Delights: May 13 to May 19

Jeremiah shared this photo with us during his rainy-day wanderings near Herring Creek.

May 13: Fourth graders entered the music room where I substituted all week. “We know you! You’re the underwear lady.” 

Oh dear. I’m sensing a theme here — because the previous class similarly recognized me from my day “teaching” Spanish on April 5. Indeed, one boy, after taking his seat, looked at me and pointed to his rear end. Oh double-dear. “Why did you point there?” “Because you told us about babies’ bottoms.”

Gulp. “Tell us the story again,” they implored. I asked them to tell it to me. And so they did, each unrolling the story in morsels and handing the bits off to their classmates. It goes something like this:

“When I was little, my Great-Aunt Querina would give us a bath while our Mom worked. We’d splash around and eventually Aunt Rina would ask us to roll over ‘so I can wash your coolie.’ We quickly figured out what she meant, although we didn’t know it was Italian.

“Years later, I took an Italian class in college. As we worked through kitchen vocabulary, I offered to say the word for knife. The word is ‘coltello,’ but somehow I said something that sounded like ‘coolie.’ The teacher gasped and then laughed. “You just said ‘baby’s bottom!!’”

Even though they knew how the story ended, my students gasped and laughed too. 

Ha Long Bay, near Hanoi, Vietnam (2018). I do things differently too.

. . . . I’m afraid I’m getting a bit of a reputation across the school because yesterday….

“Mrs. Ogle! We had you for Tech!” Uh oh. I taught Tech to the fourth graders on Earth Day when we talked about, um, sanitary waste.

That day, April 25, the fifth graders exhibited curiosity and self-control. In contrast (and as British blog-friend Platypus Man guessed), the fourth graders exploded in horror to learn that our (exquisitely treated) drinking water is drawn upstream from the same river that receives our (exquisitely treated) waste.

I entered the lion’s den. First, they asked if I had told my third grade classes all this. No way. Then I asked a question: “What did you learn about?” One boy, who I recalled as one of the leaders of the uproar, said simply “sewage treatment.” Nice. And the girl behind him, almost under her breath, said “poop.”

Needless to say, I run and hide in my coffee shop after particularly hard teaching days. This is part of the street scene near my coffee shop. The tranquility is real, even though the flowers are not.

May 14: On my outing today, I noticed dirt roads spinning off toward distant mountains and a surprising number of iron cattle gates that could clang shut if the need arose. I learned, while touring a 19th century jail in Warrenton, that this part of Virginia is the Moonshine Capital of the world. Among other things, that means, in case of fire, the fire chief drives out to the mountains first to assure suspicious householders that (good news!) it’s just a fire, not a raid. And it also means that a bobbing blue balloon tied to a post doesn’t celebrate a new baby boy: it announces a fresh batch of hootch.

I didn’t buy hooch, but I did pick up America’s best granola and a chocolate cake in Warrenton.
In addition to moonshiners, Fauquier County (pronounced Faw-keer) is also the home of 19th century U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall.

May 15: My Slovenian-Italian blog-friend Manja has whipped me into a froth over the NBA playoffs. Manja is a Dallas Mavericks super-fan who rejoices, agonizes and writes poetry about her basketball team and their young phenom, Slovenian-born Luka Dončić. (She also watches their games live at 3 am Italian time.) 

Today would be game seven, with the winner entering the Western Conference Championship series. The Mavs needed to travel to the Phoenix Suns’ home court, and the home team had won decisively every previous game. 

I turned on the contest late and nearly dropped the remote. At halftime, the Suns had scraped together 27 points. Dončić alone had scored that many, and his teammates added 30 more for a thirty point lead. The Mavericks glided to victory, with Dončić pouring in 35 points in just three periods. 

I frantically scoured my emails for one of Manja’s posts. Beautiful flowers; that would do. In a comment, I sent her whoops and hearts and exclamation marks. And birthday greetings: my friend had received the best (sports) present she could have imagined.

My own birthday bouquet.

May 16: At 10 pm last night I agreed to substitute for a fifth grade class today. Everything was fine, but I just couldn’t summon the “Mrs. Ogle” energy that’s earned me hugs and hellos in the hallway. 

And, resolutely, I’ve decided that’s ok. Nobody (else) expects me to score 35 points each time I hit the court.

Then I looked at the bouquet of birthday flowers from my son Nate. Here, on day eight, the sunflowers have started to wilt but the lilies are finding their glory. The components keep changing and, as artist Alma Thomas would say, everything is still beautiful. 

Grassy Melodic Chant, 1976, by Alma Thomas, Smithsonian American Art Museum. This piece was inspired by the circular path in Thomas’ garden.

May 17: For me, the dentist’s drill is the worst sound in the world, especially when mixed with the smell of tooth dust. (Ok, I’ll stop.) So I tried to reframe: does a dentist’s drill sound like anything else? 

The whistle of a tea kettle! I stretched hard in the direction of a cup of anxi tea and the orange scone our bakery gave me for my birthday. I smoothed the tablecloth, inhaled the steam and closed my eyes.

Doctor, I’m ready for you now.

Bonus: What? A emergency root canal? Now? …. The only (!) problem was that I’d walked to the dentist’s office; it would take me 20 minutes to get home and another 15 minutes to drive to the endodontist’s office. So: my dentist drove me home (!); my root canal doctor squeezed me in; and all I needed to do was open my mouth, muffle everything with the soundtrack to Hamilton — and treat myself to a chocolate milkshake when it was all over.

A tulip poplar bloom found during my pre-dentistry walk today.

May 18: After my emergency root canal yesterday, I needed an emergency salon visit today. My dear sister-in-law Karolina struck gold, and within 4 hours of Kevin’s and my arrival in Des Moines, Iowa, my toes were swishing in fragrant suds.. 

I looked up from my bliss to see, across the room, a stylist combing and coloring a customer’s hair. I looked away and back again, and then gasped: The stylist was now carrying the head in her hands. 

“Oh, they’re just practicing,” my nail technician said, as the stylist moved the manikin’s head to another tripod and carried on.

My brother-in-law Loyd gets a birthday hug from his daughter Ella.

May 19: Karolina and I slipped into Immersive, a splendid four-artist exhibition at the Des Moines Art Center. The Des Moines Art Center sprinkles a fine permanent collection of Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, Alice Neel and Carrie Mae Weems in buildings designed by Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier. Pretty cool. And it’s all free.

Immersive, which combined video and sound (and, in one case, sewing pins and crystals), invited us to be part of — and, in my favorite pieces, to alter — the artists’ work. The pieces were five, even ten, minutes long; sometimes “nothing” happened. They rewarded both patience and a willingness to trust the artist. I found patience and trust, as well as disorientation, discontent, and awe. Pretty effective exhibition, I’d say.  

“We Carry Space and Time Within Us,” by Matthew Willie Garcia (2021). That’s Karolina and me projected onto the screen along the bottom at left-center. We were invited to step through the fourth wall into the piece itself.
Same piece, 3 minutes later.
“Garden of Water,” by Ran Hwang (2010). The one-inch-wide pins-and-crystals chandelier on the right (squeezed inside plexiglass) cast a constantly changing two-dimensional image on the wall behind it.

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25 thoughts on “Delights: May 13 to May 19

  1. It is a wet Friday afternoon, on a day we were woken by a thunderstorm. We still have no hot water, and the ‘gas man’ who was to fit a new meter has not arrived. So I open your blog post and am immediately laughing at your stories of being a substitute teacher, and all is well in the world again. Hope your dental work is not giving you any bother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, T&K. I love knowing that you are often my first reader; it sometimes gets me over the finish line! I hope by the time you read this reply that you are blessed again with hot water. (And my dental work was almost pain free; thank you!)

      I’m so happy you like my substitute teaching stories. I might declare my own early summer vacation, but what will I write about??

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cynthia Jurrius May 20, 2022 — 6:05 am

    What a rich and beautiful week! I hope you had a joyous birthday and a wonderful trip to Iowa. Love your Mrs. Ogle stories from the classroom. Your words paint a vivid picture, and I can see the whole scene, your face and gestures as well as their reactions. ❤️Thank you!!

    Cynthia Jurrius Sent from mobile


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Cindy. (Mrs. Ogle stories. I like that.) On the day I retold my “baby’s bottom” story, another teacher was in the classroom and she approached me afterwards. Oh no. But she told me she loved my style and that I was doing just fine. Phew.

      I’ll be thinking about your tomorrow. Love, Carol Ann


  3. Welcome to teaching Mrs. Ogle! How spectacular you are doing this. All your posts made me smile. Lucky kids (and my Italian grandma also used the word coolie – and I had NO idea about its origin until I read – so thanks for the enlightenment!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, Alex! I love hearing from you. Thank you for your wonderful encouragement (as always). I’m laughing to think of your grandma using the same word. Now an entire group of kids in Virginia (and maybe my readers??) have learned a word that otherwise might have faded away from the American vocabulary. Hurray!


  4. Oh, yes, it was, it was, your birthday!! How most excellent that you are a Taurus too. 🙂 Cin cin with warmest wishes and much love. ❤

    You are right, you don't need to score 35 every time you show up, aren't we lucky. 😀 Well, neither did Luka in Game 1 of the Conference final. Today is Game 2… My theory – seeing what they did in Game 7 against the Suns and in many other games against the top teams this year – is that they lost on purpose. They put in minimum effort, with almost zero defence (compared to what they are able), and mostly used the game to study the opponents and learn how to demolish them.

    You can see what kind of game it will be immediately at the start by the way Luka moves on the court. If he starts extra slow, he is stalling and they will lose by 20+ on purpose. (Because chances are they will lose tonight the same way again, like they did against the Suns when they were 2:0 down at the start of the series). I hope not because it's like playing with fire but they are so incredibly ON that they can do whatever they wish. They know nobody can beat them 4 times.

    So now you know who will win this year and can bet accordingly (sometimes it feels like the whole league only exists for the betting system), courtesy of your super-fan friend with inside knowledge (nahhh, just the feeling). Thank you SO much for the kind mention and the link. You even spelled his surname perfectly and know that the next three games are at 3 am again here in Italy. 🙂 I'm so glad that I got you all to root for the Mavs. But of course you are. You can recognise the good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, and laughing so much at the povero artist called Coolio!!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Dear Manja — Thank you for your insightful perspective on game 1 and for all the pleasures of your note. (Thank you for the birthday greetings, too!) You offer such an interesting and very viable theory about the Mave. Watch, learn, explode; not a bad formula (even if it agonizes the fans)! I’m so glad to share basketball with you and all the other joys of our lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re most welcome. 🙂 We will see tonight. There were rumours that Luka was sick all night after the game. We will see.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Before you can say anything: The Mavs are like Chuck Norris: They don’t lose unless they want to lose. I mean, defence is not like offence. You can keep missing, but defence is a conscious decision. You either play it or you don’t. After the first half they already knew how to win their one needed game on the road. And so they went back to strolling and shooting threes just so something happens. 😀 (This is my optimistic view. Sorry if you watched only the second half. See the first one again. Pure domination.)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved reading this post! It reminds me of an occasion when I was asked at the last minute to substitute for a Grade 9 Afrikaans class. No-one else was keen because this particular group of boys was known for being a boisterous lot. I sailed into the classroom and greeted them brightly in Afrikaans and continued speaking that language as I asked them to take out their homework from the day before, and engaged some of them in conversation. I knew they needed to be kept busy at all costs even though no work had been left for them. I walked around the class and commented on their homework (or lack thereof) until one little boy raised his hand. “Ma’am”, he asked tentatively in English. “When does our real teacher get back?” Not knowing the circumstances of her absence, I couldn’t enlighten him. “Are you always going to be here while she is gone?” I discovered afterwards that their ‘real’ teacher used to issue instructions and provide explanations in English – small wonder they wanted her back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness, I love this story. Thank you so much for sharing it, Anne. I love how you “sailed into the classroom and greeted them brightly.” (YES!) And then life ensued, with you nimbly responding to the situation with energy and kindness. I’d love to hear more of your stories!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this lovely account of another wonderful week in the life of Mrs Ogle. You do understand, don’t you, that you will forever be part of your school’s folklore! In decades from now, when former students meet and look back wistfully of their younger days, they will smile at one another and say “do you remember when Mrs Ogle told us about poop, and about babies’ bottoms too. Ah, those were the days…” The affection in which they clearly hold you will shine through, and at that moment you will be immortal. Your students are very, very lucky to have you as their substitute teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, friend, you’ve brought tears to my eyes. My adult sons still enjoy bumping into their favorite substitute teacher, Mrs. Hockenberry. And they’re coaching me to be like her! So perhaps your prediction may come true. I truly hope so (scandalous stories and all). I’m grateful to you.

      Liked by 1 person

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