My nomination for Ms. Tidy 2020

Hi everyone,

Now see, this is why I don’t like to invite people over to our house. The woman wants everything to be perfect. I got replacing all the furniture and painting the house. I even went along with adding on the new guest bedroom. But sweeping off the pool steps? Really?

Do you know my M.O.W.? Are you sure?

Hi everyone,

Although sometimes I refer to Sandy as my M.O.W. many of you know what a wonderful counselor she was, first at Cherokee Middle School and then at Kickapoo High School in Springfield. She graduated from Drury University and later earned her masters in Guidance and Counseling from University of Missouri in Kansas City. Her first teaching post was in Evansville, Indiana where she taught high school English and Spanish. When we moved to Kansas City, she taught and began her counseling career there. One of the cancelled events that I hated most was last month when Sandy was among a handful of past teachers at Kickapoo who were to be honored by popular vote from alumni of the school. I hope they will reschedule the event.

What you may not know about Sandy is what an important role she played in shaping and leading a movement that began in the 1960s and changed the educational landscape of America. What became known as ACLD, an acronym for Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (later changed to ALD), began when parents and teachers scattered across the country became aware that some children struggled in one or more areas of learning although in many cases they were normal otherwise, yet there was no formal recognition of the problem or system in place to accommodate the special needs of those children. Something needed to be done and it was mostly parents who led the way.

One pioneer in the movement to recognize and deal with the issues associated with learning disabilities was Janet Trotter in Springfield. In a few short years other strong leaders appeared in Missouri and elsewhere. In Kansas City Sandy joined the movement and from 1972-75 served as President of the Missouri chapter of what was rapidly becoming a national organization. Janet held the office previously. In 1978 Sandy was chairman of a 4-day International ACLD Conference held in Kansas City, which drew 4,500 people from America and abroad to hear hundreds of speakers from the fields of education, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. It took 27 people on the Program Committee and 19 on the Arrangements Committee to pull it off. I’ve forgotten how much money the conference earned for the organization but I think it was more than $85,000.

In 1982 Sandy and Virginia Anderson put together a 196-page cookbook called THE ACLD PANTRY COOKBOOK, which included favorite recipes of famous and not so famous cooks across the United States. The Christmas before the book came out we didn’t even get out tree up. It was all hands on deck to sort and prioritize recipes from everywhere that were layered on every conceivable surface in the house. Again, I don’t remember how much money Sandy and Virginia earned for ACLD but it was substantial.

Sandy was elected to the national board of directors and became deeply involved in taking the cause to Washington where she sat in a meeting at the White House to lobby for action and support of a bill that eventually was passed into law and at last gave official recognition and legal rights to untold numbers of young people then and to all who would and will follow. The impact of those years and those women and men and that law are hard overstate. Many fine people were involved in that movement, including Arthur Mallory, former president of Missouri State University and Commissioner of Education for the state of Missouri who took a leadership role. Professionals in many fields became involved in the cause and spoke out to help get something done. But it was parents who led the way, moms and dads and friends who volunteered untold hours to help make a difference.

I have been privileged to know Janet Trotter and other tough, don’t-tell-me-we-can’t-do-this women who led the charge during those critical years: Elinor Burstein, Jackie McKinsey, Elaine Fry, Jane Fast, Juanita Blevins, others. When Juanita died two years ago we drove to Kansas City to attend her funeral.

Sandy has been recognized on two occasions for what she helped accomplish for children everywhere. Drury gave her an Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1979 based, in part, on her involvement in the movement, and Missouri ACLD gave her a bronze statue that rests quietly on a window ledge in the hall to our bedroom. But I think she ought to have a life size statue on the public square. I think all these wonderful women should. They are heroes that history will overlook if someone doesn’t write a book about them or bring together a museum-quality display of the evidence of their struggles and triumphs when everything was on the line.

And that, friends, is my M.O.W.

P.S. I was so focused on Sandy’s accomplishments in education that I neglected to even mention her thirty-four years as a business woman. In 1984, Sandy and I became partners with Maryann and Larry Wakefield to purchase an outstanding gift store in Springfield called Gamble’s. A few years later we bought the Wakefield half and became full owners. After school until she retired and full time after that Sandy was at the store or on buying trips to Dallas, Kansas City, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and anywhere else she could find unique and beautiful products for the store. Gamble’s stood for excellence, quality, customer service, and Sandy’s passion for Waterford Crystal, Baccarat Crystal, Lladro Porcelains, and dozens of other lines, many of which only Gamble’s was licensed to carry. Just a little something she did in her spare time for 3 1/2 decades.

Oh Miss Toad, won’t you marry me?

Hi everyone,

Two nights ago, nearly drowned by the sound of heavy rain, we heard the first shrill singing from male toads looking for love in the shallow pond of filthy water accumulated on our pool cover. Yesterday I could see three of them clinging to the edges of the vinyl lining. In 2017 we had nearly a dozen, mostly males but enough females to send the guys into ecstasy. When the men came to open the pool for the summer, they scooped out most of the toads but they returned later, unable to resist that fresh, chlorinated water, even though it must have tasted terrible to them.

I am glad to see the toads back this year. Last night was clear and still and their voices rang loud and true so that every female toad around the lake must have heard their eager invitations. But I know something they don’t know. This isn’t a pond or puddle. There is a concrete lip around the edge much taller than a toad. A sad truth about leaping in is that there’s no way out for a small creature, even one that can hop. In the past, we’ve seen the females answer the call and leap in to greet their lovers. We’ve watched the males fight and struggle for mating rights. We’ve seen the eggs strewn among leaves floating in the water, and we’ve scooped out the exhausted bodies, some still alive, others beyond saving.

Yesterday I found a small piece of vinyl and draped it over the edge of the pool to provide a way for this year’s toads to leave after their work is accomplished. One of the guys found it right away and by day’s end all three were perched on the tiny landing in the water the vinyl offered. But they didn’t seem to be able to scale the smooth material. I found a shingle from a former roof and added that to the vinyl. I think that might have done the trick. For now the chorus seems in no hurry to leave. They have a far more important issue on their minds. Matters of life and death can wait. First, bring on the girls!

Making it work

BULLETIN: I’m very happy to announce that Gregory K. Pincus just posted me today as one of his 30 poets in 30 days feature. Thank you, Greg! For those interested, the link is

Hi everyone,

Not much to report this chilly Sunday morning. I slept in a little; hope to make a couple of videos later today for teachers and librarians. I’ve set out CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS (Boyds Mills & Kane) and A PLACE TO START A FAMILY (Charlesbridge). Maybe this time the light will be good in some other room in the house other than the guest bathroom where I had to sit last time.

Now that Missouri is under a stay at home rule and we’re being told to wear masks when we go for groceries, Sandy and I need to get masks. I’ve seen examples on TV of how to make them. This morning I’ll check Google to see what might be available to order.

Yesterday I received a copy of the April issue of “Literary License,” the publication of The Society of Midland Authors. This one includes pictures with quotes of three of us in the 12-state midland region about how we are “moving forward on (our) book projects amid the COVID-19 social distancing.” The other two authors are Margaret McMullan and Cynthia Clampitt. The picture I’ve posted today is a favorite and was taken in Chicago at the annual awards dinner of The Society of Midland Authors in 2017. That year NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON’T (Charlesbridge) was chosen by the society as the best nonfiction book of the year for children. Sandy, Robin, and Jeff were all there. Jeff took the picture and you can see part of Robin behind me. It was a wonderful occasion.

Seeing some customers

Hi everyone,

I had fun yesterday afternoon visiting the combined classes of 1st grade students at Rountree Elementary School in Springfield. The kids were familiar with three of my books and with teachers’ help had prepared questions to ask me. I got lots of hugs and bright smiles and excellent questions. A lovely way to spend a while and get the new year off to a good start. Sandy attended Rountree, our daughter Robin went there, too, and an aunt and uncle lived a block away, so I have a soft spot for that school.

Next week I’ll be at David Harrison Elementary talking to 4th graders. I sort of have a soft spot for that school too!