Friday, September 26, 2014


I'm taking a break from blogging to discern what I should do with writing, to make sure what I am doing is not a pursuit of the ego.  Time is the one commodity a stay at home mom has, so I need to spend it well.  It has become harder and harder both to carve out time for words and to find words worth pulling out of the air.  Dry spells in writing happen, but they mean something.

The rule in writing is to write through the writer's block. This isn't writer's block. I do have that, but this feels different. This is a moment to breathe and figure out, what is the purpose of this blog?

It long since stopped being a humor place though I can occasionally spin out a funny bit.   It isn't helping me write my second book or promote the first.  It isn't helping me submit columns to places that pay.  Now a days, it isn't even helping me make sure I write. 

So what is it?  It has been a means of keeping the stories of what happens here in our home, but even that is limited.  My teens have a right not to have their adolescence preserved beyond momentary snapshots and stories.  More of my children are children than toddlers these days, so the stories have grown more personal, more complex, and I do not want my family as a reality television show.  

Is that putting your family under a bushel basket?  With ten? Not possible to be discreet in anything.  Any story I write reveals the reality.   Any errand we run reveals the reality.  Anyone who sees our car, knows the reality. 

So I'm not giving a date when the blog will return, because I don't know the answer.  I'll just say, thanks for reading.  Thanks for being here.  Check back, say "Hi." and thanks. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Them's Fighting Words

Recently, Forbes published a photo essay touting the results of a study done by ranking the 150 largest metropolitan areas to determine where the most educated are most likely to settle.

The researchers weighted the population based on the percentage of adults over the age of 25 who had varying advanced degrees. They also weighted the quality of education provided in the area based on the public school ranking, the average quality of the university or universities in the area, and the number of students enrolled in top 200 level Universities per capita.

On the face of it, these parameters seem reasonable but when the tag line on the Forbes article proclaimed my hometown of Beaumont, Texas to be the least educated city in the United States, I dusted off my Stetson, straightened my two diplomas from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame and Boston College respectively, and went to work.


Because the Texan in me says, "That dog won't hunt."

Before you dismiss my argument because I'm just a home team kind of gal, I'll concede the point. Born in Houston, raised in Beaumont,  I still have many people I love and seek to visit when I get the opportunity, living there.  But it doesn't mean I'm wrong.

I see problems with the generalizations created by this study --problems I don't see examined or discussed in the results as published.

So I started looking at the original study which proclaims Ann Arbor, Michigan, the number one educated city in America.

Ann Arbor, Michigan enjoys a population of 116,112.  The University of Michigan is located there. The University of Michigan employs a total of 25,274 part and full time faculty and staff at its university, serving the undergraduate, graduate, medical and law schools respectively.   As a result, before you count the general population, 21% of the people in the city of Ann Arbor, by virtue of the State School, pad the stats in the city's favor.  

Beaumont, Texas, clocks in at a population of 118,228, so it's comparable in size.   It has Lamar University. Its faculty totals 552, or  less than one percent.   But Lamar is a community/commuter college and can't be compared to the University of Michigan. A more proper comparative might be the University of Texas in Austin, in terms of size, faculty and the like.  UT has roughly 24,000 faculty and thus is a parallel size university.  It's an apples to oranges kind of thing or should be.

So college towns which hold a State University will be unnecessarily and in a sense, unfairly weighted to come out better. if the means of measurement is a college degree.  One wonders the point of a study that essentially looks at the data and ultimately declares, CITIES WITH COLLEGES HAVE MORE PEOPLE IN THEM WITH COLLEGE DEGREES! as if that somehow needed researching.

Obviously, if you live in a city with more than one school, you're going to rank high on the scale, and if your general population is small --if the college is the primary or only dance in town, your ranking based on the percentage of population having the criteria of a higher degree, will be affected positively.  But the result of such a damning statement on a city, on my city of Beaumont, "Worst Educated in America" is an evil not deserved.  It will further dampen opportunity for my hometown, and that's not very nice of Wallethub, especially when the rankings simply reveal where the degrees are, and doesn't take into account the why of it.

Indeed, if you look at the top ten cities, Ann Arbor, Mi, Raleigh, NC, Durham, NC, Provo, Utah, Manchester, New Hampshire, Seattle, Washington, San Jose, California, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Baltimore, Maryland and Boston, Massachusetts, you probably can name at least one if not two universities located in the heart of them without breaking much of a sweat.  Looking at those ranked lowest using this means of measurement, Beaumont, Texas, Salinas California, Rockville, Illinois, Brownsville, Texas, Modesto, California, Visalia, California, Bakersfield, California, Lakeland, Florida, McAllen, Texas and Fresno, California, what's the big difference?   Name me a university that just rolls off the tongue for any of them.

For the record, I did look at Fresno, California which boasts 17 colleges and 47,960 students enrolled but which because the colleges themselves are small, and the population of Fresno large (505,882), found itself among the bottom of the 150 metropolitan list in this study.

The stated purpose of the study was to figure out what attracts educated people to move to a metropolitan area.  Answer, probably jobs.

Cities which boast a place that can employ a person with an advanced degree, will probably lure people with advanced degrees so that they can use said advanced degrees. It doesn't take an advanced degree to figure that out.  It does however seem to require a study.  Maybe listing the cities to cite where the schools/ph.d's are helps but I'm not sure how.

If the secondary purpose was to brainstorm about how to attract educated people, the researchers might want to delve beyond the easy stat comparison to find real or absolute numbers.  How about leveling the playing field to determine something more meaningful than ranking, namely the underlying why there are more college degrees in one place than another, or to see what percentage beyond that generated by employment via a university is educated? What percentage beyond that generated by employment is warranted?  What are the economic demands for said degrees in each area and are they being met, and if not, why not?  The name of the game is supply and demand.  University towns both supply and demand advanced degrees.  Cities with other industries do not always require that degree of degrees.

Maybe Wallethub could do an advanced version of this same study, go beyond the numbers, dig deeper into the stats they've already done.  Drop out the population that works at any and all universities for each city, as being self fulfilling stats and try again.  The results may change some, and reveal whether or not the general population is educated, and what might be masked by the skewing of the data via the comparison of large to small schools where there is no adjustment for population size/needs of the area for advanced degrees.

So yeah, I'm a home girl, but I know people in Beaumont, and they're smart, resourceful, strong, kind and worth knowing.  They're some of the best people in the United States whether or not they have the pieces of paper on the wall to vindicate their intellect to people drafting a study.  I'd invite the good folks of to come visit and talk to us.  They might learn something other than what they expected.

Why do I know?  I grew up in Beaumont Texas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Big Red Scare

Everyone knows about the Terrible Twos.  Threes however, are a closely guarded state secret. If parents of children 1095 days or older knew of what lay in waiting, well....let's just say, it's something one has to grow into. 

Exhibit #1 Blacklisting Clifford

Anna was being read a bedtime story by her older sister who is eight.  The older sister read from the big book of Clifford the Big Red Dog series.  I forget that three year olds are terribly self absorbed and literal.  So when she heard about the little red puppy jumping through the cream puffs and destroying the pies and then the wedding cake, she got very upset. 

"Clifford is ruining my beautiful cupcakes."  she said, and began to cry.  The story was over, the moment lasted much longer.  No amount of explaining, this wasn't real. Clifford wouldn't really do that, they aren't your cupcakes, could release America's favorite crimson hound from the emotional doghouse of my toddler's mind. 

Exhibit #2  Her name is Lola...

I don't know where she gets her ideas, I think she's secretly coming downstairs and surfing the net.  We'd gone to a doctor's appointment for me, and she'd brought her favorite pink and red stuffed animal.  She calls it a kitty, but the tag says Chihuahua.   The nurse saw my daughter and tried to small talk with her. "What a cute little pink dog you have...." Big mistake.

The face was turning red, the fists were clenched with shaking fury, "SHE'S NOT A DOGGIE..." she started.  "HER NAME IS LOLA! SHE'S PINK and RED!"  The nurse gave me one of those, "Okay then." sort of looks.  I burst into, "Her name is Lola, She belongs with Anna, and she's a pink and red kitty not a Chihuahua."  and then it was my turn to get the "Okay then" look.   I probably shouldn't pun or sing when preparing to have blood drawn. 

Exhibit #3 Tip Me Over and...

I've learned with this three year old in particular, that when she is hungry, tired, thirsty, hot, cold, sick or bored, we have a default setting and that is the tea kettle scream.   If you correctly guess the immediate need and meet it, you get a smiling gracious practically singing child.  If you don't, it's very unhappy.  So I run through the checklist whenever I see my little tea pot short and stout getting steamed up.   The big problems come when facts in reality don't line up with the accepted facts in her head. 

We've been discussing potty training. She has plans to have a red cake with red frosting when she succeeds in being a big girl.  She also says, this is what she will have at her birthday when she turns eight.  Now she knows how to count, and in some cases has made it up as far as 15, and she knows she's three.  She also insists she won't be potty trained until she is a big girl. 

Really hoping she just thinks 8 comes next, the way Lola the Chihuahua is a kitty.  But if it turns out she wants to be stubborn about things...I'm doing her 4th birthday party in all Clifford stuff.

Anna at the beginning of her 3 year old year, before she didn't like the Big Red Dog.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blocking the Writer

A writer who stops writing isn't.  That's the problem with being a writer, you're only a writer if you write.   You can be a teacher and have summer vacation.  You can be a lawyer and not have a case.  You can be a mother even if you're not doing anything, even if not doing anything is so rare as to be thought mythical.  But writing and being a writer requires daily production and lately, I haven't had the time, energy or drive to write.  Writers if they're professionals, write when they're not inspired. They write 1000 words a day minimum even if it gets edited down to two.  

I've done that but lately, it's been more, other things had to take priority and so writing always came last.  After a week of letting writing be last, I began to feel shaky about being a writer, knowing I'd logged only about 2000 words that week, an all time low even factoring in weeks I took off from writing and those when I gave birth!  Reading and researching still count toward growing one's skills as does editing, but to be a writer, you have to churn words the way Michael Phelps swims laps.  You can't be a writer if you don't write, you can only be a want-a-be-writer if you make it a hobby. 

So I spent the day looking for something, anything to carve out a column from, and found my writing senses decidedly dulled, blunted by the lack of use, as if brain atrophy had already taken over when I'd jogged those mental muscles for 365 days a year for now going on 7 years.  It doesn't take much for the brain to stop playing with words, just neglect which turns to sloth which turns to never.  I can easily recall days when columns hung low like ripe fruit, but today, the harvests are few and the labor much.

Fortunately, I belong to a writer's forum where the leader/president of the writing group discusses common aliments of writers, and saw myself in his piece.  His advice? Write the blah blah blah until something better shows up.  Pushing through the fog of writer's block is not because the author/writer doesn't have anything to write, but because the drive/ the heart of writing seems blunted and stunted. The writer doesn't feel like writing.  His prescription? Pushing through by punishing your brain, writing an extra hour or an extra 1000 words.  

So I've started here.  I'll be over on the cloud working on Penelope until I get to 80K. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Small Success Thursday

Come and count your blessings over at Small Success Thursday!
The blog has been quiet for a while, as I've been working on an editing job I received this past summer.  I'll be back to ordinary writing when this project is completed.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


"Mommy? Mommy! Mommy!" Each "Mommy" sounds more urgent.  I'd been reading.  I look up from my computer.  "Yes?"

"Mommy!" She puts her cup on the table, it is filled with grape juice.  She smiles at me.
"Yes?" I ask.

"Do you want to watch me burp?" Her eyes sparkle with pride at this new found skill.  I give her a slight nod, because no and yes both seem to be the wrong answer. 

She proceeds to take a drink and then says, "Puop." and then "Excuse me." 
"That's a burp?" I ask.

She shakes her head. "Don't be silly Mom, I'm just practicing."  and off she goes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes

1.  TBR list.   I need to create one.  Why?  Because I do what I put on lists. If it's not on a list, it's not happening.  I write Blog on a list every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, and SST on Monday so it's ready for Thursday which I didn't do this week and thus, no Small Success Thursday was written.  So, on to my To Be Read list. 
Yep.  I start to make a list and it gets unreasonable.  But here's my next five.
A Pius Trilogy
The Odyssey
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
The Hemlock Society
The Hunger Games --because I haven't read it.
3.  What am I doing?   Reading, adjusting to having two in high school, four in elementary and one in middle school plus two in college and one at home.   Also editing a book (not mine). 
4.  So what are you writing?  Well, this blog has been a bit dusty lately.  So I'm trying to get back to a writing regimen.  I also am working on Penelope but it's been hard lately to carve out time.
5. How's the diet going?  I'm down 4 lbs. from my worst number, but have 14 to go to meet my goal. 
6.  How's the exercise going?  Well, it's hot.  So my daughter has put me on a core work out.  We'll see how well I do.  I have gone two weeks sans fast food so I know that's good for me.
7.  Is this blog ever going to tell funny slice of life stories again?  Yes.  I'm going to work on restarting my humor blog so it isn't all just what it has been as of late. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Warning! May Break the Internet*

Hello Facebook Friends, Twitter Followers, Blog feeders and Internet lurkers, friends, family, friends of family, friends of friends and total strangers who for some reason, I've friended.   This post is vital to the continuing of the universe.  That's right, failure to like this post may in fact damage the sole purpose of the internet, namely to send repetitive chainmail memes about cheeseburgers, cats and politics using Willy Wonka, because snark=argument won. 

If you fail to like my note or share it or comment, it will prove beyond anything you've done, said, not done or not said,  not that you are not a true lover of America, puppies, hamburgers, baseball, politics, apple pie, silly love songs and Jesus, but rather, that you are either a big meanie or a sensible human being who has better things to do with his/her time.  

Except the internet doesn't do nuance.  So while you may have a whole host of legitimate reasons for ignoring this post, your non-affirming of my blathering prose will vindicate a snapshot opinion that you are either ashamed to not click like, or can be shamed into liking something you don't care one wit about.

However, if you like my post, if you tweet it, make it viral, make it spread to the ends of the Earth like earworm song that every radio plays at least twice an hour, it will prove you love me, you really love me love me, and while absolutely nothing will happen to you good or bad as  result of liking or not liking, reading or ignoring this post, you can consider yourself a special little snowflake in the center of the internet universe by me because you forwarded this singular creative unique post, sharing with others, the joy you found in reading these words here.

This concludes your irony supplement for the week.  Have a great day.
*Sometimes, I just have to stop and get the satire out of my system. 

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!