Monday, November 24, 2014

Things I didn't Know #1: Are you afraid of clowns?

Clowning Around...

I grew up with Howdy Doody, Clarabell and Buffalo Bob Smith. They were funny and gentle and never frightened children. We laughed right along with them. Yes, we watched them on a black and white TV. Howdy began each episode with “What time is it?” and the roaring response from the audience was “It’s Howdy Doody time!” Clarabell the Clown and a marionette, Buffalo Bob Smith, were two of his most famous sidekicks.

Then there was Captain Kangaroo, who based his characters and skits on the relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren. From Wikipedia: Captain Kangaroo is an American children's television series that aired weekday mornings on the American television network CBS for nearly 30 years, from October 3, 1955 until December 8, 1984, making it the longest-running nationally broadcast children's television program of its day.[2][3] In 1986, the American Program Service (now American Public Television, Boston) integrated some newly produced segments into reruns of past episodes, distributing the newer version of the series until 1993.
The show was conceived and the title character played by Bob Keeshan, who based the show on "the warm relationship between grandparents and children." Keeshan had portrayed the original Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Showwhen it aired on NBC. Captain Kangaroo had a loose structure, built around life in the "Treasure House" (later known as "The Captain's Place") where the Captain (the name "kangaroo" came from the big pockets in his coat) would tell stories, meet guests, and indulge in silly stunts with regular characters, both humans and puppets.

El Chavo is a long-running Mexican comedy series, now in syndication. My new daughter-in-law introduced me to this madcap group of characters. They're all about slapstick and silly plots, and now Darling Granddaughter #1 wants to be El Chavo next year for Halloween. Generations have loved this show, and I usually don't need any translation---the skits are funny even if you don't know Spanish. Darling Granddaughter # thinks it's the funniest show she has ever seen. I must admit, El Chavo is growing on me. 

And then was the unforgettable Red Skelton with his alter ego, Freddie the Freeloader. The son of a clown, Skelton was loved worldwide. On his TV show he would sit down in front of an empty makeup mirror frame and apply clown  makeup until he had morphed into Freddie. It was amazing to watch. He was a frequent ad-libber and loved to catch his guest stars off guard on live TV. His life was not without great tragedy; comedy was his therapy and coping mechanism when times were rough.

 One of his most touching pantomimes was “the old man watching the parade.” He entertained the troops many times, and wrote a touching speech, which he credited to a teacher in his youth, which explained what each phrase meant. That became a hit record. He was a patriot. Later in life, as a hobby, he began painting pictures of clowns, which became immensely popular. Lithographs of his portraits bring in 2.5 million a year, more than he made in performing. Here is one of his subjects: 

From Wikipedia: Skelton believed his life's work was to make people laugh and wanted to be known as a clown, because he defined it as being able to do everything. He had a 70-year career as a performer and entertained three generations of Americans during this time. Many of Skelton's personal and professional effects, including prints of his artwork, were donated toVincennes University by his widow, where they are part of the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy.

And he ended every show with the sweet phrase, “Good night and God bless.”

I love this picture, though I didn't take it, and that's a mini-engine... but you get the idea when you read the following account: 

Years ago were vacationing in Washington state with our three sons and decided to take them on a tour of the Olympia Brewery. For educational purposes, of course. I’m not sure it had the intended effect on our sons, one of whom thought his non-drinking parents were idiots for not accepting the free glass of beer offered to adults at the conclusion of the tour. And of course there were soft drinks for the kids or those who didn't want beer. 

While we were sitting at a table and enjoying our drinks, in came a troupe of clowns. They were dressed extravagantly in the most outrageous and colorful outfits I had ever seen. Their makeup was elaborate. A couple of them joined us at the table and began asking our almost-speechless sons what they liked to do and what they wanted to be when they grew up (as I recall, none of the boys gave the correct answer—what they wanted to be then was not the careers of an OB/GYN, an exercise physiologist, or an embedded systems computer engineer). 

The clowns explained that they were on a their annual 3 week tour of parades and children’s hospitals and that it was a highlight of the year for their organization. After enjoying perhaps a bit too much of the brewery’s bounty, they climbed onto a bright red shiny vintage fire truck, like the one pictured below. They found their footing on running boards on each side of the truck, holding on for dear life, while one of their party drove the engine. With much honking and waving, they took off for their next event. It was just one of those wonderful and unexpected experiences you’re sometimes blessed to have during your travels. 

Now, this long essay on clowns was prompted by my question: Why are people afraid of clowns? I have learned, only in the past few years, that many people are truly frightened of clowns, and that it's often a deep-seated fear that begins in childhood. Did a clown scare them? Did they see a sinister clown in a movie or TV show? I'd love to know more about this. 

I'm glad that my clowns are and were gentle, engaging, and funny. How about you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review: The Accidental Marriage by Annette Haws

When I read The Accidental Marriage by Annette Haws, a funny moment from the past came to mind:

When I was a newlywed, my neighbor had an unexpected errand to run just as her loaves of bread were ready to bake, and she asked if I would bake them in my oven. When my husband returned from a grueling day of grad school an hour later, he sniffed the fragrant loaves browning beautifully in the oven and closed his eyes in ecstasy. I knew he was thinking: "And she bakes bread, too!" When the truth was revealed, he managed to accept it with grace and humor.

I think many of us can identify with Nina and Elliot in The Accidental Marriage. They meet in Scotland where Elliot is serving the last months of his LDS (Mormon) mission and Nina is enjoying a semester abroad. There is instant chemistry between the two, and when they reconnect later in Utah, it's still there. Marriage with its happy dreams and expectations soon follows. But paradoxically, the very qualities that attracted Nina and Elliot to each other before marriage were not what they expected after the vows were said. Nina's not domestic; she yearns to eventually attend law school. Elliot, who plans to be a dentist, doesn't think his wife needs a "real" career; home and family should be her domain once he's established in his profession. And she should also be a great cook. He expects this in part because his mother is a paragon of domesticity; surely Nina could become one, too.

And what does Nina expect? A lover of music and literature (and tennis), the English major recalls a moment in Scotland when, in her eyes, Elliot momentarily resembled her favorite poet: "Robbie Burns was standing next to me on the top of St. Rule's, so incredibly handsome, and the terra firma just moved beneath my feet." Elliot's response? "He wasn't sure he liked this. He felt like a stand-in for a dead poet."

The two end up in a cramped student apartment in Logan, Utah, where Elliot attends Utah State University and Nina bravely takes a job teaching middle school English. Reality soon sets in and they find themselves in an unhappy partnership. Adding to her stress, Nina is confronted with blatant sexual harassment by the "good old boys" of her faculty, and when she faces it head-on, the results aren't pretty. (Did I mention that this book is set in the seventies?) Elliot's old girlfriend (a sweet paragon of domesticity and adored by Elliot's family) is also standing in the wings, waiting hopefully for him to come to his senses and choose her instead.

There are subplots illustrating the dynamics of the families in which Nina and Elliot were raised, and daily issues including finances, cooking, laundry...all of which become surprisingly important to the struggling couple. When they finally seek help from their LDS bishop, he identifies their painful conflicts in concrete terms and offers wise and compassionate counsel. In the end, of course, it's up to Nina and Elliot to change and grow and work hard toward a resolution if this marriage can survive.

There are some proofing errors and a couple of minor plot threads apparently got lost during the editing process.However, this reflects more on the publisher than the author and didn't affect my enjoyment of the book.

In The Accidental Marriage Haws delivers engaging, well-developed and realistic characters as well as a vivid picture of life in the 1970s, immersing the reader in the music, literature, fashions, educational practices and cultural influences of the era. Haws also creates a strong sense of place that almost functions as an additional character in the book. Though the cover art is clever and the unexpected humor within the story is delightful, this is a book that deals with serious issues and addresses them with depth. There are also some unexpected plot twists that make this book hard to put down.

The Accidental Marriage is not your mom's predictable Mormon romance that guarantees a happy ending from page one and contains stereotyped LDS characters. Haws has written a frank, thought-provoking and refreshing novel, a welcome addition to LDS literature.

Annette Haws was raised in a small college town in northern Utah. She graduated from Utah State University with a degree in English Education. She has done graduate work at the University of Iowa and the University of Utah. A schoolteacher for many years, Annette has set aside denim jumpers and sturdy shoes to pursue her interest in writing fiction. Currently residing in Holladay, Utah, Annette and her husband are the parents of four above-average children and have three spectacular grandchildren.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Imagine this in front of your home...

Yesterday afternoon a bubbling pond emerged from the parking strip in front of our house. The city people arrived and within a few hours the broken water main was repaired. It was a little inconvenient to be without water for a few hours, but it made me grateful for good water that is readily available and for the city workers and their equipment.

Then, in the evening, a water valve up the street broke, and "Old Faithful" gushed more than 50 feet over/in front of another home. It sounded like a waterfall. Soon it was tossing rocks at the home, shattering windows and bringing mud and water with it.  It was an hour before the workers were able to stop the flow. The front yard was destroyed and the basement filled with 6 feet of water. I don't know the extent of the damage but it will be significant. 

I am grateful for water but humbled by its power. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Splinters--Matt Carter and FJR Twitchnell on shapeshifters!

Another book for this spooky season---and it's about shapeshifters. You'll want to pick this one up! 

Husband and wife writer team have done it again. 

Under ordinary circumstances, Ben and Mina would never have had reason to speak to each other; he's an easy-going people person with a healthy skepticism about the paranormal, and she's a dangerously obsessive monster-hunter with a crippling fear of betrayal. But the small town of Prospero, California, has no ordinary circumstances to offer. Inorder to uncover a plot set by the seemingly innocent but definitely shapeshifting monsters-that-look-like-friends-family-and-neighbors, the two stark opposites must both find ways to put aside their differences and learn to trust each other.

The authors: 

     F.J.R TITCHENELL and MATT CARTER met and fell in love in a
                   musical theatre class at Pasadena City College and have been
inseparable ever since. Though they have both dreamed of being
writers from a very young age, they both truly hit their stride after they
met, bouncing ideas off of one another, forcing each other to strive to be
better writers, and mingling Matt's lifelong love of monsters with Fiona's
equally disturbing inability to let go of high school. They were married in
2011 in a ceremony that involved kilts, Star Wars music, and a cake
topped by figurines of them fighting a zombified wedding party.
Titchenell and Carter live in San Gabriel, California.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

That's a mom's job, isn't it?

Janet Kay Jensen's photo.
Our youngest
During the first Gulf War (during the presidency of George H.W. Bush) I was home and CNN was on the television. I was watching events unfold in the middle east, clueless about the events unfolding two miles away, at my children’s school. They attended Edith Bowen Laboratory School on Utah State University’s campus.
It was an ordinary drab winter day—very cold and gray, with last week’s dirty snow piled at least a foot deep on the side of the road.
An anonymous phone call was made to administrators, warning that a bomb had been set on campus and would explode in two hours. Hasty evacuations took place, and the university’s antiquated phone system broke under the strain of the unprecedented number of calls to and from campus as faculty, staff and students made hasty arrangements and left campus. I am told traffic was crazy, and I believe it. This was long before cell phones were available, so everyone was dependent on land lines. 
The principal at Edith Bowen School, ever unflappable, entered the lunchroom. She silenced the children and told them in a very calm voice that they should return to their classrooms, gather their coats and backpacks, and follow their teachers to a nearby church. Though the children were puzzled, they followed instructions and an orderly evacuation took place as they walked to the church and were ushered into the gym. Church offices were unlocked so administrators could phone parents to pick up their children.
For some reason, I wasn’t called, and I had no idea what was happening until my husband came home from lunch and told me about the bomb threat that had emptied the campus. Where were the boys? I asked, and he didn’t know. A call to a friend clarified their location, and I drove to the church to pick them up.
My fifth grader had played basketball, but when the numbers of students dwindled as their parents arrived, he admitted he’d become apprehensive. “I was okay until you didn’t come,” he said in a quiet voice. My kindergartener, always talkative, was relieved to see me, too, and we headed home, talking about the events of the day. I tried to reassure them that the call had been a hoax and that sometimes “things like that happen. People make bad choices. And there actually wasn’t a bomb. But your principal and the teachers knew exactly what to do to keep you safe, and they did it.”
Spring came, and then summer, and before we knew it school was about to start again. My youngest began to express anxiety about school. This was puzzling, as he loved school. He was never specific about his worries; he just said wasn’t ready to go back to school.
The inevitable first day of school dawned, and with some reluctance he got ready, donning his new clothes and shouldering his backpack. Just before we reached the parking lot he said, “Mom, if there’s a bomb...” and I realized he’d been more shaken than I'd known by the experience of the past January, and was worried that something like it, or worse, could happen. So instead of checking in to his new classroom, we went straight to the principal’s office and explained that Jeff wasn’t happy about school starting because he was concerned about the possibility of a bomb. His principal (he’d always said that “she knows the children in her heart”) quickly recognized his fears and spoke frankly to him. She didn’t promise him that nothing bad would ever happen at school; instead, wisely, she simply told him that, just as they had the previous winter, in case of any emergency, all of the teachers knew exactly what to do to keep everyone safe.
That seemed to allay his fears and first grade went smoothly. Soon he was in fifth grade, his last year in elementary school, and his class was preparing to travel to the Teton Science School near Jackson, Wyoming. As their departure neared, he said he didn’t want to go. This was puzzling again, as he was a confident traveler and his class had prepared for Science School all year. Again, I consulted his principal, this time in private.
“We’ve left them with sitters before,” I said, “so I’m not sure why he’s feeling anxious about going to science camp.”
“Yes,” she said, “but has HE ever left YOU before?” Bingo. No, he’d never left us, and she had recognized exactly what was causing his apprehension. Again, she talked with him calmly and assured him that if he wanted to come home at any point during the week, all he had to do was call her, day or night, and she would drive to Jackson (about four hours away) and bring him home. He relaxed visibly and happily packed for camp. His week at Teton Science School came and went and he had a great time. All he needed was some reassurance from an intuitive person he trusted.
Soon after he got home, I emptied his backpack to sort out the clutter and found a note: “Remember, if you need me, call me, and I’ll come to Science School and bring you home,” the note said. “Love, Miss Rhees.”
Thank you again, Miss Rhees.
Janet Kay Jensen's photo.
Edith Bowen Laboratory School

Today, twenty years later, an anonymous email was sent to a number of departments and individuals on campus. The sender wrote that if tomorrow’s the scheduled speaker, an outspoken feminist, was allowed to give her planned speech, a killing spree would ensue. Administrators decided not to cancel the event, but to add security personnel and to ban backpacks from the building where the speech would be given. But when the speaker learned that Utah law allows concealed weapons to be carried on school campuses and grants permits for this, she canceled her speech.
Janet Kay Jensen's photo.
Utah State University's Old Main Building in the snow
I wonder, before the cancellation, how many students phoned home for reassurance and said, “Mom, if there’s a gun…”
I wish I could sum this up with a profound statement that would link these three events together and provide insight and wisdom and possible solutions. And above all, to give reassurance. But I can't. And that's a mom's job, isn't it?
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Watch out for Little Dead Riding Hood!

When you’re the new kid at school, you know things are going to suck; but when you’re the new kid and a vampire, it bites.

Unlike most kids, Scarlet Small’s problems go far beyond just trying to fit in. She would settle for a normal life, but being a 12-year-old vampire for an entire century is a real pain in the neck. Plus, her appetite for security guards, house pets, and tomato juice is out of control. In order to keep their vampire-secret, Scarlet’s parents resort to yet another move. At her new school, Scarlet not only has a strange skeleton-girl as a classmate, but a smelly werewolf is intent on revealing her secret. When Scarlet meets Granny—who fills her with cookies, goodies, and treats, and seems to understand her more than anyone—she’s sure things will finally be different. But with a fork-stabbing incident, a cherry pie massacre, and a town full of crazy people, Scarlet’s O+ positive she’ll never live to see another undead day.

 October 14, 2014  9 - 12  4 - 7

About the Authors

AMIE BORST, a long-time writer and self-proclaimed graduate from 
ULE (University of Life Experience), is a native New Yorker, now 
residing in Northern Virginia. Originally, she aspired to be on Broadway, 
but her teen years were filled with too many "angsty" poems and short 
stories to let them fall to the wayside. She enjoys eating chocolate while 
writing and keeps a well-stocked stash hidden away from her family.

BETHANIE BORST is an all-rounder. She is a spunky 13-year-old who 
is an avid archer with Olympic dreams, enjoys the outdoors, loves 
reading, and is quick to make lasting friendships.

You can find Amie and Bethanie Borst online here:

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Brothers Washburn: At it Again with Mojave Green

 Mojave Green 
Available October 1

Book 2 in Dimensions of Death Series

Andy and Burk Washburn

In Trona, California, an isolated mining town deep in the Mojave Desert, an unearthly creature once preyed upon the town’s folk for decades. Armed with secrets from a puzzle box, Camm and Cal stood against the creature and believed they vanquished the monster. But when they hear that Trona’s children are still disappearing, the teenagers, with unsuspecting friends in tow, return to warn the innocent townspeople of the true nature of the creature. However, things have changed; death has come in a new form and the balance between dimensions has been altered. Only a band of few misfits can stop the coming desolation—but it may already be too late.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Strange Case of the School Teacher by Day, Plagiarist by Night

They say everyone has a book inside them.....and as authors, we hear many readers tell us they've always wanted to write a book. My advice? I think they should. Go for it! Your work may only be read by your mother or friends or family who are sure to like it, or you may find a serious calling to write. You may discover a talent and develop it with time and hard work and sometimes a little bit of luck. You never know until you try. 

It's not certain who said it first, but some authors throughout history have insisted that writing is easy. You just "open a vein and bleed."  

One modern wannabe author tried to find an easier way to get published, but in doing so she committed multiple felonies. 

Plagiarism has never been easier. With books in digital format, an aspiring plagiarist can cut and paste, change a word or phrase here and there, change the title and cover, and sell it as their own original work.

Rachel Ann Nunes, a prolific and successful author of clean romances, who is also a friend of mine, was recently targeted by one such enterprising individual. With some technical assistance, the alleged plagiarist was identified, and through correspondence with Rachel, gave numerous implausible explanations for how Rachel’s book ended up with a new title, cover, and author, as well as some added smutty scenes. In an effort to stop the plagiarist, Rachel did not threaten legal action. Not at first. She just wanted it to stop. She requested that the books be taken down and all profits made by the plagiarist refunded. No deal.

And this is where it gets even more interesting. The alleged plagiarist established at least twenty “sock puppets” or false identities on book review sites and then systematically trashed Rachel’s work with vicious one-star reviews in an effort to discredit Rachel and her work,in retaliation, because the criminal behavior had been revealed. 

The person in question has still refused to cooperate in any way. Now, in court documents, the alleged plagiarist has been identified as an elementary school teacher with twenty years of teaching experience and credentials in special education, reading, and English as a Second Language. On the school’s website she looks like the teacher we all want our children to have---devoted, competent, experienced, current in her own education, and a happily married mother of three children.

Newspapers and television stations ran the story. Again, Rachel insisted, all she wanted was for the plagiarism and smear campaign to stop.

When the names of the teacher's false identities were posted on the internet by concerned authors who hoped to expose the situation and protect other writers from this individual’s schemes, parents at her school were shocked to see that the teacher had, in some cases, used the names of her own students---their children. Rachel and other authors who had posted about the situation then received threatening letters from these parents, who demanded that blogs be taken down and all mention of the children’s names be eliminated, and threatened legal action. Well, this is the Internet, and once posted, nothing really dies.

And then, in another truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twist, it was found that those indignant, threatening letters originated from none other than---you guessed it---the alleged plagiarist/teacher herself, and not from parents at all.

Soon another author came forward, having been alerted to plagiarism of his own work. This particular writer, a decorated military veteran, had written about combat action in Afghanistan. It was the first time he had even been able to relate certain details relating to his horrific experiences. The writing exercise was part of a workshop designed to help veterans cope with post traumatic stress disorder. 

And the person who apparently took his work, changed a word or phrase here and there, added numerous profanities, and passed it off as her own, thus victimizing the traumatized veteran a second time? You guessed it.


Finally, Rachel saw no other recourse than legal action. 

According to blogger and author John Doppler, who has investigated and documented many aspects of this case, the alleged plagiarist has been charged with multiple counts including: “copyright infringement, defamation, false light, injurious falsehood, harassment, false advertising, and deceptive trade practices. If the suit is successful, she faces statutory damages of $150,000.00, plus damages for each sale of the infringing work....the compensatory damages could be tripled due to the nature of the offenses. Additionally," Doppler writes, "the Plaintiff's attorneys have requested a string of injunctions prohibiting (Defendant) from using fake accounts and identities to promote herself, prohibiting further disparagement of Rachel or Rachel's works, prohibiting her from using any name other than her own online, requiring a retraction of all her attacks on Rachel, and publicly admitting her plagiarism." 

And he concludes, "It's likely that (Defendant) will declare bankruptcy to avoid paying the judgment, which makes the injunctions critical."

This individual’s actions have caused significant pain, loss of time, and financial stress for those authors she has targeted. Will the wronged authors realize a financial settlement? It's doubtful. They're not after the money. There probably isn't any money to be had.The defendant has yet to respond to the formal charges, though one legal deadline has passed. 

Many authors have joined fundraisers to help defray Rachel’s legal expenses. 
Check Rachel's website to participate and to see how their efforts are helping the cause:

These offenses are felonies. It’s a mind-boggling case. Yet Rachel has requested that no one contact the defendant or harass her in any way. She only wants the crimes to stop. Because repeated overtures to deal with the situation out of court have simply been met with more lies and attempts to discredit her, she felt there was no other option. She is an author who simply wants to protect her good name, her good books, and her readers.

If you'd written a book, which takes time, talent, courage, and sacrifice, and someone stole your work and smeared your reputation, what would you do?

Read John Doppler’s article here:

Google “Rachel Ann Nunes” for updates and news articles concerning this case, and check her website  It may take a few clicks to find what she's posted lately about her legal issues. She's all about the books she's writing and the loyal fans who read them. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Teri Harman's Black Moon: Just in time for Spooky Reading

Black Moon by Teri Harman

Black Moon by Teri Harman is a New Adult paranormal thriller with a romance twist sure to delight readers 16 and older. Published by Jolly Fish Press, it’s available in trade paperback and eBook from AmazonBarnes & Noble, and other sellers of fine books.

Here's a synopsis, c/o Amazon: Simon Howard accidentally killed three people. Four months later, the nightmares won’t stop. Willa Fairfield, his girlfriend, his soul mate, wants nothing more than to help him move on. But guilt isn’t the only thing getting in Simon’s way. When unexplained earthquakes hit the small town of Twelve Acres and dozens of people go missing, the Light witches discover their most feared enemy, Archard, is still alive. Employing the twisted, dynamic magic of a legendary witch known as Bartholomew the Dark, Archard plans to exact his revenge and take control of the Powers of the Earth on the night of the black moon, a rare lunar event infamous for Dark magic. As the Light Covenant fumbles to defend against Archard’s sadistic intentions, Simon’s magic grows inexplicably more powerful—even dangerous. Willa throws all her efforts into solving the mystery of Simon’s transformation, but when the events of the past storm into the present, the couple’s future changes forever.

Connect with Teri Harman

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Annual Post about Fiction and Football

Introduction: About a year ago I posted this essay on football.It seems timely to post it again.

Our #2 son, who played high school football and is now the National Junior Team head coach in Finland, offered some thoughtful words of rebuttal to my original essay. I should note that this is American-style football, not European soccer (which is also known as ‘football’ across the pond). I thought his comments were well worth printing.

So here is the original essay, updated with his responses in italics and bold:

When our second son began to play high school football and I heard the sound of two solid bodies colliding with a resounding thud, my stomach flip-flopped quicker than a politician's viewpoint. A dedicated mom, I sat through good weather and bad, and good games and bad, watching intently to see what #9 did. In one game, using perfectly legal moves, he caused one opponent to have a concussion and another a dislocated kneecap. I was heartsick. His coaches were euphoric."I didn't order this!" I wanted to protest to the parents of the injured boys, as if the waiter had brought me the wrong dinner. But there he was, my own darling little boy, a hero on the football field.

# 2 son’s response: Since day one my coaches taught me that when playing zone defense, anyone who came into my zone was fair game. Well, on that chilly night a certain individual from the opposing team decided to test my will and entered my zone. Not only did he enter my zone, but he had the nerve to catch the ball which had been thrown to him.

Since he had clearly entered my marked territory I proceded to protect my domain with a perfectly legal hit. In realizing I was coming at him with a full head of steam, the opposing player chose to duck and cover, which is a great tactic when dealing with a river of molten lava coming right at you, but not the most effective way to violate another player’s territory. Needless to say, I believe he learned his lesson about entering #9’s area again.

The second individual, also known as a running back, had repeatedly violated #9’s space during the course of the game. After #9 came at him with a full head of steam and collided with him numerous times, opposing player still chose not to vacate the premises. After enough of these hits it seems he had a vision, a vision that showed him stars and a nice trip to the sideline via help from two other players and a nice ovation from the crowd. I like to think I gave him the attention and cheers he had always dreamed of.

Since I didn't understand the game at all, I began taking a small sports radio to games with me so I wouldn't have to ask Husband, "What happened?" every three minutes."It was an offsides play," I told him smugly during one time-out. He was so impressed with my new-found knowledge, I finally had to show him the radio. Now that the boys are all away at universities, Husband wants the pleasure of my company at our local university’s home football games. He owes me about 35 Shakespeare plays and ten book club meetings in return.

One particular Saturday was not a good day for the home team, though the weather was splendid. At the last moment, before heading to the car, I grabbed a paperback book and tucked it into my coat pocket. Husband's best friend and brother-in-law were with us, so there was plenty of male bonding material available for them. I thought it was only fair that reading material was available for me.

"You didn't see the game!" Husband protested on the way home. "Oh, yes, I did,” I replied smugly. “I saw it when we sacked the quarterback, when our punt got blocked, when they had a 50 yard kickoff return . . . " He was impressed, as well as convinced that I had indeed seen the game. It was in between those brief moments of action on the field when I could get a solid page or two read.

That's what football is all about. They all line up opposite each other, in various formations. Then one big guy in tight white pants kicks the ball or throws it, and all the others try to get it. In the process they tackle, knock down, dive at the opponent’s feet and basically flatten each other on the artificial turf. Refs in zebra striped shirts throw out yellow hankies and blow whistles, peel the players off the pile one by one, and talk to each other in sign language. Guys with big orange stakes measure yards gained or lost. Then the head ref turns on his microphone and talks to the crowd, using that secret sign language I have yet to decode. The crowd reacts accordingly. Then the refs blow the whistle and the players all line up and go at it again.

Bands from each school play while cheerleaders do scary pyramids. During halftime the marching band manages to play and march at the same time without collisions. The cymbal players even turn cartwheels when they aren’t clanging away at their shiny copper-colored pan lids. During all of this the band’s spokesman gives a lively narration so you can understand the all-important plot enacted by the musicians and dancers and flag-twirlers. Usually it’s a saga, a tribute to somebody or other, but I can assure you, the Beatles did not write their music for marching bands. Anyway, if the narrator didn’t explain all of this to the crowd, I'd understand even less about the halftime entertainment than the game itself.

Throughout the game someone sitting in your row decides he/she needs refreshment or other forms of relief every ten minutes or so, which means everybody stands up to let them by. When they come back, we all stand up again. Sometimes the rest of the crowd interprets this as a standing ovation and jump to their feet, too. It's a form of spectator aerobics.

#2 son’s response: In life you need a few things to survive: food, water, and live college football. The camaraderie felt between trusting supportive fans who pass hot dogs and beer down the aisle to people they probably have never met, and then are kind enough to also pass the change back without stealing it, shows the amazing bond us fans have. 

At least they’ve abandoned the cannons. In past years when we would score, some anonymous person who likes to scare old ladies would shoot off cannons. No matter how prepared I would be for this unpleasant jolt, I’d always jump halfway out of my seat. You should see me in the theater when one actor pretends to shoot another and the sound of a fake gunshot echoes throughout the building. It’s downright embarrassing but that’s just the way my brain is wired.

Back to the game and the cannons. Our sweet old cocker/beagle Molly was particularly sensitive to certain noises. Since we live only a mile away from campus, the poor puppy suffered during home games. If we’d left her outside, we would come home to a ruined basement window screen, evidence that she’d tried desperately to find a way inside, where it was safe. Inevitably, after I’d recovered from the first “booms!” of the game, Husband and I would turn to each other and ask, “Did you put Molly inside before we left?” If not, it was too late anyway, and a new screen would have to be ordered.

Now, I must admit that the students add to the entertainment factor. There is a stalwart group of young men who go shirtless and paint their chests with the letters of the university’s name, in the school’s color. In our case it’s blue, which comes in handy on a frosty afternoon, when the poor fellows are turning blue anyway. This season, two dedicated students attended every game and held up signs, one next to the other. One sign was the letter “D” and the other was a white picket fence. It took me half the season to interpret them. “ ‘D’ plus + ‘fence’ . . . defense! They mean defense!” I exclaimed, quite pleased with my discovery, but unfortunately the clever signs didn’t help the players, who probably never even saw them.

#2 comments: The only thing more contagious than bird flu and the common cold is the ever-present and fan favorite “the wave” which can even move those unhappy book readers to a moment of bonding with the other 20,000 fans who have decided to put all racial, religious and political differences aside to work as a united front in executing “the wave.”

Every time I attend a home game, I stare at the score board and wonder how it can take twenty minutes to whittle two minutes off the game clock. This goes on for four or five or six hours on a perfectly nice Saturday afternoon until the final horn blows and we are excused from detention. Sometimes it rains or snows and those games last about seven or eight hours.

And that is how, one lovely Saturday afternoon last fall, I read 150 pages of John Grisham's The King of Tortswhile the visiting team whopped my alma mater 52-0.

#2’s indignant response, including a comment on my choice of authors: As for reading a book and then watching the replay at a live game, this also has been known as an act of terrorism. A live football game, regardless of how horrid the team is, should never be insulted by fans reading novels of insignificance.

Go, Aggies!