Saturday, April 30, 2011

Out of the Mouths

I am lucky to see old students from time to time. I get to see my last class every day as they are all still living and learning together in one 4th grade classroom with my friend Tameka. Older kids wander back occasionally as well. We have a semi-regular alumni day and I catch up with a few former students then. Sometimes an old student is back in town and just stops by to see how much smaller everything seems, how much older their 2nd and 3rd grade teacher is. It's fun when they stop by during the school day and my current group of kids ask them questions. "What was Mr. O. like back in the day? What songs do you remember singing? Did you guys have a pet turtle in your classroom?" You know, the really important stuff.

Well, one of my former students is in 8th grade in the middle school, right next door to our little school. His little sister is in my class. We see each other almost every day. He and his sister ride home together and when she sees him she throws her arms around her big brother and gives him a big old hug. He is a little self-conscious, but he hugs her right back. It's sweet.

Sometimes Little Sister and I wait for him to walk by while we are eating in the middle school cafeteria and Big Brother is changing classes. When he glances in we make a funny face at him. He smiles and rushes on to class. He is a big, handsome boy - nearly a man. But when I see him walking those middle school halls, I remember that cute, precocious, little guy he was.

On a related subject - I read Brad Warthen's blog regularly (see my blog roll). He used to write for the Op-Ed page of The State newspaper. I will never understand why they cut him loose. He was one of the best parts of the paper. I used to regularly read Brad's pieces to my students when Big Brother was in our class, 6 years ago. Our class went on a field study to the newspaper when Brad was still working there and, as luck would have it, we were able to interview Mr. Warthen spontaneously as he walked by our reporter friend Czerne Reid's desk.

I found this old blog post of his when he was still working for The State and will repost it here (I hope Brad doesn't mind - I'm still a big fan, Brad!). The child he describes as the little tow-headed boy is Big Brother to my sweet child, the young man I still see almost every day, the young man who I KNOW is going to change the world for the better.

Thursday, 19 May 2005

Out of the mouths

The headline on the centerpiece of this morning's front page, "Fast learners, little Skywalkers are," reminded of a really great thing that happened to me yesterday.

I had gone down to the newsroom to consult with The State's main Web juju man, Dave Roberts, about this site. Being informed that Dave was out, I was making my way back through the newsroom when I noticed a knot of elementary schoolers crowded around a reporter's desk. A tour. I had already passed when I heard my name. Turning back, I was informed that these children were regular readers of my work and would like to talk to me. I looked around, and estimated (accurately, as it turned out) that these were second-graders. Fans of mine? Didn't seem likely, but I was game.

The teacher standing next to me looked down at one little girl sitting cross-legged at his feet, and urged her to ask me the question she had just been asking. After a brief look of "Why did you call on me" exasperation, she said (and all quotes herein are approximations; I had no notebook with me): "How come sometimes in the paper there's this big story about a dog show, with pictures and lots of words, and on the same day something tragic and important happens, but all there is about it is a paragraph?"

Well, it was about all I could do not to bend down and hug her. I am so weary of hearing how in order to survive, newspapers have to lure young readers by dumbing-down their content, stressing entertainment and frivolous features and such at the expense of "boring" hard news.

I just knew there were kids out there like these, and here they were. I was ready to talk to these kids all day. I launched into an explanation about how the flow of news works, explaining that you might have planned to send a reporter and photographer to the dog show for days or even weeks, and on that particular day you had the space set aside for the dog show, and you executed your plan. But then, the "tragic" news develops maybe an hour before you go to press, and the sources are busy and hard to reach, and all you can get of it is a paragraph of information, so you go with that -- and if the story is big enough, you follow through the next day. I likened it to having a week for a homework assignment, so you really do that up right, but when the teacher gives you another task to do five minutes before the dismissal bell, you do what you can.

Then Mr. O'Keefe asks why something like a big coal mine disaster would only get short shrift in the paper, as opposed to ongoing coverage of the Michael Jackson trial. After making it clear that I've been out of the business of making such judgments for 11 years (since I moved to editorial), so I can't really speak to recent developments, I tried to answer based on my 20 years in newsrooms before that. I explained the Journalism 101 elements of news play -- that you decide based on the factors of interest, importance, proximity and immediacy (I tried to explain those terms in words the kids would understand, but I have a feeling it was unnecessary), and every story has those elements in different proportions. While noting that you won't catch me following the Michael Jackson trial, plenty of other people have a high interest in it. Same with dog shows; I pointed out that lots of folks call newspapers to say, "Why do you splash all that 'negative news' over the front page, when you could be covering my nice dog show?" Different strokes for different folks.

A coal-mine disaster is important -- in West Virginia. In South Carolina, we don't have a lot of coal miners. Nor are South Carolinians in a position to DO much about a coal mine disaster. I contrasted this with the recent boiler explosion that killed a man just down the street from this office. That had proximity, immediacy andinterest, and serious importance for South Carolina, since it was the only state in the union that doesn't to safety inspections of boilers. So we played that story for all it was worth.

Yadda, yadda.

Anyway, as I'm going on, this little towheaded guy has his hand up and waving around, to the point that Mr. O'Keefe signals him to give it a rest, and he gives up. When Mr. O'Keefe says, "Well, Mr. Warthen is busy, and we've kept him long enough," I say, "No wait. This young man has a question. What is it, buddy?"

So he says, "What inspired you (those three words are verbatim, as you don't forget it when a second-grader starts a question with "What inspired you...") to write that letter to the editor (meaning a column) about that man where you said he was 'not a gentleman -- translation: he's a jerk?"

Well, the grownups all laughed, and someone asked if I was glad I had taken one more question. But I loved it, and just answered him straight: "I was inspired to write that by the fact that the man in question -- Rep. Altman -- IS a jerk."

"You see," I said, addressing all the boys and girls, "lots of other people had written lots of things about Mr. Altman and what he had said and done, but nobody had pointed out the rather obvious fact that basically, he's a big, fat jerk. So I thought I should do that."

These kids were great. They're students at the Center for Inquiry, Richland District 2's magnet school. I told them they were all going to be great newspaper readers one day, and then corrected myself: "You already ARE wonderful newspaper readers."

Normally, I don't connect this well with kids this age who are not my own. I find it awkward trying to get on their level. These little Einsteins saved me the trouble by getting down on MY level. It made my day. The only thing lacking was that I wish it had all been on videotape, so I could show it to my good friend Mike Albo, our circulation director. It would have been killer evidence for my side in our ongoing debate about how newspapers should go about appealing to readers, particularly young ones. Sure, these kids were exceptional. But they gave me hope.

Read more:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We Pray For Children

Every once in a while I get frustrated in the classroom. Things don't go the way I plan, the energy flags, I have to work really hard to get the kids to just pay attention. I get worn out, you know? Sometimes I feel like I am just faking it. Then something beautiful happens to restore my faith, my confidence. It is the natural rhythm I suppose and I should learn to trust it.

I read this poem a bunch of years ago. I don't know it's history but I use it often when I speak to teachers about what our job really is. I am a teacher of little kids. I don't just teach math or reading or social studies. I teach children. This poem by Ina Hughes reminds me.

We pray for children
who put chocolate fingers everywhere
who like to be tickled
who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants
who sneak popsicles before supper
who erase holes in math workbooks
who can never find their shoes

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers
who never "counted potatoes"
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead
who never go to the circus
who live in an x-rated world
Children playing behind barbed wire in a slum. The inhabitants are being threatened by forced resettlement,Dey Krahom slum area,Phnom Phen,Cambodia photo
We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions
who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money
who cover themselves with band-aids and sing off key
who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink
who slurp their soup

And we pray for those
who never get dessert
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them
who watch their parents watch them die
who can't find any bread to steal
who don't have any rooms to clean up
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser
whose monsters are real

We pray for children
who spend their allowance before Tuesday
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food
who like ghost stories
who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub
who get visits from the tooth fairy
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime
who will eat anything
who have never seen a dentist
who aren't spoiled by anybody
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep
who live and breathe but have no being

We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must
for those we never give up on
and for those who don't have a second chance

For those we smother... and for those who will grab the hand of
anybody kind enough to offer it.
Ina J. Hughes

At school we have a moment of silence every day. "Please pause for a moment of silence," says the child who reads the announcement. It used to mean nothing to me. It was just this little moment where I would mentally prepare for the school day ahead. Now I pray for children.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Getting Schooled

Let me just say that I am often schooled by my students. Sometimes it is something simple like getting whupped in a game of chess. My little friend Jackson can do that fairly regularly. I usually use the lame excuse of trying to keep an eye on the entire classroom while he gets to devote all of his concentration on the game. Yeah, right.

Sometimes it is our student teacher who says just the right thing, makes the perfect connection or gently corrects a miscue on my part. I appreciate it. The other day she pointed me in the direction of a friend who needed face time after school to work through some problems. It was the best advice I’d gotten from someone - far less than half my age – in a long time.

There are times when I plunge through my school days without slowing down as much as I should, without putting myself into the shoes of these little ones I am blessed to teach. Not often, but it does happen.


Last week there was considerable fussing about pencils at our work tables. Each table has a container, which I try to keep filled with sharpened pencils. The kids bring in a bunch of pencils with their school supplies at the beginning of the year and I keep them all in the supply closet. As needed I break them out and sharpen them up and divide them among the pencil cups. It seems a little socialist. You bring them in, we put them out for all to share. Makes sense.

A few days ago we were in writing workshop and I was pointing out that some tables seem to end up with all the pencils while others have empty pencil cups. All pencils are everybody’s pencils. If anyone needs a pencil they may get one from any container and we shouldn’t be so possessive and blah, blah, blah… This had become a source of conflict.

During my diatribe, while about half of the class was thinking about something else entirely, I’m sure, one of my little ones was going through the pencils at her table, pulling an eraser from one pencil, putting it on another. Obviously, she wasn’t listening to me at all.

I reached down and grabbed it from her, annoyed that she wasn’t listening and ignoring my impassioned plea about just using the pencil in front of you (and blah, blah, blah). She looked up at me with hurt eyes. We went on to workshop and she picked up a random pencil. She went on to write and never said anything to me about it.

I went back to my own writer’s notebook and the image of her pretty face was still in my mind. It wasn’t a big deal, I just grabbed the pencil out of her hand so she would listen to me. It wasn’t a violent snatch, just an irritated one. She knows I love her. I was just getting her attention. But there was a little hurt in her eyes and I couldn’t get that image out of my mind.

Walking near her table and sitting on the floor I waited until she looked at me. I motioned for her to sit by me. The others were pretty deep into their writing. Mr. Santana was playing lovely instrumentals on the stereo (Hey, if we don’t teach these kids about Santana then who will?).

She sat down next to me with a “what’s up?” expression on her face.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have snatched that pencil out of your hands."

“That’s OK.”

“No, it’s not OK. I blew my cool over something small and I took it out on you. That was a little mean of me. You didn’t deserve it.” She gave me the sweetest look.

“No, it’s really OK,” she said. She reached over and hugged me. Then we looked each other in the eye. It was just a little moment but a lot passed through in that short time. She sort of just nodded and then got up and went back to her writing.

I felt like crap and exhilarated simultaneously. This beautiful child taught me a lesson like no one else could. She could have rubbed it in, become all sad and self-righteous and hurt. She could have given me ice. Maybe I deserved some. But she gave me forgiveness. I was the bonehead and she was the mature one.

And I sat there watching her return to her seat thinking about how wonderful this job is. And how complex. And how gratifying. And how so much of who I am is tied up with this wonderful group of people. And how I am a better person for being in the company of children.

I am also left wondering about how many times I leave a grouchy word or an unnecessary cross look dangling without a proper explanation or, yes, even an apology. That is not to say that I shouldn’t be firm now and then. It would be a mess without someone deliberate in charge. That’s what I do and what I have been doing for a long time. But every once in a while I am reminded to have a lighter touch, to follow the rules that we worked so hard to negotiate at the beginning of the year. To treat others the way I would like to be treated.

Rules for Living and Learning Together

Second Grade Class 2010-2011

*Be kind and gentle.

*Always try to do your best. Be responsible.

*Apologize when you make mistakes. Be forgiving.

*Be respectful.

*Follow your conscience.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Arizona Rain

I’m sitting in this nice hotel in Mesa, Arizona. It’s early. 5:30 local time. It’s still not full light yet and it won’t be for a long time. The clouds are low and gray and full of rain.

Heidi and I just finished working with amazing teachers at a wonderful school in Mesa called Zaharis Elementary. We’ve been here before and we love these guys. They asked us to come out and do some staff development. Mike Oliver, the principal, wanted us to talk about Creating a Culture of Inquiry, Teaching for Social Justice and Kidwatching. These are three subjects I love, three subjects I live, three subjects I can get my teeth into.


I am not a fearless presenter like Heidi. I am not the visionary and planner she is. And while I have consulted many times and presented at lots of conferences, I am still kind of a fraidy cat when it comes to talking to teachers I admire and respect. Total strangers? Not much of a problem. But what do I have to offer? I am a teacher of little kids. I hang out with 22 little best friends for 7 hours a day. We read and talk about stories; we write and share what we have written. We sing meaningful songs. We ask questions about how things work and why the world is organized the way it is. We look out at the world and try to find answers. We rejoice in each other’s insights and strategies. Sometimes we fuss at each other and feelings get hurt. We laugh a lot. Sometimes we cry.

And we learn the stuff you know? The 3R’s and science and social studies and how to take high stakes tests. But between and among all the stuff we learn to live together and how to get along in the world. I am not saying it’s simple. It’s not. It’s complex and challenging and sometimes you feel like you have ten plates spinning at once. And sometimes one falls.

Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I grouch at someone or misread a situation or don’t plan as carefully as I should. But it works. Teaching little ones is something I have grown into and something I love. I am blessed to be a teacher. Many years ago I went back to school to get my principal’s license. I took lots of administration courses and learned about the law surrounding public education, the financing involved and the protocol of being a school administrator. I had a semester long internship where I attended district meetings with principals and district office people. I sat in on discipline actions and met with parents along with my principal. The closer I got to being a principal, the less I thought I could do it for a living. I completed the coursework for my principal’s license but never applied for a job in administration. I have always been a teacher of children. I guess that’s what I’ll always be.

We met Mike, the principal of this wonderful school, and some teachers at a conference. When we finished presenting they were waiting for us. It was one of those rare times when you meet someone and you feel like you’ve known them all along, almost like you’ve found old friends you never really knew were there. Almost like you have to reinvent your past to let these new friends in because they’ve been there for years. We’ve known each other for a long time now and this mutual respect reaches across from SC to AZ. And I know it always will.


It is humbling to be asked to share with a bunch of teachers at this incredible school led by an insightful, caring principal and staff. What do I have to offer that they don’t already do very well? But Heidi has outlines and models and theory she has learned and developed and tweaked over the years. She has this brilliant, elegant, provocative way of inviting teachers (including me) into a journey of becoming, a process of outgrowing ourselves and always working toward something better. She pulls off this balancing act of making you feel good about what you do but pushing you to be even better, to go farther.

So what I have to offer is stories. Stories of the growth and change and development of my little friends. And not just how they have learned the stuff but how we have all grown in our humanness. I share stories of how second graders read more carefully, how they become so attached to their characters in a book that they are sad when a story ends, how a reluctant writer who complained about writing anything made a breakthrough and his friends appreciated his first three well-crafted sentences, how one child wrote that her new favorite author gave her the “courage to write” and that a goal of hers was to make her readers feel like crying.

I shared stories of how my class of little ones learned about the history of slavery and segregation and the struggles for Civil Rights and how our heroes became Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to attend an all white school in New Orleans in 1960. I shared how we came to believe that most of the heroes are not famous; that those heroes are the ones who broke the law to change it, who walked through the cold and heat instead of riding the bus, who sat at lunch counters where they were cursed and threatened and spit on and arrested and beaten and who had the courage not to raise a hand to strike back. I shared stories.

It seemed to work because most of the teachers leaned forward and laughed and took notes and shared their own compelling ideas, their personal stories of growth and change, their journeys and struggles. By Friday afternoon we had led five small group curriculum conversations and a whole faculty meeting. We shared theory and models and videos of children. We had one more small group to go. After lunch Mike took us on a whirlwind tour of the classrooms before our last formal time with the teachers. We walked through rooms where the children were at recess or lunch.

As we flew through we read the rooms. It is amazing what you can tell by the student work and art proudly displayed, how the furniture is arranged and what is hanging from the ceiling. It is so absolutely clear that this is a school where children come first, where their comfort and concerns trump everything else. Where children are not passive recipients of knowledge but active participants in their learning. This is a school where I would like to work, where I would love to have had our two boys brought up, where I would be old friends with the staff.

As we dashed through the classrooms I was filled with awe and wonder. Where the students and teachers were present, the kids wanted to rush up to Mike. Sometimes they did. Everyone got a hug or a high five. Every child was acknowledged and knew that Mr. O. cared for them.

We were late for our final presentation on Kidwatching, but we had to see one more classroom. When we walked into Gwen’s first grade classroom, the lights were low. Gwen and her children were into a language lesson. But they stopped when Mike and Heidi and I walked in. They seemed genuinely happy to see us. They simply stopped what they were doing and shifted their attention to us. Mike made introductions and asked if they wouldn’t mind sharing what they had been thinking about all year, their “Curriculum of Hope”.

“Curriculum of Hope”

Many kids started to speak at once. What they said was breathtaking.

We’ve been hopeful all year.

We love hope every day.

We just can’t live without hope.

It’s just an ongoing process that we love.

There are opportunities everywhere to find hope in the world.

They spoke of talking to education students at Arizona State University about hope and the time they spend with the severely challenged at their school, focusing on what the kids can do and not what they can’t do. The children shared titles of books about hope and read us a beautiful poem about hope – although not many had to look at the words because they had it memorized.

When we rushed from their room to the library where we were going to present our last workshop, my eyes were filled with tears. – “A Curriculum of Hope” Luckily, Heidi went first because I had a hard time not thinking about Gwen and those beautiful children. At a time when pressure is mounting for unfair teacher accountability and everything hinges on high stakes test scores, when back-to-basics and time-on-task are coming back with a vengeance, Gwen was busy teaching her children about life, about hope. Hope - in a world of strife and inequality and unequal opportunity, where your success depends so much more on where you were born than upon worthiness. These first graders were learning how to hope.

Story AreaZaharis Elementary Library

When it was my turn to speak and Heidi gave me my non-verbal cue to begin, I probably looked startled because all I was thinking about was that classroom and those children and that teacher who are getting in the 3 R’s thank-you-very-much. But they are also learning about hope. So I got up and shared my stories and thought up with this group of awesome teachers who were there to learn, to get new ideas, to share their accomplishments, to dream.

I am left with the thought that they could learn a tremendous amount by looking sideways into each other’s rooms or into the eyes of their principal who is so smart and cares for everyone so much. When we left, Mike hugged us and thanked us sincerely. We made plans to meet and collaborate again.

When we were sharing our spring break plans with friends last week and I told them that Heidi and I were doing some consulting in Arizona, many were sympathetic. Working? Spring break? Colin was coming with us and we had worked in an extra day to go to Sedona. But today it is raining and cold in Mesa. There is a winter storm warning in the Sedona area. We’ll stay local, take a day trip in the cold rain, and avoid the snow.

Honestly, I feel great about this spring break. I feel rejuvenated. I’ve thought deeply about my classroom; appreciate my kids even more because, even though we have been apart this week, they have lived with me in their writing samples, and in stories and videos. It makes me anxious to get back to them. As I sit here in the lobby of this hotel and look out into the rain, I feel good about these new old friends and about doing this job that I love.

Even though there are mandates and decisions made by people who know next to nothing about how children learn, and there are cutbacks and furlough days and high stakes tests and all of the crazy stuff around teaching, when it comes down to it, we are 20 – 25 people in a room trying to outgrow ourselves by teaching and learning new stuff, practicing, sharing, questioning and raising each other up. It is a good gig. How could I do anything else?

As I gaze into the cold Arizona rain, I am filled with hope.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Smellophobia Part 2

This is Part 2 of story I started a couple of weeks ago. If you want to read Part 1 to "refresh" your memory click here. In Part 1, I described a peculiar affliction one of my former students had. The smells in the cafeteria made him sick. We seemed to deal with it OK. It sort of came to a climax here...

It was the blend of odors that made my little friend Brandon sick. Regularly. We hoped that he would simply grow out of it. Unfortunately, on this particular day, he had not.

Brandon was very pale when we sat down, a little “green around the gills” my dad would have said. He was on free or reduced lunch, so he got a school lunch every day. Most of my children did. There were some in the class who chose cabbage over green beans. The way they prepared it was pretty unhealthy, swimming in butter and salt. Brandon looked down at his lunch but obviously had no appetite. He was sweaty and had dark circles under his eyes. He wasn’t a hair-trigger kid. He was used to the routine. I was certain that if he was about to barf, he would be able to make it outside. Sadly, I was wrong.

I was not looking directly at Brandon, but when I heard the shrieks I knew what had happened. When I looked at Brandon I could see a stringer of spit dangling from his lower lip and on the lunch tray in front of him was a puddle of vomit. He had a miserable sick look on his face. It was a look of embarrassment as well as pain and discomfort.

I stood up to comfort him and send someone for a custodian. Before I could get over to him, I glanced at Amy, his neighbor at the lunch table. She looked down at the oozy, watery mess on the tray and table and her eyes rolled back. In an instant she threw up in her lunch tray.

The smell was overpowering and the children were beginning to scream and jump out of their seats, to point, cover their mouths and back away. Little Johnny, who was sitting across from where Brandon and Amy had lost their lunches, croaked loudly. He was getting sick too.

It seemed to happen in slow motion. Johnny tried to get up, tried to get to the door as he had seen Brandon do so many times before. But he had just cleared his seat, a bench which ran along the lengthy cafeteria table quite like a long picnic bench, when he simply threw up straight down his front, soaking his shirt and pants and splashing vomit on to his shoes and socks.

That pretty much cleared the table. And while we gathered the children in the entrance to the cafeteria, the school nurse took the sick children over to the nurse’s office to get them cleaned up. The custodial crew was called from the various corners of the building to spread that sawdust stuff with the disinfectant in it over the affected areas and to sweep it up, then mop with the stinky string mop they used to swab out the tiled areas.

I suppose it could have been worse, but that was a record for me, one which I hope will never be broken during the rest of my years as a teacher.

I never asked Brandon to go into the cafeteria again if he didn’t want to go. If he had that sinking feeling on the way to lunch he just ate in the office area. When I left Davis Elementary, Brandon was in about third grade and I think he nearly outgrew his smellophobia.

Brandon would be about 30 now. I wonder if he has developed a stronger stomach and a greater tolerance for smells. I wonder if he has passed on that delicate part of his disposition to his own children.

I wonder if he has ever even tasted boiled cabbage?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Darla vs. Nikki

(another new post below)

You must check out this scoop by The Daily Gamecock, USC's daily rag. This won't mean much to those of you outside of SC, but to those who know about the Nikki Haley vs. Darla Moore controversy, this is candy.

Darla buys Governor’s mansion

In $50 million purchase, business tycoon says house needs ‘fresh set of eyes’

Saucy Dawsey


South Carolina no longer has a governor’s mansion.

In a surprising purchase, business tycoon Darla Moore bought the historic downtown mansion for $50 million Thursday afternoon. The house marks her 68th property nationally and fifth inside the state.

“The house needs a fresh set of eyes,” Moore said in a statement. “The current inhabitant didn’t have the same vision for this house that I did. I believe in excellence in everything I do, and I wanted excellence for this house. I breed excellence, and those who do not breed excellence are the kind of people that I don’t care to be around.”

The house wasn’t up for sale, as it was a state-owned historic property that laws said the state couldn’t sell. But Moore found a little-known loophole in the law, convinced

the legislature to sell the house and flew in for the legal hearings in a three-hour period Thursday afternoon. She was back in her California mansion by 5 p.m.

It left current Gov. Nikki Haley scrambling to move her possessions out of the house. She will move into a one-bedroom apartment near Williams-Brice Stadium.

Haley didn’t return calls for comment, but her spokesman said the move represented her continuing desire for smaller government.

“We didn’t need this big house,” the spokesman said in a statement. “When a state is trying to go back to the basic tenets of government, it surely doesn’t need to fund a mansion. We thank Darla Moore for her continued service to this state.”

The spokesman said Haley would likely appear in an upcoming edition of a TLC apartment remodeling show and would consider writing a how-to book on downsizing.

Moore said she doesn’t plan to live in the house but will use it for an annual visit back to her home state. She will decorate the house

and build a $10 million personal shrine to each business school student who graduates from the University of South Carolina. Her estimated wealth of $685 trillion could run out within 126 years, according to current projections, but it’s unlikely.

Moore might also teach an occasional seminar inside the house on how to perfect a beautiful Southern accent and look stunning. She might also teach others how to give billions away.

She will bar all media members from the house.

Sources near Moore say she may be purchasing other properties soon. During last week’s visit to campus, she cast an adoring eye toward the Horseshoe. University leaders say they’d like to keep the historic Horseshoe but would sell if Moore wished to buy it.

“If Darla Moore wants the Horseshoe, who are we to say no?” said a well-dressed USC spokeswoman who refused to provide her name. “We believe in doing whatever Ms......

If you have really gotten this far, you probably realize this was a April's Fools Joke. Pretty good, hmm?

Me and My Dog

Old Sasha, our yellow lab, is lying on her big pillow on the kitchen floor. She snuffles and snores when she sleeps deeply. Now that she has gotten to the great old age of 12 (80 - or something like that - in dog years), her face sags a little and her eyes droop when she wakes up. We have all of this in common now. I never used to snore or have a baggy face when I woke up. How did that happen?

When she was a pup we didn’t bother to get her AKC official papers. We never saw the reason. We didn’t care. We fell in love with her spunky spirit and her goofiness, not her breed. We got her toward the end of July and she was eight weeks old. Since we never got her papers, we never found out her exact birthday. So I just gave her mine in the end of May. Close enough.

When I turned 49 she was 7 (49 - or something like - that in dog years). I was starting to feel my age. She didn’t seem to feel that old as far as I could tell. When we went on walks she was still pulling us like crazy. We still had to be careful about leaving stuff out that she could destroy. When she was bored and we weren’t around, we would come home and find her dog bed in shreds. Every once in a while she would pull something crazy like steal a loaf of bread. Just being a dog.

The other day Heidi ran into Travis, the guy we bought her from. She asked him about how long labs live. He said most live to be about 12 or 13. She has been slowing down. It used to be that we would walk our two-and-a-half mile circuit and she would still be yanking me on the leash. Her energy was endless. At times it was annoying.

Now when we walk we have to just take her a few tenths of a mile down to the dock where Heidi and I pause, take in the view of the lake, kiss and hug and head home. Then we put her in and take the rest of our walk. Even that little bit of a walk leaves her limping the next day. But she is always game to go out. There is nothing she likes better than taking us for a walk. ‘Walk’ is one of her human words and she perks up when she hears it said. She gets up and paces and whines and pants. If she hears the word and sees us put on a jacket, she is as happy as a creature can be.

I have a lot in common with Sasha.

  • We have the same birthday. Well, approximately.
  • Our faces are sagging a bit. I mentioned that earlier. She looks better with a sag than I do. Whatchagonnado?
  • We are both a little sore after exercise. I used to limp, but I had arthroscopic surgery on both of my knees. That’s probably not in the cards for her.
  • We love to see each other at the end of the day. No matter what happened in the human-to-human world, all of that is forgotten when we see each other after work. She’s there waiting anxiously for me.
  • The same is true in the mornings. I am the first one up. She is right behind me. When I roll out of bed every morning, we spend about 5 minutes loving each other up before starting the day in earnest. It’s important to both of us.
  • We both like the outdoors, although both of us droop in weather over about 98 degrees.
  • Neither of us run or walk as fast as we used to.
  • Both of us helped raise these two little boys; we have watched them become young men. We both watched Dev go to college. We’re both glad when he comes home.
  • We are both fairly fastidious. She has never peed or pooped in the house. Never. Not even when she was a pup. When she was young I put small handles on the doors of our screened porch and taught her to open them so she can come and go as she pleases. A couple of weeks ago she pushed the door open to get in. Normally she would walk up to the glass door and paw it to let us know she wants in. But the screen door was swollen from the rain so when she pushed it open it got stuck. I watched her. She looked a little uncomfortable for a moment then turned around and pushed the door from the inside to close it. Satisfied, she let me know she wanted inside the house.
  • We love the very same people. She can hear the family cars far before I can. She is up and in the doorway, tail wagging, big old dog smile on her face ready to greet the fam. I’m right behind her. Colin said the other day that he spends about half an hour a day petting her up. That is time well spent.
  • Our eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. While I wear glasses full time, hers are becoming a little bleary.
  • We both snore a little.
  • Both of our muzzles are turning white. I guess it started happening at the same time too. I was about 48 or 49. She was about 7. The same age right?

I know it is probably goofy to write about your dog. But we realized the other day when Travis said that his labs only live to be about 12 or 13 that Sasha’s days are numbered. Of course they have always been numbered, but these days left, when she is relatively healthy, are precious.

I ran across this poem recently. It seems to fit. It was written in 1925. I guess the simple things in life really don’t change.


There is one best place to bury a dog.
 If you bury him in this spot, he will
 come to you when you call - come to you 
over the grim, dim frontier of death, 
and down the well-remembered path, 
and to your side again.

And though you call a dozen living 
dogs to heel, they shall not growl at
 him, nor resent his coming,
 for he belongs there.

People may scoff at you, who see 
no lightest blade of grass bent by his 
footfall, who hear no whimper, people 
who may never really have had a dog. 
Smile at them, for you shall know 
something that is hidden from them, 
and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a good
 dog is in the heart of his master.

--- Ben Hur Lampman ---