Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my, it is finally "Z" day!
The Challenge is over, hip, hip, hooray!
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Jiminy Crickets, I had NO IDEA the A to Z Challenge would be so harrrrrd! I totally blame Christine at In The Coop for that, because I read hers last year, thought it looked like fun, and signed up. I was totally fooled by her easy writing style and plethora of writing prompts provided by a husband, six kids, four pigs, and a bunch of chickens.

This by no means is meant to imply that I did not enjoy the experience; I did, immensely. Here's what I got out of it:

1. I have found some awesome blogs to follow and made some new bloggy friends.

Ruby watching the rain. This has
nothing to do with the post; just like the picture.
2. Even if I didn't get it written and posted until nearly midnight, I was able to write something every day, under pressure of a deadline, which is something I haven't done since college (if then; I was an Elementary Education major, after all).

3. I concede that planning your posts around a central theme would make it easier to decide on the day's topic.

4. I also concede that ANY planning would make it easier to decide on the day's topic.

5. I have very talented and creative blog friends.

6. They are also supportive, especially Clark of the Wakefield Doctrine, who never failed to plug my A to Z Challenge posts.

7. My IRL friends who read my blog via Facebook have been complete darlings about reading, liking and commenting about my posts on my Facebook page. If I attempt to list all of you, I will surely leave someone out, so just know that I am very appreciative of the loyalty you have shown me through this VERY LONG month. Love you all!

8. Topics popped into my head about 25% of the time with little or no effort. For the other 75%, I subjected my family to brainstorming sessions. And while they were willing to play the fill-in-the-blank game I forced them into they enjoyed so much, they (I believe purposely) came up with such narrow or off-the-wall topics that I was unable to use a single one of them, which brings me back to #3 and #4.

9. A to Z Challenge participants who keep up with writing their own posts AND reading and commenting on endless posts by other bloggers have my utmost admiration. The upside is I have a lot of fantastic reading material ahead of me as I get caught up on my reading.

10. Wordpress STILL hates me, so if you are a Wordpress blogger, do me a solid and give the ol' spam folder a periodic check for my comments.

A to Z Challenge: accepted and conquered.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Y, not I

Naming me, according to my mom, was a real pain (if she had only known at the time what was ahead of her, naming me would have not seemed so bad; I was 10 lbs., had club feet and was a forceps delivery). 

It seems every name she came up with, my dad shot down. He, however, did not have any better ideas himself. The closest he came was wanting to name me Carol Ann or Carol Lynn if I were a girl. My mom was opposed to this, as her sister in law was named Carolyn and she didn't want to name me something that was so close to that. 

Finally, they settled on something; if I were a boy, I would be Jerry Dean (whew, dodged THAT bullet). When I was forcibly dragged brought into this world, I came out as Dyanne. And that "Y" would mark the beginning of a long love/hate relationship.

The spelling of my name came from a former 1st grade student of my mom's (she taught school for three years before she was married) and was the girl's middle name. My mom thought it was a pretty way to spell "Diane." Unusual. Unique.

A pain.

Having an unusually spelled name makes you realize how few people have a real grasp on phonics. Nor do they seem to pay attention to detail.

My name would be mispronounced or misspelled or both by teachers (especially substitute teachers), doctor's offices, roll calls of any kind, telephone solicitors, and potential employers calling for interviews. I have been called Dee Ann, Deanna, Diana, Dana, Dinah, Suzanne (never did figure out how she got that, but I gave up and answered to it for an entire semester when a college professor called me that at every single class), and, the WORST, Dwayne. If you want to be (or remain) my friend, NEVER CALL ME DWAYNE.

I am reconciled to having an unusually spelled name now, 53 years later. But when I was in high school and the trend was to wear a necklace with your name written in cursive letters, I was out of luck. There was no "Dyanne" on the rack. I'm still bitter.

My "Y" keeps me from being an ordinary Diane. I'm extraordinary. I'm Dyanne.

With a "Y."

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for Fax

I moved to Nashville in 1985, with no job and only knowing a few people. One of those few people was the receptionist at a downtown law firm, and she helped me get a job there. The job was that of a runner, meaning I ran various legal documents to such places as the courthouse and to other law offices, sometimes walking, sometimes driving my car. 

New to the city, I didn't know my way around and got lost fairly regularly, both on foot and in my car. In my early days working there, one of the attorneys sent me to a law office a few blocks away to deliver documents and even drew me a map. He then watched me from his 18th story window as I stood on a corner, below, completely confused, turning the map this way and that, trying to get my bearings (which I finally did, no thanks to his lousy map). Another time, an attorney sent me to a business to pick up a document, giving me directions to get there, which included traveling most of the way on a one-way street, but not telling me how to get back to the office, since the one-way street prevented me from retracing my route. I ended up inside a government housing project, probably the single highest crime area in the entire city, and drove around it, white-knuckled, until I found my way back out again.

So, I may have had a bit of a reputation of being a little dingy. 

One day, one of the attorneys gave me some documents and told me to take them to a business a block or so away to have them sent to an attorney out of town via telefax.

I just stared at him. Send them HOW?

I walked slowly to the business (I want to say it was FedEx, but I can't be sure about that; it's been awhile). I handed the man behind the counter my document.

He did something magical that I couldn't see, then told me it was sent.

Then he handed me the document back.

My eyes were spinning pinwheels. Inside my head, I was screaming, "WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME YOU SENT IT WHEN YOU'RE HANDING IT BACK TO ME?!"

I held the document and looked at the man, pretty sure one of us was crazy and it wasn't me. He began helping another customer, and I slowly walked back to the office.

When I got to the office, I handed the attorney the papers, waiting for him to ask me why I didn't have them sent like he had asked, and instead, he thanked me for getting them sent and put them in a file. 

I finally had to ask him how it was sent when it was right. here. He told me the information was sent over the telephone line, but I was still completely and utterly flummoxed, because any idiot knows a paper can't GO THROUGH A TELEPHONE LINE. 

And now? Now I get irritated when my iPhone doesn't load a webpage immediately.

I've come a long way, baby!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ten Things of Thankful, Tornado Style

My Ten Things of Thankful is going to be only one that is worth ten and more:

We were driving home from our last volleyball tournament less than an hour ago, with severe weather to our west. Our Red Cross tornado app was alerting us to tornado warnings as we drove (and if you don't already have that app and are in an area that is prone to tornadoes, I highly recommend you download it). As I looked to the west, I saw a tornado dipping down from the clouds, probably 20 miles from us. My husband was driving over 80 mph and not passing anyone. We got to my parents' home, which is 90 miles south of Kansas City and 60 miles north of Joplin. A few minutes later, the tornado sirens have sounded here, with a tornado spotted southwest of town, moving to the northeast. We are in the basement, as safe as we can be. There are more tornadoes around the area, with damage reported in extreme northeast Oklahoma and extreme southeast Kansas, very near Joplin.

But we are safe and hope to remain that way.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Words From The Mouths Of Babes

One of the best things about teaching preschool, besides the hugs, the cute drawings, and the snacks, are the words that come out of their mouths. Sometimes sweet (who can resist an exuberant "I love you!" from a 4 year old, I ask you?), sometimes hilarious, always interesting. Following is a representative sampling:

Circle Time, reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and discussing the life cycle of the butterfly:

Me: The caterpillar hatches from an egg, then it eats leaves and grows and then makes a chrysalis. A butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and soon it lays eggs. And what comes out of the eggs the butterfly laid?

3 year old boy: A baby butterfly!
4 year old boy: A caterpillar!
4 year old girl: A chick!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Circle Time, same class, different day:

Me: What month is it?

4 year old girl: June!
4 year old boy: May!
4 year old girl: Thursday!

(The correct answer was April.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At Music class, discussing the week's Bible verse and Bible word:

Music Teacher: Who knows what the Bible word this week is? Under--  Under--?

4 year old boy: Pressure?

(The correct answer here would be understanding.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Inside the classroom, just after a trip to the bathroom: 

3 year old girl: I went poop on the potty! High five!

Me: Wait. Did you wash your hands?

3 year old girl: Yes.

Me: Really well?

3 year old girl: Yes.

Me: High five!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Same girl, same day:

3 year old girl: You have to eat salad, because it makes your poop better.

Me: Well, yes, it does.

3 year old girl: Why does it hurt when I poop?

Me: Because you don't eat your salad.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At table time:

4 year old girl: You want to know what I want to be when I grow up?

Me: What do you want to be?

4 year old girl: Well, since you 're so good at teaching, I want to be a teacher!

Best. Job. Ever.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vignette

The Setting: a bathroom, around 7:00 a.m.

The Scene: a man and woman are in a bathroom, getting ready to go to work. A calico kitten scampers about the room.

Woman (attempting to sit on toilet as kitten tries to jump up there to get a drink): Stop it, Ruby! Stop it! Get out of the way. This is not your water bowl! 

Man: At least you only have to try to keep her away long enough to sit down. She thinks I'm a fountain.

Curtain closes.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Underwear

Ten things about underwear.

Calling them "underpants" is funnier than saying "underwear."

Women own something they call "period panties." Men don't know this, and they don't need to.

The Victoria's Secret 7 pairs for $26 panty sale is one of my favorite ways to spend $26.

I can get 16 preschoolers to wear their underwear to bed backwards by telling them it will give us a snow day the next day. I only say this when it's a sure bet that we're going to get snow.

Contrary to popular belief, thongs are NOT uncomfortable, and those who think they are have never tried them.

It makes my heart happy to be in the bathroom with my preschool boys, most of whom think they are pretty big stuff, and see their Superhero underwear.

Boxers are sexy.

When putting on my underwear, I always put my left leg in first. Always.

Static cling being what it is, sometimes people find a pair of rogue underpants lurking inside their clothes. Sometimes they find this out when they are getting dressed, and sometimes, they don't find it out until the underpants fall out of their pants leg, or so I've heard.

Life is too short for ugly underwear.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Tiny Dancer

At four, she did gymnastics and played soccer. At five, my daughter decided she wanted to dance. 

The dance studio we chose was owned by a woman who had once owned our house. She was well-known in our town as a gifted, but no-nonsense, dance teacher. My daughter had a healthy fear of Miss Karen; she paid attention in class and was never one of the little dancers who hung from the barre or dizzied herself by spinning around on the dance floor.

1st grade, with her beloved Miss Karen
(See the clock on the wall? It survived the tornado,
and is hanging in my basement, still keeping
time, still the same battery.)

And it showed. At the spring recital (and if you have ever gone to a dance recital, you will know PRECISELY what I am talking about here), my daughter was the one the rest of the girls in the dance watched, following her about a half beat behind, because she knew every step, and they were, well, the ones who spent much of their class time hanging from the barre and spinning around on the floor.

By the time she was in first grade, Miss Karen told us that our daughter had a talent for ballet; she was disciplined, especially for a 6 year old. She knew all the positions and had beautiful form for someone so young.

In third grade, she decided she wanted to do a solo for competition. Miss Karen choreographed a sweet little ballet for her, and, with no sign of stage fright, she danced alone on a big stage for two different competitions.

By fifth grade, she was moved up to the advanced ballet class and started dancing on pointe. She continued to do solos every year, plus she helped Miss Karen teach classes to some of the younger children, acting as a demonstrator. Besides ballet, tap and jazz classes during the week, she also took a ballet technique class on Saturday mornings. Her world was centered around the dance studio, sometimes there five nights a week.

But during that year, Miss Karen began experiencing some health problems. Eventually, we learned she had cancer. She continued to teach, and my daughter continued to help her, taking on demonstrating for two technique classes on Saturdays before taking her own class, acting as her teacher's body as Miss Karen's body was failing her. The two of them grew very close.

On January 6, 2011, at the age of 62, Miss Karen peacefully passed away.She had taught thousands of dancers in over 39 years of owning the studio. My daughter was heartbroken.

Shortly before she became ill, Miss Karen's daughter, Nicole, moved back to town and began helping at the studio. After her mother passed away, she stepped in and carried on. The dancers eased out of their grief and continued with classes and plans for a recital in the spring which would be a tribute to her mother. It was a tearful, touching night, one which would have made Miss Karen proud.

Less than 24 hours later, the studio was gone, completely destroyed in the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011.

My daughter not only had lost her beloved dance teacher, she had now lost her second home. And although the studio re-opened at another location, it was not the same for her. She loved Nicole, but she missed Miss Karen terribly.

She also began to get other interests. She became a cheerleader at her middle school. She played on the school volleyball team and enjoyed it so much, she played in the off-season on a traveling team. Then she tried out for (and made) show choir for her freshman year in high school. Her plate was pretty full.  Too full, in fact; school policy would not allow her to play volleyball AND be a cheerleader in high school. She had to make a choice, and she chose volleyball. And due to time and financial constraints, we told her she needed to choose between travel volleyball and dance this next school year. She chose dance.

When school began this past fall, my daughter was busy with volleyball and show choir. Her volleyball schedule prevented her from attending ballet, but she went to two other dance classes a week and planned to re-join her ballet class in November, when the volleyball season ended. The dance studio moved into a brand new building, built to replace the one that was lost in the tornado.

But my daughter wasn't happy.

She missed Miss Karen. She tearfully said that, while the new studio was pretty and state of the art, she couldn't "feel" Miss Karen there. 

Just as the school volleyball season ended, and on the very day she was returning to ballet class after a two month break, she was asked to join a travel volleyball team. She had a huge decision to make, and I couldn't make it for her.

She picked volleyball, but not before we both shed many tears over it, hers because she was afraid Miss Karen would be disappointed in her (she wouldn't have, ever), mine because my tiny dancer had grown up.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for S'Mores

I don't camp. 

I don't camp, I don't camp, I don't camp.

Besides the sleeping in tents (and a camper is only a tad bit better than a tent) and the bathroom facilities and the perpetual need for ice for the cooler, other campers expect you to make s'mores and eat them.

I know it's very un-American to say this, but I can't stand s'mores. (I believe it is well established that I am a picky eater, as evidenced in I is for Inedible, and that's just the tip of the iceberg, baby!) I like toasted marshmallows. I like graham crackers. I like chocolate. I do not like them smashed all together, hot, gooey marshmallow squishing out all over my fingers, chocolate all over my face. 

Note: for those who are not familiar with s'mores, they were developed by campers in the early 20th century as an easy to fix treat with ingredients that were easy to pack. In the late 1920's, the Girl Scouts of America included a recipe for them in their cookbook, thereby taking a lot of the credit for their popularity. The secret (not) recipe (not) is toast one marshmallow over the campfire. Lay a square of Hershey's chocolate bar on a square of graham cracker, put the toasted marshmallow on top of the chocolate, and top with a second graham cracker square. The name is a derivation of "some more," which you are allegedly supposed to want after eating the first one. I think "no'mores" is a more apt description.

In an odd twist to this, I have a favorite recipe that I am going to share with you. It is called S'Mores Bars, and they taste NOTHING like a s'more, which is a blessed relief, if you ask me. There are no graham crackers. There are marshmallows, but you don't have to toast them first. There is chocolate. And there is no need to be forced to camp and use a campfire to make them, because they just get baked in an oven LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR FOOD.


1-1/4 c. granulated sugar

3/4 c. butter or margerine, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2-1/4 c. flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 c. miniature marshmallows
2 c. chocolate chips*

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar; add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Spread half the dough in a greased 9x13 pan (I like to use a glass dish). This is best done with your fingers. Sprinkle evenly with the marshmallows and chocolate chips. Spread remaining dough over top (again, you will need to use your fingers to do this, as "spread" isn't really the right word for the process).

Bake at 350F degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into bars while still warm. Thank me later.

*The original recipe calls for using Hershey bars instead of chocolate chips, but who has Hershey bars lying around the house? Someone in my house will sniff them out and eat them before I get a chance to use them in a recipe. I have used both semi-sweet chips AND milk chocolate chips (because my husband bought the wrong ones), and both are delicious.

Mixing dry ingredients into creamed ingredients.
Note the sugar spilled on the counter,
because that's how I roll.
And now it's dough.

Put half the dough in the pan. Sprinkle a little flour
onto the dough, then use your fingers to
smush it all over the bottom of the pan....

...until it looks like this.
Sprinkle evenly with the marshmallows and
chocolate chips. Ignore the upside down
picture. Technical difficulties.
Pat the remaining dough on top of the
marshmallows and chocolate chips.
It's okay if they are not completely covered
with the dough; it will spread as it bakes.
Naturally, you should eat some
of the cookie dough while
lamenting the sad state of your hair.
See? Golden brown!
Ahhh! Now, cut these while they are warm. Just trust me on this;
you do NOT want to wait until the marshmallows set back up.
Don't you wish this were Wonkavision,
and you could reach out, take this off the
screen, and gobble it up?

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Really? A Blogging Rant

You ever have those moments when you just want to sit back and say, "Really? I mean, REALLY?"

Here's one of mine:

Wordpress hates me. HAAAATES me. It won't publish any of my comments on WP blogs. I have no idea how long it's been going on, but definitely for the past two weeks or so, maybe longer. 

I went to the Wordpress site and looked for a way to contact them for help.

There isn't one. The only thing I can do, according to WP, is check their forums and see if I can find the same problem listed. First of all, like I have the patience for that. Second of all, THANKS FOR ALL THE CUSTOMER SUPPORT, WORDPRESS. YOU'RE A PEACH.

My friend Lizzi suggested I sign up for a Wordpress account, and then maybe, just MAYBE, WP would quit being so snarky with me.


Then, I decided I would comment, then send an e-mail to each WP blogger on whose posts I made a (disappearing) comment and let them know to check their spam folders and kindly fish my comment out. (I did learn something in this whole debacle: I HAVE A SPAM FOLDER. News to me!)

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find an email address on some folks' blogs? If they have a Google Plus button, then I contacted them that way, but very few blogs include an email address, mine included (but which I just remedied...). Mine will also get a Google Plus button as soon as I figure out how to do it. 

So, I say, "REALLY, Wordpress? REALLY?!"

All I want to be is a mannerly blogger, and Wordpress is making me look like a bloghole, both in the A to Z Challenge, where the biggest challenge is currently POSTING A DAMN COMMENT to my obligations as a co-host of the best weekly blog hop evah, Ten Things of Thankful (and if you are a blogger and are reading this and not already a participant in TToT, WHY AREN'T YOU? It's fun!).

If you are IT savvy AND can talk to me like someone whose sum total of IT knowledge would fit onto the head of a pin, then I would welcome your suggestions as to how to fix this comment purgatory in which I find myself.

If you are a Wordpress blogger, I first must ask WHY and then ask that you check the spam folder that I didn't know you had and see if you can find my comments in there.

In the meantime, I will sit in my little blog corner and feel left out and sad.

Really, Wordpress?

And now, since there is no visual for this post, I will offer you a picture of something else that starts with "R": my precious baby girl Ruby.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for...Can't Tell You, Or It Will Ruin The Punchline

I teach pre-kindergarten. The children must be 4 years old by July 31 to be in the class, which makes them ready (age-wise, anyway) to enter kindergarten the next fall. We work on kindergarten readiness skills, including coloring, cutting, gluing, counting, and writing our names, along with plenty of free play in our different centers, such as art, math, science and home living. Additionally, we do a Letter of the Week curriculum, concentrating on beginning sounds and learning to recognize and write each letter.

Informal learning of the letters and sounds happens constantly. It's a wonderful "lightbulb" moment when a child is playing, say, in the science center, sifting rice through his fingers in the sensory table, looks up and exclaims, "Miss Dyanne! Rrrrice begins with 'R'!"

Several years ago (11, to be exact), during "Q" week, we were casually talking about words that started with "Q" while the kids were at the table eating snack. They offered up words like "quick." And "quack." And "quiet." 

Suddenly, one of the girls had her "lightbulb" moment. Her face lit up and she bounced in her seat as she said, "Miss Dyanne! Miss Dyanne! I know what starts with 'Q'!"


Couldn't argue with that.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Snowflakes and Dragons and Other Reasons To Be Thankful

This was a short work week, with no classes on Good Friday. So why did it wear me out so much? Oh, yeah, the A to Z Challenge. Holy cow, that thing's a bear! My poor, little ol' Ten Things of Thankful posts just get a lick and a promise. Here's this week's list:

1. It snowed on Monday. Yes, snowed. Just big, fat flurries, but still snow. And while three months ago, I would have put this on my TToT as a thankful that there was enough snow to cancel school, in the third week of April, it goes on here as being thankful it didn't stick.

Snowflakes hitting my windshield.

2. We made two awesome crafts at preschool this week. Since it's Holy Week, and since we are a Christian preschool, it was time to put the cute egg and bunny crafts aside for something a little more Jesus-related: 

Liquid water colors painted over strips of
masking tape in a cross shape.

Peel the tape off when the paint is dry.

Pre-K craft. We did the handprint with them,
then they did the rest.

3. The last one counted as two.

4. The College Boy had no classes Thursday and Friday of this week, so I fetched him on Wednesday afternoon. We brought home most of his winter clothes (no sense in jinxing anything, even though I'm not superstitious, but, hey, just in case) and ate supper at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant we found AND LIKED. Unknown restaurants are a crap shoot, even though we looked it up on Tripadvisor and checked the reviews first. Because under Joplin restaurants, Chick Fil A is listed as the #3 restaurant in town. I mean, Chick Fil A is GOOD and all, but #3? Really, Tripadvisor?

5. That one counts as two as well, doesn't it? Of course it does!

6. Two Easter parades and egg hunts in two days at preschool with no mishaps.

7. I accompanied my son to a job interview in a neighboring town. Or rather, I rode shotgun with him to an interview. He can't find his way out of a bag, so since he had never been to this town, I went along as navigator. We left early enough to go a little further to the south and get some pictures for my A to Z post P is for Picher, Oklahoma. He was a complete sport, driving around the abandoned town, stopping the car so I could get pictures. It's a good thing we had to go on to the interview next, because I could have stayed there for hours, taking pictures, as I am fascinated with the place. It spooked him, however, and he swore he could smell lead in the air (you can't, but it was imaginative on his part).

8. That was two, I'm sure of it.

9. Driving home from the interview (where I sat in the car and played Candy Crush, lest you worried if I truly accompanied my son TO the interview), we came up behind...a dragon. Kid you not. My son was once again a real trouper so I could get pictures, because, well, it was a DRAGON (Go faster! Slow down! Get a little closer! Not that close!).

Imagine Dragons....

10. The A to Z Challenge is over halfway challenged! 

This Sunday is Easter. Christ is risen; He is risen, indeed!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

P is for Picher, Oklahoma

In 1873, in the southwest corner of Missouri, the town of Joplin was established as a mining town and quickly became the hub of the Tri-State Mining District, which also included southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. Lead and zinc were first surface mined and eventually deep mines were dug underground, with approximately 75% of what is now the city undermined. 

Across the border into Oklahoma is the town of Picher. Established in the early 1900s when the most productive cache of lead and zinc were discovered, it became the leading producer of lead and zinc in the Tri-State District. By the end of World War II, most of the mines were closed. 

When all mining operations ceased in the 1960s, what was left behind was mountains of mine tailings, also known as chat, and ponds used to process ore, called tailings ponds. Groundwater that had previously been pumped out of the mines was allowed to fill the shafts, mixing with mine waste and contaminating the area water supplies. Mining waste in the area creeks oxidized, causing the water to turn a rusty red color. 

The mountains of chat were playgrounds for the children of the area, and lead dust from the chat piles blew across the town. The residents swam in the contaminated creeks and tailing ponds and drank water from contaminated wells. By 1996, nearly 35% of the children of Picher tested positive for lead poisoning; the national average is 2.2%. The miscarriage rate was nearly 25%, compared to a national average of 10%. An Army Corps of Engineering study showed 85% of the town, including the school, which housed kindergarten through 12th grade, to be severely undermined and in danger of collapse. 

The town with the chat mountains in the background,
before the government buy-out.

In 1983, Picher was declared a Superfund site and considered the worst environmental disaster in the United States, covering 40 square miles. (Superfund is the federal government's program to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.) It is expected to take at least 35 years to remove the mountains of chat, some of it to be used in road paving, the rest moved to a controlled hazardous waste site ten miles away.

In May of 2006, a $60 million federal buy-out plan was announced. The government paid families to relocate and bought their property. The population of Picher had declined, from a peak of over 14,000 in the mining heydays of the early 1920's to 2,500 in 1967, dropping to 1500 in 2008, and to 20 by 2011. To make matters worse, a tornado touched down in May of 2008, damaging or destroying 150 homes (about half the town), killing 7 people. 

Schools are the lifeblood of small towns, and Picher fought to save theirs. Although the voters defeated a plan to annex into nearby school districts, eventually there was no choice, and the class of 2011 was the last class to graduate from Picher-Cardin School. The school enrollment, which was around 340 students at the time the buy-out was announced, had dwindled to 49; the graduating class had 11 students.

The post office closed in May of 2009; City Hall a few months later. The municipality was officially dissolved in November of 2013. Demolition work began in early 2011; today, few buildings remain.

But the mountains of chat live on, as do the rusty, red creeks.

And it is sad.

Some of the chat mountains are 20 stories tall.

Interested in more of the story? Following are two previews, the first from PBS Independent Lens: The Creek Runs Red; the second from filmmaker Matt Myers, Tar Creek.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Orange Leaf

The pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt craze hit our town about three years ago. Two stores opened within probably days of each other. And both were hit by the May 22, 2011, tornado. One was completely destroyed, the other, Orange Leaf, was damaged but able to re-open for business about a month later.

I was very happy that they were able to repair their damaged business, and not at all because I had several Orange Leaf gift cards that I had received as gifts three days before the tornado. I like Orange Leaf. A lot. 

My favorite combination: wedding cake
yogurt and fresh strawberries.

My daughter and I frequent the place for girl time. And do things like take pictures of ourselves while hanging spoons from our noses.

Because while the froyo is divine, the spoons are AWESOME!

We have a drawer full of them at home. My daughter and I are the only ones who love to use them at our house, but to us, everything tastes better with an Orange Leaf spoon. Like applesauce. And pudding cups. 

But the awesome Orange Leaf spoons can be a bit of a pain, because I have been handwashing them, not trusting them to the dishwasher. Until the other day, when I decided to throw caution to the wind and stick one in the silverware compartment of my dishwasher.

It was not pretty.

For comparison:

So, it's back to handwashing I go.

You're worth it, cool Orange Leaf spoon. You're totally worth it.