Sunday, December 26, 2010

POEM: The Night After Christmas

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care
but their skinniness now is post-partum.
Cards stretched like laundry from strings--do we toss
them? If not, then to where should we cart 'em?

The gifts, once mysterious, papered and bowed,
turned out to be perfectly common.
The paper is crumpled and piled in a heap
and the ribbons are scattered like ramen.

Strings of lights still entwine the now drooping-branched tree
but the needles are to dry to risk them.
The last of the cookies have met their demise--
down the garbage disposal we whisk them.

The holiday puzzle which never got done
gathers dust, like the boughs on the mantel,
while once again strains of the Beach Boys replace
the chorused Messiah of Handel.

Red napkins, red tablecloth, red welcome mat
are wadded on top of the washer
while holly-sprayed china awaits its return
to the closet, each cup and each saucer.

Mama in her bathrobe and me in my sweats
confront the disaster before us.
We call for our offspring to help us clean up
and dismantle the tree; they ignore us.

I'm sure I have something more urgent to do--
Our timing is always superb.
And I hear her exclaim, as we each drive away,
"Help me get this tree out to the curb!"

(written January 6, 1993)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

ANECDOTE: The Day after Christmas

     As much fun as Christmas is, there's often a letdown afterwards even for children. When our son was four, we found a way to sustain the momentum.
     As I tucked him in Christmas night, I asked him enthusiastically, "Do you know what tomorrow is?"
     His eyes grew big. "What?"
     "The day after Christmas! That's the day you get to play with all the toys you got for Christmas!"
     It worked!

Friday, December 24, 2010

POEM: The Real Night Before Christmas

Now listen close and you will hear
the way it really goes,
from a kid with lots of practice,
a person who really knows.
People think of Christmas Eve
of children tucked in bed,
dreaming of toys and presents
that are dancing in their heads.

Now let me reassure you,
you'll be the first to know
if something isn't quite right,
or if it isn't so.
However could a child sleep
upon that Christmas Eve,
the child thinking of all the gifts
that he will soon receive.

Well, from personal experience,
I can tell you right away,
we kids sit up in bed all night
waiting for Christmas Day.
You sit up and check what time it is,
to see if you'll have to wait
until 7:00 in the morning to
find it's 8:38!!!!!!!!!!

It's only been 38 minutes
since I was put to bed.
Possibly my clock is slow,
it should be an hour instead.
I'll add and subtract
and then I'll calculate
that it will be exactly 10 hours
and 22 minutes to wait!!!!!!!!

Toss and turn,
turn and toss,
Delicious roast turkey
with cranberry sauce!!!
Fro and to, to and fro,
Christmas trees
and lights aglow.

Finally, next morning,
you awake with a start,
"It's Christmas morning," you shout
with joy in your heart.
But even though kids
go through such a terrible night,
they rush to the Christmas tree,
faces glowing bright!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                       Ben Shaver, age 13

(Published in The Cabbage Leaf, December, 1988)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

'Tis the star-spangled banner! O, long may it wave!

 Oh! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
  Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
  Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
  And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
  O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

STORY: My Son's Last Gift

To read this story, click on article twice (separate clicks, not double-click)

Printed in Purpose, 4-7-85; re-printed in Bible Advocate, March, 1991

Monday, September 6, 2010

SATIRE: Tom Jefferson and the ACLU

To read this article, click twice (separately) on it.

Published in Focus on the Family's Citizen, October 15, 1990. Reprinted in Home Times, January 20, 1991; "the Forum" June 1995 and The Orange County Register, June 4, 1995.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

STORY: Will Power

         Until she was twelve, Tanny had never really noticed magazines much. She read cartoons, and a story or two, if it looked promising, and occasionally the first page of articles. Her interest dwindled if she had to hunt up "page 137" before she knew what she was reading about. Otherwise, magazines had not interested her. What else were magazines made up of besides stories to read and ads to ignore?
     But one day, in a dog phase, when Tanny was collecting hundreds upon thousands of little pictures and big pictures of homeless mongrels and pleading spaniels and thoroughbreds disdainfully waving aside a bowl of "any other dog-food" and dogs with pheasants trailing from their mouths and dogs in baskets on doorsteps, dogs in cars, beside horses, with rabbits, on signs, under tables; dogs training elephants, dogs playing nurse, dogs swimming, barking, eating, dying, smoking, writing letters; dogs with puppies and dogs with kittens, and cats with dog-like expressions--one day, I repeat, while collecting these to trade with doggy friends, Tanny found the value of magazines. 
     One of those "I like Wallaburgers' Dog Meat because. . ." (and twenty-five cents in coin) was overlapping the picture she wanted of a poodle, eyes heavenwards, teeth clamped blissfully in a beef-steak--marked Wallaburgers'. In the blank after "because. . ." Tanny wrote, half-savagely, yet somewhat thoughtfully, ". . .it's made of real dog." She looked at the prizes. "The winner, with the most original answer," it read, "will be sent two beautifully illustrated volumes of Wright's Doggeral--absolutely free (only 50c to cover postage), with one of our membership pins." Tanny cut out the poodle and sent it in.    
     She forgot about Wallaburgers' in the next few weeks, when her dog phase shifted to Bermuda shorts, but she noticed Forms after that. Whenever Tanny came across a coupon, whether in magazines or on boxes of butter, whether for lingerie, marbles or a gymnasium set, she'd absent-mindedly cut it out and send it in. It didn't matter what they were selling or what she was involving herself in. Sometimes she wondered, later.
    In due time, came the two beaut. illus. volumes Wright's doggeral. Tanny wasn't even disappointed at finding the real meaning of doggeral had nothing to do with dogs, because by then the fad was collecting dead leaves and butterflies. Tanny pressed several moths between pages 748 and 749 in vol. 2, and forgot about them. But she continued to fill forms and cut coupons. A catcher's mitt arrived--her prize for ending a limerick which went:    
     There once was a woman who'd never
     At cooking been anything clever
          She had a sad feeling
          Her meals weren't appealing

"The last line must include the name Fredricka's Instant Marvel Poultry Seasoning."
     Two years supply of Evergreen's Mollasses for her testimonial arrived--the one describing Fluffly, flimsy, Topsy, Turvy Lemon-Custard Delight Made With Yvonne's Evergreen Molasses. Then there was the advertisement, which, for selling Christmas cards (it was March) gave you a choice of a tangerine orange or lollipop green striped umbrella; a pair of durable plastic ear muffs with heat control, or an artificial-looking radio transmitter for the Junior Party Line Club. Tanny chose the umbrella (lollipop green) but they made a mistake and sent the radio transmitter. She became a Junior Evesdropper.
     This phase developed by leaps and bounds. Collecting was Tanny's joy in life and she opened the door wide to accept her booty. She had to. Four cases pickled beets, four cases medium horse radish, pamphlets, cookbooks, travelogues and adventure stories. 374 pictures of Jerry Lewis and Fred Astaire from sixty different angles, she dutifully hung on her wall, three albums of the songs from L'il Abner, 14 miniature masterpieces by Van Gogh, Granma Moses and Edgar T. Wassletwitch, 1 pair giant maracas, two Junior Architect Building Sets with full-size blue-prints of famous racehorses (as of a 1923 election), a Muscle-Building Exercises Kit in 45 easy jujitsu holds; Tanny took full responsibility for the Guinea Pigs, the garden-flower seeds, the sample chihuahua, the bicycles, the dolls that spoke, wet, ate, slept, ran, spit, swore and kicked with amazing reality, the Hiroshima Re-construction Set (two box-tops and one flake Krispie Krunchies), the Hydrochloric Acid (on loan) and the ten original Queen Victoria stamps (only three in existence), the house-broken Siamese twins and the self-disposal units.
     But she began to feel doubtful. Secretly she auctioned off garden hoses, teddy bears and show-shining equipment among her friends. It was getting harder and harder to keep her parents from finding out, so she took mama into her confidence. Her father, by the end of that week, did not have to be told.
     "Ma-muh" cried Tanny when the dromedary cubs escaped. "Ma-muh" she cried as she picked up the 998 toy soldiers in Action. "Ma-muh" as she stuffed three pedigree hedgehogs in a drawer and turned the waste-basket upside-down on top of the uncontrollable young fer de lance.
     And yet, she still couldn't resist filling out forms--all forms, any forms. It was an addiction. Mama tried reasoning with her, and Papa, really rather timid among females, especially his own, licked his lips in bewilderment and tried bribing the mail-man to drop all letters from companies into the garbage can, but he lost more bills that way.
     And Tanny simply started searching the trash for her packages.
     But it was when the pr. Aust. wallabies arrived (plus one kangaroo rat, thrown in at no extra cost) that Mama really put her foot down. "There are hobbies and hobbies." she said firmly, fishing a mechanical spider out of her coffee. "This," she meant the full-rigged sailing-ship in the butter maybe, "is enough."
     Tanny's father made it very clear. He could get desperate when his home and family were being threatened.
     "Out" he said, with a firm voice to make up for the hunted look in his eyes. "All of it. Everything Must Go." You could hear the Capital. "And stop sending for things, Tanny."
     "But Papa." Tanny paused to lick the envelope which was to carry sketches of fruit to United Bananas Inc. "That's the thing. I can't stop."
     "You heard me." warned papa. "The junk goes or you go."
     Tanny really tried. She hunted through drawers and shelves and cupboards, ruthlessly rummaged in bins and cubbies and under beds.
     Papa came home that evening. "Tanny." he sighed. "Why is that 'mulligatawny beige' alligator of yours still in the lily pond. I thought. . ."
     "Papa! Please! Just keep Antoine. it would kill him to be crated away again."
     But papa snorted. He had grown so callous these last few days.
     "It'll kill me if he isn't crated away." he said, and then, "What did you get rid of? One bent bobby pin and a box of moldy Crackerjack?" His jaundiced eye roamed over the stalks of bananas, the pet tarantulas and cry ice, the Model Igloo and the Christmas trees, the rocking horse, window-shades and paint buckets, the 4 dozen sets of Willowware china and the Deep-Sea Diving Outfit.
     "Well?" he asked, scooping frogs, underwear and fertilizer from his easy-chair.
     "Oh, those." Tanny said miserably. "Those are what came today. I didn't have time. . ."
     When the jungle hammocks, tents and caravans arrived, Papa went off to the woods with them. He had the primus too, and the hiking boots Tanis had won, and two sacks of instant cement mix which he'd meant to fill with three months food rations but hadn't.
     Tanny had forgotten about the grand piano. They put it in her bed. The sample kegs of whiskey, however, from Alcoholics Anonymous, were locked up in the bath.
     "Stop!" cried Mama when someone tried to bring their new sedan into the kitchen. "One car in here's enough" she shouted. "What d'you think this is, anyway?! A garage?!" It was quite likely they did.
     Tanny had been expelled from school. The principal sent a coldly polite and very definate note to her mother, which, in essence, explained that protests had been flocking in from teachers and parents. Tanny, it seemed, had been bringing assorted lizards and snails and honey bears and pocket monkeys to school, hiding them in her desk and trading them among her friends. And not only that, kiwis and suckling pigs had been found in baskets on door-steps. The pygmy giraffes, accidently left overnight, in a class-room, did $100 worth of damage. Tanny paid them back in costume jewelery and Pick Up Sticks.
     And now she sat among roller skates, Persians, pot scrubbers, pressure cookers, mattresses, and cried. They had wanted to flee to the attic, as a refuge, but they couldn't find the door. Tanny was eight feet and three bushels of rubber tomahawks from a compass. So they gave up.
     "Open a box of mashed potato mix or something," Mama suggested wearily over the automatic dishwasher and opened a can of pears herself. "We'll try to get help when Papa comes back. He can't live long on cement."
     "There's only jam here." Tanny was gloomy. "Marmalade. 400 cases orange marmalade." She hated Marmalade. "And a radio." Despondently she turned it on.
     ". . . for hospital and orphanages all over the country." It was saying. "Just bring all your old toys, animals, playthings, anything you would like to donate to the Association of Ardent Helpers, and for every six items, the A.A.H's will give you a free feather. . ."
     "Mama!" called Tanny. "That's what I'll do!"
    And rushed upstairs, knocking typewriters and rolls of linoleum to left and right.
     But it was only Mama, battling her way between 6-foot beach-balls and grandfather clocks to turn off the radio, who heard it babble on: ". . .And, what's more, for every ten feathers, folks, the AAH's will give you your choice between a pair or white mice or a couple of hamsters. Just think of all the fun. . ."
     But Mama wasn't thinking of the fun. She was thinking of sun-glasses, saddles, cases of soap and of Mexican blankets and the crates of doilies and the waffle-irons. And, of hundreds of white mice, thousands of hamsters, and trillions of young ones. . . the pattering of little feet. And, visibly, Mama began to pale.     

Written right around 14th birthday.

Monday, August 16, 2010

APPLE: It's the Low-Tech Life

(to be sung to the music of ANNIE as arranged by Ralph Burns)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Query re: APPLE, A Computer Musical

August 29, 1983


Dear Sir or Madam,

Would your magazine be interested in a "computer musical"--a take-off on the Broadway hit ANNIE? It's called APPLE but does not refer exclusively to any one brand. It concerns a husband considering the purchase of a PC and his reluctant wife who finally take the plunge and become enthusiastic computer owners. I have re-written the lyrics for ten of Ralph Burns' songs, including some which I've titled It's the Low-Tech Life for Us, Dumb DOS, We Got Apple and PC Street.

Thank you for considering this.

(Mrs.) Jessica Shaver

(Identical letters sent to PERSONAL COMPUTING, MICROCOMPUTING and MicroDiscovery.)

September 2, 1983

"Dear Mrs. Shaver,
Thank you for your letter of August 29 with regards to a take off of the musical Annie. At this time, however, it does not meet our current editorial needs. . ."

September 9, 1983

"Dear Mrs. Shaver:
Thank you for submitting your article entitled 'APPLE'. . . Unfortunately, we feel your submission is not geared toward our current audience. . ."


September 19, 1983

"Dear Mrs. Shaver,
Thank you for your recent letter concerning several article proposals. . .Unfortunately, this is not what we are looking for at this time. . ."

September 20, 1983

"Dear Mrs. Shaver:
Thanks for sending your query, but it's not quite right for us. . . "

March 6, 1984

Mr. Ralph Burns
American Society of
   Composers, Authors and Publishers
ASCAP Building
One Lincoln Plaza
New York, NY 10023

Dear Mr. Burns:

I am a freelance writer (not a songwriter) and I find myself in a strange predicament. I have written lyrics to music which you composed and which, because of elaborate copyrights, I cannot sell.

A few months ago, while listening to the soundtrack from ANNIE I found myself writing a take-off to it and ten songs later I had developed a "computer musical"--a musical about home computers. It seemed appropriate to name it APPLE.

I contacted a woman in Hollywood who told me that for $75 she would see if it would be possible to obtain permission for me to sell the lyrics to a magazine (such as MAD or Popular Computing) and for $250 she would get me the permission if it were obtainable.

If I had $250 and were to spend it on getting permission to sell the lyrics, I do not know of any market interested in buying them. I sell articles on moral issues and the family, not songs.

But I enjoyed writing the words and am convinced that someone familiar with the music for which they are written--someone like the composer himself--would enjoy reading them.

So I enclose these songs, solely for your enjoyment. They are free (as long as they aren't used for publication). Of course I would be happy to know that you did receive them and that you got a kick out of them too but there are no strings attached.

Jessica Shaver

Saturday, August 14, 2010

PHOTO: Nightmare on Xenia Avenue

     Decades after we lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Mum bought the Reynolds family homestead we had rented from Antioch College and we met there for a family reunion there. I hadn't been back since I was 13 and before that since I was seven.
     Xenia Avenue hadn't changed much. The center of town is still only a couple of blocks long, lined with craft shops. Arsenic and Old Lace was still playing at the Little Theater. But now there were new age shops filled with crystals, ads for yoga classes, and the odor of incense.In the window of a magic store this cat somehow managed to sleep peacefully in spite of the lurid poster over her head.

Friday, August 13, 2010

PHOTO: Eggshells

     I broke these eggs for some dish I was making and liked the look of the eggshells in the sink. We had the kitchen remodeled not long after that so the sink wasn't chipped anymore. It didn't have the personality of the old one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

PHOTO: Patterns in Polyester

     I have three quirky color photographs I took which I like so much I mounted, framed and hung them on the wall of our bedroom. This one, Patterns in Polyester, was in a neighbor's back yard. I glanced out the second-story window of the apartment where we had our first darkroom (try to make a white kitchen light-tight!) and below me a woman was hanging out polyester pants in a pattern I thought was pleasing in itself and formed pleasing shadows. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Photos: Homeless in L.A.

     I snapped this when our photography class were in downtown Los Angeles to shoot the old, ornate, abandoned Bradley building. I've often looked at the two layers of pants showing above this man's socks and wondered what his story was and whether things turned out all right for him.
     This is a photograph of the photograph on our wall. (I don't know how else to post mounted pictures that are too large for our scanner.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

PHOTOS: The Stamp Man

     About 37 years ago, an elderly couple were neighbors of ours in Long Beach, California. Jacob Margon was 96 and everyone called him the Stamp Man. He told me he had been collecting stamps for ninety years! The neighbors appreciated being able to buy current postage from him any time. Once he gave me some stamps which were old but unused. I used them on letters I sent out until mail carriers started asking me where I got them and I realized they were collector's items!
     I took this black and white photo of Mr. Margon before I knew anything about lighting. The only light source was the lamp on his marvelous honeycombed desk. When my husband and I printed the picture in the darkroom we shared with another couple, we had to burn the heck out of the lampshade to get the pattern in it to emerge. Mr. Margon's face is just a profile since I had no fill light but I guess it works because the photo took first place in the "People" category of a local photography contest at Tuttle Camera.
     The Margons had a small bedroom filled with large pieces of cherry wood furniture. Jacob's wife Paula said they had all belonged to the French actress Sarah Bernhardt and were a personal gift from her. The dresser and mirror unit were so tall they had to be cut in half to be brought into the house and were set side by side. I should have thought to take pictures of them. I'm sure she wouldn't have minded.
     I had printed, mounted and overmatted an 8 x 10 of the photo for a class assignment and had shown it to the Margons, promising I'd make another copy for them. (Privately I wasn't sure I could make an exact replica or even one as good. Attempting to get the lampshade over-exposed just right through the little cardboard cut-out we had made to hold over it while we gave that part of the scene extra exposure had taken hours and hours and had cost us a lot of expensive paper already.)
     Before I could get back to the darkroom, the Margon's grown son, a local doctor, knocked on our door and wanted to see it. When I told him I'd make another one for the family, he said, "I'll take this one!" He turned on his heel and walked out with it. It was both a great compliment and a great rudeness. In those days I only signed my first name, Jessica, so I knew no one would ever know who took the picture.
     I did make another but I don't think it is as good. (I don't really know because I can't compare them. It hangs on our wall and I photographed it through the glass to get what you see here.)
     The Margons eventually went into a convalescent home and then passed away. I tried to track down the son but I think he'd passed away also. If there were no other posterity and no one else wanted it, I would have liked to get that copy back.
     Oh well. I hope someone somewhere is enjoying it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Poems, etc. by Becky

(Published in Horizon International Magazine,
Calvary Chapel of San Diego, December, 1980)

 (Published in Kids' Writes, Summer 1984; limerick that runs off the page reads, "There once was an ant on a log/who said that he had a small dog /The dog at(e) him up/That silly old pup/The ant should have know(n) how to jog.")

(Published in The Rainbow Generation Magazine,
Fall, 1985)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

PHOTO: Becky sleeping in the back of a camper

     This is Becky asleep in the back of a camper with the tailgate down. I asked her dad to take the shot and what I wanted was for him to back off so you could see the camper shell around her. But he didn't know that and I didn't know that isn't how he had composed it until we got the film developed days later so this is all we have.
     She's cute anyway, even if you don't know the context--which of course now you do.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

PHOTOS: Ormond Beach, Florida, November, 2009

Birds watching hurricane-whipped waves
Reflections (or Bird Bottoms)
Sun rays (taken by Jerry)
Oasis in Sahara?
Pelican surfing (by Jerry)
Speed limit--on the beach?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

PHOTO: Strained relations

     I took this photo through a window into the living room of a house we were renting in Arrowhead, California for a family reunion. These two men, relatives, both close to me, were not close to each other and had little in common. In the view I had from outside--of their expressions, their distance from each other, the objects on the table between them, and the reflection of gnarled branches typified for me the guarded and tentative relationship they were feeling their way along. So "strained relations" in three senses: wary relationship between two people, wary relationship between people related to each other, and relationship strained through reflections of branches.
     The above copy is actually flipped. Jerry digitalized the slide for me and he accidentally copied it backwards but I think I like the composition better than the original. It also has cooler colors, which is appropriate to the mood I was trying to catch. Here is the original: