My most memorable and satisfying time as a Special Ed teacher was when I started a Black Light theater group with some of the higher functioning students. Our program was fashioned after the Famous People Players. In case you are unfamiliar with this theater form, the actors, who are all mentally challenged young adults, are dressed completely in black. They manipulate puppets or props that have been painted with neon colors. Then in a darkened auditorium, flourescent black lights are turned on. All that is seen are the props . Pieces of music were selected, props designed to bring the music to life. The actors or students, in our case, manipulated the props as choreographed. Our version was certainly less sophisticated, but equally exciting and fun-filled.
This program became very popular on several fronts. We were invited to perform for special occasions during the school year. We were also invited to perform at a number of schools throughout the school district. So many students were eager to be a part of the Black Light program. It was wonderful to see those who participated feel a sense of importance and develop more self confidence.
Students with all manner of physical or behavioral issues were always asking to be in Black Light. The challenge for me was how to incorporate the more difficult students and accommodate their particular issues. We had 3 rules - listen, follow directions and do not disturb or agitate others. If they broke any of the rules, they would be asked to leave. I have to say no one was ever asked to leave. In fact, our rehearsals were often the only times in the day difficult students completely controlled themselves.
This brings me to tell you about one teen in particular. Brigitte had an uncommon syndrome. Some of the characteristics were short stature, gravelly voice, compromised immune system. Although mobile, her structure and stamina limited her ability to stay standing upright. Brigitte talked incessantly making good use of malapropisms. I recall her rushing inside from lunch break excitedly telling me that “some bozo just had a seizer.” Another day she hurriedly walked through the school lobby waving a pad in her hand, announcing that she just got her pyramid.
Brigitte was frequently asking to be in Black Light. I finally figured out a way for her to participate while sitting in a chair. Somehow she managed to curb her non-stop chatter during rehearsals and performances. My all time favorite and touching Brigitte-ism was told to me by her homeroom teacher. It seems one day Brigitte was talking relentlessly. Her prattle finally got to her teacher who had become so exasperated she blurted out, “Brigitte, if you don’t stop talking, I’m going to kill you.” Brigitte, unphased, replied, “Ok, but could you wait until after Lillian’s Black Light rehearsal?”
I’m happy to say there was never any homicide committed.
Comments are always welcomed.
Several weeks ago the organic grocery in my neighborhood was promoting organic blackberries they’d sourced at a very good price. Before continuing, we need to journey back to those periodically disasterous years on the farm. You may have read my previous blogs about the zucchini principle or the pig with the genius IQ or the geese that ravaged neighboring gardens. The blackberry scenario was not a calamity like the aforementioned, but it provides the context for today’s post.
One of the few positive features that came with the farm was an expansive high bush blackberry patch. There was a labyrinth of paths winding in and around the bushes. You could get lost for a couple of days trying to solve the maze. No worries. You wouldn’t go hungry in the process. Great care was given to the blackberry patch, pruning as needed and adding the ashes from the wood stoves around the base of the bushes. The wood ash apparantly added potassium to the soil and roots. As a result, we had the largest, sweetest, juiciest blackberries I ever had before or since. In fact, over the years, I had pretty much given up eating blackberries because none could compare.
With annual bumper crops of blackberries, I made pies, froze them, canned them, gave them away. I have a cherished memory from the berry canning days. My daughter, who was 4 or 5 at the time would help. She even developed a recipe for canned blackberries. I will share it with you just in case you want to do some canning.
J’s Canned Blackberries: Wait until you have a dozen blackberries. Then you put them in a jar with some salt and water. But you don’t need the salt. Add some dill. Then you put them in the pressure cooker. You keep them in the pressure cooker until the buzzer goes off. About five minutes. Then you save them til winter.
Back to the present. When I learned about this great blackberry deal, something prodded me to try them. I was skeptical due to previous experiences. But, wow! Those berries were amazing. Not quite up to the farm berries, but the next best thing. In fact, I craved them ever since. I wondered if there is some nutrient in blackberries that my body was needing which might explain the craving.
Of course, I researched their health benefits. Blackberries are good sources of Vitamins A,C, K, manganese, fibre. They are anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, fight free-radicals, aid cognitive function, good for the skin and more. If interested you can easily find in depth info on the net. Sheesh, I figured I needed the works. Guess I’ll just keep on eating blackberries.
Comments are welcomed. Left here, I will answer.
This may be the day after Mother’s Day, but couldn’t resist sharing a sitcom type of Mother’s Day from a couple of years ago. Yesterday, as I was getting ready to attend a buffet with my family, that cockamamie dinner from the recent past came to mind. Here’s what happened.
My daughter, son-in-law, 2 grandkids and I went to a buffet dinner at an up-scale restaurant. We were having a lovely time. As the meal went along a series of random incidents happened to each family member individually. It wasn’t until I played my part in this 21st century version of the commedia dell’arte, we realized that something bizarre yet seriously funny had taken place.
The first scene was with my daughter and grandson. They were going through the buffet line when some food slipped off my daughter’s plate landing on the floor. She maintained a cool unphased demeanor as if nothing had happened and kept moving on. My grandson, 11 yrs. old at the time, was not so unphased. He was mortified. He commented on her uncouth behavior and distanced himself from her.
Scene 2 starred my son-in-law. He approached a little girl he thought was his daughter. She was the same size as K and was wearing a similar sweater. As he was about to put his arm around her, he realized in time to prevent a lawsuit, it was not his daughter.
Scene 3 starred K., 9 yrs.old at the time, She was famous for her eclectic food choices. K returned with French fries, chocolate covered marshmallows and watermelon. That covered the carbohydrate and fruit food groups along with the antioxident filled chocolate. K went back to the buffet for strawberries. You know how difficult strawberries are to bite into. Therefore, it was no surprise when K announced she lost a tooth in one of the berries. Tooth Fairy alert.
The final scene was mine. In fact, it wasn’t until my moment of classiness that we realized the other incidents had occurred during the course of the evening. It was dessert time. My son-in-law and grandson brought a sampling of several finger desserts. I was most interested in the brownies. I took a couple as they were small. After taking a bite, I decided I was too full to eat any more. However, I could not imagine leaving those delicacies. I did what any elegant, sophisticated person would do. Since there were only cloth napkins, I found some unused kleenex. With sleight of hand while avoiding the eagle eyes of the wait staff, I surreptitiously slipped the brownies into my pocket. At that point we all made a hasty exit stage left.
FYI. Pete Wells is the food critic for the New York Times. Now that you know who he is we can proceed. This post is about my 13 year old grandson. My granddaughter has contributed to a number of my blogs along the way. The time was overdue for her brother to get some press. D, my grandson, and I both have a love of sports. He enjoys participating in several sports while I am primarily a fan of watching baseball and basketball. D is a real basketball junkie. He has an amazing memory for retaining the stats, the players, the teams throughout the NBA. He can tell you the scores of any game played on any given day. He plays the game as well.
One day I approached him about doing a blog with me. I asked him both what he likes to read in a blog and what he would write about. He said he liked reading about basketball. However, if he were to write one, it would be about food. Go figure.
When I paused to think about it, I wasn’t that surprised. He is a bit of a foodie. Besides the eating, he has enjoyed participating in cooking camps. Our conversation was then all about food. The longer we talked, the hungrier I got. D, like many of us, is partial to desserts. I’m thinking he probably has more than one sweet tooth.
D did his best Pete Wells impersonation. He reviewed several restaurants, the entrees as well as desserts. He focused on presentation, portion size, flavors, textures. He certainly had some interesting guidelines by which he rated the food. Some criteria were bottom liners. For example, portion size was either too much, too little or just right. The flavors were either good or not worthy of being on the same plate with the edibles. He did get more specific about what made the good stuff good.
The focus was on desserts. I did mention those sweet teeth, right. We were recently at a brunch which he reviewed for me as we ate. I quite enjoyed his description of one of the cakes - an almond flavored delight with a whipped creamy texture. Mmmm. If I wasn’t already full from some lemon meringue square, I would definitely have gone for that cake. He told me that his all time favorite dessert, which is served at a different restaurant, is apple and vanilla ice cream filled crepes sprinkled with cinnamon. Yum!
When I reflect on our food conversations, I marvel how this kid stays slim. I suppose he burns off those calories playing sports. It’s a darn good thing my indulgences are all in my imagination. Yet we both enjoy visits to Starbuck’s, a non-caffeine treat for D and a caffeine treat for me. What could be better?
Comments are welcome.