Shakespeare and Jousting and Aliens (Oh, My!)

Oregon-Shakespeare_54_990x660With the arrival of spring weather, I am reminded of summer travels. Sometimes, as was the case with my trip to Japan last summer, traveling offers a change to experience a different culture. The United States is such a melting pot that we can experience many cultures through festivals and never leave the country.

Photo courtesy of T. Charles Erickson

Texas-Ren-Fest_54_990x66010Best Readers’ Choice Awards offers you the chance to vote for the best festival. Since I’ve never been to any of the twenty festivals nominated, and there was no Austen festival, I voted for the next best thing – the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Texas Renaissance Festival in Todd Mission was a close second, and the UFO Festival in (of course) Roswell, New Mexico, came in third.      Photo courtesy of Texas Renaissance Festival


You may vote for your favorite once a day until polls close on April 13 at noon, EST.

The UFO Festival had me at the use of the word “quirky” in their description.  Dressing up for this one would be fun! Right up there with Comic-Con International in San Diego!

Which festival would you most like to attend?

Photo courtesy of

Scatty Train Lady, me?

Coast Starlight Parlor Car (Photo: Nathan Lyons)

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Parlor Car (Los Angeles – Seattle) Photos: Nathan Lyons

I’m back from my spring break trip to southern California. These days, instead of driving the 1000 miles solo, my trek involves the train. And there’s usually some kind of drama, right? Because all those humans inside, barreling along a track together, combined with all those humans outside, having to deal with that track, equals stuff happening.

Crossing those tracks looks easy

Crossing tracks looks easy

But sometimes I wonder. Will I one day be to blame for some kind of  drama? Not due to malice (although you never know). But what about due to scatty thinking?

Cue the scary music, gang. You already know that I could one day become a Crazy Cat Lady. But that’s nothing to becoming a Scatty Train Lady.

To illustrate, our train came to an unexpected halt twice during my trip south. The first had us sidelined for an hour and a half in the middle of the night. At breakfast I learned that a drunk driver had tried to cross the tracks where there was no crossing, got his car stuck, and then passed out behind the wheel. He lives because someone discovered him and was able to get the rail traffic stopped in time.

Okay, so a drunk driving event with me as the drinker is highly unlikely. Whenever alcohol and I try to live dangerously together—such as drinking half a glass of ale on girls’ movie night—I fall asleep. Ask Susan Kaye, she knows the pathetic truth. (We now stick to coffee.)

The water spigot? Or the emergency stop pull?

The water spigot? Or the emergency stop pull?

The second train halt was more dramatic, happening just as we were making a winding descent. You can’t mistake an emergency stop for the usual kind—and you certainly can’t mistake the startled responses of the crew. Was something or someone on the track? Not this time. A passenger, wanting a drink of water, confused a water spigot (in the middle of the corridor) with an emergency stop pull (at the end of the car) and voila! Instant screech of brakes.

As you can imagine, this caused a lot of comment, with “How could someone be so stupid?” being the most prevalent. I smiled and nodded along with everyone else, until I examined one of the emergency stop pulls. Yes, it was rather high to be a water spigot. But on the other hand if I were confused and thirsty…

Why not give a little tug and see?

Oh boy. Maybe my sons should be afraid.

Who changed?

Love and Logic iconI realized this past week that this is the first year in my twenty-nine year teaching career that I don’t dread at least one class coming to my room. How wonderful is that?

Now that I’ve begun to think about that, I wonder why. I doubt the students have changed. That leaves only one explanation. I must have changed in the way I view my students. Love and Logic book

This past year, our school administration implemented a philosophy of discipline called “Love and Logic,” and it revolutionized the way I view my students. It gave me concrete suggestions and tools for dealing with different situations, and, hallelujah!, it works – for me and for the students.

Love and Logic situationsMaybe sixty-one will be a very good year after all.

Love and Logic rules

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or a boss, the books from the Love and Logic Institute are worth reading. I wish I had had this training thirty-odd years ago when I first began to teach. I also could have used this approach in parenting. My life would have been much less stressful, and I would have enjoyed the journey a great deal more.

Marrying Well for Fun and Profit: How to Work a Cruise

Advice for the upwardly-mobile Miss from Persuasion’s resident social expert, Sir Walter Elliot.

Would you rather stay home in the rain, snow, and gloom? Or be here? (Photo: bvi4092 Creative Commons Flickr)

Stay home in the rain and and gloom? Why, when you could be here? (Photo: bvi4092 Creative Commons Flickr)

My Dear Vulgarian Miss,

No doubt you have been bombarded with television advertisements for winter getaways. This is no accident, for once the tax refund arrives that money fairly begs to be spent. Have you no gentleman in your life? Then I suggest that you consider taking a cruise.

It has been well-said that one must spend money to make money. If you invest invest in the right sort of cruise and work it judiciously, you will reap social dividends. Who knows? You could disembark with the gentleman of your dreams.

Greece  Photo: Keith Parker (Creative Commons Flickr)

This pink sand beach in Greece is waiting Photo: Keith Parker (Creative Commons Flickr)

But don’t begin packing your bags just yet. For there is work to be done, oh yes, and choices to be made.

Plan now to stand out from the crowd—in a good way. As to hair, wardrobe, and smile, you must be the “It Girl.” Your aim is to be lovely and lively and engaging. Resist the allure of skimpy clothing, however. Your fellow travelers will no doubt be showing Too Much Flesh. Beauty might be in the eyes of the beholder, but it is best not to add to the beholder’s suffering.

Watching for dolphins? Perhaps.  Photo: Muha (Creative Commons Flickr)

Watch television at home alone? Or watch dolphins with him? Photo: Muha (Creative Commons Flickr)

Work on your dance moves. Yes, this means you should take a series of lessons. On the dance floor you need to be competent and at ease, and practice will improve both. Then too, dance is excellent exercise and will tone your figure.

With the popularity of karaoke in mind, consider voice lessons. One or two songs, nicely performed, will be enough. In my day, a gentlewomen had no choice—she was forced play and sing. Before you dismiss the idea, consider how a song paves the way for conversation. A sincere “You have a lovely voice” is so much better than a stale pickup line, is it not?

Megaship madness or the charm of a smaller ship? You decide. Photo: Silversea Cruises

Megaship madness or the charm of a medium-size vessel? You decide. Photo: Silversea Cruises

Select a theme-oriented cruise. Yes, there are cruises designed to appeal to men, such as a Beer River Cruise (Vienna to Munich) or an NFL Legends football cruise (transatlantic). Keep in mind that a smaller ship without elevators will draw a younger crowd.

Once your trip is booked, join that cruise’s Roll Call. Roll Calls are online discussions where you can chat with fellow passengers before you sail. Then, when you attend the Meet and Mingle on your first day at sea—and you will attend, instead of sitting alone in your cabin or in a deck chair—you will have ready-made acquaintances.

If you travel with a girlfriend, choose wisely. A stick-in-the-mud misfit alcoholic is not a good cruise companion. Nor is a man-grabbing repellent loudmouth. Enough said? I believe so.

Wishing you the best of success I remain

Cordially yours in the upward climb,

Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.”
~ Amelia E Barr

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

~ For more advice from Sir Walter,
click on his image ~

Talk Like an Irishman Day.

Irish blessing

I would dearly love to travel to Ireland some day. My mother was Scots-Irish, so I’m related to some Griffins somewhere on the Emerald Isle. Here are a few Irish colloquialisms that would be useful:

1. “Sure look it.” Just say this when you don’t know what to say.
Irish 1
2. “A whale of a time” means “a very good time.”
3. “The jacks” are the restrooms. The sexes are written in Irish, so you’d best know the difference between “fir jacks” and “ban jacks.” I would be sure to go into the wrong one. It would be an accident. I wonder if they have pictures on the doors to give visitors a hint.
Irish prayer

4. “Go way outta that!” Used in place of “You don’t mean it!” or “I don’t mind.”

Irish saying
5. “Was it any use?” “Was it any good?”

6. “Quare” means “very.” “This food looks quare strange.”

7. “Happy out” is used in the present while you’re having a good time. “I’m happy out having a whale of a time!”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Kiss me. I’m Irish.

Cats? Why cats?

On the Internet, cats are the hands-down favorite. Sure, we love dogs and puppies, but cats are different. They’re both amusing and intriguing. From Grumpy Cat to Henri, le Chat Noir to Simon’s Cat, we never seem to get enough of them.

Photo: Opethpainter (Creative Commons Flickr)

“Let me in, you lazy slacker. Yes, I see you sitting there. Get up!” Photo: Opethpainter (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker (Creative Commons Flickr)

“What. You walked away, and this is BACON.” Photo: Robert Couse-Baker (Creative Commons Flickr)

I think it’s because cats mirror human behaviors—good and bad—so perfectly. No politeness, no false modesty, just raw ambition and undisguised emotion. We smile at them because we recognize ourselves.

I've tasted better." Photo: Patty O'Hearn Kickham (Creative Commons Flickr)

“You say you love me, yet you feed me THIS?” Photo: Patty O’Hearn Kickham (Creative Commons Flickr)

Cats love to eat. Yes, and so do we. They are expressively finicky in ways we dare not be. For the human cook, when criticized, can reach for a frying pan or broom…

They do not bother to hide their disdain. Neither do we, but we label ours “opinion.” It amounts to the same thing.

They are often very affectionate. Just as we humans can be selfless and noble. When we want to.

Cats are mischievous and play pranks. Or rather it is we who play pranks on them. (Laser pointer tag, anyone?) When we engage in this behavior ourselves, we call it “accessing the inner child.”

Photo: Sudarshan V (Creative Commons Flickr)

“Eyeliner? Nonsense. I am naturally this beautiful.” Photo: Sudarshan V (Creative Commons Flickr)

Cats are also sneaky. Humans are better at camouflaging this trait, but it amounts to the same thing. We don’t want to wait our turn. We want what we want now.

Ah, but cats are not always as smart as they think they are. As for humans, well…do you have scheming coworkers? Need I say more?

Cats are not shy about preening. We are just as fussy about our hair, but only behind the closed bathroom door.

"You do realize that I am the perfect fashion accessory." (Photo: Jessica Lyons Photography)

“You do realize that I am quite the perfect fashion accessory.” (Photo: Jessica Lyons Photography)

They are either all-in or all-out. This means every surface in the house must be conquered and “catified.” Just as we prefer to make every space at home our own and redecorate whenever we can.

But this is hardly an exhaustive list. What about you? Why do you find yourself caught by cat photos and videos?

Cat in the bag Photo: Peter Munks (Creative Commons Flickr)

“Look, it’s a GIFT bag. It was made expressly for ME, God’s special gift to you. I will enjoy it, and then I will destroy it.” Photo: Peter Munks (Creative Commons Flickr)

"But I'm hungry. I really am." (Photo: Jessica Lyons Photography)

“But I’m HUNGRY. I really am.” (Photo: Jessica Lyons Photography)

Did you just insult me?

I’ve been researching rude words from the 1800s in England, and it occurred to me that an insulter could use these words with a smile, and the insultee might never know what the words actually meant.

For instance, unless the insulter’s facial expression gave it away, I would probably thank a person who referred to me as a blooming berk (a darned idiot), thinking it had something to do with flowers. It would be better to reply, “Cobblers!” (rubbish or nonsense) to such a statement.

I now know to be highly insulted if I am ever called a “gormless munter” (stupid, very ugly woman).
Gormless munter
Would you rather be a plonker, a duffer, a prat, a wally, a pillock, a numpty, a wazzack, or a muppet? It doesn’t really matter. All of them mean “idiot.” I may use those. “You’re such a wally!” said with a laugh could be fun.

I made this myself!

I made this myself!

The number of sexual words which were (and are) used in an insulting context is shocking, and here on JSI, we earnestly seek to avoid upsetting our gentle readers. Therefore, I will refrain from posting any of them (or a link).

True story. In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I met an evangelist from England. I was holding our first born. She was not quite a year old at the time. I kissed her and called her a cute little bugger. He nearly spewed his tea. “Don’t ever say that!” he thundered. I was bum-fuzzled. What had I said? I asked him, and after hemming and hawing, he whispered, “That’s the worst sort of a child molester.” I didn’t know child molesters were graded on a sliding scale, but I took his word for it. I’ve now added “bugger” to my list of “words we don’t say.” Did I just say that?