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Monday, October 24, 2016

Dog gone it - what rhymes with sonnet?

This story is a few years old, but true nonetheless. I think maybe it's safe to go public with it now. My nephew Tyler did get his high school diploma and is well on his way to his college degree.

It was a Sunday afternoon in late fall when my phone rang.  I recognized my brother Tim's number so I answered, expecting to discuss some upcoming holiday plans or some such thing. Nope. As near as I can remember, the conversation started out something like this: "Um, Tyler asked me to help him with a school project that's due tomorrow. We've been looking at it for awhile, and neither one of us has a clue so we decided to see if Aunt Cindy would help."

Well, sure, any opportunity to help one of my nephews or nieces is great - but school? I'm no good at science. I had to quit helping my kids with their math about 7th grade, and if it's history, well, that's more up my son Nolan's alley."I'll try. What's the problem?"

 "Tyler's senior literature class is studying Hamlet." I started to relax. OK, Hamlet. Yeah, maybe I could do this.

"What? You want me to explain Hamlet to you?" I was quite confident. I think I got an A in Shakespeare.

"No, not exactly." Turns out, Tyler's teacher had assigned the kids a poem. As in write-your-own-sonnet. A sonnet, huh? This was new territory for me, but I was intrigued.

"That sounds kind of fun," I replied. As soon as Tim and Tyler could control their laughter after my innocent remark, I promised to call them back when I had some idea of what was a sonnet and how did one go about writing one.

"OK, I'll go take a nap, then," was Tim's answer. Now what? Tyler's grade was on the line here. Aunt Cindy could not fail.

I looked up sonnet on google and came up with a definition roughly like this:
A sonnet is 14 lines with a set number of syllables per line. The Shakespearean rhyme scheme is
Every A rhymes with every A, every B rhymes with every B, and so forth. There are more factors such as presenting an argument, using metaphors and ending with a new idea, but that all sounded a little complicated. The rhyme scheme was about all I wanted to conquer. 

Next, I had to review Hamlet. It'd been a few years since I'd read it. I took some notes, made a rough draft of a sonnet, and called my brother back an hour later. He wasn't finished with his nap yet, but he was polite about me waking him up.

"Well, I think I have something for you to go on," I announced. "I've come up with the mandatory 14 lines that rhyme a certain way and Tyler can take it from there." I told them I'd email the sonnet and Tyler could change it however he liked. Mission accomplished. I went back to whatever I'd been doing an hour ago.

A few days later my brother called again. "You got an A," he stated as if there'd never been any doubt. "Tyler's teacher thought he copied the sonnet from somewhere, but she couldn't find anything even similar on the internet, so Tyler aced the whole project." Well duh. The only place she could find that sonnet was in Aunt Cindy's Shakespearean brain.

I guess Tyler didn't want to change anything from it's rough draft format. I guess he didn't need to. Tim said he was prepared to tell the teacher his aunt  helped him with it, but she never asked. And so there you have it - my humble contribution to my nephew's upcoming high school graduation. Want to read it?

Ophelia his beautiful daughter
Thought Polinius’ advice made sense
Bewitched him until Hamlet sought her
Then in a fit of pique, snubbed her prince
He tells his children many a rule
To thine ownself be true, my dears
But he was but a rambler and a fool
Spied on them all to prove his own fears
‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’
But the advice he gives turns out bad
Laertes will duel with his enemy
His poor daughter goes stark raving mad
Polinius will plot, connive and complain
But in the end he can but cry “I am slain”

Yeah -  so it's now officially on the internet, but the A stands. My niece Megan, Tyler's sister, is a senior this year and I think she has the same class. Do you think I have another sonnet in me?

Monday, September 26, 2016


I did something brave and adventurous a few days ago. At least it was for me, not to mention completely out of my comfort zone. I agreed to "pose" for a group of artists. Figure drawing artists to be exact. I had no idea what to expect, but it certainly was not what I might have expected. I stood before a group of seven people that each had some form of drawing paper, easel and art medium in front of them. They asked me to strike a pose - just something natural (yeah, right) and stay still for one minute. They set a timer and off they went. I did this three times for one minute each. They called this their warm-ups, though I could not imagine what anyone could draw in one minute. We then progressed to five minutes. I did two five minute poses for them. The secret, or so they told me, was to pick something on the far wall to focus my attention on, and keep looking at it until the timer went off. Long 5 minutes.

Then, small reprieve. I got to sit down. But along with the chair came the 17 minute sessions. Three of these. 17 minutes seemed like hours to me, but at the same time I still couldn't fathom how anyone could draw a picture of a person in 17 minutes. Some of the artists used pencils, others used colored chalk and another was etching. And the "worst" part? Everyone was STARING at me. Well, not staring exactly. It was more like eyes darting back and forth between me and their paper, but still. . . I was definitely the center of attention. If you know me at all, you probably know I do not like to be the center of attention. But actually, I hate to admit it, it was kind of fun. Sort of.

Some of the artists showed me their work. I liked some of the pictures, some not so much, but I admired them ALL. My own artistic ability stops at stick figures, and I'm not really very good at those. What these people did in a matter of minutes was amazing. All sorts of interpretations from looking at the same thing. Me.

My thanks to my friends Erin for inviting me and Debbie for hosting us in her art gallery, even though she couldn't attend this time. I will try to post a few of the drawings below. Remember, these aren't finished portraits, just sketches done in a few minutes. All the more impressive, don't you think?

Oh, I forgot to say that one of the artists commented that I have the "most beautiful colors" in my hair. Do you think she meant those gray streaks?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fireworks 2016 Part 2 - Attack of the Killer Cash Registers

    Drama is one of the main reasons I have trouble with the week-before-fireworks. We get our share of it and then some at the Regnier household, and more often than not it involves a set of three very innocent-looking cash registers. But honestly, they should have a warning label attached to the “on” switch. ‘Beware! This register can cause nightmares and/or sleepless nights for the feint-of-heart or the technologically-illiterate.’
    Let’s go back to Fireworks 2014 and relive nightmare #1. Don’t worry I’ve been through psychological repression training and I think I’m strong enough now to handle it. In 2014 the registers were new. Nice, except that we didn’t know how to run them with the scanners we purchased and the user’s manual didn’t include any instructions – either that or some evil-minded box-packer tore out that page.
    What to do? Finally, we called the company from which they came. I was tempted to introduce myself as the Technology Director for Regnier Fireworks, which is truly a title I have had officially bestowed upon me by our staff. But actually, it just shows how desperate we are. So, I just said my name was Cindy, described the problem, and a very nice man named Brad with a New York accent gave me a simple, one-sentence direction on how to make the scanners work. Problem solved.
   I wrote down his instructions in my spiral notebook. I put it on my computer in a file all of its own called “Cash Register instructions.” I emailed it to my husband. We would be good-to-go for next year. Bring on the 4th!
    So now fast forward a year and it’s time to gear up for  fireworks 2015. I’m confident I’ve got this register thing conquered, and not worried about it when we don’t actually get the cash registers out of their box until the afternoon of June 30. Picture this – I am at work for what is arguably considered the busiest day of the year at the school district office. Chelsea, one of our staff who has been with us from the beginning, and whom I love like a daughter calls me at work. “Um, how do we make the cash registers scan things?”
    I chuckle to myself. I have so got this one. “Turn on my computer, find the file for cash registers and follow the instructions. It’s just a simple sentence and you’ll be on your way.”
    My phone rings again a few minutes later. “It doesn’t work.” “OK, I’ll come home and see what’s going on.” I knew I could do it based on the wonderful instructions Brad had given me last year.
By 4:30 that afternoon I was about in tears, Chelsea along with me. I never made it back to work that day. Not only did our scanners not work, but the registers wouldn’t take manual entries either. Surely I had written down more than one sentence of instructions? “Well, no.” I could call Brad but it’s 5:30 New York time. I try it. Brad is out, but will be returning about 6:00. He might not have time to call me, but the man I talked to was kind enough to say he would give him my number. We waited. We waited some more. We cried some more. Stress levels were off the charts. The phone did not ring. Finally, Chelsea gets brave enough to call again. Thank goodness for Chelsea. This time she gets transferred to Brad and hands me the phone.
    I’ll spare you the gory details of this, but Brad, now my best-bud, who is working very late just because I sound desperate, calmly tells me that over the year the registers were in storage the batteries went dead and all the programming is erased. “All you have to do is run your SD card again.” Simple right? Except that we didn’t have an SD card. We didn’t even know the registers had the capability to read one. Worthless user’s manual. Brad goes through a set of instructions with me (also not in the manual) to restore basic programming to the machine. It took me two pages to write down everything we did, plugging and unplugging, pushing buttons and pushing some more. At last the machine was up and running. I profusely thank Brad and, in the tradition of Regnier Fireworks, wish him a Fun and Safe 4th
    Chelsea and Leslie proceed to re-enter all (ALL) the bar codes and pricing for every product in our stand. While they take on this enormous task, Bernie races to Salina and buys SD cards. When the first machine is programmed later that evening, all we have to do is copy it to the card and then run the card in the other two registers. Two seconds and we’re running again, just in time to catch a few hours sleep before the stand opens in the morning.
    So now, 2016 Fireworks is approaching. I am armed and dangerous with my pages of instructions from Brad, the SD cards which we have had in safekeeping for a year, and my abundance of tech knowledge. We even have a jump on things, actually getting the registers out a few weeks early just to make sure they’re working right.
    But they’re not. Not only are they not working right. They’re not working at all. No lights, numbers, sounds. Nothing. All my wonderful instructions don’t tell me how to fix dead. Makes me kind of wish I was too.  Stress becomes a major factor for me while I wait for Friday for a chance to call Brad during business hours. (Sometimes it’s easy to forget I have a real job that actually earns me a paycheck when I get into my Freebie-Tech-Director-of-Regnier-Fireworks mode.)
     If Brad remembers this woman from Kansas who called him last year, and recognizes the desperation in my voice, he keeps his giggles to himself. Whatever the case, I have now dubbed him my BFF. This, because he told me what I did wrong – “You can’t plug in the scanners while the cash register is connected to power. It makes them go dead,” Yeah – no kidding. (NOT in the user manual!). And not only that, but he told me how to fix them! Yay, Strike up the Hallelujah Chorus. The registers are alive again, resurrected from the grave, and SCANNING!!!! 
    So what do my cash registers have in store for me for 2017? To be determined. But go ahead, registers. Hit me with your best shot. Brad is on my side. And did I mention I prayed a lot too? Yes, I know Who really got me through this. Looking forward to sleeping better tonight!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fireworks 2016 - and so it begins

It was a dark and stormy night. . . Well, yes, it was night, but it was also morning. 2:30 a.m. to be exact. But let’s go back to that part about dark. Definitely dark.

The hubs was gone to southeast Kansas for his annual fireworks event in Pittsburg, Kansas.  For him, it’s the equivalent of a birthday party to a five-year-old, the only thing more exciting being Christmas, (to him, the 4th of July). Now that it’s established what a big deal this was, I’ll go on with the story. It’s dark and it’s stormy and hubby is driving home in the dead of night with the back end of his pickup filled with fireworks. (You can’t have a birthday party without presents!)

I talked to him on the phone about 11:00. He said he was nervous about getting home without getting rained on. Rain would be detrimental to fireworks, of course. He covered them with some tarps, but a good soaking might ruin them. Fast forward to 2:30 a.m. He is pulling into Bennington having so far avoided all the rain but for a few sprinkles. But wait, where’s the street lights? Lights of the town? Lights from our house pointing the way home? Remember what I said earlier about being dark? Yeah the power had gone out just as he pulled into town.

OK – so let’s see if I can paint you a visual. Only color I need is black. Add some rain beginning to fall a little heavier, an occasional distant rumble of thunder and the pickup so full of fireworks the back end can’t make it into the garage – if we could open the garage door.

So, I trot out into the rain to be of some help (You know me – I am EXCELLENT help with anything fireworks related :).  We lift the garage door the old-fashioned-way, grab a few flashlights and stand there in the rain unloading boxes from the back end of the pickup, carrying them into the dark garage and trying to put them somewhere that they won't be in the way should we ever get to point where we actually can bring the pickup into the garage too. Novel idea – who would have ever thought of having a garage filled with vehicles instead of fireworks?

Somebody should have taken a picture of the two of us unloading fireworks in the pitch-black wetness. Except the picture would have been too dark to see anything. We got the fireworks safely inside, nothing damaged by the rain, just in time.  We were tired, damp and happy. Well, at least one of us was happy. The other one was too tired to care.  And that’s the end of the story. Kind of anti-climactic, huh?

I always wanted to finish Snoopy’s story. It was a dark and stormy night. The fireworks arrived home and made it to their dry, albeit dark garage. The End. Except it’s not. It’s only the beginning with the climax to follow on July 4th at the annual Celebration in the Sky.  To be continued. . .

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fun and Games - Randon style

My friend Kim got some unexpected (but very good) news recently, that she would be hired as a 5th grade teacher at one of our local schools. Hooray! Not only will she have a great job, but she will be making a difference in the lives of children. If any part of Kim rubs off on her students, what a blessing that will be!

But there was a problem. The news of Kim’s teaching position came only a few days before classes started. What’s a girl to do with plans for “Friday Fun Days” but no fun supplies? Kim mentioned she looked at board games at a local retailer. All so expensive. And isn’t that just like one of our beloved teachers? Reaching into her own pocket for classroom supplies our low-budget school systems just can’t provide in the current financial environment? Everybody stop right now and thank a teacher for all they do for love of our kids!

So what to do about Friday Fun Day for the 5th grade? Randon to the rescue. Again. Most of you reading this who knew my son Randon, also know he did everything in a big way. Or at least his mom did. Yeah, I tended to spoil him, indulging him in excessive amounts of the things he loved, mostly because there were so many things he couldn’t do or participate in. I would go so far as to say his three favorite things were books, movies and games. Oh my.

He had huge collections of these things. A few years ago, shortly after his passing, our family donated his book collection (including Hank the Cow Dog) to the Bennington School Library. We also donated his movie collection to the school. Now his books and movies are found in classrooms, day cares, homes, anywhere they can continue to be enjoyed by children in our community.  Yay Randon!

But so far, Randon’s game collection still filled shelves in our house and garage. Alas, they were collecting dust with no one to enjoy them. I suppose I could have carted them off to the Good Will store, but I always hoped I would run across someone who wanted them. Someone Randon knew, and who would enjoy having his things.  

So, and you’re way ahead of me by now, Randon’s game collection found its way into Kim’s 5th grade classroom as the focus of Friday Fun Days (or at least the rainy ones.) I would have to admit to a slight twinge of sadness as the games went off to their new home, but when one of Kim’s students proudly announced to his friends that he knew Randon from his church and was excited about having his games, that made it ALL worthwhile. That and the expression on the face of Kim’s son when we bestowed upon him the beloved Strolling Bowling game. Yep. Smiles all around!

Thank you Kim. Thanks 5th grade. Oh yeah. And thanks Randon. Your legacy loves on.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Proud Mom of Six (for a week)

     What do you think would happen if six young people came to your house for a week of 16 hour days, maybe more? What if they all wore the same shirts, usually looked hot and needed a lot of cold drinks? What if they got hungry several times a day and it was up to you to feed them? I know exactly what you would do – you would fall in love with them.
     I’ll be honest, the week of July 4th is difficult. It’s hot, exhausting and smelly. My home is overtaken by people coming to buy fireworks, some of them I know, but many of them I don’t. My garage is full of things that go bang, smoke and “emit showers of sparks.”  I am sleep deprived, stressed and way out of my comfort zone. But then there’s these kids’ unending energy, smiles that won’t quit and hearts of gold. They have one goal this week: Dedicate 24 hours a day to making Regnier Fireworks successful so that my pyro-crazed husband can put on a community fireworks display that folks will be talking about for weeks.
     This fireworks crew become MY kids for a week. They’re certainly here more than they’re at their own homes. I promise I’ll give them back to their families when the event is said and done, but for this week they’re mine. That’s the part of it I love. I love feeding them, fetching change, bandaging ouchies, and sharing my house.
     And, they have my utmost gratitude. The obvious reason I’m grateful to them is because we couldn’t do any of this without them, but it’s more than that. Lance, Chelsea, Leslie, Avery, Annie and Nolan, thanks for putting up with me trying to take your pictures all the time. Thanks for not grumping at me when I’m always forcing you to eat when you’re not hungry. Thanks for not minding reheated leftovers and cold sandwiches. Thanks for eating what I make for you without complaint even when you’d rather have something else. Thanks for working out in the heat while I sit inside because I’m such a wimp. Thanks for enduring the house full of stuff till we can’t hardly walk around in here. Thanks for all your ‘thank-yous,’ though truly, it is I that should be thanking you.
     Chelsea, thanks for sitting with me during my absolute worst moments when I didn’t know how to make the cash registers work. You turned the tears into laughter. I love you so much.
     Avery, thanks for your delightful sense of humor, always coming up with the perfect comment to bring a moment of levity to every difficult situation.
     Lance, thanks for being such a hard worker, volunteering for every cruddy job and for asking for the leftover bacon cheese bread. And you like lemonade Chex mix!
     Annie, you work so hard, endure the heat and do whatever we ask. You eat my deviled eggs, park your car with the KU tag in my yard with no apologies, and I really love the table decorations you made to decorate our stand.
     Leslie, you are a sweetheart. I love seeing you all bundled up in a hoodie and a blanket on these hot July mornings. Hearing you argue with Lance makes me laugh. How funny that you want ice cream instead of supper and who knew you loved Cheetos?
     Nolan, you know we could never do this without you. You’re the only one if the crew I get to ‘keep’ once the week is done. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be!
     Special shout out to Kasey and Laura. You got to be my kids for a day or two as well.
     All of you are treasures, and I am so blessed to have you all to help me make it through fireworks season! Same time, same place next year?