Orange You Glad It’s Throwback Thursday?

Last year, I shared my very first poem with you that I wrote when I was four years old.  And at that time, I told you how my granddaddy who raised me was a citrus inspector after he retired from the Air Force.  Needless to say, because of his job, not to mention the numerous various types of citrus trees in our yard and the spacious orange grove next door, I grew up drinking lots of orange juice, eating lots of oranges, and even wearing lots of orange blossom perfume.

So, by the time I was in the fourth grade, it only stood to reason that I would write my report on — what else?  Oranges!  (Actually, we were each assigned a state, then we had to write about its most popular export.  How lucky that I happened to get chosen to write about the state where I lived.)

The thing I remember most about writing this report was also the thing I loved best.  (No, it wasn’t oranges.)  Using my creativity to make that cover was so much fun!  (The actual report, not so much.)

Back then, we didn’t have computers.  Heck, we didn’t even have colored ink jet paper!  So, I had to first cut a sheet of green construction paper down to the size of a sheet of notebook paper.  (As you can see, I also didn’t own a paper cutter other than scissors and my little hands!)

How funny that I made the F in Florida be the state flag, and I made the O be a sun (because it’s The Sunshine State).  Looking back, it’s too bad that no one made me use a ruler as a guide to get my letters even!

I have no idea why I thought it was acceptable to make the E in “flower” extend into an arrow to point to the orange blossom.  I’d shoot myself in the foot before I’d ever do that now!

The map was the tricky part.  As I said, we didn’t have computers back then, and we also didn’t just have a disposable atlas that I could have cut up.  So, I used a sheet of carbon paper (What’s that?!), and put the brown construction paper and carbon paper behind a page in a book, then I put a sheet of tracing paper (What’s that, too?!) over the page in the book, and I traced my state (including a couple of key waterways and Lake Okeechobee).  Then I cut it out, added the state capital, and voila!  How fun!  Not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but as you can see, my teacher thought I did a great job, too, as I got a 100 A+ for the cover.

The report (which I cited as having done my research in The World Book, volume N-O) reads as follows:

“The orange is the most important of all citrus fruit.  We have two kinds of oranges.  One is the sweet orange which is thought to be grown in Southern China.  The other is the Seville orange, grown in America.  The orange tree has dark green leaves which do not fall off with the seasons.  Its flowers are white and wax like.  For hundreds of years, the orange blossom has been a symbol or marriage.  The orange tree can grow to be thirty feet tall, and can resist moderate cold and extreme hot temperatures.  The average size orange is 3½ inches in diameter.  There are almost one million acres of oranges grown in Florida, the largest orange producing state.  Each tree produces between 3,000 and 4,000 oranges per season.  They are a source of vitamin C and are used in foods and drinks, and in perfumes.  The peel can be candied and also used as food for cattle.”

Isn’t that hilarious that this report was fewer than 160 words, yet it took me three pages to write (and it felt like it took an eternity!).  I only got a 97 A on the report because I didn’t use paragraphs.

At any rate, no, Grandma didn’t save all of my reports and school work, but I think she saved this because it was about Granddaddy’s beloved oranges.  (Oddly, with all the bags of citrus he used to bring home, I don’t think I can recall a time that I ever saw him actually eat an orange!)

So let’s talk:  Do you ever look back on any of your old work and wonder what you were thinking?  Do you know your state’s biggest export or source of income?  Did you ever use tracing paper or carbon paper, or a combination thereof? 

Second Verse, Same as the First

The following is a repeat of a post I made shortly after I started blogging.  I thought that since I’ve been getting comments regarding the intensity of my microfiction these past few months, this would be fitting .  Remember, I write Psychological Thrillers.  By the very definition, a psychological thriller is a thriller story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states.

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It’s Throwback Thursday again, and this week I want to talk about intense writing. Sometimes people think my writing is a little too powerful.  But in my stories, I draw a lot from my own personal experiences, which I admit have not all been upbeat and cheery. As such, too often, I may be numb to what others find disturbing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t all have the luxury of a Disney-version whitewashed life.  We all cried when Walt Disney showed us Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters, but have you ever read an unabridged edition of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale?  Those were a couple of sick and twisted individuals (not to mention the audience that bought their stories to read to their children)!

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Little Gingerbread Man.  The story was first published in the May, 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine by an unknown author who claimed that a servant girl had told it to his or her children, and he or she felt it was worth preserving.  Apparently the servant girl claimed that an old lady told it to her in her own childhood.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, quite basically, it goes like this:  An old couple is hungry, and they have few ingredients on hand.  The wife uses the paltry amount of food in her kitchen and bakes a single gingerbread man for the two of them to share, but upon opening the oven, the gingerbread man jumps out and runs away.  He encounters several barnyard animals who all want to eat him, and as a pursuit ensues, the old couple and the animals chase the gingerbread man, but they aren’t as fast as he.  He inevitably tells them all, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.” Finally, having outrun all the hungry followers, he encounters a river, but he unfortunately can’t swim.  (That’s right.  Gingerbread cookies can, in fact, outrun even the fastest gazelles, but by golly, they don’t float!)  So a seemingly kind-natured fox offered to swim across the river, carrying the gingerbread man on his back.  The gingerbread man figured he’d be safe on the fox’s tail, but as the water got deeper, the fox persuaded him to climb higher, first to his back, then his head, then his nose, and of course you can guess the rest.  As the gingerbread man climbed onto the fox’s nose, the sly fox flipped him into the air, then snapped his mouth shut and ate the poor little guy.

(Yep, that’s me and my grandparents above.)

People who know me, know that my grandparents raised me from the time I was born, so I consider them both my actual parents.  And because my birth mother was their last child, they were older than a lot of my friends’ grandparents when they got me.  Now, the cool thing about living with my grandparents (which I didn’t appreciate until I was grown and had kids of my own) was that I got exposed to older culture than my peers.  And I’ve learned to truly appreciate the old-fashioned way of doing things.

My grandparents had already raised their kids and didn’t expect to have to take care of another one in their golden years.  So they weren’t necessarily equipped to look after an active child.  But, that turned out to be a good thing in the end.  You see, while other young children were hearing ’Twas the Night Before Christmas every December, I could count on Grandma reading me Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And while other little kids were hearing Jack and the Beanstalk as a bedtime tale, Granddaddy was reading me Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.  

If anyone ever questioned my grandma as to why she might find it appropriate to tell a young child such graphic stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to sing them a song that her mother used to sing to her and her siblings in the 1930s called “Babes in the Woods.”  This little ditty was apparently a true story of a couple of children whose parents died and left them in the care of their aunt and uncle.  But the uncle wanted their inheritance, so he told his wife that he sent them to live at a school in London, when in fact, he actually paid someone to take them into the woods and kill them!  It’s not unlike the original version of Hansel and Gretel where the children are actually eaten by the witch rather than them killing the witch and escaping as they do in the sanitized version.  And if The Tell-Tale Heart isn’t enough to give you nightmares, just take a look at the lyrics to Grandma’s song:

Oh, don’t you remember, a long time ago / Those two little babies, their names I don’t know / They were stolen away one bright, summer’s day / And left in a wood, so I’ve heard folks say

Chorus: Sweet babes in the wood / Sweet babes in the wood / Oh, don’t you remember / Those babes in the wood

Now the day being gone and the night coming on / Those two little babies sat under a stone / They sobbed and they sighed, they bitterly cried / Those two little babies they laid down and died Chorus

Now the robins so red, how swiftly they sped / They put out their wide wings and over them spread / And all the day long on the branches among / They sweetly did whistle and this was their song / Chorus

So, in conclusion, I don’t think I was depraved because I heard all these stories as a kid.  I actually think it enhanced my creativity.  Am I going to tone back my writing because someone might think it’s too intense?  Nevermore!

Gone Fishin’

It’s been a crazy hectic week, and today, I’m suffering from blogger’s block.  So I apologize in advance, because all I have to offer on this Throwback Thursday is this little fish I made in kindergarten.  (Mrs. Cook sure kept us busy with fun projects, didn’t she?)

The photo doesn’t depict it well, but this fish is actually stuffed with newspaper to give it a 3-D effect.  (I think it’s hilarious how many bubbles I had to draw to keep the little guy alive.)

Let’s talk:  What do you do when you suffer from blogger’s block?  Have you ever made a 3-D fish before?

 

 

What happens in Florida stays in Florida…Until Now!

Last week, a friend of mine walked outside and found an alligator in his pool.  (No, not the one in the photo.  His was much smaller – only about three and a half feet long.)  Until a couple of days ago, we haven’t had much rain here, and it’s been over 95°F every day (with the humidity making it feel more like 105°-110°), so the ponds and lakes were low at the time, too.

A lot of people from other parts of the country think when they hear about this, it’s a freaky occurrence, but it’s actually a lot more common than you think.  Believe it or not, alligators are actually pretty delicate creatures in that they have to take an active role in self-regulating their body temperature to stay between 82° and 92° F, or they may perish.  Because it gets so hot here, that’s the reason many alligators are nocturnal during the summer months.  When the lakes and ponds start to dry up, they need water to cool off, and they head for pools.

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I bet you already guessed that my story involves an alligator.  When I was a kid, my Uncle David would sometimes drive down with his wife and kids then pick up my Grandma and me to go spend a few days at his house in Northern Florida.  It was always such fun when this happened because I got to play with my cousins who were like siblings to me, and we’d get to ride in the back of the truck with the camper top and wave to the people behind us. Plus, it was private back there away from the grownups who seemed to always want to tell us to be quiet.

Every time we made that three and a half hour drive, we’d make exactly one pit stop at the Florida souvenir shop along the way.  This was always the most fun, not only because we got to get out of the extremely hot back of the truck, but because Uncle David would spend a whopping 99¢ on each of us when we went inside.  While the souvenir shop had tons of junk we all wanted, he stood firm and always bought us the same thing every single time:  David Jr. got a rubber alligator, and Kathy, Jennifer, and I all got orange blossom perfume that came in a glass orange.  And while I did (and still do) love the smell of orange blossom perfume, I always coveted Junior’s alligator.

But, back then, there was a distinct line between what toys were and weren’t acceptable for boys versus girls, and my grandma was especially not one to allow me to cross that line.  (I was ten years old before more than ten percent of my wardrobe was anything but dresses!)  I actually think every kid in Florida, at one time or another, has owned a little rubber alligator.  (Everyone but me, that is.)

Fast forward a few years decades.  My sister Michelle and I had recently moved into a house with a pool.  This was not my first time having a pool, but it was Michelle’s.  She had actually only lived in Florida for about five years and had only recently seen her first alligator crossing I-4!  (Actually, I’d shown her dozens of alligators, but she never knew what she was looking at if their entire body wasn’t exposed…  Nowadays, she can spot them before I do, such as the one we recently saw in our local Sam’s Club parking lot, but that’s a story for another day.)

Anyway, on this particular day, I was inside, and Michelle was mowing the yard.  I didn’t think much of anything when I heard the lawnmower stop until moments later when she ran inside flailing her arms and screaming, “Help!  There’s an alligator in the pool!”

Well, needless to say, between the two of us, if there’s anything reptilian in the house or yard, I’m usually the one to get the closest to it.  (*Right, Michelle?)  So, while she continued screaming, I was eager to go see how big it was.  She swore it was as long as her arm, so I’ll admit, I did proceed with caution.  (Adult gators are usually between 8 and 12 feet long.)  But as I approached the pool, I didn’t see it.  “It’s at the bottom,” she yelled from the cracked door.  So, you can imagine how foolish she felt when I got the skimmer and pulled up a little rubber alligator that some kid must have thrown over our fence!

(*Don’t worry.  I’m not picking on my sister.  She’s actually the one that suggested I write about this because she thinks it’s hilarious now.)

Time to talk:  Have you ever seen an alligator or crocodile in the wild?  What’s the biggest, scariest animal you’ve ever encountered?

As the end of spring draws near…

…so do the numerous sightings of beautiful butterflies.  I don’t know why it’s so much fun for little kids to trace their hands or feet, but for today’s Throwback Thursday, I want to share a two-part art project that I made in kindergarten:  Feet Butterflies.

I still remember when Mrs. Cook traced my little feet to make this project.  I have no idea why we were only allowed to use four construction paper dots on the toes instead of five.  But I loved using glitter and glue, and I especially loved getting to use sequins as eyes!

I wonder if anyone else that was in my kindergarten class still has any of their Mrs. Cook projects?  I wonder if Mrs. Cook had any idea that decades later, the fun projects she helped create would not only still be preserved, but then posted on a forum where the entire world could see them?

Let this be a lesson to you teachers out there in Blogland…  You make more of a difference to the kids you teach than you may realize.  And also, thirty or forty years from now, there’s no telling what kind of advances in technology there may be…  For all you know, one of your students just might be showcasing a project you helped them with… on the moon!

Time to talk:  What’s the oldest school paper or project you or your parents have saved?  What grade were you in when you had your favorite teacher?  Are there butterflies still prevalent in your neck of the woods?

What Makes Me Smile…

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m going to share a photo that always brings a smile to my face.  As a professional photographer, I always get a kick out of those Facebook posts where adult siblings have recreated their childhood photos into a calendar for their parents (such as in the following links):

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/brothers-recreate-childhood-photos-gift-mom/story?id=28611425

http://twentytwowords.com/adult-siblings-meticulously-recreate-childhood-photos-as-a-gift-for-their-parents-12-pictures/

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/childhood-photos-recreated/

I always wish (out loud) that my kids would be inspired to do the same for me, but alas, they just aren’t that thoughtful.  *SIGH*

Anyway, one of my favorite photos of my son when he was little was one Easter morning when the Easter Bunny brought him a straw that was in the shape of eye glasses.  About ten years later, the Easter Bunny found a similar straw, and I was able to get the same photo again.  Now I can love it twice as much.  I hope the Easter Bunny is able to find this straw again by the time Jeremy nears the end of his twenties.  (Now, if only I can get my kids together to pose for eleven more photos, I can finally have that damn calendar!)

Time to talk:  Have you ever recreated a childhood photo?  Have you ever made your kids recreate a childhood photo?  Would you, too, love a calendar of recreated photos from your children’s youth?

All in all it’s just another brick in the…. closet door?

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ll share with you one of the ways I used to exercise my creativity besides writing.  When I was fourteen, I loved the band Pink Floyd.  My favorite Pink Floyd album was “The Wall,” not necessarily because of the music, but I think because of the amazing double album cover art inside.

Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” cover art

As I’ve shared before, my grandparents raised me, and they were excessively strict when it came to the matter of me socializing with other people.  But when I asked my Granddaddy if I could paint The Wall on my double closet doors, he was more than happy to comply.  (Looking back, I now realize that was because he knew it would take me months to complete, and in that time, I’d be happy to stay home rather than asking constantly to go hang out with my friends.)

I started in June of that year, and didn’t finish until December.  It was not the easiest painting to replicate because my doors were different dimensions than a double album cover, and they also had panels in the middle that weren’t flat.

At any rate, at least once every couple of days, I had to walk to the art store to buy more acrylic paint.  (All told, I used over fifty bottles!)  But I always went straight home afterward and painted until bedtime.  (See, Granddaddy was right!)

About three years later, I really wasn’t much into Pink Floyd any longer, but I still planned on keeping my doors as they were the largest art project I’d ever done at the time.  However, when my daughter was small, my Grandma was babysitting her once and allowed her to scribble all over them.  And a few years later when my birth mom moved in with my Grandma, she painted over them without first asking me if I cared to keep them!  Regrettably, I only have one photo of my masterpiece, and that photo is grainy and has a glare.

MY Pink Floyd “The Wall” replica art closet

Time to talk:  What’s the largest art project you’ve ever undertaken?  Would you allow your child to paint a picture on their bedroom wall or door?  What’s your favorite Pink Floyd song?

January 18, 1977

Alright!  For the past several months, I’ve been hearing all you people to the north of me complain about your snow.  Well, I just want you to know that just because I’m here in Florida where it’s been a steady 90+ degrees these past few weeks doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to your plight.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I will share with you the story of the first time I ever saw (and fell in love with) snow.

I was a sheltered kid.  My grandparents raised me.  My grandma didn’t drive, and my grandfather suffered from a deep depression after he retired so he slept most of the time.  As such, I didn’t get to go anywhere very often.  Furthermore, I never even left the state of Florida until I was thirteen years old!

However, shortly after I turned seven, I vividly remember being woken up in what seemed like the middle of the night.  My granddaddy shook me awake and told me to put on my pajama bottoms, my slippers, and my robe so I could go outside and see a surprise.  While I did indeed love surprises, I also loved my sleep, and I didn’t want to get out of bed!  I whined a bit while Grandma found my clothes, then we went outside in the dark to find Granddaddy standing by the car with his camera.

Surprise!  It had snowed here in Central Florida!  It was so exciting, I was literally speechless.  I remember thinking – This is a lot colder than I ever imagined it would be.  I wanted to play in it right then, but that’s when they burst my bubble and told me that it was still nighttime and I’d have to go back to bed.  They only woke me in case it melted before I woke up.

I was crushed.  I wanted so badly to build a snowman and make snow angels and throw snowballs.  (I had no idea that we didn’t have nearly enough snow for all that fun.)  When I got back to bed, I couldn’t sleep.  I was certain that if I fell asleep, all that beautiful, white goodness would be gone when I woke.

Surprise!  When I woke up, it was still there!  We took more pictures by the car, and Grandma didn’t even wear shoes!  (She loved the cold just like I do now…  However at the time, I was freezing and I have no idea why she didn’t make me put on a coat!)  Even my dog, Duchess, got to join in the fun.  I figured I could stay home and play in it, but my grandparents made me go to school.  (Nope, we don’t get snow days here in Florida, even on the rare occasions we do get snow.)

However, when I got to school, my disappointment soon faded when I learned that we were immediately taking an unplanned fieldtrip to the nearest overpass.  We took the kindergarteners’ blue and red vinyl nap mats, and we parked at the bottom.  Then we all climbed up the side of the overpass, and we slid down the snowy cement on the mats.  (For those of you wondering why, we don’t have hills here in Florida, either.)  We “sledded” down the side of that overpass for hours!

It was lunchtime before we had to go back to school, and by then, the snow started to melt.  By the time school let out, when I got outside, there was no evidence at all that it had been a day unlike any other here in the Sunshine State.  I was sad that we didn’t have any more snow, but it had been a great day.

So imagine my surprise when I got home and Granddaddy had indeed built me a snowman with the snow he could scrape off the car.  He only had enough for the body, and he had to pick an orange off one of our trees for the head.  He used the lid to my favorite clown cup for the hat, and his own real pipe (that he didn’t smoke, but was a gift from someone in the Japanese government when he was there for the reconstruction).  Sure, it was small, but sure enough, I had my own personal Frosty the Snowman there to greet me when I got home!  And after I saw him, Grandma recycled his body and mixed him with sugar to make me a homemade snow cone served in a cup with no actual cone.  (As a kid, I thought it was so delicious… As an adult, I think it was SO gross that she fed me snow that had been scraped off a dirty car!  Ewww!)

But all in all, I think waking me up in the middle of the night so I didn’t miss the snow was one of the coolest things my grandparents ever did for me.  And that was indeed one of the best and most memorable days of my childhood.

(As an addendum, I’ve seen snow here in Central Florida three other times that I can think of since then, however, each of those times, it melted as soon as it touched the ground.  I’ve never again seen it stick like that around here.  So perhaps now you can appreciate why when I moved to New York for a few years, I absolutely loved the snow and still do.)

Let’s talk:  Have you ever sledded down the side of an overpass on a nap mat?  Did your parents ever wake you up in the middle of the night to see something?  Do you remember the first time you saw snow?  Would you ever ingest anything that was scraped off a car and could not first be washed?