Remember the Modular System? It Was Awesome.


Sad but true. VERY sad, and very true. And absolutely outrageous.

Mamacita says:  Ah, the modular system.  It’s gone forever, of course, but how sad.  The modular system was absolutely perfect for the above average student.  Too bad the above average student has no rights these days.

(There are schools who have systems they refer to as “mod systems,” but they aren’t true modular systems; they’re just systems that group kids together all day.  You know, like elementary systems do.)  (Fie on those.)

School has started, and the memories of my first teaching gig are running wild in my head.  That experience was fabulous.  I loved it.  That kind of educational environment doesn’t exist any more in the public schools, and I consider that a tragedy.

My very first teaching job was in a brand-new high school that was set up in a non-traditional way: some of you may remember the “mod” system? No? I feel old.

Twenty-two 20-minute periods, or “mods” a day. A week was 6 days, and most classes met every other day. A regular class was usually two mods; a study period might be any length, from one to four mods; labs were four or five mods, etc. Academic classes were divided into large group/small group, just like college. For example, a student might have English on Days 2, 4, and 6 during mods 9 and 10. Day 1 wasn’t necessarily Monday; it was simply the day after Day 6. Attendance was taken first mod and wasn’t taken again the whole rest of the day. Students had a huge commons area for ‘free time.’ There was a SMOKING AREA on the side of the building, and teachers had duty there! The sense of openness and freedom and personal responsibility was tremendous.

Except for the smoking area, I loved it.

All the kids loved it, except the ones who couldn’t adapt to the freedom. Kids who desperately needed, REQUIRED, a rigid routine, just couldn’t cut it. But for the above-average kid, it was heaven.

Sure, some of the super bright kids took advantage of it, too, but the super bright kids COULD, and still achieve fabulous success at school.  I’m talking to you, Diana.

Unfortunately, above-average kids weren’t the majority.

The experiment was ruined by those kids who just cut classes every day and hung out in the smoking area or the commons, or who left the open campus at noon and never came back, day after day, or who wandered aimlessly, lost and confused, trying to figure out where they were supposed to go on Day four, Mod seven. Even though they had a schedule in their hand.

Many parents never quite understood the concept either, and objected. Mostly the parents of the kids who never quite understood the concept.

At the time, I really did think I’d died and gone to school-heaven. I envied the students. For someone like me, that kind of ‘schedule’ would have been perfection. For many kids, it WAS perfection. For the first time, a school was actually catering to the bright trustworthy kids.

It didn’t last long, of course.

It lasted two years, and then the school board decided to go back to ‘traditional’ scheduling. Unfortunately, the new building had not been designed for anything traditional; it was too open.

So they cut up all that lovely open space into little cubicle classrooms with no windows and turned into a traditional six-period high school. The smoking area stayed for a few more years and then common sense kicked in, the only time common sense was ever utilized in the history of this building.

The building was planned and built for grades 10-12. A few weeks before it was finished, the board decided to send the freshmen there, too. And then they wondered why it was too small from day one.

It’s a shame. Even though it was too late for me as a student, for the first time in my life I had been exposed to a concept that catered to the smart kids, the reliable kids, the GOOD kids, the funky kids, the quirky kids, the kids who could be trusted with a little time.

But, as usual, because of the other kind of kids (and their parents) we lost it.

I am thinking as I write this of two famous writers and their philosophies. One is Plutarch, and the other is Mark Twain.

It was Plutarch who said, “Being about to pitch his camp in a likely place, and hearing there was no hay to be had for the cattle, ‘What a life,’ said he, ‘is ours, since we must live according to the convenience of asses!’ ”

Plutarch's ass.

Plutarch’s ass.

And it was Mark Twain who said, “”In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

School boards, Congress. . . they’re all political and neither listens to the people they’re supposed to represent.  Unless, of course, someone has big money.


Mark Twain could always be counted on to speak the truth.

Of course, Twain also said “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”


And please don’t think I am heartless, although I’m sure many of you do. I firmly and thoroughly believe in a good sound remedial program; that’s what I teach now.

I just don’t believe that the remedial and special programs should dictate or slow down the programs for the entire student body.

Freshman Innocence, Then and Now

Mamacita says:  You lookin’ for innocence? A long time ago, in a universe far, far away, there lived a teenage girl so naive it was honestly dangerous.

She had been nowhere.  She had done nothing.  The good-night kiss, lips together, on the front porch, light on, father listening to every word and rustle because his bedroom window was also the porch window, was as far as she’d ever “gone.”

Most of her clothing was ordered from the Sears catalogue.

Most of her shoes were purchased at Jeff’s Shoe Store, a local shop that carried brand name shoes, if by “brand name” what you mean is “Keds.”

Not that that mattered to this girl’s mother, who bought saddle oxfords in winter and made the girl wait until May to get what she still refers to as “tennis shoes.”  Which the girl had to use SHOE POLISH on to keep them snow white, although she occasionally cheated with baby powder.  The point is, they had to be kept snow white.

One of the things this teen looked forward to most, about going away to college, was wearing whatever she wanted from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.

The problem was, she had no money to buy anything different from what her mother had packed for her to take up to the dorm.

So the girl had to improvise.  And by “improvise,” I mean the girl went out in public looking like a something that crawled out from under a boxcar, mated with a cartoon gypsy who had been exiled from the tribe for having no taste, tripped and fallen into the place where the art students threw out their dirty paint water, and misinterpreted the mirror as saying “You look so groovy, girl!”

The girl did do one thing right away, though.  She walked down to Target (which was then called Ayre-Way) and bought a pair of jeans.)  That’s right – the girl didn’t even own a pair of jeans.  And now she did.

And so began the freshman year.  It began a day later than it should have, because the girl couldn’t leave her hometown boyfriend who was leaving for Purdue the next day.  They went on a sentimental picnic, where the girl pressed lips, still together, in a place other than the brightly lit front porch, built a campfire the size and shape of a caterpillar tractor, sat around it until it turned to sparks and sad, sad ashes, and was taken home for another kiss, this time on the usual place, on the usual places, with the usual bright lights and fatherly commentary.

And so it begins this week for other people’s teenage daughters and sons.  Hopefully, this year’s crop won’t be as stupid and naive and stupid and naive as I was, but then, even back then, nobody else was as stupid and naive as I was.

It’s a good thing all my boyfriends were decent guys, that’s all I’m sayin’.  Because I knew nothing.  NOTHING.  I once went to a porn movie at a drive-in with FOUR GUYS.  They treated me like the gentlemen they were.

There is such a thing as being dangerously innocent.  When a girl is eighteen, she really needs to know a few things.  These days, teenage girls know maybe too much, even.  But I could probably guarantee that none of them would go to a porn movie at a drive-in with four guys.  Not all guys are gentlemen.

It would have been so easy to. .  .

But they didn’t, so everything was all right.

I was lucky, though.  Your daughter might not be so lucky.  Teach her a few things before you send her away to college.

Then again, these days, our daughters probably know more than we do now and could teach US a few things.

Not mine, though.  She was an innocent, too.

I swear.


Re-Re-Re-Re-Watching Downton Abbey

Mamacita says:  I made the mistake of clicking on Downton Abbey Season One on Amazon Prime video, just for a lark, because I’ve seen it before at least twice.  In fact, I’ve seen all of the seasons.  I actually own the DVD’s.

But for some reason, I clicked and started watching again.

Downton Abbey, Season One

Downton Abbey, Season One

I hadn’t realized before how much detail I missed all those other times.

Now I feel obligated to re-re-re-re-watch all the other seasons.

This is irony, you know.  I don’t watch TV.  There isn’t a single program I watch.  Except Downton Abbey – on DVD or Amazon Prime.

It’s a big sappy soap opera, of course.  Part of me is embarrassed that I like it so much.  The other part of me – that teeny tiny fraction of a percent – loves everything about it.

I’m not interested in clothes and hair, but I love the clothes and hair on Downton Abbey.

That’s why I’m re-re-re-re-watching.  Season One first.  Then Season Two.  And then all the others.  All the others until the new season is released.

You know, for the sake of detail.

Rod Stewart vs. Sterling Holloway: Who Wins the Ultimate Cool?

Mamacita says:  Does anybody else think that Rod Stewart sounds almost exactly like

Sterling Holloway, who did the voices for

Winnie the Pooh, and

Kaa, from The Jungle Book?

They even look a little bit alike.

But Rod Stewart was never in the Twilight Zone.  Sterling Holloway was in several episodes.

Twilight Zone

Rod Stewart never played cool eccentric professors in the old Superman tv series with George Reeves and Noelle Neill.

George Reeves as Clark Kent, with Sterling Holloway

George Reeves as Clark Kent, with Sterling Holloway

Rod was never on the screen with Andy and Opie and Aunt Bee and Floyd the Barber.  Sterling Holloway was.

Andy Griffith and Sterling Holloway, 1962

Andy Griffith and Sterling Holloway

Rod Stewart never got to hobnob with Gilligan and the Skipper.  And Mary Ann.  You know, like Sterling Holloway did.

Sterling Holloway and Mary Ann

Sterling Holloway and Mary Ann

Rod didn’t have a recurring role in Circus Boy, with pre-Monkee Mickey Dolenz, but Sterling did.

Little Mickey Dolenze as Circus Boy

Little Mickey Dolenze as Circus Boy

Rod Stewart never met Buffy and Jody, but Sterling Holloway did.  Sterling probably got to meet Mrs. Beasley, too.  Not Rod.

Buffy and Jody, of Family Affair

Buffy and Jody, of Family Affair

Sterling Holloway also worked with Rin Tin Tin.  Rod Stewart never did.

Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin

Rod never met Hazel, or Wrangler Jane Angelica Thrift, either.  Sterling did.

Shirley Booth as Hazel & Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane

Shirley Booth as Hazel & Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane

All Rod ever got to do was sing like Pooh and hang out with supermodels. Poor Rod.

Rod Stewart and supermodel

I bet he wishes he was lucky like Sterling Holloway.  What could trump Winnie the Pooh, Kaa, and one’s name coupled with every black and white icon in television and movie history plus a few technicolor scenes?  That’s so much cooler than Maggie May.

Also, I bet Rod would have picked Ginger over Mary Ann, even though Mary Ann was cuter and smarter.  Men who go for supermodels don’t always recognize cute and they don’t often appreciate smart because glamour and dumb tend to team up with testosterone, blocking common sense and blinding older men to quality.  It’s a quick, easy fix for aging, insecure male hormones.

Political? Maybe. Analogy? Possibly.

Mamacita says:  Some of you might think this post is a political analogy.  You might be right; then again, you might not.  Use your own judgment.

One of my college boyfriends was diagnosed with cancer. The tumor was small, at first, and the doctors tried to treat it with medication. This did not work, so the doctors tried more aggressive treatments; the goal was still to remove the tumor without harming the rest of the body.

This tumor would not go away. It persisted in its hold on the man, and the more doctors tried to shrink it or remove it, the more it debilitated the man: the more it weakened him. The more doctors tried to deal only with the tumor, the weaker my friend’s immune system became.  He died, and the doctors honored his request that he have an autopsy.


Upon looking closely at and into the body, the doctors realized that if they had gone aggressively into the tumor right at the beginning, and forcibly carved it out before it put out feelers and roots and infiltrated the body completely, the man would have lived.

You see, that tumor really didn’t care anything about the man himself; it cared about the man only in as far as the man could be used as food and as a home base for the tumor. It cared about the man only because the man’s resources helped the tumor grow strong. The tumor cared only about itself; it became more than a parasite: it became the focal point of the man’s body.

As long as the doctors tried to treat the whole body of the man by focusing on one small intruder, the man perished. If the doctors had treated the whole body of the man by removing the tumor instead of trying to appease it, the man would have lived.

Appeasement doesn't work in politics, and it doesn't work in medicine, either.

Appeasement doesn’t work in politics, and it doesn’t work in medicine, either.

I am not a doctor, but if I am ever invaded by a pernicious tumor, I want it cut out and burned, not appeased with first one thing and then another, trial and error. No patting a soothing medication on it in hopes that it will go away. No pretending it’s not there in hopes that it will go away by itself. No numbing it so it can’t actively DO anything although it’s still there to intimidate the useful body parts. I want it removed and burned, so the fear is gone, and the tension is gone, and the stress is gone, and the other body parts can heave a sigh of relief and go on with their rightful business.

Analogy? Why, no. It’s about a malignant tumor, and its potential to destroy a human being completely if it’s not forcibly removed by someone trained to do so.

Why, what were YOU thinking?

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. Happy Birthday, Princess. Happy Birthday, My Little Son.

Mamacita says:  Father’s Day and my daughter’s birthday and my son’s birthday are within a few days of each other.  Sometimes, they’re on the same day.  That is because calendars are alive and love to mess with us, and because those selfsame calendars, parts of them anyway, dwell in the past with emperors, gods, and goddesses.  We can mess right back by denying our ages.  But I digress.

My daughter is over 21, if anyone wants to ask me any questions.  Please be sure your resume is current, including gainful employment and a love of steampunk cosplay.

She used to be the most beautiful baby girl in the universe, but not any more. She hasn’t been that for a long time.

She is, however, the most beautiful young woman in the universe. She’s strong and brave and smart and hilarious. She’s a lot nicer than I am.  Her sense of direction is almost perfect. Her sense of ethics and behavior are superior. She can sing like an angel. She can walk into an expensive dress shop and walk out with a $300.00 dress that she got for twelve bucks and matching $125.00 shoes that cost eight – the honest way. She’s kind and caring and patient, unless she’s dealing with an idiot in which case she, sadly, takes after me. She’s the best daughter any mother could ever hope to have, even when she takes the occasional pissy fit, and even then a good margarita will fix that mood swing right up. Mommy knows how to take care of her baby girl.

I didn’t teach her to stick her head in a waterfall, but only because the subject never came up.

Sara in the waterfall

Happy Birthday, Princess.

My son is also over 21, if any of you want to ask me any questions. Please be sure your resume is current, including gainful employment and a love of computers, kayaking, camping, and creating awesome internet capabilities with safety pins and belly button lint.

He used to be the most beautiful baby boy in the universe, but not any more.  He hasn’t been that for a long time.

He is, however, the most beautiful young man in the universe.  He’s strong and brave and smart and hilarious.  He can look at an ancient television set in his grandmother’s living room that seven professional repairmen have given up on, tinker with it for five minutes, and turn it into a clear, bright receptor of cable delights.

He’s kind and caring and patient, unless he’s dealing with an idiot in which case he, sadly, takes after me. He’s the best son any mother could ever hope to have, even when he takes the occasional pissy fit, and even then a good margarita will fix that mood swing right up. Mommy knows how to take care of her baby boy.

I didn’t teach him how to make a robot costume when he was three years old, but he did a pretty good job.

Andy in a robot suit

Happy Birthday, my little son.

My dad has been gone for several years now, but we never really ever stop missing the people we love.  We recover, and get on with our lives, but the memories are still there, and aren’t we all glad they are?Dad and Sara Dad and Andy

Dad wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. He and all of his brothers and their father before them were quick-tempered and easy to, as Mom used to say, “set off.” He was also funny and smart; he could sing and he valued education, HIGHLY. He would have been a success at college, but he never went. Instead, he sent four kids through college, and continued to work day after day in a factory, “so we would never have to.”

He taught me hundreds of poems and songs, and he liked to pick me up and stand me on a table and make me sing or recite for people.  (not lately)  “Purple People Eater” and Robert Frost: I still remember.

My sister Teresa and I had a daddy who was playful and laughing. My two younger siblings had a daddy who was cranky and yelling. Dad’s illness began long before anybody realized it, including himself, and the personality changes were just brushed aside as part of the aging process or, possibly, his true colors. Nobody actually said “true colors,” but we all thought it.

By the time dad had had both legs amputated and was bedridden and too weak to feed himself or turn over, we all realized that the diabetes had begun to affect his mind long before it took his body.

He stayed at home and Mom took care of him. I don’t think she went anywhere for three or four years, except her runs to the grocery and drugstores while Dad was at dialysis.  Let me tell you something:  if ever I’m sick like that, I want Mom to take care of me.  I watched her.  She was divinely patient with his dreadful moods, and meticulously careful with his meds and IV’s.

My father is gone, but he still lives in my head, daily. And to that loving and playful and laughing and singing father, I want to say, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.”

I knew all along that mean yelling daddy wasn’t really you.  I just wish my two youngest siblings had met that daddy.

So on June 15, I salute my beautiful baby daughter; on June 21, I salute the good daddy I loved, and on June 24, I salute my beautiful baby son.

Dad on Steve's motorcycle

This is my brother’s motorcycle, by the way.  You know, the one I used to ride all over town without my mother’s knowledge.  She still doesn’t know.  She never will, unless YOU tell her.

I don’t think my brother knew, either.  I was into the stealth before it was cool.