Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Too Many Ladybugs - A Library Story

I look back with fondness at my years as a librarian and realize that many of my more interesting days in the library involved children.  As the manager of a small library, my duties and those of all the staff could be summed up with "we do a little bit of everything."

Planning for the annual Summer Reading Program began in March and as soon as school let out in May, the library was a hub of activity.  An example of the need for quick thinking and flexibility took place one year when we were focusing on bugs and insects.  One program was about ladybugs, and we decided that we would send each child home with some ladybugs to release.  We learned that ladybugs would remain dormant if refrigerated and we placed an order for several thousand. 

We kept the sleeping ladybugs in the library's refrigerator until the morning of the program and then removed the package to put them in the hundred or so film cartridges we had collected.  We took the package into the auditorium and opened it, finding that the ladybugs were far from dormant. They were awake and very energetic and many quickly escaped into the large, open room.  We couldn't catch them, but were able to sweep them towards and out the back door of the building.  More than half of them were lost -- and probably found homes in the neighborhood gardens around town.  We were able to scoop enough of them up so that each child received a few.

I also managed to catch a few in my clothing.  They went down the front of my dress and up the skirt.  I shook a few out as I walked to the restroom and removed a few more when I was able to lift my skirt and reach down the front of my dress.  When I went home that evening, I found still more nestled in folds and crevices -- places I wouldn't have imagined that they could have been!

The program was a success and I gained a new appreciation of ladybugs, especially en masse.

This is the time of year when children all over the country are signing up for their library's summer reading program.  If you have the opportunity, you might give a special thanks to the librarians who work hard to make the summer special for the kids in your community.  They will tell you, I'm sure, that the pleasure is theirs, even when it involves the unexpected -- like thousands of ladybugs!


p.s.  The ladybug photo is from the Thomas Hawk Digital Collection.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friendship and Amalgamation Cake

I connect a certain cake recipe from the 1950's to my mother and her best friend, Nell.  You don't hear much about Amalgamation Cake these days, so I was elated to find the recipe on a couple of sites through a Google search.

My particular memory involves going home from school one day and finding Mother and Nell putting together the approximately 20 ingredients(including jam, raisins, coconut, and walnuts) to make the cake, and having the time of their lives.

Nell always brought extra spark and energy into our home and my mother was the main beneficiary.  Nell was a nurse and kept my mother, a homebody with five children, informed about what was going on around town.  They were both beautiful women; my mother was a natural beauty but I always thought Nell was particularly glamorous; she was tall and tanned and wore red lipstick and nail polish.  My mother was shy, but Nell was an extrovert who was unafraid to express her opinion. I suspect that many considered her brash and unrefined, but I doubt that Nell spent any time worrying about what other people thought.

It's interesting that I connect Amalgamation Cake to my mother's friendship with Nell.  The word "amalgamation" means combining or blending and that's exactly what happened.  Mother and Nell enjoyed a friendship that bridged their differences and concentrated on things that they could enjoy doing together, such as baking cakes.  They were like Lucy and Ethel in some ways, always "cooking something up" that was different or fun.

Today, it's more difficult to forge friendships like Lucy's and Ethel's or Mother's and Nell's.  Maybe that's what I really yearn for, someone to bake an Amalgamation Cake with me.

Click here for a recipe for Amalgamation Cake.

Annie Joy

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Giving Mary the Camera

At our house, we have a box full of home movies that we haven't been able to watch.  In fact, they were missing for several years and were recently rediscovered, just in time to have them converted into DVD format.  Since we have so many, Tom decided to send in a few at a time, and did so, in no particular order. (They were the result of random and sometimes misleading labeling.)

We received some of the DVDs this week and spent some wonderful time reliving Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters, birthdays, and awards ceremonies from 1992-1995.  The viewing was even more fun because so much time has lapsed; our granddaughter who was two years old in the earliest films has just finished her freshman year in college, my two youngest daughters (then 12 and 14) are now adults and the rest of us are, of course, 15 years older.

Tom and I laughed ourselves silly watching the movies.  At one point, I had to excuse myself for a bathroom break; I can only laugh for so long without developing a real emergency.

I learned something unexpected through watching the movies.  When we first bought the camera, Tom was the "official" recorder and I was the stand-by so that Tom could be in the movie.  His method of recording was to stop at each person at a gathering and say something like, "Well, Dad, tell us how you are and what's going on with you" at which point Dad or whomever he was camera-stalking would freeze, say something like "I'm fine" or wave Tom away.  Tom's true desire has been to record some good memories for all of us, but the response has often been "get that camera out of my face" (or something more subtle, depending upon the family member).  Despite the challenges, Tom did produce some really good sequences and provided comic relief in others, when he wasn't behind the camera.

The really good stuff happened when Tom allowed Mary access to the camera.  Mary, at age 12 (now the mother of three daughters of her own) shot her own views of holidays at our house.  Since she was 12, nobody paid much attention to where she was going or what she was shooting.  Her recording included her remarks to her sisters (not always polite), and their responses (also not always polite).  She recorded moments of affection between Tom and me (including one when I had a bad case of the giggles).  She followed two-year-old Whitney around and recorded her and Tom as they fed the birds, Whitney repeating everything her grandpa said.  She recorded all of us, just as we were.

There are moments in these videos that some might not appreciate.  For example, I would have preferred that my backside (bent over the dishwasher) not be featured in a couple of the kitchen shots.  Close-up food-chewing shots are not my favorite holiday memory.  But that's the price you pay for a 12-year-old camera girl.  The benefits, however, are immeasurable -- a true picture (not posed) of our holidays, warts and all, and the confirmation that those times were good and that we loved each other then as we do now.  Maybe we are more like the Conner family than the Cleavers (though I continue to "set the stage" as if we were the Cleavers).  Maybe that's why Roseanne, Dan, Becky, Darlene and DJ still make me laugh.

By the way, Mary is still carrying a camera around.  She's getting shots of her family that professionals dream about, and many of the bloggers I follow seem to have the same skill.  I think that most of it is accepting what she sees and appreciating it in the present -- instead of looking back later and seeing how good it really was.

If you have a 12-year-old in your family, you may want to assign him/her to camera duty at your next family gathering.  Then let go and have fun; it really will be out of your hands!

Annie Joy

Monday, May 3, 2010

May Memories -- Forces of Nature

My heart goes out to those who suffered through the weekend of storms, tornadoes, and flooding in Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.  Lost lives, injuries, homes and property -- words can't express the heartbreak of those lives which will be changed forever by these forces of nature; neither can they adequately express the sorrow that we feel for those affected.  All most of us can do is keep them in our thoughts and prayers and, if possible, contribute to relief efforts.

I stayed up late Saturday night to track the path of tornadoes as they approached my home town in the bootheel of Missouri.  It's amazing that we can now get almost up-to-the-minute reports via the Internet, and I was relieved when I saw the "all clear" and was able to go to bed.  I didn't learn until Sunday that Memphis and Nashville had been hit hard.  I hurt and I hope that friends, family members, and those I don't know will be comforted.

It reminds me of a night here in Oklahoma -- May 3, 1999.  "Bad weather nights" aren't unusual for Oklahomans and we knew that one was coming.  Tom and I decided that we would have dinner at the Delta Cafe before we went home to "batten down the hatches", but midway during our meal, the lights flickered and the sky darkened and we decided to hurry home.  It was the beginning of a night that almost every Oklahoman will never forget -- the night of 74 tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma, one of which traveled through Oklahoma City, making it the single most costly tornado in U.S. history.  Doppler on Wheels (weather radar) measured it as the highest ever recorded in wind speed and intensity, just one mph short of an F6 tornado.

Tom and I watched and listened after we prepared our safe space:  Meteorologists on television were admonishing everyone to "take cover", telling us that this was really, really bad -- even by Oklahoma standards.  (This information was later credited for saving many lives.)  We were among the fortunate -- we lived in Tecumseh at the time and one of the tornadoes missed us by about ten miles as it hit the little town of Pink and moved on to Shawnee, where numerous homes were badly damaged and one woman was killed.  Another tornado hit Stroud and completely demolished Sanger Outlet Mall, which was never rebuilt.

The worst damage and greatest injuries were in the Bridge Creek and Oklahoma City area; 36 people died and 8,000 homes were badly damaged or destroyed.  You couldn't drive on I-40 or I-35 without seeing the devastation -- complete neighborhoods gone; trees that were now splintered stumps; businesses, including multi-storied buildings, that were unidentifiable.  Most of us knew somebody who had lost a family member or their home or something precious.  If you didn't, you heard the stories on television or the radio.  And you cried with your neighbors, your fellow Oklahomans.

That's one reason I'm writing this today.  To remind those who have faced, are facing, or who will face a "force of nature" that you are not alone.  God is with you, and there are many who you will never know who are with you also. 

Annie Joy

p.s.  I want to add this note about another "force of nature" -- a wonderful one -- who came into our lives 19 years ago.   My granddaughter, Whitney, is celebrating her birthday today.  She is finishing her first year at the University of Oklahoma and we are proud of her and love her very much.  Happy Birthday, Whitney!


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