Candles, Blood, Trolls, and Death

This post began at flowers and wound up at a man with a hole in his head. Ick. And yet, I couldn’t help myself: I looked again.

We are not the boss of our own curiosity, are we? Or of our own writing.

Here is a flower that used to be called the Easter Candle:

Bloodroot Easter Candle Buds

Guess Why

Here they are later in the day:
Bloodroot Easter Candle Flowers

Now They’ve Got Their Easter White On

You have to be quick to catch them like this, because it happens fast, in early Spring, only one day a year.

They remind me of the Hattifatteners from the Moomintroll books: Those odd, thin, white creatures which also poked up quickly and mysteriously from the ground:

Hattifatteners (Okay, They're a Little Creepy)

Cute, But a Little Creepy.

When the flowers open fully, they don’t look anything like candles, piccolos, OR Hattifatteners:
Bloodroot Easter Candle Flowers Open

What a Happy Spring!

Blood Easter Candle Blooms

Enjoy Them–They’ll Be Gone Tomorrow (But the Foliage Will Stay Green a Long While : )

When you cut the leaves or stem of an Easter Candle, instead of wax, you get blood.
Bloodroot Easter Candle Bloody Sap From Leaf

Talk About Creepy.

It’s dark and permanent enough that you can use it for ink, or for dye. The Indians did.

Here are the roots:

Bloodroot Easter Candle Bloody Root

Are Red Rhubarb Roots Like This?

That’s why a more common name for Easter Candles is bloodroot.

The scientific name starts with “Sanguinaria”: “bloody”.

Coincidence I Think Not Gif

Sorry…Couldn’t Resist…

An older name for bloodroot is bloodwort. “Wort” in a plant name tells you the plant name is very old, and the plant was used long ago in herbal medicine.

“Black salves” [savs--healing creams]–with sanguinarine [san-GUIN-uh-reen--bloodwort] and other ingredients were used to burn skin on purpose:
To remove warts and moles, and to try to cure skin cancers. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes, people still use ‘em. BUT: Sometimes, they scar you really badly, or make holes in you, or kill you.

Bloodwort is an escharotic [ess-kar-OT-ick]: Something that makes skin DIE.

It turns to a special dark scab called an “eschar” [ESS-kar--Greek for scab]. This scab and skin sloughs off [sluff--fall away; especially in layers].

Escharotic Lesion From Brown Recluse Bite

A Small Eschar–They Come In Super-Size, Too

Peeling Away Face Layers

A Tragic and Extreme Case of Sloughing

Escharotics include sulfuric acid, gangrene, and necrotizing [NECK-ruh-tie-zing--rotting and dying) spider bites--like the ones from the brown recluse.

Brown Recluse Spider Man Crevice Broadsheet

It’s True: They’re More Afraid of You Than You Are of Them

Here are your mnemonics [neh-MAH-nicks--memory tricks] for today:

“An escharotic is necrotic”. “A black salve cream can cause gangrene.” “A thick black scab is something BAD.”

Okay. This is getting dorky, AND gross. Time for a Moomin break. It will still be dorky, but SWEET:

Moomintroll Coffee Foam on Pinterest

Oh, Moomintroll. Who Could DRINK That Coffee and Make Your Cuteness Go Away?

Moomintroll Cupcake

Probably the Same Person Who Could Eat This Cupcake

In most western countries, you need a prescription to get an escharotic salve. People who make or sell unauthorized ones like Cansema have been charged with crimes.

There are TWO reasons why non-prescribed black salves are dangerous:


Remember that word “slough” [sluff]? The dead tissue is cast off (thrown) from the SURFACE of the skin. Other stuff might be happening underneath: There can be an infection growing, or skin cancer still spreading.

A doctor can decide whether to let an eschar slough off naturally, or to debride it [deh-BREED--carefully separate and remove; e.g. with a scalpel] to prevent infection or to treat the cancer underneath. Do YOU feel qualified to decide whether you need debridement?

Dead and Rotting

Now, THIS Guy is Qualified for Debridement.


You can’t know how much of the sanguinaria–the stuff that will burn your skin away like ACID–is in that salve you bought from your friend’s curandero (healer). You could burn a lot more than you want.


Here’s a man who decided to treat his own skin cancer with bloodroot salve. If you’re thinking, “He must have had a hole in his head.”, you are right. After he used the salve, that’s what he had.

(I would have included that pic here, but it is copyrighted–I try not to include those without permission. What the linked blogger did or didn’t do is his own concern.)

This whole post started when I was reading the 1956 Newberry Award winner “Miracles on Maple Hill” by Virginia Sorensen (a lovely book), and was introduced to Easter Candles and other flowers of which I’d never heard. Sparked my curiosity, it did.

Nerd With Book

Babeous Nerdous Supremeous

I have lots and lots of more important things to do–vital things–but had to stop and write this instead. Silly, really.


Bloodwort (Sanguinaria) is approved by the FDA for use as an additive in herbal toothpastes and mouthwashes–for its supposed anti-bacterial and anti-plaque properties. Yet Wikipedia claims that:

“…products containing bloodroot are strongly associated with the development of …a premalignant lesion that may develop into oral cancer.” Wikipedia Entry on Sanguinaria.

Toothpaste Full of Crap

My Nomination For Our Next PSA!


Most of the information in this post is quoted or paraphrased from the Wikipedia items cited in the post.


Usually, bees pollinate the Easter Candles and ants spread their pollinated seeds. But if these cute little candles pop out too early when it’s still too cold for bees, they borrow a page from an old Star Trek and SHOOT their own pollen out.

Star Trek Flower Shooting Pollen High

Be Especially Wary, Visiting Vulcans!



Too late, I found a bloodroot post FAR superior to mine (and a brilliant nature site). Sigh.
Correction to meaning of “puccoon” (Really sorry for the bad scholarship, y’ll): An Algonquin word that meant “red”.


Filed under fact-serious, science

The Awesome, The Amazing: “Man Trap”

A little girl;
Some summer fun;
A marble on a racing run;
It starts out plain;
And ends transformed;
Look out, you men:
You have been WARNED!!

If you’re old enough, you were in love with Mousetrap:

Tiny Mousetrap Game

What Fun Your Mice Had Playing It–Remember?

(BTW, you can actually ORDER that teeny-tiny version above, and the makers claim it really works! How cool is THAT?!)

I was nuts about Mousetrap. When I was eleven, I decided to make my own Rube Goldberg device. The awesome, amazing “Man Trap“.

Mantrap Drawing Title Registered Trademark

Note the “Registered Trademark” Logo. Sophisticated Li’l Punk I Was

(Click drawings to enlarge, but Back Arrow to return or the post will close.)

The concept was simple. Simple and SO sexist.

An unsuspecting man would encounter a devious woman who, previously plain, had altered her appearance via the beauty products my eleven-year-old self was most familiar with. Then the man, helpless and enraptured in the face of so much beauty, would bow to the woman’s will and marry her.

Oh, my Golly, Miss “Feminine Plastique”1 Molly.

The Base

The base of the Man Trap was a TV dinner.

Swanson Chicken TV Dinner

Mmmm… Chemicals…

After all, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Who didn’t like TV dinners? I thought. (Could THIS be why I’m single now for so long ;) )

The Marble Chute

Argh. Nothing I tried would curl into a lovely spiral without squeezing and slowing my marble. I had to go with half-tube ramps instead, made from short lengths of the top edge of our backyard pool, tacked to a backboard in a Z shape.

Home-Made Marble Ramp

Here’s Someone Else’s Homemade Marble Ramp

The ends of the tube ramps would have let my little marble leap out. I needed something springy to close them so that the marble would maintain its momentum when it hit them and changed direction.

Got it! I peeled the rubber tire off one of my brother’s toy cars. It fit perfectly into the end of a tube. So I denuded five more tyres off that and another car. Without asking, of course.

Oh: The marble began its journey being dropped into the bachelor’s life by way of a beer can (a painted turtle food container).

Mantrap Beer Can Drawing

I Remember the Flat Poster Paint Kept Peeling Away From the Glossy, Curved Surface

The Backboard

The backboard which held the marble ramps was covered by a Playboy magazine. (Sigh.)

Pink Playboy Cover 1965

Is That S-L-I-T Supposed To Make a Man Think of a Woman’s Cha-Cha? Guess That Would Make the Bunny the Baby. (And What Would That Make the Playboy, Hmmm?).

On the backboard, between the ramps, I glued large letters: P-L-A-Y-T-E-X.

Speed limit signs at each “turn” of the marble ramp–there would be three–were to reflect the ideal woman’s measurements–from a man’s point of view. (I’m so ashamed.) So I asked my Dad what these would be. His answer is pretty revealing about HIS tastes:

“40 – 23 – 35″.
(Ouch. THAT poor woman felt the need to have her lower ribs removed.)

So: The plain marble travelled through the land of PLAYTEX–famous for squeezy girdles and pointy bras–and acquired the perfect figure, according to my Dad. How ill is THAT, for an eleven-year-old to believe that nature alone could never equip a woman to attract a man? (EXACTLY what we’re teaching ‘em today.)

The Marble(s)

The marble was to start out plain, but end fancy. Hmmm…

Aha! I created a sign that said “Maybelline”. The beauteous marble would wait patiently at this sign, subtly, drawing no attention to herself. The plain marble would roll along rapidly, hit the sign with a THWACK!–magically acquiring makeup–and stop cold, transferring energy to the beauteous marble. She would then take off running. A magical transformation. Genius! (Well, that’s what I thought at the time.)

Mantrap Drawing Maybelline

She’s Made Up Like a Marble of the Night, Isn’t She?

Here are the “before” and “after” marbles:

Mantrap Before Marble

Yeah–I Felt I Had To Label It “Before”

Mantrap After Marble

Tell Me She’s Not Gaw-Juss

Now, stop laughing. YOU try painting a dang marble with the paints available from your brother’s Revell car kits and his chewed up brushes. Glue on some flocking for hair. Then age these a coupla’ decades and see how YOURS look!

The Payoff: The Engagement and Marriage

Okay, so now we have a sexy woman with a beautiful face and figure, all ready to entrap her man. First, he will offer her the engagement ring. The beautiful marble, after leaving Maybelline Land, dropped down a chute aimed squarely at said ring (a teensy one my Mom got from a wedding place-setting).

Mantrap Engagement Ring Trigger

Tip of Pinkie Finger Included For Scale : )

This yanked a thread tied to a hatpin at one end and a rolling pin at the other–no stereotypical women’s implements HERE!

Mantrap Rolling Pin

Carved From a Pencil. I Sewed the Cover From a Piece of My Brother’s Undershirt.

The rolling pin propped up the trap door of a gallows.

Mantrap Gallows

It Used to Have Legs…

This now dropped. The poor schlub bachelor then dropped, too.

Mantrap Mouse Hanging

Why Blurry? Caught In Mid-Swing

You DO see he is hung by a wedding ring?

It took me forever to saw through that hard plastic troll body in order to make this mouse-man hybrid. I was proud I was able to succeed at this. My sister, the owner of that troll, was less proud.

He looks quite faithful to my original drawing:

Mantrap Mouse Drawing

He STILL Looks Like He Doesn’t Know What’s Coming!

Do you understand WHY he had to be half-man, half-mouse?

Because, in the answer to the question “Are you a man, or a mouse?”, obviously the man who allowed himself to be trapped into marriage was a mouse.

How proud am I, that I created such an amazing device, based upon such feminist principles?

Here is the Man Trap’s original explanation, showing how short this post SHOULD have been:

Mantrap Drawing Steps

See? I Wasn’t Always This Verbose!

BTW, I am still dateless, since Fang, even with my online efforts (admittedly minimal). Perhaps a trip to Maybelline and Playtex are in order, after all?


“The Feminine Mystique” is a 1963 book by Betty Friedan which is widely credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States.” (Wikipedia)


What did I do with that troll’s head, you wonder (or not)? Well, gaw, isn’t it obvious? I poured a couple of drops of gravy on it, folded a chewed piece of bubble gum around it, scrunched it up in a piece of paper upon which I’d written N-A-V-Y, and gave the wad to my sister.

“Ba-by, Ba-by,
Stick your head in gra-vy,
Wrap it up in bub-ble gum,
And send it to the Na-vy!”

Troll Head In Bubble Gum For Navy

I’m Definitely Going to Hell

Mantrap Entire Plan Shrunken

Can You Believe I Still Have This Sh#t? (Sheet)


Filed under memoir, memoir-funny, sexism

The Summer of the Naked Bear

Longfellow, Twain, a man named Kent;
(Is it the Super man who’s meant?);
WHAT naked bear?! What’s this ABOUT!?
You’ll have to read to find that out :)

During the hot, worst days of a long New York summer, when my friend Karen and I had run out of every last thing there was to do:

    We’d already sat outside one entire day pulling up clover stems and knotting them together to see how long a chain we could make (it stretched across our third-acre lot).

    We’d already spent an entire morning recording ourselves saying over and over to each other “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”, and an entire afternoon listening back to this.

Karen’s dad, a teacher, tricked us into staying off each others’ nerves and out of his hair by means of paying us a penny a line to memorize poetry. (What a wise man!)

Thus, we memorized “Paul Revere’s Ride”. Then, we had gotten greedy and started on “Hiawatha”, but we never got farther than “Eewa-yea, my little Owlet!” (We kept falling apart giggling at the line “Hush! The Naked Bear will hear thee!”)


Naked Bear

I Don’t Think We Were Old Enough to Imagine THIS


But I used to memorize poems for fun anyhow. Born nerd, here.

My favorite uncle, Walter Kent, was a poet. He wrote lots and lots and lots of poems. Some of them I think are very good. Some of them not so much. A lot of Uncle Walt’s poems are corny. Some of the corny ones are still good.

If Uncle Walt had written only one poem, the one of his which is my favorite, he would be a great poet to me. He and his wife, my ever-so-nice Aunt Fern, loved each other very much. This is the short poem he wrote for Fern, the woman he would love forever:

      Blithe Spirit

      When I am gone, do you suppose
      I could piggyback upon a rose,

        Or maybe ride a sunbeam in,
        To dance about your lips and chin?
Sunlight on Woman's Face

Yes, Fern, It’s Me.

      Or when you smile into a stream
      Do you suppose that as you dream

        Of the many things we used to do,
        That I’ll be smilin’ back at you?

      Or when you hear the redbird sing,
      Will you see me nestled on his wing?

        Will I be in every smiling eye?
        Will I paint you sunsets in the sky?

      Yes, I’ll be riding every flower,
      Every bird and every hour,

        Awaiting in eternity
        For you to ride your dream to me.

Riding a Bird To You

Riding a Bird To You


My Poems

I liked to write poetry too. Here is the first poem I ever wrote, when I was 7. Brace yourself:

      Christmas Is a Time of Year

      Christmas is a time of year
      When people spread tidings and good cheer.

      We put up a tree in the living room,
      And Santa comes down the chimney: Boom!


      Santa Rappelling At Chimney Rock

      Silly Santa. Should Have Taken Up Rappelling.

      We open our presents and play with our toys,
      My, oh my! What a noise!

      We ride our sleds very fast,
      Then we go down the hill and past

      Houses and trees and other things,
      And all the church bells ring.

All the Church Bells Ring Wiith Clappers

ALL of Them? (“The Bells! The Bells!”)


Don’t you just love that “Boom”? And those generic “other things”?
My, oh my! That girl can write!

Now that you’ve gotten a taste, surely you want more. Here is this post’s last poem (Whew!), this one written when I was fourteen. You may notice the debt it owes to my friend Karen’s dad, and the long, hot summer of the Naked Bear.

      Song of Huckleberry

      By the shores of Mississippi,
      By the muddy river waters,
      Stood the raft of Huckleberry,
      Son of laughter, Huckleberry.


Huckleberrys Kon-Tiki Raft

Breathtakin’. Kain’t See Them Skeeters and Water Moccasins At All From Here


      Bright behind it rose the forest,
      Rose the tall and mighty oak trees,
      Rose the forts with boys upon them.

      Dark before it beat the waters,
      Beat the swirling, muddy waters,
      Rolling Mississippi waters.


Rolling Mississippi Waters

A Big Pat on the Back For No Anachronistic Post-Huck DooDads or JimCrackys in This Shot, By Golly!


      There the boy named Huckleberry,
      Nursed the crying baby bear cub,
      Rocked his small Kon-Tiki cradle, [raft]
      Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
      Safely bound with hemp-rope sinews,
      Stilled his fretful wail by saying,

      “Shush! The Mother Bear’ll hear ya!”


Bear Cub Fretful Wail Crying

“Huck! That Ain’t Proper English!”


      But the baby bear was hungry,
      And Mother Bear soon found her son;
      To summarize the gory details:
      Huckleberry didn’t run.


Mother Bear and Cub Son

“What’s For Dessert?”


While it’s no “Blithe Spirit”, I thought it was pretty cute. My friend Vicky’s parents thought it was terrific, and put it up on the bulletin board in their kitchen. That made me feel really good. Then, one of their guests spotted it and said to them “You must be proud, to have such a genius in the family.” Vicky’s folks made the mistake of sharing this with me.

My, oh my, indeed! With supreme confidence, therefore, I made my first literary submission, humbly choosing The Saturday Review. Now defunct, its writing was on a par with that of The New Yorker.

Why start small? After all, it was a work of genius.

Alas, my brilliant poem was, apparently, too lofty for even the high brows at the Review. I believe that’s exactly what they said on their rejection slip.


Snoopy Rejection

I’m With Snoopy


That’s the sound of my head returning to normal size.)


Beetlejuice Shrunken Head Guy

Did I Overdo It? Does Anyone Here Have a Mirror?



Bear Vs. Human (Babies)–Who Would Win?

An interesting and ultimately scary fact: Human and bear babies can sound identical, which has led to some…mixups.

If you’re into pure cuteness, start about 3 minutes in on this Den Cam video to see intimate bonding between mom and cub.

What the Heck is a ‘Bullrush’ Anyhow?

Is it a cousin to a bum steer, like when Moses pulls the wool over Pharoah’s beautifully-kohled eyes? Is it something annual and testicularly-driven at Pamplona? Do YOU know the difference between a grass, a rush, and a reed? Well wonder no more!


Filed under memoir, other-poetry

“Star-Bellied Sneetch” Gene Appears Widespread

It is certainly disheartening to learn of Professor Fotheringale’s latest discoveries regarding the broader distribution of the so-called “Star-Bellied Sneetches” gene than was heretofore suspected.

(Note his childish and yet entirely unsurprising christening of the cluster of DNA that endows multiple species with an unsupported sense of superiority).


Star-Bellied Sneetch Boy

This Boy Seriously Gets The Whole Star-Bellied Concept. Way to Go, Little Dude!


Given old Fothie’s penchant for juvenile humor, the fact that he chose to reveal his latest discovery in the form of a childish tale is also no surprise, if still disappointing.


Professor Fotheringale

For Shame, Fotheringale. For Shame.


Once upon a time, there lived a family of glunkschmuzzits [GLUNK-shmuh-zits] .

Meanwhile, a mother fribdishlima decided she could not possibly care for a baby fribdishlima [frib-DISH-lih-muh], so she set about to find a home for the as yet unhatched egg. She pushed and pulled and dragged it for miles.

(For, unlike skuzlouskian eggs, which are round like oranges, a fribdishlima egg is round like the moon and sun:  That is, flat as a pancake).


Orange Spider Stealing Skuzlouskian Eggs

Orange Spider Mistaking Orange-Shaped Skuzlouskian Eggs For Her Own


Solar Photo Like Flat Egg

Flat Fribdishlima Egg (Bearing a STRIKING Resemblance to the Actual Sun on March 12, 2014)


A Round Golden Pancake

Mmmmmmm… PANcake…


As fate would have it, the mother fribdishlima conveniently fell upon the nest of the family of glunkschmuzzits right before she left the story.

The next morning, Mother Glunkschmuzzit woke up and espied the egg in the nest.

Goodness”, she exclaimed, “an egg.”
An egg.” replied Father Glunkschmuzzit.
Yes.” she said.

I had no idea you were in the family way.” said sly old Grandmother Glunkschmuzzit.


Pregnant With Alien Eggs Book

Not the Typical Baby Announcement


Nor had I.  I will name it Mr. Jones.

When the egg hatched, the Glunkschmuzzits were overjoyed.

It’s a boy!” shouted happy Father Glunkschmuzzit, handing out out snaffles.

The Glunkschmuzzits raised the little fribdishlima as their very own, happily unaware of its origin. Mother Glunkschmuzzit prized Mr. Jones. He was by far the most helpful and considerate of all of her nipsnigs. The older he grew, the more she loved his every habit.


Sibling Egg Rivalry

His Fellow Nipsnigs Showed Their Love, Too.


Then, one day, he disappeared.

The Glunkschmuzzit family was frantic with worry—especially Mother Glunkschmuzzit. Her poor little son, all on his own in the world. They searched everywhere.

He’s lost,” said Mother Glunkschmuzzit, crying loudly.
He’s run away,” said Father Glunkschmuzzit, despairingly.
Soapsuds,” said sly old Grandmother Glunkschmuzzit.

Finally, Mr. Jones was found, sleeping peacefully under his bed. But, during the search, Father Glunkschmuzzit had fallen upon the note left on his son’s eggshell, and noticed the signature for the first time.

Mrs. Fribdishlima!” he cried. “Mr. Jones isn’t a glunkschmuzzit at all, he’s a fribdishlima!

Oh, no!” exclaimed Mother Glunkschmuzzit. “He’s not The Same. He’s Different. I have a decrumpit fribdishlima for a son!


Don't They Know All Eggs Look Like That

“Gross! THAT One’s Got YELLOW Stuff Inside!!”


Son!” said Father Glunkschmuzzit. “He’s not your son, he’s a fribdishlima, and we must get rid of him at once!

But we’ve loved him like a son for years! His being a fribdishlima never mattered when we didn’t know what he was!” said Mother Glunkschmuzzit.

Some of my best friends are fribdishlimas,” said sly old Grandmother Glunkschmuzzit.

Nonsense. His being a fribdishlima obviously makes him inferior. We must disown him immediately,” said Father Glunkschmuzzit.

Of course, you’re right,” said Mother Glunkschmuzzit.

And she kicked Mr. Jones out the door.


And She Kicked Mr Jones Out the Door

“I Always DID Think Your Noggin Was an Odd Shape!”


1. The first in a series of posts based on a cache of old papers I’ve been scanning before discarding. This one is a story I wrote in 8th grade, unedited. (Professor Fotheringale was added later.) My nest-mate sister laughed and said “I’m not surprised at all that you would write a story like that, coming from our family. And it predicts nicely your Dinner For Seven.”


The Original Glunkschmuzzit Story

Who Remembers White-Out?

2. The Bullying series is not yet complete, but we all needed a break.
3. Secret-y P.P.P.P.P.S. to Joey Allgood: Please forgive me.


Filed under funny, lighter, other-stories

The Mean Teacher. How Mean? Really Mean.

“I am VERY scared…”
We move to New York when I am five.

It is the middle of May, and the kindergarten year is almost over. I am very sad that I won’t end the school year in Chicago.

My kindergarten classroom there had a miracle happening in it: In the back of the room, inside an aquarium, a tadpole was growing legs and arms! The teacher said it was going to be a frog soon, and its tail would fall off.


Half Tadpole Half Frog

Now I Won’t Ever Get To See It.


On my first day in New York, my mommy takes me to the door of the kindergarten classroom and pushes me through it. I don’t know what to do.

Someone tells me to sit down at a very long table where other children are sitting. Paper is being passed out. The children have already been told to do something with the paper.


Kindergarten Boys Writing At Table With Crayons

See? They’re Already Getting to Work.


They all start to write on it, and I don’t know what to do.


Scared Little Girl

I Am VERY Scared I Will Get In Trouble For Not Doing What I’m Supposed To Do


I look around me and try to do what the other children are doing. Then, I hear the rest of what the teacher says to do, and I feel better.

After the teacher takes our papers, she looks at them and gets very mad.

“Whose paper is this!? Who did this?!” she yells.

It is my paper.

The teacher takes me outside the door of the classroom. We stand in the open doorway under the big American flag while she yells and yells at me.


Angry Teacher and American Flag

I Look Up At The Flag So That I Don’t Have To Look At Her Face



Scared Frozen Little Girl

I Am 5 Years Old, and I Don’t Know What I Did Wrong


It turns out that THIS is what I did wrong:

The first direction the children were given, the one I didn’t hear, was “Write your name.”  I had copied what another child was doing, and so I had copied another child’s name.

Annadora Perillo was that child’s name. I hadn’t recognized those Italian sounds as a name. Most everyone in our Chicago neighborhood had been Polish.


Happily, Annadora and I Wound Up Becoming Best Friends. Here We Are in 3rd Grade. I Have No Front Teeth, But I Still Have Annadora


Mrs. Armano was that mean teacher’s name.

She used to throw things at us: Pencils, chalk, and once, a big dictionary that she threw at Lloyd Calmenson’s head.

I never thought to tell anyone. Maybe New York teachers were like that.

Two years later, my little sister had Mrs. Armano’s daughter Mrs. King for HER kindergarten teacher.


Angry Big Head Young Woman

Look Familiar?


The daughter threw things at the children just like her mother had. But my sister was smarter than I had been. (Those of you who read my post The Best Toy Ever, Troll-La-La-La-La may notice a pattern here. Grrr.)

My sister told my parents about Mrs. King, and the other kids told their parents, and Mrs. King got fired.


Satisfied Young School Children

I Feel Good About That.


Just like Mr. Hickey did, schools can dramatically decrease bullying. One effective way is by challenging bystanders to do more than just STAND BY.

Joyce Ott of the research-supported “Olweus” anti-bullying program: “Bystanders of bullying…are one of the most important groups to reach. By being there when it happens, they can look like supporters.”

In one implementation of the program, bus drivers were instructed to report any bullying they saw on their buses or as students were entering or leaving them. (Bus drivers. If you read that Unsung Hero Mr. Hickey post, you know what I’M thinking right now!) Parent committees, too, reported bullying. Students in grades 3 through 12 filled out questionnaires with items such as whether teachers interfere to stop bullying.

Victim rates dropped (at one school) by 27 percent, and at (another) by 22 percent.

The information above was pulled almost verbatim from the below link:
Olweus Program Cuts Bullying Rates At South Carolina Schools


When I was a teacher, I told my students’ parents that they could enter our classroom at any time, as long as they did so quietly, stood or sat silently at the back, and held their questions until I, not they, felt I had time to meet with them.

If parents can drop into classroom, lunchroom, or playground at any time, children are safer from bullies–adult- or child-sized. But be prepared: You may discover that your own child is the bully.


Not MY Child

Not MY Child!?

2014-05-29–Added the Olweus anti-bullying program info


Filed under memoir, memoir-serious

Sst! Buddy! Wanna See Pics of a Girl Fight?

Every morning, while we big kids wait for the school bus, Lauren walks up to the tiny kids waiting and stomps their lunches flat.

Paper Lunch Bags

From Happy Bags Like These…

Crushed Lunch Bag

…To These


We keep telling them to hang on to their bags and not put them down, but they keep forgetting. They’re only little kids.

Lauren picks on older kids, too. Luckily, I don’t know Lauren, and she doesn’t know me (she’s two grades ahead of me). This day, though, Lauren and I are introduced.


Putin and Obama Shake Hands

It’s Always Nice to Make New Friends


I’m sitting on the bus in the next-to-last seat, next to my friend Vicky. Lauren is sitting in the last seat: The bench seat. The troublemaker’s row. Suddenly, right through the back of my spine, her giant fist is introduced to my breastbone.


Punched In the Back

I Remember Exactly How It Felt


Once I manage to straighten up and resume breathing, I wonder what to do.

If I ignore her, she’ll just punch me again. If I punch her back with my puny baby fist, she’ll just bite it off, and still punch me again.

So, tapping into my autistically-intuitive people skills, I decide that shame might work. I turn around and slap the meanest bully in school right across her face.

She goes CRAZY!! Lauren LEAPS over the back of my seat and starts punching me with the Volkswagens at the ends of her arms.


Breaking Bad Hank Punches Walt

We Had Surprisingly Little Hair, For Girls in Grade School


“Fight! Fight! Fight!”

I draw strength from the hearty encouragement of my classmates and curl up into a turtle shape, protecting my soft squishy center. Vicky, my wonderful, loyal friend, jumps on Lauren and pounds on her back, trying to distract her from my fragile shell.

Vicky can hit hard, but Lauren doesn’t feel a thing. She’s built like a long-distance trucker.


Girl Bully

Lauren’s Idea of a Casual Hello


The bus reaches our stop. The driver, responsible adult that he is, makes us get off. We’re not HIS problem!

As soon as we hit the ground, Lauren knocks me down to it, and starts kicking the h#ll out of me with her steel-toed work boots.


Boot Above Scared Ant

Guess Which One I Am.


“Ooh–she got in a GOOD one!” “Kick her again!”

Who is it who decided a direct kick to the privates doesn’t hurt girls as much as boys? Again wonderful Vicky jumps in gamely, but Lauren instantly flips Vicky on her back, too, and is able to use one hand and foot to fight each of us.


Girl Fight With Gentle Hair Pull

Yeah, Girl Fights Look JUST Like This (“Oh, What Silky Hair You have…”)


Suddenly, the clouds open! A ray of sunshine breaks through! Actually, the crowd of cheering kids opens, and a big ole’ station wagon careens through:

Vicky’s tiny German/Russian/Polish (depending on which year of the war you pick) mom comes riding to the rescue. She crashes the front tire into the curb, jumps out leaving the door wide open, and brings the full wrath of her four-foot six-inch body down to bear upon Lauren.


Angry Badger

A Wee Woman Wi’ A Wee Bit of Temper


“WHAT do you think you do!? (Swatting her with her purse.) “Are you CRAZY girl? Go home right NOW!”

Then, she gathers Vicky and me under her full skirts and into the car with her. Once home, we tell her the terrible tale while she repins and smooths her coiled braids, loosened during battle, and clucks and fusses and smooths us over, too.


Braids Around Head Back View

At Night, She Unwound Them and They Reached Her Hips


We tell our story again to Vicky’s professor dad when he arrives. The two of them share our outrage, and blanket us with their warm sympathy. Then, they call Lauren’s mom and have an extended phone conference.

Afterward, Vicky’s folks sit us down seriously, and take the time to explain to the two of us girls that Lauren’s mom has recently divorced her dad. That her brother joined the Marines. That he has been teaching Lauren Marine fighting moves when he’s home on leave. That Lauren’s mom now understands that this isn’t appropriate, and she will do something about the bullying, but we should try to understand that Lauren has a lot of anger.


Mom and Dad Arguing

Anger That Has Nowhere To Go


I feel proud that Vicky’s parents speak to us like we are almost grown up.

Feeling Proud Peacock

These Wonderful People Turned “I Was Beaten” Into “I Feel Proud”


Then, I head for my own home.

I tell the story of the attack to my mom. Her sole unsmiling response? “Tell your Dad when he gets home.”

Deflated Balloon on Asphalt

When my male parent arrives, he sits on the ottoman, and points me to the floor at his feet. I get to only the very start of the story—to where Lauren punches me for no reason—before he interrupts:

“What did you do to her first?”


Indignation Gif

“I Didn’t Do ANYthing!”


“Don’t give me that! She didn’t just punch you for no reason! What did you do to her to make her punch you?!”
I repeat my denial. He repeats his disbelief and accusation. We go back and forth.

He just can’t accept the truth of what I am telling him, and his voice gets louder and louder as he repeatedly seeks the trigger incident. Terribly frustrated at my refusal to provide “the truth”, he finally moves on, yelling at me,

“And THEN what did you do? After she punched you, what did you do BACK to her?”

By this point in his third-degree, I am stressed and flustered, and extremely worn out—let’s face it, I’m nine years old, my adrenaline has been pumping hard all day—so, suddenly, my mind goes blank, and I yell back:

“I don’t know—I don’t remember!” and burst into tears.

Stressed Girl Doesnt Remember

It’s All Too Much

My father (yelling loudly): “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON’T REMEMBER?!!”.

After a few moments, in the middle of his yelling, the light dawns, and, with great relief, I say, smiling through my tears, “Oh—I remember now! After she punched me, I turned around and slapped her!”

Which is when…

…my father slapped me. As hard as he could, right across the face.


Gasping With Disbelief Gif

Just Like I Had Done To Lauren


“Don’t you lie to me! You’re going to tell me she punched you as hard as she could, and all YOU did was SLAP her?”

I repeat the truth. And am slapped in the face again for lying.


Crying Because I Want to Punch You But Cant


Thank you, Mom and Dad. By being the worst parents you could possibly be, you taught me how to be the best parent I could possibly be.

All I had to do was the opposite of everything you did.


Repeated Face Slaps of Man By Woman

Today’s Mantra: “Let It Go… Let It Go… He’s 90 Years Old Now… Let It Go… The Next Time You See Him, Let That Hand Go, Right Across His Face…” (Darn! Time To Get a New Mantra.)


I would very much like to know what happened to Lauren. She never bothered me again, and I heard no more about her after that year, so my guess is that the bullying calmed down. I hope she and those around her found happiness.

I really hope those little kids stopped having their lunches squashed the rest of that year. (I can’t remember.) They were so sad every time that happened!

Isn’t it interesting that it never occurred to any of us to tell an adult? No matter how much we wish they would, most children just don’t, do they?

  1. Kids Don’t Tell Because They Don’t See Adults Helping

Like that bus driver.

  1. Kids Don’t Tell For a Buncha Reasons


Thank you, Vicky. If I know the girl I was then, I never thought to thank you then. I would have been badly beaten that day–possibly even bones broken–had it not been for you. Thank you, my friend.

Tiny Heart Beating Gif



Credit For Not Being a Psychopath

Like It Says.

This is the second part of a multi-part series on bullying


Filed under memoir, memoir-serious

America’s Unsung Heros: Spaghetti Defender

“Wilson, would you come up here?”

Mr. Hickey, our well-loved elementary school principal, was standing up in front of my fourth-grade class, beckoning to one of my classmates.

It took Wilson some time to get out from behind his small desk and up to the front of the room. For Wilson was fat. Quite fat.

Well, perhaps not by today’s standards, when grossly-overfed children are not uncommon, and the majority of children are fat, but the very round Wilson stood out in those days.

Fat Boy Winking Retro Cartoon

Adorable, Isn’t He? No One Except Their Mommies Really Thinks So, Though, Do They?


When Willie finally made it to the front, Mr. Hickey, a warm man who was loved by all—despite the well-worn paddle kept on the wall beside his desk—Mr. Hickey stood Willie facing the class and hugged him affectionately with one of his own meaty arms.

For Mr. Hickey himself was fat. He was almost as big around as he was tall.

Mr. Hickey called out to the class:
“Who here likes spaghetti?”

Hands shot up all over the room.

I Like Spaghetti

“I do!” “Me, too!” “I like spaghetti!”


Mr. Hickey looked down at Wilson for a moment.
“Willie: Do you like spaghetti?”

Willie was shy, but he was a good, obedient boy, and the principal was asking him a question.

“Me, too. It looks like you like it a lot! Maybe a little too much!” “Is that true?”
Willie hung his head a little. “Yes.”

Some children laughed.

“Me, too!” (Patting his own belly, smiling, rolling his eyes, and looking at the class.)

Fat Man With Loud Tie Laughing

He Was Nothing If Not Jolly.

Everyone laughed.

Mr. Hickey called out again, smiling just like before:
“Now, who here would want to be made fun of for liking spaghetti?”

No hands were raised.

“And who here thinks it’s okay to make fun of Willie for liking spaghetti?”

The room was dead silent.

“Then I don’t think I need to say anything else to any of you about this ever again, do I?”

Boy In Class Feeling Guilty.

No. He Didn’t.


Mr. Hickey asked our teacher if he could borrow Willie. Then, he walked that boy from classroom to classroom and repeated that lesson in each classroom and grade of our entire elementary school. When Willie returned later that day, he was beaming.

God bless you, Mr. Hickey.

Little Girl Kissing Resistant Little Boy

“Aw, Shucks–I Was Just Doin’ My Job, Ma’am.”

This is part one of a multi-part series on bullying.

Chubby Woman in Bathing Suit

Fat Shaming and Misogyny Often Go Hand-in-Hand. Google Returned THIS Image for “Fat Man in Suit”.

If you’ve missed this NPR item, you really ought to take a look. It’s a wowser. I find the misogyny it points out especially notable because the woman being criticized is attractive and not even that overweight. The attitude of some men today is, apparently, “How DARE a woman show her face or body in a public performance venue unless she match a standard no human can meet without starvation and surgery?” It is a given that all the male critics in question look like Adonis.

The Classical World World-Class At Fat-Shaming Women


Filed under memoir, memoir-serious