Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Flattening flattery and flatulence

Jaynee brought Flat Stanley home with her last week. I was so excited to see him; we swiftly shipped him off to Alaska.

Sound a little freaky?
Flat Stanley is nothing but fun!

Flat Stanley is one of my favorite school projects. When I worked at the Fairview Republican, I wrote a feature story about Flat Stanley and the class that sent him across the United States in all different directions.

When I worked at the Blackwell Journal-Tribune I actually received Flat Stanley. I let out a shriek heard ‘round the office and told everyone I had been hand-picked as a Flat Stanley recipient!

Flat Stanley accompanied me to a couple public meetings, and I took pictures of him with city leaders and my co-workers at the newspaper office. I then took him back to the student who sent him to me and told the class all about my adventures with Stanley.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Flat Stanley is a character from a children’s book. The book was written in the 1960s, but the Flat Stanley project didn’t get started until 1995. A teacher in Canada started it to teach students about letter-writing, but it accomplishes about a bazillion other things.

The book is about Stanley Lambchop who gets flattened by a bulletin board and finds that a boy in his “shape” can go on all sorts of adventures by mailing himself to different places across the world.

Each Flat Stanley is different. Students color and cut out their own Flat Stanley, and teachers can register their projects and post photos of Flat Stanley adventures at a very fun Web site called

When I saw Jaynee’s Flat Stanley lying on the table last week, I clapped and cheered. She thought I was crazy. Justine just rolled her eyes because she knows I’m crazy.

They both, however, were absolutely bedazzled that I knew so much about Flat Stanley.

Jaynee asked me where we should send him.

I thought for a minute, trying to pick a place where Flat Stanley might not get to go very often. I whittled down the choices to two of my high school classmates.

“I have a friend in Alaska, and I have a friend in the Army Special Forces who is in Iraq,” I said. “We could send it to one of them.”

She thought and thought and thought, tilting her head and putting a hand on her cheek and everything.

“Well,” she said, “I know another girl in our class is sending her Flat Stanley to a soldier in Iraq, but I don’t know of anyone sending him to Alaska, so I’ll pick your friend in Alaska.”

I went and looked up the address and printed it out for her. We found a large manila envelope, and she addressed it herself. (Jaynee writes letters often, so she knew where to put the words.)

I told her my friend, Tony, works at the North Slope and helps take care of a whole ton of oil. I didn’t go into too much detail because, for one, I don’t know very many details, and I had full confidence that Tony would be excited to receive Flat Stanley and will take him on an adventure to the North Slope and tell a grand tale about what happens there.

Jaynee wrote him a letter in the proper form, which she learned at school. She introduced herself by saying her name is Jaynee, and she is “Korina’s daughter.” Crack me up! She also asked him several questions about where he works, what the weather is like in Alaska, etc. It was a brilliant letter, if I do say so myself.

I assured Jaynee that Tony would fill in all the details when he returns Flat Stanley, and we slid him and her letter inside the envelope. We guessed on the postage and delivered him to the post office after school the next day.

A few days later I received an e-mail from Tony, and sure enough, he was thrilled to have received Flat Stanley and said he arrived in fine shape (so to speak).

He said he was headed to the North Slope for three weeks and planned to take Flat Stanley with him. He said he will e-mail pictures during the next few weeks to show what Flat Stanley is doing (I will post), and then he’ll mail Stanley back to Jaynee.

I printed out his e-mail, and Jaynee took it to school to share with her second-grade class. When I picked her up from school that day, she couldn’t wait to tell me that her teacher said Tony’s e-mail was “pretty cool.”

It’s sort of ironic that Tony is doing such a great thing for my daughter during her second-grade year. It was our second-grade year that Tony also stuck his neck out for me.

We were in reading group one day with probably about 10 of us sitting around a large table in our second-grade classroom. I’m not sure where Mrs. Weber was, but it was just us kids sitting at the table when suddenly I felt a sneeze of all sneezes coming over me.

I put my nose to the crook of my elbow and held on to my seat for dear life. The chairs were typical 1980s school chairs – blue, hard plastic, and the acoustics in the classroom were typical of an uncarpeted classroom – hollow and echoey.

I began the sneezing process. Short breath, short breath … squint the eyes, wheeze, short breath, short breath … squint the eyes, wheeze. At that very moment, I felt a slight gurgle in my tummy.

I know all this happened within a split second, but every time I have relived it during the last 30 years, it seems like it lasted a slow, slow, super slow minute … at least! I was a pretty shy and timid kid, so I didn’t like to make a scene, and I didn’t like to draw attention to myself.

I all at once felt that tingling explosion rush through my sinuses telling me that if by some miracle I was able to hold that baby back, my head would probably explode in the process.

I concentrated hard on trying to erupt as quietly as possible. I was so worried about not blowing snot all over my sleeve in front of my classmates, I completely forgot about controlling that rumbly in my tumbly.

“Ah, ah, ah … ah, ah, ah … ah, ah, ah … CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”

(Which sounded more to me like 3 – 2 – 1 TAKEOFF!!!)

Either way, the sneeze launched. And just like a rocket, as the force propelled the top, the exhaust came out the bottom.

The entire class’ attention fell on me just in time to hear the bomb go off. It was loud and continuous and lingered on and on and on like reverberating cannon fire echoing throughout the Grand Canyon.

I had broken the dead silence of our reading group with an uncontrollably sloppy sneeze coupled with a bodily function I barely let my own mother hear.

Chris Jenlink turned to me, grinning from ear to ear. No way would he let this slide.

“Did you just …?” he began.

“I did it,” someone said. My neck snapped to the voice at the other end of the table.

“It was me,” said Tony, nonchalantly.

“Oh,” Chris said. It was nothing for a boy to rattle the windows. The smile melted off Chris’s face. He poked his nose back into his book, thoroughly disappointed.

I was in the clear. I couldn’t even look Tony in the face. In 30 years, the incident has never been discussed.

It may be that the boys thought nothing of it. For me, the humiliation is still as fresh as when I was 7.

Now that we’re older, it still embarrasses me, but it’s so darn funny, I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. I also figured I better tell Tony thanks. It’s about time. So thanks, Tony – for everything.

Flat Stanley is sure to have a great vacation!

Today I read:

Matthew 6:1-15
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 14
Genesis 32, 33

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I've never heard of Flat Stanley, but I love the concept.
    I'm glad to find you blogging, so we'll still be able to get a dose of your great talent.
    Keep 'em coming!