’s scout troop without due consideration? Will I-can-do-it bravado actually get me anywhere?


Here we are on Friday night, 6:07 p.m. at the Scout storage shed at the church, packing the gear. Boys are running around loading up trailers. Parents are talking quietly among themselves. Scoutmasters are directing scouts. Apparently there are five cars going up tonight and it’s an almost two hour drive. So: we’ll be pitching our tents in the dark. 


And that’s when I realize that I’ve forgotten my flashlight. How could I have done this? I’m pretty sure B doesn’t have his flashlight either, he’s the kind of kid who has to be reminded about everything, and I didn’t remind him to bring the flashlight around the same time I wasn’t reminding myself. I want to run and hide! If only my older scout son, V, were here. He remembers things. But V isn’t coming this time.


Having no flashlight wouldn’t be an emergency, actually, except for the problem of pitching the tent in the dark. I probably will be able to get help from someone. But overall, I’m not sure if things are going very well. And I really don’t want any of the scoutmasters and parents to know that I’m the kind of person who forgets their flashlight.


Now it’s 6:30. I observe scouts standing in their patrols, knocking each other’s hats off, making dismissive remarks about one guy who’s wearing the new uniform which has cargo-style pockets on the chest. Okay, I admit, it doesn’t look great, but there’s no reason to be so smug – it’s the new standard issue. My son’s patrol is making plans to each cook their own breakfast, so they can get the cooking requirement signed off.


A group of older scouts sits nearby. They are talking about killing someone by puncturing their heart with a staple gun. It’s amazing how long they can stay on this one fairly simple topic. The light is falling and I am getting hungry. I feel reassured since I found in the camp kit not a flashlight but a lantern with propane. Now we’re pulling out, they say. I get in the line of cars and drive. With my son’s patrol, the Spartans, in the back of the Suburban, it will not be a dull trip. 


Tomorrow: Driving to “Sid”





The jerky jogger of Tanglewood Trail

Last night, as I was driving home from dropping one of the kids off for one of their multitudinous activities, I came to the intersection of Bel Aire and Overton Park and the stoplight was flashing. Rain was pouring down, visibility was low. Wipers were going, and above us a blurry flashing red light. This was where the street crosses Tanglewood Bike Trail. I waited for the line of cars to go through, then entered the intersection and just as I was leaving I was shocked to hear something hit my car, hard. I was terrified. What was wrong? I must have hit something, and from the sound of it,  not something small. I stopped instantly and saw a white flash rush across the front of the car. Had I hit a jogger? I backed up and followed the guy. He seemed to be running well, wasn't limping or anything. I called out, "are you okay?" but he ignored me.

Disoriented and then becoming angry, because I realized he'd hit my hood with his fist as some kind of agressive tactic, I followed him and finally confronted him on the other side of the park. "Did you just hit my car?"

"Yes I did, because you ran the stop sign."

"I did not."

"Yes you did, you rolled through right after the car in front of you."

I protested that he had hit my car for no reason, and frightened me, and he told me I was a bad driver and ran off. I parked the car and called my husband, who was moderately sympathetic. After coming home, I told V about it. "I wished you were in the car with me," I announced. "Maybe he wouldn't have berated me if I had another person in the car."

I told the jogger that I couldn't drive safely when joggers run up and hit my car for a lark in the middle of a rain storm. Perhaps this information will have some eventual effect. I wondered if his claim, which was that he had a right to hit the car because I had (as he saw it) rolled through the stop sign, was legit.

Vince put the defniitive word on this. "Is he the police? Why doesn't he write you a ticket then?" 

I still don't think I rolled through the stop sign, but I don't have a video to prove it. Even if I did, it doesn't give a jerky jogger the right to run up and hit my car, a premeditated act of agreession which was only possible because of the quite non-dangerous trolling speed I was driving, moving only about 3 miles per hour. This is clear from the fact I was able to stop so quickly. The jerky jogger actually had time to run across the street in front of me.

Exegesis: I, the motorist will careful to continue to completely stop at stop signs, but also will be on lookout for jerky jogger and if I see him again, I will honk, loud, before he has time to get too close. 

Armchair Philosopher: The Noble Person

The noble person is one devoted to service and integrity. This person reaches excellence by a full flowering of their gifts, made possible by a forgetfulness of self and a vision of themselves instead in relation to the community, the world, the universe. They see themselves as useful. If their role seems to be a small one, they may be a small glass, metaphorically speaking, but they can be completely full with virtue and productivity within the role given them. These noble souls realize that even small tasks are important, remembering that “for want of a nail a shoe was lost,” and understanding that “we can’t all be captains, sometimes we have to be crew.” A noble person sets their hand to the plow and doesn’t look back. Any good they can do, they smile, and any harm they find they have done, they apologize to the universe, promise themselves not to do it again and go forward. Nobility, then, is not an accident of birth, but a construct of character. It is partially bequeathed by parents and society, partly actively chosen by the individual.

I’m in search of the human side of Fort Worth, so I stop at The Coffeee Urn (TCU). This local coffee counter is just a few doors down from Starbucks, but their approach and clientele are completely different.


The Coffee Urn used to be on Bluebonnet Circle; then they lost their lease. This is one place that seeks to fill the void of locally owned and operated places you can get something to eat or drink in Southwest Fort Worth. As I come in to the sounds of an overhead blower, hear the slamming door on the dishwasher, and then the sound of water washing around and plates being scraped, I feel an instant relaxation of tension. The people inside are in no hurry. 


A mural on the back of the restaurant shows a scene of Fort Worth before the roads were paved. It’s impressionistic, simple, but effective, seeming to make the assertion that “we are in the West here,” instead of the usual coffee bar claim which is more like “walk through these doors, and you are in Europe.” The coffee is more or less comparable to Starbucks, and it’s cheaper, too a Grande is $2 there, here, you get the equivalent for $1.62. Three flavors today: Cowboy Blend, Cinnamon Hazelnut, and French Roast.


Two guys are playing chess. Two other guys are reading the newspaper. It’s very quiet. Someone sneezes. “I’m not worried about your knight,” says a bald guy at the chess table, who’s got one of those super size earings like the cannibals wear in movies. The guy he’s playing has a tattoo on his arm. They sound like rough characters, but they’re not. I can’t explain how I know this.


A new guy comes in. “How are you doing,” he says to the counter man. “Can you do something for me?” He sits at the bar. I can’t hear all of the request, but it has something to do with scrambling eggs with jalapenos. 


Talk at the newspaper reading table turns to a guy who says he found a full grown box turtle in a parking lot. The animal had a number 6 painted on it. The guy took it home, but it got out and wandered away in a week or two. He assumes it knew what it was doing. 


“Check,” says a chess player. 


Talk lingers over an ’89 something or other one of them has parked outside. This is not the car I noticed. That would be the 60’s Impala. Now the chess game is over. The chess players share a high five. The winner laughs, the loser says “you always way pull that … Geez!”


The entrance bell jingles and a guy comes in, stops at a table, says hello. The effect of all this local color can only be felt, not seen, and is probably lowering my blood pressure and respiration. I feel like these guys, if someone fell over in convulsions, they wouldn’t just help them, they would be concerned. In Starbucks, you feel like there would be at least one person who would say, “Can you take of this? I’ve got a meeting.”


Summary: If you’re in the neighborhood, you might want to check this place out. This is not something you come across every day. 


The Coffee Urn, 5018 Trail Lake Drive, Fort Worth 76133, (817) 926-7660. Coffee, Burritos, Omlettes and Combos, 7 to 2 Monday Through Saturday. 

Sep. 27th, 2008

This morning my friend Steve M. sent me a message complaining that our restoration of the DFWWW short fiction and poetry contest did not garner the support he hoped for. I was surprised by the silence as well, but assumed that tthe reason they weren't posting was because they didn't see a problem. This action was more a long-term than short term deal. But, to defend my support of the contest, and to air some disagreements I have with a faction on the board which seems to think that anyone who isn't a published novelists or trying to be one is someone we don't need, I wrote the following rant. Then I sent an email to my friends in QuikFik, telling them to send support. 

"Dear Workhsop members,

 I feel like the contest is a fun incentive for short writers and I agitated on the board to get this done. I also supported the DFWWW making a $400 contribution to the poetry chapbook that Del and Ginnie are creating.  I feel we need to support a diverse group of writing endeavors, not just do critiques of people's novels and have a conference.
Some on the board (not our president, who's working to serve all the membership) seem to disagree. I have sat through meetings in which all other activities of the workshop besides read and critique were suggested to be irrelevant. I believe we have to have activities such as free seminars at the workshop, the poetry contest and the chapbook to show that we are more than just a read-and-critique group. I do not like anyone on the board or elsewhere suggesting that if we critique novels on Wednesday night and then hold a conference once a year (admission not included in membership) that this is enough.
Steve has told me he is committed to the workshop growing and becoming a voice for writers all over DFW, to be increasingly relevant, and this move by the board was designed to address those who feel putting all our eggs in one basket -- the conference -- was not a good strategy to obtain this end.  I assumed that the membership wanted a writer's workshop that supports these activities. The silence regarding the announcement makes me worry: does the membership care? 
We are currently recruiting for a new board and as people consider whether they are willing to come early once a month, try to attend most meetings of the year, and perhaps do additional tasks, board member wonder if they made the right decision to "serve" last year, confused about what the membership wants. I thought these extra services were supported by the membership. There are those on the board who believe that if a piece of writing is not going to lead to major publication as a novel, there is no reason for the workshop to concern itself with that piece of writing. Dan can vouch for this, he was at the last board meeting. 
What do you say, members? Do you not want the contest, the chapbook funding, the seminars? Should the board gear down into "sustain" mode? Or are we on the right track? We need to know."


Listening to John Denver Again

So I decided all I wanted to do this morning is write and listen to John Denver. I listen to the singer-song writer and that Martin Dreadnought and it's like being seven years old again.

Oh that Rocky Mountain High -- yeah, so he had a drug problem. Didn't everyone back in the 70's? And I think of Annie's Song -- and their failed romance -- the times took their love afair and it went like a house afire and then was gone, and I still think he committed suicide. 

""The kisses that I live for, the love that lights my day, the happiness that living with you brings me ... " he sings.  It's the voice of a generation. Last night Steve M. has some book complaining about the baby boomers and I thought that while everyone younger complains about them, is it really fair? Maybe we should try to understand? Denver's music is so full of feeling and, dare I say it, selfishness. My father called it "sacharine." But Denver and his friends, like every generation, desired to make their mark and be remembered.

And I have to say thier music is a contribution for the ages. Now Denver launches into Annie's Song and I almost cry. 

Somewhere among the everyday things that pass away from my childhood, the gas stations and drug stores, new construction on the edge of town, the paper packages from McDonald's in a gutter, John Denver sings to Annie, "Let me give my life to you."

I don't know. I just don't know, I guess all I can take away from it is maybe she shouldn't have left him. I suppose she would be outraged to hear someone say that, would tell me that I have no idea what he was actually like. But sometimes you can't see the truth from close up, either. Probably, being so close, she coudln't hear in his mustc what everyone will else always know about the state of his heart. 

I volunteer at the library again

At the library, volunteering is going fairly well. I have completed eight hours of work, mostly putting movie materials away. I should be done with volunteering and get my card back by Wednesday. 
Yesterday I had the opportunity to help reshelf the children’s movies. Now this was a colossal headache, because the shelves were slanted (to accommodate VHS, I assume) but the DVD anti-theft cases slipped and slid all over. Also, kids and their parents were poring over the shelves, moving stuff around, knocking things over and asking me where were the videos about princesses, pirates, trains.
As I watched, it seemed to me the parents were the ones who were desperate for DVD’s. The kids had trouble focusing on the covers, and seemed unexcited by the offerings. 
Perhaps one reason for this was the relatively low quality of the DVD’s offered. Most of them were PBS TV shows; apparently there isn’t sufficient economic incentive to produce high-quality feature films for children. While the shelf for children’s movies was about as large as the adult shelf, the ratio of features to TV series was quite different. We have enough feature films to fill the adult stacks. For children, TV shows rule: Barney, Jay Jay the airplane, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bill Nye Science Guy, Arthur and Friends, Charlie and Lola. These are joined by a smattering of BBC adaptations of classic children’s novels, such as “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Secret Garden,” the Disney movies, and then Veggie Tales.
As I watched, yet another parent came up and urged their child to rent a movie. 
I began to see what was going on. The children were encouraged to watch movies so the parents could get a break. The kids weren’t actually that interested; perhaps mostly their mothers were interested in getting a cup of coffee and reading a book without interruption. I’ve used DVD’s for that purpose myself, so I don’t really blame the mothers. 
But what troubles me the most is the main reason the kids weren’t excited about watching a video and giving their moms a break, which I saw as the lack of top-quality children’s movie copy. We are constantly putting children’s needs and desires behind our own, and the lack of application in producing quality children’s video is just one more example. (I would like to interject that children’s book publishing is quite developed, and I’m glad about that, but even there you can see a lot of commercialism and pandering. Fortunately there is plenty of good material out there among the bad, perhaps most cogently because the overhead on publishing a book is way lower than on making a movie. )
But in sum, the experience made me wonder about our commitment as a society to children’s imaginative welfare. The tiny number of commercially-produced movies suggests that Hollywood or independent studios or whoever have very little incentive to to produce quality, thought provoking cinema for our youth. Meanwhile, the offerings of PBS feature such insipidities as Arthur, the Ardvark, who lives in a typical suburban setting, hangs out with a know-it-all monkey and a smart kid of amorphous animal kingdom called “The Brain,” and faces such dilemmas as “Arthur’s TV-free Week, in which Arthur and the gang swear off TV for a week to win a bet. Can they do it?” Probably, I think to myself, if their parents stop shoving the videos in their faces. However, with the boring copy on these shelves, they might really have a chance.
The ironic nature of a book about giving up TV subsequently made into a TV show and eventually videotape – was not lost on me. But most of all, I thought it sad. If Arthur and the gang couldn’t give up these TV shows, their imaginations left something to be desired. The DVD’s at the library, by and large, weren’t about secret gardens, far away palaces, ocean voyages, profound friendships or being kidnapped. They were about doing reports and dealing with your parents. How dull a fare to offer the hope and future of America.

I volunteer at the library

I decided to volunteer at the library to work off my fines. Although I felt sheepish, realizing that most people would pay the fines, even those over $100, like mine. But I also knew that if I just paid them again, as I have for the last 20 years, I risked missing a teachable moment. On two fronts. First, I missed out on the possiblity to learn what they do in the back room of the library. Second, I missed out on the possiblity that by taking more personal responsibility for my actions, I might teach myself to stop losing books. 

So, suit up and show up as they say.  I reported at 10 a.m. to Alexis, who's in charge of volunteers. Alexis showed me a wall shelf full of DVD's returned over the wekeend.  The supply gets depleted as people come in to borrow them for Saturday and Sunday, and now, on Monday morning, the shelves out in the main stacks of the library were over half empty, while the ones of returned DVD's in the back room were full. My mission would be to put the DVD's back in theft-proof cases, snap the cases shut, so they couldn't be stolen, and bring the DVDs out to the shelves, where I would organize them by first letter of title. So ... there is an A section, a B section, etc. No need to worry beyond the first letter. 

This would be easy. I was working in the adult feature movies. I have learned that there are alsothese other groups:  kid movies, foreign movies, Spanish movies, and TV shows. You can tell by the dot on the upper spine, plus they say the category below the title on the call letters at the bottom.

I got through one cart in about an hour.  "She's fast," said Alexis. I took a small bow and started working on a second cart, this time I had both DVD's and VHS, which require no theft protection device, since you can now get them for 25 cents many places.  . 

People sure watch a lot of movies, I thought. And the variety was endles, though there are some trends. For example, I put back no less than 4 copies of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, three Star Treks, and three Star Wars.  There was a smattering of old movies with Katherine Hepburn and some war movies. Also several copies of something called "the 40 year Old Virgin."

Anything I wanted to watch? Sure, a "Passage to India," and also "Notting Hill," which T always talks about as her all-time favorite chick flik. 

By the end of my shift I had gone through a lot of movies. But one theft-protection case didn't work right. I gave it to one of the workers. What do you do when they won't snap open? I asked. I had put it through the "clacker" which is what they call the wood and metal device they use for opening the cases, several times. It was frozen.  "Hm. " She studied it. "It's broken," she confirmed.  She though about it. Threw it on the ground.  Picked it up. Checked it again.

"Now it works," she said. She gave it back to me. 

So now I know how to fix DVD theft-safe cases.  . 

Waking up to go to church

I was sick this weekend -- fevers on and off, headache, coughing -- so I couldn't go to church today.  A has also been ill, so he was off the hook. But J is supposed to go to first communion class, early. Last night D said he would take her, but waking him up at 8 a.m. on a Sunday is not something anyone would want to do. Because he doesn't like it.  Also, the boys needed to go as well or they would  just have to blow off church for the day, 'cause no one was going after the class, you either were going early or not going. Ick.  What to do? Thought about it a while. Drank tea. Decided best direction was to try to get them to go, but not invest too heavily in the results.  Which were, person by person:

1.  J -- put on dress and shoes. Went out to car.
2. D -- grumbled about oppression of church holding First Communion class every Sunday at 8:45, which I agreed with.  Drank coffee I brought. Seems to have left Starbucks Bodun travel mug at UNT. I gave him the new travel mug I bought for myself yesterday. He went out the door. 
3. B -- got up the first time I asked him, but then did nothing but play with Legos. I told him to stop that and get dressed. He put on his shirt and pants and hurried out the door, pants not buttoned, shirttails and belt flapping, socks and shoes in his arms. 
4. V.  Didn't move the first time I told the boys to get up. Went back in later, looked at him, decided it was probably hopeless but still said "V you're going to miss mass." He didn't move.  I checked to make sure he was alive, shrugged and left. I'm too sick for a V-get-out-of-bed rodeo this morning. 

So, conclusion, three our of four ain't bad.