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Dr. B. Smart and the Invasive Vine

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“The wild grapevine is taking over the woods again,” Bernadette hears Papa say to Mama.  “I need to go pull it down before it gets too big and strangles out the trees.”

“Yes,” Mama replies, “I’d noticed that it was getting unruly the last time I was out there.  Why don’t you take Bernadette and Martha Washington with you? Martha can chase squirrels while Bernadette helps you pull.”

“Excellent idea,” Papa answers.

Bernadette bounds into the kitchen.  “Sir!” she cries. “I just received notice that you have need for a pair of fearless jungle explorers to help you eradicate a dangerously invasive vine from the rainforest!”

“Why, yes,” the wizened botanist replies.  “Do you know of any such explorers brave enough to come to my aid?”

“Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Dr. Bernadette Smart, Jungle Explorer Extraordinaire.  I have much experience with these terrible plants, and my companion Martha Washington will accompany us.  She is a skilled hunter and will protect us from the jungle beasts.”

“Dr. Smart, I am pleased to accept your offer,” the botanist says as he bows to her.  “Are you and your companion prepared to depart immediately?”

“Most certainly!” replies Dr. Smart.  She whistles to Martha Washington, who is at her side in a moment.  Once Dr. Smart explains the gravity of the task, Washington sets her face toward the rainforest ready to plunge into the challenge.

Clothed in long sleeves and long pants to protect their skin from foliage such as the dreaded poisonicus ivycus, and hats to ward off blood-sucking insects like tickus grossicus, Dr. Smart and the old botanist enter the jungle.  Even the edge of the forest holds danger, as large raspberricus thornicus bushes grab at their sleeves.  “We must be careful,” Dr. Smart advises.  “The jungle is not a friendly place to the unwise intruder.”

“Agreed,” says the old botanist.  “Shall I precede you down the path?”

“Perhaps Washington ought to go first, to be sure no beasts lie in wait,” Dr. Smart suggests.

“Ah, your wisdom exceeds your years, Dr. Smart.  Washington? Go on!”

Mighty hunter Martha Washington trots ahead of them, sniffing her surroundings.  Soon she leaves the path. “I do believe she has caught the scent of the fierce squirrelicus brownicus,” Dr. Smart surmises.  “She will run it off while we attend to the task before us.”

Dr. Bernadette Smart and the old botanist turn their attention to the treacherous vines just ahead of them.  “Ah, yes. Their encroachment on the surrounding foliage certainly could spell death for the forest,” she nods, squinting her hazel eyes at the vines and tucking her brown hair more securely into her cap.  The humidity has begun to frizz her hair and she is grateful the hat will keep it out of her way while she works.

The old botanist hands Dr. Smart a pair of gloves, and they set to work.  Sometimes they each take hold of separate vines, and sometimes they must pull together when the organism has wound itself tightly around its tree victim.  With great satisfaction, the two pull until the tendrils let go. The botanist cuts the vines with his strong-jawed clippers, making sure the ends of the vines will not re-root into the ground.  As they work, the devoted Washington checks frequently on their safety running off again to frighten away any number of jungle beasts.

Sweat trickles down Dr. Smart’s back.  The vines scratch at her cheeks, but still she pulls while the botanist yanks and cuts and piles.  The whine of enormous mosquitoes (mosquitocus giganticus) fills her ears.

“Dr. Smart, I do believe our task is complete,” the botanist finally declares.  “If you will help me drag the vines out so we can burn them, we can call it a day.”

The promise of the end in sight bolsters Dr. Smart’s energy.  She grabs hold of as many vines as she can, and, whistling again to Washington, begins the trek out of the jungle.  The rainforest becomes less dense, and sunlight peeks through leaves. Finally, she can see the clearing ahead, and she feels more spring in her step.

With the help of the old botanist, Dr. Smart piles the vines into a tower, which the man sets afire.  Washington throws herself on the grass, wiggling and scratching – whether from mosquito bites or the delight of the hunt, Dr. Smart cannot tell.  Washington has some strange ways.

The old botanist takes off his hat and wipes his brow with his forearm.  “I thank you heartily, Dr. Smart,” he says. “The task was less daunting with you and Washington at my side.”

“My pleasure,” replies Dr. Smart.  “The only thing that could make our accomplishment sweeter would be –”

“Bernadette! Danny!  Want some lemonade?” Mama’s voice sings from the back porch.

“Lemonade!” Bernadette grins.  She and Martha Washington race to the house, with Papa loping along behind.


Miss Mayor

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A Bernadette Smart Adventure



In March, the sunshine kisses the frozen ground and begins to soften the ice into mud.  The days lengthen, the time shifts, and the sun sets later.  Bernadette Smart, Mayor of Animal Town, pulls on her jacket and ties back her hair.  It’s time for canvassing her constituents.

She swings her leg over her bicycle and pedals hard to the south.  Her first visit is to the wild ducks and geese who live on the river.  Some of her council members feel that the wild animals aren’t worth her time.  They never vote anyway, so why bother with them?  But Bernadette has a heart for those citizens of her town.  And how better to make them responsible, voting citizens than to show them that their Mayor cares for them?  At the park, she dismounts her bike and stands it responsibly against a tree.  Her shoes become muddy as she treads carefully down to the bank.  She reaches into her pockets and pulls out bread scraps.  Her friends hear her and come running – er, waddling – to see her. They tell her the news (the nests being built, the migraters coming back) and their complaints (erosion on the bank just past the subdivision, the old tires in the river.)  She nods and commiserates, promising to look into the issues.

Her next stop is at the Field of the Seven Horses.  They come trotting toward her, and she carefully distributes one sugar cube to each animal.  Callie – a tan mare with bleach blonde hair, as if she’s a native Californian – nuzzles her and requests a nose rub.  These are carefree horses with few complaints.  They’re well fed and not worked hard.  In fact, Callie would like to have more to do, and Mayor Smart promises to look into a riding program she can get the mare involved in.  Old Blackburn, a wizened black gelding with gray around his muzzle, grumbles that he’s heard the horses are going to have to share their pasture with goats soon.  Goats! he snorts.  Bernadette tries to convince him that the company would be good for him, but Blackburn will not listen.  She pats his flank, assuring him that he’s complained about that rumor for the last two years and nothing has come of it.  He snorts again and saunters in the other direction.  With one more nose rub for Callie, Bernadette takes her leave.

Just a little bit north and around a bend is a small goat farm, and Bernadette loves visiting, even though she’d never tell Blackburn.  The goats, though impossible to talk to, run around, climbing onto concrete blocks, bounding in and out of old tires, and balancing on seesaws.  They are fun-loving and mischievous.  She’s had to speak sternly to them more than once about property lines and staying inside their boundaries.  They’ve been doing better lately, and no one has called to complain in the last month or two, so she leaves off scolding them today.  After watching them for a while and acknowledging their friendly baas, she moves on.

Her last visit for the day is with the barn cats just across the street from her home.  There’s a new litter of kittens, and the Mayor checks in to be sure Minnie, the young mother, has everything she needs.  She reminds Minnie to keep her children out of trouble – there have been fights among neighborhood cats, and that’s no good for Animal Town.  Keeping the peace is an important part of Mayor Smart’s job.

Finally, Bernadette returns home, parks her bike in the shed, and goes inside to make notes about her visits.  She is confident it will be a productive spring in Animal Town.

Dr. Smart’s Antarctic Expedition


The temperature hovers around forty below.  Dr. Bernadette Smart is American and automatically thinks in Fahrenheit, but she knows that at this temperature, it doesn’t matter.  First, forty below is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius.  And second, either way, it’s just really darn cold.

Not that she was unprepared.  She knew that when traveling to the southernmost continent in the world  to study the effect of amounts of sunlight on researchers, she’d experience a climate unlike any she’d ever encountered.  Right now, in January, for example, it is daylight all the time.  There is no sunrise or sunset.  No dawn or dusk.  Just noon, all day long.  

Even for Bernadette, who loves natural light, this seems almost excessive.  She knows that six months from now, when it will be night all the time, her mood will be very different.

But for the moment, she revels in the sunlight glinting off the ice.  She has volunteered to go with her trusty canine companion, Martha Washington, to meet the mail plane.  The path is clearly marked to the landing strip and the weather is forecasted to be clear and calm, so she has no fears.  Besides, despite the cold, she needed desperately to get out of the research facility and into the fresh air.

The spikes on the bottom of her boots crunch in the ice as the dog bounds beside her.  She is bundled up so that nothing is exposed but her eyes, which scan the horizon for animals and birds.

Finally, she spies the mail station up ahead.  The plane is just taking off again, she sees, and she opens the door to the shelter where the mail for her facility will have been left.  She steps in, gathers the items, and takes a deep breath to prepare herself for the long walk back.

She looks through the deliveries, hoping for a care package from home.  She misses her mom’s cookies.

A car zooms by, bringing her mind back to where she really is, in Whitetail, Indiana.  She waves at the neighbor who is shoveling his driveway and says, “C’mon, Martha Washington.  Let’s take the mail back to the house and see if Mom has those cookies out of the oven yet.”


Detta and the Famous Hollywood Client


Surrounded by all the important implements an elite Hollywood hairstylist needs, Bernadette (known to her customers as Detta) welcomes her newest client.  “Good morning, dahling!” she gushes.  Famous Hollywood actresses like it when you gush to them.  The customer circles the chair before taking her seat.  She says nothing in reply to Detta, but that is all right.  This stylist has learned that sometimes her clients don’t like to talk, so Detta has learned to fill the silence.

“Oh, what lovely locks you have, Mrs. Washington,” she sighs.  “And such thick hair.  Yes, I can see that it would feel heavy and hot this time of year.  I’ll give you a darling short style for the summer.”

Detta sets to work, brushing, trimming, shaping.  Thick curls fall to the floor, and Mrs. Washington looks happier each moment, though she still never speaks a word.

“Quite a summer for movies, isn’t it?” Detta asks politely.  Hollywood actresses like it when you talk about their trade.  “Although there are far too many sequels for my taste.  Oh, that’s not to say they won’t be wonderful.  I just like to see new ideas in the theaters.

“Now that action movie – Reckless, I think it’s called – looks quite exciting, but I think they should have chosen you for the lead, my dear, instead of What’s-Her-Name.  You are so much more athletic and stunning.”  Detta spies a hint of a smile on Mrs. Washington’s face.  Hollywood stars like to be flattered.

Detta’s skill is tested on this client, however, and make no mistake.  So much hair, some of it tightly curled and some of it wiry – well, it is just good that this hairdresser has years of specialized training and knows how to make the moppiest hair look perfectly coiffed.

A few more snips, and another brushing, and the hair is done.  “Shall we move on to the manicure?” Detta asks sweetly.

She wields the tools with precision, trimming Mrs. Washington’s nails to the perfect length and buffing them to a shine.  Mrs. Washington does not like polish, so Detta’s task is short.

“Well, dahling, are you satisfied with your new look?” the stylist asks as she steps back from her client.  Mrs. Washington stands and smiles.  Then she shakes her entire body and bounds away from the salon.

“Thanks for trimming the dog, Bernadette,” Mama calls from the kitchen.  “I know Martha Washington will feel better without all that fur for the summer.  Did you trim her nails, too?”

“Yes, Mama!” Bernadette answers, sweeping up the dog hair and nail clippings.  As she scoops it all into the trash can, she feels the satisfaction of knowing that she, Detta Smart, stylist to the stars, has another happy client.

Lady Bernadette and the Devoted Suitor


The Lady Bernadette sits on the verandah, fanning herself and sipping lemonade.  It is a warm day, and her suitor has come to call. Lady Bernadette has yet to decide about Mr. W.  His black hair and bright eyes are charming to be certain.  And flirtatious!  My, my.  With what boldness he seeks affection!

Mr. W. has been enjoying the morning in Lady Bernadette’s company (her mother is chaperoning from just inside the house, so there is no impropriety.)  Movement in the grasses catches his eye.

He has brought his hunting gear with him, as he has planned to go for a hunt today after calling upon Lady Bernadette.  Her beauty kept him transfixed longer than he anticipated, so his start is delayed.  The lady sees his eyes flit to the quarry in the field.

“Please,” Lady Bernadette intones.  “Go on with your hunt.  I will not be offended in the least.”  He gives her a questioning look, as if to be sure she means what she says.  “Oh, sir.  I am not one of those English noblewomen who plays games with her suitors.  If you wish to hunt, by all means, track your prey!  Fret not about my feelings, for I assure you I do not wish to keep you when you desire to go.  You have, after all, left me in no doubt of your attachment to me, if I may be so bold as to mention it.”

Mr. W. bows to her; then he bounds off the verandah and begins stalking the animal.  Lady Bernadette, having not the keen eye of a hunter, can not see what he is tracking; she can see only the intensity with which he tracks it.

Soon, Mr. W. is so deep in the tall grasses of the meadow that Lady Bernadette can no longer see him at all, though she observes his movements by the way the vegetation bends and sways as he pushes it aside.

The lady adjusts her sunhat and takes another sip of lemonade.  She knows she is fortunate to have such a devoted suitor as Mr. W.  She does not even mind his preoccupation with hunting.  “Every gentleman should have a hobby to keep him occupied,” she says to herself.  “Noblemen who are bored are simply unbearable.”  She enjoys his company, adores his affection, is enamored by his good looks.  “Still,” she wonders.  “Do I love him?”

A quick, sharp movement in the grass catches her eye.  She watches as a brief tussle ensues.  Lady Bernadette watches as Mr. W. emerges from the meadow with his catch and trots directly toward her.

Obviously terribly pleased with himself, Mr. W. deposits his game at the lady’s feet just as her mother exits the house onto the verandah.

“Ah, Mr. Wiggles brings you the spoils once again,” Mama observes.

The young gentleman has eyes only for Lady Bernadette, but the lady looks at her mother over his head as he sits at her feet.  “Yes.  He seems to believe he must earn my affection with such gifts.”

The older woman smiles.  “Shall I dispose of it?”

“If you don’t mind,” Lady Bernadette replies.  “I would be ever so grateful.”

Bernadette scoops up the cat to give him the appreciation he seeks, keeping his head turned so he doesn’t see Mama pick up the dead mouse by its tail and hurl it back into the meadow.

Mr. Wiggles purrs with satisfaction.

What Summer is About

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On Sunday, I saw one of my students at the grocery store. We said hello to each other and I asked if she was having a good summer. She said she was, but lamented that it was going too fast and that it seemed to be nearly over already. I assured her that we had five weeks left – I had counted – and she has plenty of time to relax.

Of course, I have to remind myself of that as well. I don’t feel as stressed out as I did last summer, when I was trying to develop an entire new teacher induction program from scratch, but I’ve still been plenty busy, and certainly not ready to go back to the classroom yet.

Husband and I vacationed in Prince Edward Island at the end of May and beginning of June. It was a lot of driving – two days of driving there and two days back, plus quite a bit of time in the car as we explored the island. Husband drove every last mile of it, which made us both happy. He loves to drive; I prefer to gaze out the windows until the hum of the motor and the movement of the car lullaby me to sleep. (And then I wake up with a sore back and a stiff neck.) We listened to seven audiobooks on the trip. While we were there, we went sailing (sort of – the wind died so we were really just out on an engine-powered boat that has the ability to sail). We kayaked out into the ocean (with a guide) till we found a sand bar where we dug for clams, and then kayaked back and assisted our guide in making (and eating!) clam chowder. We visited Green Gables (walking through the Haunted Wood and Lover’s Lane), toured an alpaca farm, walked along several beaches, and ate a lot of seafood. Lobster, clams, haddock, crab, mussels, and oysters.


PEI is beautiful. Every single part of it is picturesque, and most of it is rural. I think Husband would like to live there. He’d have to live there without me, though, because one lady told us that last year, there was still snow on the ground at the beginning of June. No, thank you. Indiana might get miserably hot and humid, but at least our winter doesn’t last eight months. Of course, that’s one thing Husband would like about it.

Coming home made me happy. Everything is green here in the summer, and when the thunderstorms aren’t rolling through, the sun shines mightily.


In June, Husband did some sand sculpting, and I picked raspberries and visited with friends I haven’t seen in ages. He worked on installing I-beams in the big carport we’d had put up in the spring, as part of setting up his wood shop to work on the timber frame house he is building.


I went to a workshop on Project-Based Learning and started the second course in my Master’s program in Curriculum and Educational Technology. As July began, he drew designs for ice sculptures and house plans while he watched movies, and I listened to teacher podcasts while I washed the dishes or made dinner. We put up 13 bales of hay from our field, and then it rained three and a half inches in about two hours, and the hay – which we’d put in the barn but not in the hay loft – got wet because the barn floods. (Lesson learned.) He’s been playing soccer. I’ve been running and biking… and going to yoga, which seems a very middle-aged-woman-thing to do, but hey, I’m a middle-aged woman and I’m trying to embrace that. Besides, yoga helps keeps me flexible since I never remember to stretch after I run.

My book has languished. I’ve been waiting for feedback from a few of my students who promised to read my manuscript and let me know what they thought. And just like adults, when kids don’t have deadlines, sometimes they take a long time to get things done. It’s not such a bad thing, though. Most of my creative energies have gone into developing PBL unit plans, drafting emails to our new teachers and organizing their orientation, responding to online discussions for my class, and coming up with ways to redesign my classroom, both physically and culturally. Sometimes I play the ukulele. Sometimes I knit… and on days like today, I rip out twenty rows of knitting because I made a huge mistake waaaaay back there.

Summer, I’ve decided, isn’t about being lazy. It’s about giving my mind a rest by doing other things, by stretching it in new ways.

An Exciting Novel Update


Word Count: 23,338.

The first draft of my novel, A Rainbow Above You, is finished!

Now I must embark upon the arduous journey of revision, revision, revision.  But for now, I’m going to bask in the joy that the first draft is DONE!