A Note to Myself

I began my day on Facebook.  I try not to do that too often, because it means getting sucked into the vortex of other peoples’ lives and photos plus new videos and inspirational sayings and cute dogs and on and on ad infinitum.

But today my son and his lovely wife had posted their new family photos which, of course, I had to see.  Here is one of them, because you KNEW you weren’t getting out of this post without seeing one:

Yes,  yes I know – they are a BEAUTIFUL family.  And to be clear, I take no credit for anything other than baby Margaret’s (aka Peach) chubby thighs, which she got from me.  Hers will probably fade at about age 5, mine never have.

But I digress.  I started the day on Facebook, just to see these lovely photographs, but ended up of course watching “just one”  inspirational video.  This one shared by my friend Jay Stailey, an awesome storyteller and a big liar, and I mean that in the nicest way.

Jay shared this video, which I loved and watched twice in succession before sharing it on FB myself.

The  images are from the book “Be Happy: A Little Book To Help You Live A Happy Life” by Monica Sheehan. ISBN: 0762429623  The music is “Cuore Di Sabbia” by Pasquale Catalano.  No one seems to know who made this lovely little video, even though it’s been viewed on YouTube more than 373,000 times.  The most any of my videos has been viewed is about 85.

I hope someone claims this video, even though part of me knows that it’s the creating, not the praising, that is important.

I loved this video and its message so much, that I made my own notes based on the ideas that I loved the most.  Here is what my monitor looked like when I was finished.



I am aware of course that I will have to take these down soon.  Peeking around them is getting old.  But oh how much I love them!  Today I have claimed “Follow Your Dreams” and “Create What You Desire”.  I CAN market myself – I CAN continue to make a living as a storyteller and ventriloquist, getting better as I get older and doing the things I always said I couldn’t do.

My thanks to Jay for passing along this video and to my friend Shelly Tucker storyteller and fabric artist extroidinaire for giving me the great advice:  “You can do this!”.

Excuse me a minute I have to make a note of that.  I’ll just have to figure out where to put it.

A Poem to Childhood

The Fly-Away Horse

                  by Eugene Fields

A boy and his horse

James Burks on his "Fly-Away Horse"

Oh, a wonderful horse is the Fly-Away Horse-
Perhaps you have seen him before;
Perhaps, while you slept, his shadow has swept
Through the moonlight that floats on the floor.

For it’s only at night, when the stars twinkle bright,
That the Fly-Away Horse with a neigh
And a pull at his rein and a toss of his mane,
Is up on his heels and away!

The moon in the sky, As he gallopeth by,
Cries: “Oh! What a marvelous sight!”
And thesStars in dismay hide their faces away
In the lap of old Grandmother Night.

It is yonder, out yonder, the Fly-Away Horse
Speedeth ever and ever away-
Over meadows and lane, over mountains and plains,
Over streamlets that sing at their play;

And over the sea like a ghost sweepeth he,
While the ships they go sailing below,
And he speedeth so fast that the men on the mast
Adjudge him some portent of woe.

“What ho, there!” they cry, As he flourishes by
With a whisk of his beautiful tail;
And the fish in the sea are as scared as can be,
From the nautilus up to the whale!

And the Fly-Away Horse seeks those far-away lands
You little folk dream of at night-
Where candy-trees grow, and honey-brooks flow,
And corn-fields with popcorn are white;
And the beasts in the wood are ever so good
To children who visit them there-

What glory astride of a lion to ride,
Or to wrestle around with a bear!
The monkeys, they say: “Come on, let us play,”
And they frisk in the coconut-trees:
While the parrots, that cling to the peanut-vines sing
Or converse with comparative ease!

Off! scamper to bed- you shall ride him to-night!
For, as soon as you’ve fallen asleep,
With a jubilant neigh he shall bear you away
over forest and hillside and deep!

But tell us, my dear, all you see and you hear
In those beautiful lands over there,
Where the Fly-Away Horse wings his far-away course
With the wee one consigned to his care.

Then grandmother will cry in amazement: “Oh, my!”
And she’ll think it could never be so.
And only we two shall know it is true-
You and I, little precious! shall know!

Learn story and song, scripture and verse

- hide it in your heart.

No greater gift can we give to those who come after

The Muppets and Dueling Desires

Trying to recuperate from an injury I didn’t know I had, I’ve spent a lot of time moving from bed to couch to chair to bed to… well, you get the idea. I have the dueling problem of torn muscles in my hip which makes it hard to stand and an injured tailbone which makes it hard to sit.  To sit… to stand… to lay?

It’s made me think about dueling desires I have as a performer to be true to myself  vs actually making a living.  Which made me think about dueling banjos, which made me remember this clip, which is an amalgam of some of the things I like the most:  accoustic stringed instruments, Steve Martin and the Muppets.  Watch:
Oh how could you not love it?  I loved The Muppets  so much during the heyday of their TV show.  If you’ve never seen it, you have missed some of the best TV ever.   It debuted in 1977 (can that be possible?) and ran until 1981, but reruns continued for some years.   Jim Henson and Frank Oz created some of the most memorable characters ever, with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Animal, and Gonzo among others. Guests included Pearl Bailey,  Carol Burnett,  Johnny Cash,  Bob Hope, Elton John,  Liberace, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans,  Sylvester Stallone and Raquel Welch among many, many others.

The Muppets became famous on Sesame Street, of course, but muppets were seen earlier, most notably Rowlf the Dog on the Jimmy Dean Show in the 60s.  If you don’t want to watch the opening set, forward through the first minute: As a little girl I used to watch it with my fingers crossed saying “Please let Rowlf be on!”

My early and continued love of the Muppets has helped me remember through the lean times as a performer that puppets are magical.  Blogger Jill Tooley says that from Sesame Street she learned things like “don’t be afraid to be yourself”, “rely on your trusted colleagues” and “remember your manners”.  Amen to that, sister.

Most of all I like to remember, when pulled in different ways to try to market more effectively or become a little more “edgy” or add more techno-wizardry to a show that it was Jim Henson who said “Simple Is Good” .

I’ve learned to use  my ipod, to build a website, to blog and to send emails, but when it comes to my performing, I think it will always be just me and a stage and a roomful (or handful) of laughing children and a puppet.

What could be better?


The View from a Crocodile

Larry the Crocodile and kids

L-R Larry T. Crocodile, Sophie Schwalm, James Burks, Emma Kincaid


 guest blogger Larry T. Crocodile

I love kids…


Kidding!  I love kids, they’re my bread and butter… except crocodiles don’t eat bread and butter.  Unless it’s inside a kid… kidding!

This is the view I see every time I’m on stage with my human, Nancy Burks Worcester.  Lots of smiles, a little bit of enchantment and once in awhile sheer befuddlement.

I’ve been at this a long time now – if you’ve seen the new Muppets movie, you know that we fleece folk (or Mannequin-Americans if you prefer) age very well.  Very, very well.  Pictures of my human and me show that while I look exactly the same, she is beginning to look like a walnut with hair.  Kidding!

I have been reading recently that the Muppets have now been accused of communism by Eric Bolling.  I could put a link to him there but I won’t because it’s stupid.  A felt scare?  Come on!  Fleece folk are apolitical.  So in the hope that future misunderstandings can be avoided, I am making available for the first time ever the…

                                     Fleece Folk Code of Honor

  1. No politics.  Jeff Dunham broke the code when he created Achmed, so his fleece friends are now considered human.  This is not an honor people, not an honor
  2. No cursing.  See above
  3. No evil intent.  I guess it depends on what you consider evil, but I personally feel like we Mannequin Americans have a mandate to make the earth a little kinder.  Just in case you are confused, chicken jokes and whoopee cushions are NOT evil.
  4. Do not eat anyone in the audience.  I do not personally agree with this one, and strain at the bit every single day.
  5. No wearing pants.  I know some rules are made to be broken, but Fozzy Bear and I are still holding fast to the true spirit of fleecedom while Kermit has sold out. 

    Miss Piggy and Larry the Crocodile

    Absolutely unretouched photo of Miss Piggy & me

So there you have it.  I know the Muppets are not communists because Miss Piggy and I have been well… friends for years now.   This relationship has flown under the radar from years, but for the first time I am sharing the absolutely unretouched photo of Miss Piggy and me at the opening to “Muppets in Space“.

And don’t we still look good?

The Dream House

This is the house of my dreams.

It is a 1962 Barbie Dream House.  It was perfect.  One lovely bachelorette apartment folded into a nice neat package with a lovely French-inspired ranch exterior.

There’s a Hollywood bed and a walnut console television/stereo combo with Barbie herself pictured (probably on Ed Sullivan).  There’s a standing pillar lamp and cardboard record albums.  There are built-in shelves, photos on the wall and woven window shades.  What’s not to love?  I saw one the other day at an antique store in Keller called The Sage House.  The lady got it down for me and we played Barbies.  THAT my friend is why I go antique shopping.

I wanted one of these so bad when I was a little girl.  My cousin Kathy had one.  She had everything.  She had an original 1960 ponytail Barbie with the stripey black and white bathing suit.  I didn’t get mine until 1962 so my Barbie had a stripey RED and white suit and a blonde bubble hairdo. 

I was never never fond of her.  That eyeliner – horrors!  Those pearls – eek!  She looked like a combination Marilyn Monroe/Elizabeth Taylor. Those were “old ladies” to me. Mattel had not yet discovered in 1962 that little girls did not WANT their Barbies to look like their mothers.  Or like the movie stars their mothers loved.  I would have much preferred that Barbie looked like Annette Funicello (hey – the bust would’ve been right) or even Haley Mills; girls who were teenagers when I was a little girl.  I couldn’t do anything about Barbie’s hair, but I did bite out her pearl earrings.

I didn’t think I had a lot of toys when I was a kid.  My mother might have said differently.  The only toy she could ever remember having was a set of Shirley Temple paper dolls that burned up in a house fire.  Every time she told me that story I felt sad and bad and guilty because I had toys and she had never had any.  But it didn’t stop me from wanting them.

I wanted a Barbie Dream House and a Barbie car.  I wanted a Midge doll and a Skipper and I wanted a Thingmaker and Mr. Machine and an Ouija board.  Instead of Midge and Skipper I got a Chatty Cathy which I hated.  The Ouija board was sinful so I got a “Life” game which was brother would never play with me, and Mama said Mr. Machine was for boys.  My brother got it instead and ran over it back and forth with his bicycle about a hundred times.  I kept Mr. Machine’s hat for awhile. 

I’m going to give you some good parenting advice now, so listen up:  PARENTS SHOULD NOT BUY THEIR KIDS ALL THE TOYS THEY WANT.   It fosters covetousness and materialism and spoils children.  So parents, don’t do it.  That’s what grandparents are for.

My mother couldn’t afford the dream house for me, and I couldn’t afford it for my daughter Emily.  She probably would have preferred the 80s pink and purple version with the elevator, anyway.  But  I personally think Barbie’s taste level has been slipping for years.

My daughter-in-law Sweet Marie is expecting a little girl in March.  I’m going to call her Little Alice until they really name her and then I will call her whatever beautiful name they decide on.

I think when she gets here I’ll buy her a dream house.  That’s what Grandmothers are for.



Isn’t that special?

I love Lily Tomlin.  I think she’s very special.

I’ve loved her since I first saw her and her multiple personalities on Saturday Night Live back when it was… well, special. She was Ernestine the telephone operator (the what now?) and Edith Ann the preciocious 5 1/2 year old and the church lady to whom many things were… special.

I patterned (and named) my puppet Lili after her, except that my Lili uses the two “i’s” so that she can dot them with hearts.  She too is 5 1/2 years old and highly precocious.

I shameless ripped off Lily Tomlin’s entire first comedy album to compete in the Miss Adamson pageant when I was in Adamson High School because I knew that talent (or thievery) might get me where beauty never would.

Thank you Lily Tomlin for your genius through the years.  Thank you for being the performer I want to be.  Thank you for being so special.

There’s a little boy at my church named Wesley Barefoot.  He is such a great kid; smart and funny and talented.  I think he’s in the second grade.  He told me at church tonight that he was in special education and I said “Really?” and he said (seven years old mind you)  “Yes, because you know it doesn’t matter which end of the scales you’re on you’re still special.

How true. 


I’m late… I’m late…!

“Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be late!”  So said the white rabbit just before he popped down the rabbit hole, startling Alice and beginning her amazing adventures in Wonderland.

Those were NOT the words I said this morning.  Not even close.

Let me begin at the beginning.   I had my 20-month-old grandson for the week last week.  It was  both the longest and the shortest week of my life.  I was totally exhausted by his bedtime each night at 7, but I couldn’t wait to see his beautiful, laughing face each morning.

My daughter-in-law did not get home from her trip until about 10:00 Saturday night, plus I had the lovely Emma (my adopted granddaughter) here as well.  So I didn’t get to bed too early, and I got up at 3:00 to go down to College Station to perform at Christ United Methodist.  Then I got home last night and I could have gone to bed early, but the Rangers played!  What’s a girl to do?

So it was 11:00 or so when I went to bed.  And I thought I set my alarm.  I really did.  I had planned to get up at 6 and have plenty of time to drink coffee, etc. before my 8:30 show at Baccus Elementary (my children’s alma mater and an AWESOME school).

Imagine then, my consternation when I woke up this morning at 8:37.  THAT’S EIGHT THIRTY SEVEN!  Thirty seven minutes later than I actually wanted to be at school.  Twenty three minutes before I was set to perform.  Lucky lucky lucky am I that Baccus is maybe six or seven minutes away.  Still….

I exploded out of bed saying “crap crap crap!” and other assorted things.  I put on the clothes that were ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR.  I brushed my teeth for 14 seconds, rubbed foundation on my face while stepping into my shoes, and left.  I didn’t even let the dogs out.  My poor Roxanna dog is so old and arthritic that she can’t get off the bed by herself anymore, but I couldn’t help that.  She would just have to go back to sleep.

I didn’t even have a brush in my purse.  I combed my hair with a little four-inch Ace comb that was in the glove box and put on lipstick while driving.  The fog this morning was awful.  It was not even pea soup, it was clam chowder.  I drove 6 miles an hour while chanting “crap crap crap…”

I walked in the door at 10 minutes to 9.  Do not ask me how.  Counselor Betty While, looking a little wild-eyed, let me in and said “I was getting a little worried…”  I sprinted to the stage and set up faster than I have ever set up, including the time I took a nap and nearly missed my show at the Hood County Library.  Up went the poles, up went the curtains, up went the stars.  I tossed speaker cords around like I was casting for bass and started up the ipod playing who knows what – Frank Sinatra?  Alanis Morrisette?  Pepe’s Polka Kings?  The kids would just have to deal with it.  I didn’t have time to scroll through for Justin or Selena.

At 9:02 the kindergarteners started filing in and I was smiling like I’d had a mini-stroke.  Not a drop of coffee, but I was running on pure adrenaline.  Some of this year’s show, some of last year’s show, some words I’d never said before… but we got it done!

Whew!  Never let it be said that I don’t work well under pressure.  Now excuse me – I need a nap.


Finding things to do with a 20-month old is challenging because even the smartest of them (and my grandson is THE smartest of them),  have the attention span of a cocker spaniel.  Still, you want to do challenging things that help their spatial reasoning, hand-to-eye coordination, manual dexterity and imagination. 

That, of course, is why we color; “color” being the term coined to applying crayon strokes to pre-drawn areas.  My daughter LOVED to color.  Even in high school she liked to do it the way some people run or crochet.  I’m thinking by college she had added other stress reducers to her repertoire but that is a topic for a different blog.  My son hated it with a passion.  I can’t wait to see him sit down and “color” with this little boy.  Grin and bear it son, grin and bear it.

Today James and I colored.  Actually he made two marks on the page and earnestly attempted to color the dog while I colored the page.  Since he obviously felt that Baby Sister needed the more brilliant hues in the pack, he would only let me have four crayons: black, brown, teal and periwinkle.  This, then is what Cinderella’s magical slipper moment would have looked like if her world had only had those four colors.

Sajid Khan

Cindy herself is sort of an interesting racial dichotomy; black skin and brown hair – does that exist anywhere naturally in single-raced people?  I kind of like it.  Prince Charming on the other hand looks much like Raj on “The Big Bang Theory” – most physically attractive

Rajesh Ramayan

of the nerd battalion, who in turn reminds me of a television star of my youth named Sajid Khan who starred in a tv show called “Maya” and if you remember that, you don’t have to tell anyone how old you are – we know.

When I was in the 7th grade and my friend Linda Mason and I went to the fair alone, we each bought ID bracelets because that was the “owned” fad of the time – hers said “Thurman” the name of her boyfriend.  I had mine engraved “Sajid”.  I don’t even want to think about how sad that was.

As if you didn't know...

ANYway… what I was thinking about today is a world that exists in only four colors.  Would Cinderella have won the heart of her prince if her beautiful ballgown had been teal instead of that heavenly cerise blue?  What if her hair and skin had been black and brown instead of peach and gold? Would the prince have won the hand (or foot as it were) of his lady fair wearing this decidedly metrosexual outfit of tan and teal?  Even if he had looked vaguely like Sajid Khan or Raj Khoothrapali?

The Bible says “To each of us a gift has been given”.   It doesn’t say to the beautiful or the rich or the thin or those with beautiful skin or healthy bodies or amazing singing voices or grace.  It says TO EACH.  What I missed most when tinting Cinderella’s world today was the lack of gold and silver.  No silver to glint up the proverbial glass slipper?  No gold for the prince’s crown?   Every one of us has a color to spread about in the world – but a lot of us lack the gold and silver and are given only the tan and teal.

 Some of the Jennifer Lopez’s of the world have amazing beauty as well as amazing talent; blessed with an abundance of silver, gold, and every other color.   The Steve Jobs and Stephen Sondheims and Stephen Kings and Steven Spielbergs of the world seem to have it all — but as my pastor said recently “I’ve yet to see a hearse with a trailer attached” and Steve Jobs’ fortune in the end did not save him from the grave that awaits us all.

So whatever colors you have been given, remember this:

Each golden sunrise ushers in new opportunities for those who retain faith in themselves, and keep their chins up…. Meet the sunrise with confidence. Fill every golden minute with right thinking and worthwhile endeavor. Do this and there will be joy for you in each golden sunset.

-Alonzo Newton Benn


The Changes of Life

Why is there only one stage of  life called “The Change”,  when there are so many changes?

Infant, toddler, child and “tween” (that’s a pretty new one) then teen, young adult,  middle age, senior and… well you know.  They’re all changes, and there are others as well.

My friends Kristy and Brad Fiebig have just added a new little change to their home – her name is Harper Frances Fiebig.  Isn’t that pretty?  I don’t know about the Fiebig part, that will be a challenge.  And you all know how I feel about having a name that no one can spell, pronounce or remember (See “How to Say My Name“).  But I expect great things out of little Harper Fiebig.  She has awesome parents, grandparents, great-grands, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I know and love them all.

My son and daughter-in-law too are expecting a new little addition.  My grandson James will be 25 months old when the new baby gets here , and I expect it to be pretty hard on him.  He’s used to being the prince, after all.   I’ve been keeping him this week while my son works at his prosecutor job and my globetrotting daughter-in-law Sweet Marie does her own work in Kosovo (yep – Kosovo).

I bought this great double stroller at a garage sale on the way down there for TEN DOLLARS.  Does that rock or what?  James loves it!  We walked all over town in it three or four times (not hard in a town the size of the one they live in).  And when he wasn’t riding in it he was climbing in or out of it or “working” on it with the mallet you see in the picture.

Made me think about changes.  Nobody likes change, but they happen whether we like them or not.  In my town of Granbury over the past 30 years I’ve seen many many changes.  When I first came here in 1976 there was no WalMart, no McDonald’s, no franchises of any kind.  Most of us who lived here then bemoaned the fact, but now most of us are kind of sorry that it’s Chili’s and Lowe’s and Taco Bell as far as the eye can see.  We look like every other suburban town.

My work this year, like that of every other school performer I know, has taken a great downturn.  It’s been frustrating and challenging, but I CAN rise to the challenge – I WILL!

I want to thank Van Griffith Kia of Granbury for helping me see new ways to bring joy and laughter to children.  I will be seeing all the children of Nettie Baccus Elementary School on Monday, October 24 thanks to them.  Please run over there this weekend and buy a new Kia – or a whole fleet.  Randy Rempel and his staff will be glad to see you, I guarantee.

and remember what Gandhi said:

How NOT to Cook: Lesson One

You’re dying to know, aren’t you?  Well here it is, in all its glory – Rotini and Riccota with Zucchini.  Isn’t it beautiful?   It really was – very beautiful and very, very boring.  Not bad, just BORING!

The Mr. was nice about it.  He didn’t say what he usually says when he hates something:  “Interesting”.  That word is the kiss of death with him, because he’s just too nice to say he hates something or that it’s awful.

It wasn’t awful – it was just boring.  I guess those of you who actually do cook had already figured this out, right?  Zucchini, rotini and ricotta are all very subtle flavors and there was nothing in this to wake it up.  When we added seasoned salt with red pepper at the table it was better, but still nothing special.  And there’s a LOT of it left – any ideas?

And here’s the other thing.  It took me an hour and a half to cook it because sometime after I had preheated the oven but before I put the dish in, I had actually turned the oven OFF.  Nothing cooks very well that way.  I can see my daughter shaking her head and thinking “Mother!” 

Yes – that’s how I roll.

Tomorrow I will be at Central United Methodist Church in Waco.  If you’re anywhere near come by and see us during early and late worship – 9:45 and 11:00. 

And bring me a recipe.