Posts Categorized: Kindness

The Square of the Hypotenuse . . . or, A Useful Thing I Learned in Math Class

Here, it's the slanty side, labeled "c." In Right Triangle Land, the hypotenuse is always "c."

Here, it’s the slanty side, labeled “c.” In Right Triangle Land, the hypotenuse is always “c.”

I don’t know if it happened in some regular math class, or in Algebra or in Geometry, or in all of them, but at some point I learned the term “hypotenuse” and what it meant–which is: In a Right Triangle (which is any triangle that has a right angle [90°]), the side opposite that right angle is called the hypotenuse. And I find the idea useful when I’m walking in parking lots.

When I’m shopping, let’s say at Target, and I leave the store with my bag(s) and maybe a cart, I’ve got to walk across two lanes of parking lot traffic to get to the parked cars. The drivers in those lanes are, of course, or at least we hope of course, driving pretty slowly. One: they’re trying to be careful of pedestrians entering and leaving the store. Two: they’re trying to find good parking spots. Hmm. I think finding the parking spots might be their first priority, and the shopping public a little further down their list of concerns. But, ordinarily, no one is speeding in that space in front of the store’s entrances. (And, there are a couple of stop signs, too.)

When shoppers leave the store, they usually head precisely toward the spaces where their cars are parked, because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line (also a Geometry fact).


IMG_4212Let’s say that some guy parked his white car in the spot that’s way over on the left side of the photo. He may have parked there because he’s got to return something, and the Customer Service counter is by that closest door, the one at the front of the right-hand side on the photo. He returns his merchandise and then thinks that he might like to have a latte from the Target Starbuck’s, so he walks on down there. Then, he thinks he’s hungry, too, and a pretzel would be tasty. The snack bar is right beside the farther door, so he gets his pretzel and walks out that door. Then, he realizes that he’s gone out the wrong door, but it’s early in the morning and not blazing hot, yet. So he starts walking toward his car. He walks in a straight line (that being the shortest distance), from the door to his car, i.e. diagonally across the whole length of those lanes. And, if I and someone else are driving up towards him, and a couple of other cars are approaching from behind him, we’ve all got to stop and wait for him to make that long walk. We might be able to inch up some, but basically, at some point, his walking is slowing down both lanes of car traffic. Instead, the more helpful route would have been to leave the building and walk straight across that lane where cars drive (see Side a, above). Then, he could walk down Side b, towards his parked car, still having to cross the distance between the lines of parked cars where vehicles might be driving, but there wouldn’t be quite as much traffic slow-down. Or, he could have walked all the way down the sidewalk in front of the building (side b) and then across the busier lanes (side a). And, obviously, at 8:30 in the morning (photo time), it’s not much of an issue. But, on a Saturday afternoon. Ollie, Mollie, Gollie. It really would help a lot!


Same thing at the HEB grocery store. There is a much wider space for cars driving back and forth, coming and going, searching for the best place to park. But the grocery store shoppers often have filled-to-the-brim carts and sometimes lots of family members, some of them rather short. Walking straight across instead of opting for the lengthier, diagonal route, would be safer.


In Math Classdom, the hypotenuse is famous for its place in the Pythagorean theorem, which Wikipedia defines as:

In mathematics, the Pythagorean theorem, also known as Pythagoras’s theorem, is a fundamental relation in Euclidean geometry among the three sides of a right triangle. It states that the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. The theorem can be written as an equation relating the lengths of the sides a, b and c, often called the “Pythagorean equation”:[1]


where c represents the length of the hypotenuse and a and b the lengths of the triangle’s other two sides.

The example we got in Math class was a triangle where side “a” was 3 inches and side “b” was 4 inches and the hypotenuse was 5 inches. So: 3 squared (9) + 4 squared (16) = 5 squared (25).

(If you’re at all interested in reading more, and who wouldn’t be, here’s the Wikipedia link.)


The inside of the Lord’s temple was ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high.

1 Kings 6:2 (Contemporary English Version)

The hypotenuse of that space would have been about  94.87, as per the Calculate the Hypotenuse of a Right Triangle website.

IMG_4208And, something that is not at all germane to this conversation, but look what I found on the front sidewalk this morning. It’s a cicada. It didn’t seem very healthy, but it was early in the morning, and he might have just been fresh out of his little pupating shell. I’ve seen several round holes in the side yard, by the ferns. Maybe it’s cicada coming-out-party time.








Hmmm. What’s in YOUR Back Yard?

I actually wrote this a few years ago, and submitted it to a take-home church magazine published by the Mennonites. They have a theme list, and I proposed it for their “Traditions” issue. I e-mailed it off and heard really quickly from the editor, who said, “I love this story. It’s a great fit for our issue on Humor … Thanks so much….it’s wonderful!” Personally, I thought it was more poignant than humorous, but a sale is a sale, and I made $75.00. The photo wasn’t part of the story, but I thought you might want to see the back yard for yourself, and how it really is pretty spacious.


There apparently aren't any really good photos of my early elementary years' backyard. They all have swing sets and/or birthday parties in them. But you can see how roomy it is.

There apparently aren’t any really good photos of my early elementary years’ backyard. They all have swing sets and/or birthday parties in them. But, in this one, you can see how roomy the space is. (in the rocker: neighbor Mary, Gayle, JoAnne, neighbor Cindy)

I fell for it every year. While I was getting dressed before breakfast, my dad would yell,“Oh look! Come quick! There’s an elephant in the back yard.” I would run to the back door, astonished at the idea that I might actually see a real, live elephant out there. And, of course, there was no elephant.
“April Fool!” my dad would laugh. Ohhhh. I’d get the joke and roll my eyes and laugh with him.
A year is a long time for a little kid, and every year, I’d rush to look, not remembering the joke until I peered out the back door. As I grew older, though, I was part of the ruse, going outside with my little sister, looking around for the missing elephants, threatening not to come in for breakfast until we’d located the elusive beast.
When my sons came along, they would get the early morning phone calls. “It’s for you,” I’d shout. “Granddad needs to talk to you.” The first time, they listened to him for a few seconds, looked at me in great surprise, then headed for the back door. In moments they returned, confused.
“There’s no elephant out there,” they said to me.
“Granddad wants to clear that up for you,” I said, handing back the phone. And I watched their smiles as they listened and understood the joke.
As soon as my sister’s kids were old enough to answer the phone, she would also roust them out of bed on April Fool’s morning, to answer the insistently ringing telephone.
After my sons went off to college, my dad would phone me on March 31, to be sure he had their campus phone numbers and schedules correct. He didn’t want to call too early, but he didn’t want to take a chance on missing them before they went to class, either.
“Be sure you walk around carefully today,” he would say. “I think there have been elephants on campus.”
By then, naturally, everyone knew the gag. It became a way my dad kept in touch with his grandkids. One of the many ways he said, “You are important to me.”
In the fall, a few years ago, my dad got really sick, really fast. He passed away early that November. One Sunday morning, the following spring, I was getting ready for church when the phone rang. The caller ID showed that it was my younger son, who lives with his wife in Brooklyn. I thought it odd that they would phone me on a Sunday morning, when, due to the time difference, they should already be at church.
“Hello” I answered, with a bit of a question in my voice.
“Mom,” he said. “We were just a little worried about you and Dad.”
“Why?” I asked.
“We heard about a big accident there. It’s on the news.” (I hadn’t thought to look at the calendar and was not at all suspicious.)
“Whatever happened?”
“There was a train collision and it seems to be near you,” he explained. (We don’t live anywhere near a train track, but still I was oblivious.)
“It was a circus train,” he went on, and the confusing pieces fell into place.
“A circus train?”
“Yes,” he went on. “And there are animals everywhere. It looks like your neighborhood, and we think there might be an elephant in your back yard. Go check.”
“I will,” I said. And I went to the back windows and looked out.
“No,” I said quietly, through sudden tears. “I’m safe here. No elephants in the back yard. But thanks for letting me know.”
“Well,” he said. “Somebody had to do it.”


 A simple meal with love
is better than a feast
    where there is hatred.

Proverbs 15:17 (Contemporary English Version)

I have a friend who says I grew up in a fairy tale. She’s rather right. It might have been a little more like a 50’s family sitcom. We had enough, and I always felt loved. Even when I kept on going to look out the back door on April 1.

Ring! Ring!

(When I typed in the title of this, I made a typo, and put in “Ring! Rong!” instead of “Ring! Ring!” When, in truth, “Ring! WRONG!” was really more accurate.) Here’s what happened:

West Avenue School

West Avenue School

On December 15, I attended the Christmas program presented by students at West Avenue Elementary School, where I volunteer each Tuesday at lunchtime for Reading Club. I have three second graders this year. I asked them about the program, and two of them said they weren’t going to go. One said, oh, yes, he was going to be in the program. I like to support the school and the kids, and I said I was going to come.

Usually, the programs are on the school cafeteria stage, and the lunchroom is REALLY crowded! But, the younger kids sing first, and, as the Pre-K’s finish, their families get them and go on home. Then the Kindergartners sing. And leave. So, things thin out a little bit. But, it’s something of a fire hazard, I suppose, for a little while.

13631542_1062690100433815_5233553297212274195_nThis year, however, the event was at Waco High School’s Performing Arts Center. Big ol’ stage. LOTS of seats. Plenty of room. And lots of parking space.

The program was scheduled to begin at 5:30, and I arrived in plenty of time to park and get inside and settled in my comfy seat. Previously I would try to get to school to be able to park close, so I wouldn’t have to walk too far in the dark at the program’s end. But I would sit way at the back, so all those other parents and families could be close to watch their little kids perform.

I must admit that, in this larger venue, I chose an aisle seat, so I, too, could leave early. In previous years, I had fourth or fifth graders, so needed to stay until the very end, to watch my own kids and maybe get a chance to meet their families. This year, I looked forward to getting on home a little earlier.

The program was fun and the children were cute. I took several photos, to be able to print one out to give my Reading Club kid. I did stay all the way through the third grade group, but there was a lull while the stage was reset for the 4th and 5th grade play. I made my exit.

At home, I relaxed and did some work on the computer, and then looked for my phone to download the pictures. I patted my pockets. Not there. I looked around on my desk. Not in sight. And, instead of spending time searching the house, picking up ever single piece of paper and magazine and Christmas card, instead of going out and going through all the nooks and crannies of the car–I signed in to ICloud.

I’m sitting there, watching everything, waiting for the right screen to show up, and yes, here comes the map, and I’m ready to punch “Play Sound,” but THE PHONE IS NOT ON COLLINS DRIVE!!!! IT’S IN HEWITT!!!


I then did the sensible thing–I called Kevin. In full panic mode. “MY PHONE’S IN HEWITT!!!” He was just about as alarmed as I was. But not screeching about it. I explained that I’d been to the Waco High Fine Arts Center, and that I was 100% positive that I had the phone there because I’d taken pictures with it. After that, I couldn’t remember anything I’d done with it. And, I’d seen the “Lost Mode” button, next to the “Play Sound” button, but I wasn’t exactly sure what that did. I was, however, pretty sure I didn’t want to select the “Erase Phone” button until I knew if I should.

We did discuss, briefly, the Worst Case Scenario version–that someone had found it and was, at that very moment, trying to sell it.

He signed onto my screen (because he knows how to do that) and activated the “Lost Mode” which puts a message on the phone that says, “I’m a lost phone. Please call this number . . .” and Kevin added my phone number. Then he said he would “Play Sound” every few minutes, to let whomever had the phone to know that we knew it was lost. After I’d calmed down a little (and handed over the phone-finding responsibilities), I said, “I suspect that that’s the principal’s house that’s showing up on the screen. I bet someone found it and gave it to him. Him or the music teacher.” That was really the most sensible scenario. Kevin and I hung up, to let someone who did have the phone call me. And, unbeknownst to us, the principal actually was at that very moment, frantically searching his house to try to find out what was making that HORRIBLE noise!!

Once he found the phone and saw the “lost” message, he called (and I said I would let Kevin know, quickly, so he would stop that awful pinging). I went to the school the next day to get it. And all was well.


Jesus told the people another story:

What will a woman do if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the floor, and look carefully until she finds it? Then she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found the coin I lost.”

Jesus said, “In the same way God’s angels are happy when even one person turns to him.”

Luke 15:8-10 (Contemporary English Version)


Ah, yes. I do understand, a little, about lost things being found.

I really am trying to be a better phone-minder. I’m trying to always purchase clothing with good, deep pockets. I’m pretty good about plugging it in regularly. But every now and then I’m caught off-guard. A few days ago, I was at the computer when it pinged to let me know a text had come. I also heard, down at my left-hand side, a text message ping from my phone. I touched my skirt pockets. No phone was there. I looked down on my desk. No phone. I moved papers. No phone. I moved a little basket w/coupons in it. Nope. I leaned over to look behind the computer. Nothing there. And then I noticed:

My shirt pocket was all aglow.Okay. So I AM responsible, after all. Usually. Often. Sometimes.

My shirt pocket was all aglow.Okay. So I AM responsible, after all. Usually. Often. Sometimes.




The Game’s Afoot


When Kevin, and then Jeremy, were at TCU, I used to visit Hulen Mall in Fort Worth pretty regularly. It was sort of on the way to the university—just a matter of where one turned off I35. There was a Container Store in front of the mall, and right across the street there was a Border’s Bookstore. Lots to do. After graduation, Kevin moved to the Cultural District; Jeremy eventually moved over there, too. Kevin and April still live in that area. Jeremy and Sarah married and moved to Brooklyn. The Border’s moved much closer to Kevin and April. Then, that store closed down, and The Container Store moved into the old Border’s spot. So, all in all, I don’t have much reason to visit the Hulen Mall area any more. Until yesterday. I was on my way to hear a speaker at a Fort Worth library which was really close to the Mall, and I’m on a quest to find a skirt with pockets, which turns out to be a much more difficult task that any sensible person might imagine. Maybe it is nonsense, but I tried.


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I’ve Noticed This Odd Thing

Years ago, when I was teaching at the community college, on mornings I didn’t have a class, I liked to watch the Today show (while I stayed in bed and read the paper, too). One morning, the show (and probably the other news shows) was preempted by National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission. It was pretty interesting, and I watched it all.

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Is It Real? Or …

Peter was here last weekend, and we went to the zoo. Friday was a great day. Overcast, not too hot, not many people, (school has started). When we were looking at the bison, I could see, just beyond the zoo’s perimeter, the traffic light and sign from an intersection at one of the park’s exits. I picked Peter up so he could see it and said, “We’ll leave the zoo from that park exit. When we go through the light, you’ll know that the bison are right on the other side.” He seemed unimpressed.

But, when we did go through that light, and I pointed out the back of the bison exhibit and said, “That’s where the bison are walking around, right now,” he said, “Awwwww.”

As we passed through the next light, leaving the park, he said, “I saw an arrow with a red circle and a line.” So, for several blocks, I explained about two-way streets and one-way streets, and how people leaving the park might not realize that the cross street was a one-way street. And how a left-turn choice might lead to a crash. Fortuitously, the street leaving the park is a broad, two-way street that splits after a mile or so into one-way streets. Nice segue.

Peter asks a lot of questions and gets lots of explanations. At this rate, he’ll probably be able to pass the written portion of the Driver’s test next year, when he turns four.

As we approached a light, several blocks on, he said, “Is that a fake tree or a real tree?”

“Where? What tree?” He pointed. Behind us. I looked all around and didn’t see what he meant, and the light changed and we had to move on. I turned and went around a couple of blocks, back to where we were. I drove as slowly as I could, hoping not to annoy the drivers around us, and tried to see what he meant.

“That tree?” “No.” “There. That one?” “No.” Then,

“That tree, Mimi.” I saw which one he meant and agreed. No wonder he thought it might be a fake tree.

img_1787I tried to explain what I thought might have happened to the tree. For some reason, they seem to have cut off the entire top of it, removing all the branches so that it was, basically, a tall stump. Maybe the branches had gotten so large and spread so wide that they trimmed it all the way back to the trunk, so it wouldn’t be in the way of traffic on the street or people walking by on the sidewalk. Maybe they thought the tree was dead. But, the tree began to put out branches and leaves again. And the way those new branches and leaves grew did make it look like a fake tree. Like a Dr. Seuss-type pompom-topped tree. Maybe they did it on purpose. It’s certainly interesting. But I’m not sure it’ll catch on.

I’ll have to start driving up that street more often, and see if the new tree-pruning technique gains popularity with other neighbors.


God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”

So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.

Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel.

Jeremiah 18:1-6 (The Message)

I don’t know how this tree happened to have been pruned so severely. But somebody must have thought it was the appropriate choice. Then the tree, with its internal God-given guidance, started growing, the best it knows how. The real thing. Unusual. But real.

Meanwhile, some zoo photos.


Oh, Those New Yorkers!

I saw a story a couple of weeks ago about some kind, helpful, brave New Yorkers. A man fell from a subway platform onto the tracks, just a few minutes before a train was due to arrive. Three men saw him fall, jumped down onto the tracks, picked up the unconscious man, and, with the help of others on the platform, hoisted him back up, and were then themselves pulled to safety. A young journalism student was sitting on a bench nearby, saw what happened, and grabbed her phone and began to film the incident. It’s been seen by a couple of million people. The place where I first saw the report had a space for comments. One person wrote that, yes, New Yorkers rise to the occasion and do what needs to be done for their fellow man. Another person (apparently in a bad mood) wrote that the three were most likely not New Yorkers at all but people from somewhere else. And, she said, if they were actual New Yorkers, they only began to help when they saw someone filming, and helped because they thought it would be good for their images to be seen being so helpful.

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I remember having a party line, just briefly, when we first moved into this house, in 1959. Mother and Daddy probably had a party line, at some earlier point, but it must have been when I was too short to be able to answer the phone that was in the phone niche.

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Do Unto Others? Pay It Forward?

walmart logoI was at Wal-Mart the other day, with a friend who was purchasing one of those giant bags of flour (for a school project). The checkout lines were long and she said, “Let’s do the Self-Checkout.” (Fortunately, she is much younger and stronger than I, and was pretty easily handling the really GIANT bag of flour.)

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