Friday, December 30, 2011

Goals for 2012 - Number One

A few months ago, Hubby brought this article to my attention. Since then, I've been determined to get the chemicals outta Dodge. About the same time, a friend of mine posted some DIY detergent recipes on her Facebook page. AND for Christmas my mom gave me some dryer balls. Looks like someone is trying to tell me something. So as our cleaners run out, I'll replace them with stuff that I've made myself. It's going to be a long process as I shop at Costco and have large amounts of Clorox bathroom cleaner and Snuggle fabric softener.

I thought that it was going to be an easy transition because Hubby was so adamant about how horrible the chemicals were. Turns out, he's against all chemicals except the ones that are in Snuggle. I tried to switch over to the fabric softener made from vinegar, water and baking soda. For me, it's wonderful. The laundry is clean and soft and smells fresh without any overpowering aroma. Hubby likes the aroma. I had a bit of Snuggle left and he used it on a load last week. He was like Linus with his blanket. Well, all but the thumb sucking part. It was sadly cute how he went on and on about the scent and the softness. I feel sorry for him. The chemicals do make the clothes smell nice and feel preternaturally soft. I'll give him that. But I'd rather play it safe and use only ingredients that I can pronounce.

Today I made a batch of laundry detergent and fabric softener. I snuck in a few drops of essential oils and I think I may have found the answer. I'm waiting for the first load to come out of the dryer to see how it worked. Judging from the aroma in the utility room, I'm golden!

So . . . first goal for 2012 - by the end of the year I want to be making the majority of my own cleaning products. Here's the recipe from my friend Tara for laundry and dishwasher detergent:

Laundry soap:
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
2 bars of Fels Naptha (some use other brands like dove, Irish spring however this brand is for stains)
86 loads

(I used Ivory. I shredded it in my food processor and then added the Borax and Washing Soda and mixed it all up. My food processor is really clean now.)

Dishwashing soap:
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
2 cups Lemi Shine
1 cup Kosher salt
112 loads

(I didn't add the Lemi Shine, I used vinegar in the rinse cycle.)

1 tbls per load and all ingredients can be found in the laundry and dish soap sections.

And here's a recipe that I found for fabric softener:

Recipe #3

2 cups vinegar
1 cup baking soda
2 cups water
Essential oils (optional)
Instructions: In a large container, mix together your vinegar and baking soda. As you add the vinegar, your mixture will start to fizz, so make sure your mixing container is at least twice as large as the final volume. Let your mixture sit for a few minutes, allowing the baking soda to dissolve. Now add your water and essential oil (around 10 to 15 drops should do).

(I used Wyndmere's Anxiety Release essential oil because that's what I had on hand. I haven't added it into the container yet, though. I wanted to see if the rest of my family like it. I put a drop or two into the wash and a drop or two into the fabric softener.)

Stay tuned for for Goal Number Two. (Once I decide what it is . . . )

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Just when I had decided not to make any more resolutions, I read a blog prompt asking what my resolutions for 2012 were. Humph.

The problem that I have with resolutions is that they sound like good ideas at the time I write them down - in the middle of a holiday break when I've just come off a hugely stressful period of time involving family, expectations (realistic, unrealistic, met and unmet), and lots of heavy, fat and sugar laden food. I have a few days off, I see the start of a new year and I think yeah, there are some things I want to do differently - mainly, don't plan stressful events involving family, expectations, and lots of food. So I write down a list of things that I resolve to do or not to do and they sound really good and do-able. Or not do-able.

Then life starts again. Things get back to normal. I go back to an acceptable level of healthy (or semi-healthy) food. And March or April comes and I haven't kept one resolution. So I start feeling like a failure and get depressed.

But if I say that my New Year's Resolution is not to make any resolutions, I sound like I'm copping out. And I sound a little cliche.

So what's a girl to do?

Well, I see myself with some practical goals for 2012. But I'm not going to call them "resolutions". For me, that word triggers short term memory loss. So I'll just stick to goals. And I'll make sure that they are reasonable. And I'll give myself a little bit of leeway just in case life gets in the way and I have to postpone reaching my destinations. (Maybe one of my first goals should be to cut down on starting my sentences with "And".)

All that being said . . . I actually have no idea what my big goals for 2012 are. I guess I'm still in the throes of the holiday and haven't chilled out long enough to look forward and chart a course for the next year. However, I do have some general goals that I can share immediately:

First Five Goals for 2012:

To blog more. I always say that, but I'm realizing how much I enjoy writing and how freeing it is for me. I've signed up for the January NaBloPoMo to help jumpstart me. This is dangerously close to a resolution so I'm scared. But I'm also hopeful.

To finish watching all four seasons of Breaking Bad before the fifth season starts. I'm 1 1/2 episodes away from finishing Season Three. It's gettin' good!

If I'm going to embarrass my kids, my goal is to embarrass them by doing fun/silly things, not by being out of touch or insincere. Perhaps I should change this to say "When I embarrass my kids . . ." because it's going to happen whether I try or not.

To find some new recipes. I look at my menus lately and nod off to sleep.

To be able to claim at the end of 2012 that I have (still) never listened to a Justin Bieber song all the way through.

So that's the start of my goal list for 2012. What about you? Any resolutions or goals for the coming year?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Newsletter 2011

This year I've been swamped with all sorts of stuff - all good - so Princess offered to write the newsletter for me. She wasn't sure what to write about Hubby, so I filled in that information. Otherwise, it's all her. (But I did do some grammatical editing - and inserted our blog monikers.)

Hello friends! What's been going on with you this year? Here is what has been going on with US!

This year was a very memorable year for Buddy! He turned 8 in June, started 3rd grade,

went to the Michigan/Ohio State football game in Michigan, and found his love for video games. His favorite video game is called "Minecraft". Buddy is doing great in school, and is a very good reader. He enjoys reading boyish and humorous books, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He's typically found at his neighbor's house, reading, playing basketball in his room, or watching TV.

This year was a very special one for Princess. To start it all off, she was surprised with two kitties last Christmas.

Their names are Calvin and Marie. (Calvin has really taken to Princess). She turned 11, and started 6th grade. She also saved up enough money to buy her very own laptop this year! She enjoys reading, writing, swimming, art, volleyball, and hanging out with her friends. She is usually found doing homework, reading, or messing around with her kitties!!!

Mom's year has been one word: BUSY!!! First of all, she taught 5/6th grade Musical Theater, and 7/8th grade Musical Theater in the spring at a small, private school (the same one attended by Princess). She directed AND wrote the musical in the spring!! It was awesome!! She also taught 5/6th Musical Theater in the fall, as well as directed their musical, Schoolhouse Rock! Live! Jr. She also teaches a high school film class at the same school. On top of all that, she cooks and cleans for the family, as well as set up social events for the kids, and drop off/pick up the kids from social events, parties, school, practice, etc. Somehow she finds time to check email, watch TV, and take naps.

Between his three Oxford centers in Texas - in Austin, Fort Worth and Garland - Dad has put a lot of miles on his truck this year. Even though he is on the road a lot, he has still found time to be active with Buddy in Scouts and flag football, attend Princess' sporting events and musical production, design a backyard sitting area complete with crushed granite, solar mood lighting and an awesome patio set AND he even had a weekend golf getaway with Mom. He's looking forward to rediscovering sleep.

Some of our friends developed allergies to two precious kitties. They gave these two kitties to US last Christmas. Their names were Pumpkin and Marie. But Buddy decided that Pumpkin wasn't a very good pumpkin, and he changed his name to Calvin. Princess thought that the name "Marie" fitted Marie, and kept it. They are very entertaining, and hilarious! Marie is (we found out) a Turkish Angora. She loves straws, and lazor pointers. Marie is also a diva. (She's gorgeous!). Calvin hid under the bed for the first week or so (Marie just walked in on Christmas day and established where she would sleep, and slept.), and Calvin is still kinda skittish. He's a very sweet kitty, and loves to sleep with his sissy, Princess. He especially likes his fleece blankets and Snuggies to take naps on.

This is Mom speaking again. I'm humbled and amazed at my daughter's writing ability. And I'm very touched that she called my musical awesome. ;-)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving Kick in the Pants

Sometimes you just need to be reminded how good you really have it. This Thanksgiving is all about that, I think.

This morning I woke to Buddy with a stomach bug. Poor little guy spent two hours trying to throw up the nothing that he had in his tummy. It was really sad. At one point he looked up at me and said, "I wish this never happened." Oh, it was so pitiful! But luckily he was done with the yucky stuff by about 9:45 and then just slept the rest of the day.

Hubby offered to stay with him while I went to dinner. I thought that was very sweet considering we traveled from Texas to Detroit to be with his family. I declined. I love his family a lot (I pretty much won the lottery when it comes to in-laws), but it's HIS family. So Buddy and I stayed at my sister-in-law's house and everyone met up at Cousin L's. Buddy and I napped, read and watched TV. It was a sweet time with my little guy.

I do have to confess that I was tempted to pout and I did get tears in my eyes once or twice. I missed getting to hang out with our family. I missed listening to the kids run up and down the stairs and decorate cookies. I missed watching the football games from the kitchen. I missed the table talk and the birthday cake. (Hubby has eight people in his family who have November/December birthdays.) But you know what? Buddy and I had a safe, warm place in which he could recover. And he did recover. It was just a virus and nothing life-threatening. Cousin L sent home a huge plate for me INCLUDING gluten free quinoa stuffing and a baked apple - just for ME! We'll have a couple more chances this trip to see everyone, so this isn't the only opportunity for me to socialize. And I got to watch three episodes of Breaking Bad. In a row!

No, it's not the Thanksgiving that I envisioned when I went to bed last night. But it was a really good day.

(Oh, and UT defeated A&M in the last 2 seconds of their last conference meeting. I'll sleep well tonight!)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Horrors of a Blank Screen

I've been having a really tough time blogging lately. It's not for lack of material - there's plenty going on here to share. It's motivation. When I sit down, I always think that there are other, more productive things I could be doing. I could be doing laundry, dusting or any other cleaning related activity. I could be organizing something. I could be . . . feeding homeless people. Or I could be telling funny/interesting/weird/mundane stories about my life.

Or it could also be that when I sit down and think about what to share about what is going on in my life, I get anxious and start to think too much. (Seriously, I almost had a panic attack going to sleep last night. With no distractions, mind just started going.) It's tough owning a small business in this economy. (Oh. My. Goodness. Did I just write that very cliche and very adult phrase?!? See why I haven't been blogging?) It's the same reason that I don't work out - I can't give my mind an opening to wander. At this point I feel that I need to always have something coming in so that I don't have a chance to think about where we are. I really do not like being negative in my posts so I'm kind of following the advice that Thumper's mom gave him: If you can't say something nice, don't say nuthin' at all.

Lately I've gotten really involved in some television shows that are very dark. This is telling, I think. I've been shunning regular TV shows for so long because I haven't wanted to fill my time with the screen. However, again, I'm finding that I don't want to give myself any mental down time so I'm filling that time with more input. But also, I'm watching shows in which the characters have it SO much worse than I do that it does leave me feeling a bit better. I mean, I'm not trying to survive in a world post-zombie apocalypse. I'm not living in a haunted house. And I'm not trying to fun my cancer treatments by cooking meth. All I'm just trying to do is keep my kids from destroying each other while I demand respect from them during a time when my husband is traveling a lot trying to keep our business healthy.

So . . . what to do. What to do.

I know, I'll get caught up on Breaking Bad.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Preteen Angst Take Two . . .

It's October - time for thoughts to turn to pumpkins and cinnamon, airing out the sweaters and scarves, and preparing for ghouls and the undead. Perhaps that's why, when thinking about how to start this post, I had a flash of the scene from Carrie where Amy Irving goes to visit Carrie's grave and Carrie's dead, white hand shoots out of the ground and grabs her. This year, Princess' sixth grade year, has made me feel a bit like Amy Irving. Sixth grade was a very tough year for me. I thought I had dealt with and buried all of those feelings and issues, but no. Just like Amy Irving's character, I'm finding myself surprised at the mess that's come up from what I thought was a peaceful rest. (Okay, okay, that may be a touch dramatic. But you have to admit, it's a good visual!)

The town in which I lived during preteen years had a very unique system for 5th - 8th grades: each grade had their own campus. There was ONE fifth grade campus where ONLY fifth graders attended. Same with sixth on up to eighth. That was actually a system that I can get behind. Not only did you take any sort of seniority and age rivalry out of the equation, it also really helped the class bond. And with that system, you didn't have to worry about any Robin Hood programs or busing issues - EVERYONE went to the SAME SCHOOL. One of the drawbacks to that system is that there are no escapes from your classmates if you don't fit in.

Sixth grade was probably the hardest year of my life. Face it, the preteen years are no picnic for anyone with all of the physical and emotional changes going on. So what do we do? We make these walking, talking balls of insecurity BE TOGETHER six hours a day, five days a week. Ack! And THEN . . . in the sixth grade . . . they added . . . football. And . . . cheerleaders.

(Disclaimer: This is not a post bashing cheerleaders. Please read on.)

All I wanted to be when I was a kid was be an actress. I was raised hanging out backstage with my parents so it was a natural progression to move on to the stage as soon as I could. By sixth grade, I had been in several productions in the local college and community theatres and was hooked. My sixth grade year, the community theatre had announced that their fall production would be The Bad Seed. I had my sights set on getting that role. All the other girls in sixth grade had their sights set on getting a spot on one of the five cheerleading squads.

Yes, five squads. Or six. I can't remember. The football teams were NOT affiliated with the school district. School football didn't start until seventh grade. But there was a non-profit organization in the town that sponsored a football league for sixth graders who just couldn't wait! In small-town Texas, that's pretty much ALL sixth grade boys. And girls. (Girls for cheerleading.)

I do remember making a conscious choice to eschew the cheerleading try-outs. I knew that there was no way I could do cheerleading practice AND rehearse four nights a week for the duration of the season/production. So I gambled that I would get the part. I got the part. And most of my friends got spots on the cheerleading squads. Here's where my life became an after-school special. (Okay . . . that was pretty dramatic. But from an eleven year old stand-point, it was pretty traumatic.)

All of a sudden, I had no friends. Even my best friend from fourth grade, Elizabeth*, dropped me like a hot potato. No more phone calls, no more going to each other's house after school, no more sleepovers. I vividly remember riding the bus one day and watching Elizabeth and Tina (a friend since second grade) get off the bus and walk home with Audrey (another friend from second grade who lived a few blocks over), laughing and giggling the entire time. They were off to cheerleading practice and I wasn't invited. It was so painful.

I withdrew. I became depressed. I would come home and immediately change into my pajamas, watch Dick Van Dyke reruns, do my homework and then watch TV again until bed. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what I had done to drive away my friends and what I could do to get them back.

I haven't even mentioned that sixth grade was the year that I got glasses . . . sigh.

Once rehearsals started, I felt better. I was in my element. I had something to look forward to at the end of every school day. I still missed the company of people my own age, but the others in the cast treated me as one of their peers (for the most part), even though I was a kid and they were adults. It solidified my love of theatre and theatre people.

Then it was over and my reality once again became school days filled with inside jokes, handshakes and songs that I had no part of. Again, I felt isolated and shunned. All of my friends from years previous, those whose parents I knew and in whose houses I had slept, were cheerleaders. I was never bullied, I was just . . . . forgotten. And, worst of all, my BFF Elizabeth, had become BFFs with Josie - the most popular girl in school. Oh, the preteen angst! The tears in my pillow! The notes composed but never sent (Do you still want to be my friend? Check yes or no)! Inner turmoil and drama!

So . . . again I turned to theatre. My dad mounted a production of Godspell that year for the college theatre department. I went to rehearsals with him every night. I knew the lines, the blocking and every vocal part to every song. I became the cast's mascot - everyone's little sister. I still have relationships with some of those "siblings" today. THAT was where I fit in. And when Dad took that production to an international theatre festival in Dundalk, Ireland, he took me with them.

There was still that pesky fact that I had to spend the majority of my waking hours Monday through Friday in a place where I felt so alone. And also, a twelve year old girl isn't really supposed to look to college students as her peers and closest friends. It just doesn't work. So here I was, caught between two different worlds with really no one to relate to in either.

And so it stayed for a couple of years. I could NOT find my footing in school with my age peers. And I could not have deep friendships with people so much older than myself. I was floating. I was disconnected. I did have some friends my own age, but it always cut me to the quick when I would see my former friends all sitting together at lunch or walking down the halls and know that I was not really welcome any more. I was an outsider. I think that, subconsciously, that affected the friendships that I did make. I didn't invest totally in those friendships. I didn't trust as much or enjoy myself as much as I could/should have. I was guarded. I still am, to a degree.

Once I got to high school, everything changed. I had always been more comfortable with people older than me, and here was a school full of APPROPRIATELY older people - older by just a couple of years, not five to ten or more. Here was an entire drama department of people who were like-minded about performing and CLOSE TO MY OWN AGE. Here were teachers who were more invested (not that I didn't have good teachers at the other schools, but none that really took me under their wing) and who demanded more maturity from their students. And not only did I make older friends when I started ninth grade, I made some of the best friends of my OWN age. Once I was able to finally let go of the hope and desire that Elizabeth would come back to my world - or that I could be a part of hers - I was free. That sounds strange, but it's true. I stopped holding her spot in my life and gave it to someone else. Actually, to three people! Donna, Jeana, Tara** and I became like the Four Musketeers that year. It was one of the best years of my life.

And then I moved. But that's another after school special. (With an amazingly happy ending.)

Why am I telling this story? Because all of this is bubbling up to the surface now that Princess is that age. I find myself on edge sometimes and I realize it's because I'm waiting for the bomb to drop. Sixth grade to me means turmoil and pain and isolation. When is that going to show up for Princess? Answer: probably not gonna happen. Or . . . maybe next month. Or . . . maybe it started and Princess stopped it.

Princess signed up for volleyball at the beginning of the year. As it happened, there were quite a few more sixth graders to sign up than fifth graders. This meant that the coaches had to create a team comprised of fifth AND sixth graders - the Silver team. The Blue team is only sixth graders. Guess who is on what team. Yep. ALL of Princess' friends are on Blue. Princess and two other sixth graders (one of them is new to the sport) are on the Silver team. That was tough to hear. And that's what brought Carrie's hand up out of the grave. (There's that drama again!)

When I heard the team assignments, I could feel the tears coming. In MY eyes! Not Princess'! I was heartbroken - for her and for my 11 year old self watching all the cheerleaders go to practice. I knew the disappointment and the helplessness she was feeling. (Or at least that I thought she was feeling.) I prayed that she would be able to handle the (perceived) disgrace and (real) disappointment and then the (perceived) inevitable shunning and isolation and condescension. It was going to be 1979 all over again.

But then . . . it wasn't. Princess sucked it up and accepted her spot on the Silver team with grace. She makes it a point to go to as many Blue games as possible and cheer on her classmates. She takes her volleyball outside several times a day and bumps it off of the side of the house. She works hard in practices and she's aggressive in the games. And after school, she and at least half a dozen other girls gather in a circle and practice in the courtyard of the school. She's asked to play the winter league at the YMCA to improve her skills. And she's got her sights set on the varsity team. There are still after school play dates and sleepovers with her same friends. It's . . . not my life.

Not my life. Yet so close. Almost every day I think about my sixth grade experience. I'm not dwelling on it. Not at all! I promise! It's just hard not to think about it as I see Princess as a sixth grader. But these *cough*cough* many years have given me a LOT of perspective. Several class reunions and Facebook have shown me that I was so very wrong in my perception of others' view of me. (I fully expect that, should any of the name-changed read this and recognize themselves, they will be mortified that I felt that way!)

As I look back now, I see that it was nothing personal. Back then, I took it as a personal "let's all NOT talk to M". But, of course it wasn't. It was a case of circumstance. It was a case of me choosing NOT to participate in an activity and, as a result, not being a part of that world. I believe that had I shown any sort of interest and gone out of my way at all to support my friends (like Princess has), they would have eagerly included me (like Princess' friends have). However, at the time I was too insecure (there were the new glasses after all) and I was kind of shy. I didn't want to force myself on anyone and I felt that they had made it clear that they didn't want anything to do with me. How did they make that clear? Uh . . . by being interested in something other than acting? By having fun at an activity without me? Yep. Ah, the eleven year old reasoning at its finest.

I wish I could go back and talk to my sixth grade self. I wish I could tell her to get off her butt and stop feeling persecuted. I wish I could tell her that it might be worth it to try out for cheerleading - that cheerleading is definitely a form of performance and it might be fun! (And that football isn't really that hard to understand.) Or that she should make her parents take her to some games. I wish I could tell her that sitting at home in pajamas watching reruns was NOT the way to fight for friendships. And I wish I could tell her that friendships are worth fighting for. (I'd also tell her that one day she's going to have an amazing daughter.)

What about you? What issues have popped up for you as you watch your child go through school? How have they handled it? How have YOU handled it?

*Names have been changed because hey, we were all young.

**Names have not been changed because hey, these chicks ROCK! And can play a mean game of poker with M&Ms.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Film School Essays - November 1990 Twin Peaks

Oh yes, I did. I found my stash of papers that I wrote in film school. I am pleased to report that I made nothing less than a B on any one of these papers. And I am also pleased to share them here! I thought it would be fun to revisit them and maybe to spark some conversations. So . . . hold on to your hats 'cause I'm about to get all analytical on you!

Disclaimer: I am transcribing this exactly as I wrote it. There are definitely things I would change if I were to write it now - word choices, phrasing, etc. I have also put the professor's comments at the end of this post in italics.

Twin Peaks and the Doughnut Dissolves
RTF 317 (Narrative Strategies)
November 13, 1990

Synopsis of the Summary Scene from "Twin Peaks"
Season 2 Episode 1 1:05:12

The summary scene opens with an establishing shot of the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department office building and cuts immediately to an inside office with Agent Cooper in MCU. Cooper and Albert begin to restate all of the facts and deductions about the case. The narrative is reinforced by a series of flashbacks. Andy begins to cry over Laura's photo and Albert throws out a sarcastic remark. Andy stands up and tells Albert that he does not like the way Albert "talks smart", tells him to shut his mouth, and storms out of the room. There is a series of short reactions shots of the TP's Sheriff's Department staff and of Albert. Cooper ends the scene by saying, "Laura Palmer is dead. Jacques Renault is dead. Ronette Pulaski and Leo Johnson are in comas. Waldo the bird is dead. This leaves only the 'third man.'" There is a slow fade to black and then a commercial.

Twin Peaks and the Doughnut Dissolves

From the very beginning of its first season, Twin Peaks (hereafter TP) has defied description. Is it a serialized detective drama, a soap opera, a biting satire of Americana, or a quirky black comedy doomed only to cult status? The answer is: all of the above. The production team of David Lynch and Mark Frost have managed to throw together a blend of generic conventions and innovative techniques to form on very odd hour of television viewing. Director David Lynch uses this strange brew very effectively in the second season pilot's summary scene discussed here. The scene takes the viewers' generic expectations and pretends to fulfill them while, in reality, it leaves the viewers in almost the same informational vacuum that it left them in at the end of the first season.

On the surface and in terms of the main plot of Laura's murder, the scene is a very conventional, expected part of a serial cop/detective show. Unlike an episodic program where, at the end of the summary the detective names the killer, there is no resolution and no sense of impending resolution. The scene does nothing more than give the viewers information that they already have; Act III is not achieved, much less the second major plot point. Indeed, the scene fades to a commercial immediately following Cooper's list of dead or comatose characters. He ends that speech with, "This leaves only the 'third man,'" punctuated by an ominous, ethereal musical chord. This generic cliffhanger device is thus used on a large scale by the whole scene, which promises a resolution at some point if the viewer remains loyal, and on a small scale by Cooper's delivery of the hook line which ensures that the viewer will stay tuned through the commercial break.

There is a small payoff in subplot, however. The character of Deputy Andy suffers a choice regarding the treatment that he has been subjected to by FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield. Andy uncharacteristically stands up to Albert rather than continue to be ridiculed by him. There is an immediate cut to Lucy in medium close-up (MCU) looking smugly at Albert. This outburst by Andy not only instills respect for him in the viewers, but it may prove to be the force that reunites the lovers Andy and Lucy. Therefore, the scene does serve to advance the narrative, if only on the level of subplot.

From the start of the scene, Lynch sets up a tension between the FBI and the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department (TPSD). The establishing shot of the TPSD office building shows the sheriff's blazer and the FBI agents' car facing each other at an angle, not quite seeing eye-to-eye. Inside the building there exists much of the same thing. Cooper and Albert sit at one corner of a long table while the TPSD staff sit at the oppostie end. Lynch reinforces this distance by shooting the TPSD staff from the agents' point of view just above the table top. In addition, he elongates the shot artificially to create more distance both physically and psychologically.

The FBI agents command the camera from the beginning, with Cooper being the main narrative agent (no pun intended). They are shot only in close-up (CU) or MCU while the TPSD staff is mostly shown in medium shots, MCU and the long shot described above. Deputy Andy proves to be the exception. Lynch places him across the table from his co-workers and diagonally across the table from the FBI agents. With his outburst, Andy becomes the first and only resident of Twin Peaks to speak in the scene. This starts a brief sequence where the command of the camera goes to the TPSD. Andy has a CU as he gest up from the table and begins his berating of Albert. His departure from the room is immediately followed by several reaction shots of the TPSD staff. Lucy has an MCU followed by Harry and Hawk in a medium shot together. The emphasis on Lucy reinforces the advancement of the subplot while the acknowledgement of Harry and Hawk reconnects the viewers to the TPSD for the moment. This connection is short, though, as the FBI agents quickly regain control of the camera for Agent Cooper's "body count".

Agent Cooper serves as the main narrative agent for the scene with only incidental assistance from Albert. As Cooper begins the scene, he addresses the camera directly, immediately engaging the viewer. He does this two more times during the course of his narrative, thus not allowing the viewers to disengage. Cooper, as the goal-oriented protagonist in this scene, involves the viewers in his own technically precise, crime-solving agenda. He lays all of the putative clues on the table, much as the doughnuts, and by the end of the scene challenges the viewers to choose between jelly or glazed, true or false.

The most important system used by Lynch in the scene is the flashback sequence. Lynch approaches this tired generic convention in a very conventional way in what will hereafter be referred to as the Doughnut Dissolves. During the Doughnut Dissolves, Lynch never completely gives the screen to the flashback. The pan down the table over the doughnuts, coffee, and evidence never fully fades from view. The dissolve never quite happens, just as the killer is never quite named. This causes the viewers to remain connected to the present while being reminded of the events of the past.

The flashbacks do not start as such. The first two images that Lynch reveals are; evergreens blowing in a harsh wind and a traffic signal displaying its red light. These two seemingly random images serve to accentuate the voice-over narration. The wind-swept trees symbolize the evil and "otherness" found in the woods and eluded to by several characters throughout the series. This image fades into the stoplight - a failed warning to Ronette and Laura and a period marking the end in the narrative of the recitation of raw fact and the beginning of information that must remain conjecture.* Cooper's narrative before and during the shot of the light contains the facts that the viewers know to be concrete through both the confession of Jacques Renault and the statement of the Log Lady. Cooper's comments about the "third man" and the events in the train car are, at this point, still supposition. The transition from fact to conjecture is also punctuated by a shift in the music from melodic to ominous. The remaining flashbacks continue this musical theme and are directly and obviously related to the portion of the summary voice-over at any particular moment.

The decision to do the flashbacks as Doughnut Dissolves derives from the division of the town of Twin Peaks into a world of false domesticity and an underworld of savage violence and corruption. The constant, overwhelming presence of the trail of doughnuts with their cloying wholesomeness** provides counterpoint to the sickening torture-murder of the Twin Peaks prom queen. The trail becomes a kind of yellow brick road leading the viewers to the debris of Laura's murder shown both in the flashback of the murder site and contained in plastic bags at the end of the Sheriff's table.

The final function of the Doughnut Dissolves serves as a reinforcement of the Twin Peaks iconography that has invaded American pop culture. The sequence begins with Agent Cooper, himself a familiar sight in his impeccably tailored dark suit and perfectly placed hair, reaching for the ever-present doughnut. The pan takes the viewers from the doughnuts, over the brewing coffee so beloved by Cooper, to the pile of evidence. There Lynch leads the viewers over Laura's death photo, two issues of Flesh World, Laura's diary and, finally, takes them to rest on Andy's trademark sobbing and the now famous prom queen portrait. The only thing lacking in the collection is a "damn fine" piece of pie. The Doughnut Dissolves thus serve as a tour of Twin Peaks mysterious icons: items chosen to parody*** small town American life and its obsession with hospitality and "niceness".

Lynch-Frost Productions has created an incredibly unique television show, to say the least. On the surface, nothing is amiss: the detectives continue to investigate a murder, there are numerous loves and business affairs, family difficulties and closet skeletons. However, Lynch-Frost has populated this area with a woman who talks to a log, a man who finds fish in his coffee pot, and an FBI agent who takes clues from dwarfs and giants who show up in his dreams. The result is a slightly unsettling, but always refreshing hour of pure escapism.*** The summary scene typifies the conflict between the old and the new conventions by reinventing the detective summary through the use of the Doughnut Dissolves. To the typical member of the "least common denominator" audience, this could prove to be the most frustrating way to solve a crime. The patient, attentive and open-minded audience sees it as a welcome, creative oasis in the vast wasteland**** of prime time television.


* nice points
** or lack of substance
*** contradictory? or is parody as escapist as fluff?
**** pretty critical! that term was used to describe 60s tv
A - nice work! both thematically and technically

And . . . discuss.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Letter to Princess on 9/13/01

Princess was not quite 18 months old. Hubby had to go to a conference in Baltimore so I asked my parents to come stay with me for that week. After 18 months I was still not quite confident enough to be a mom alone for a whole week. I'm so glad that they were here.

I remember going to Wal-Mart because I just had to do something normal. As I walked toward the store an older woman turned to me and said, "Can you f*cking believe this?" We just stared at each other in the parking lot shaking our heads.

I remember that night going outside and looking up at the sky. For all of my life I have marveled at the fact that I can't be outside for more than 10 or 20 minutes without seeing an airplane go by. This night, and the following day, I watched the sky with the strange knowledge that no man-made craft would interrupt my meditations.

I remember Wednesday night going to the Congress Street bridge and watching the bats come out. We met countless people who were stranded waiting for air transportation to resume.

I remember trying to get Hubby on the phone and trying not to panic. His group had scheduled a tour of the Pentagon and I couldn't remember if it was supposed to be Tuesday morning or Wednesday morning. It had been scheduled for Wednesday. Hubby was trying to get in touch with his sister whose husband worked at the Pentagon. Turns out his division had relocated from the Pentagon to a different building ten days before.

I remember feeling numb. I also remember feeling love for all of my countrymen.

I remember wanting to do something, but not really knowing what. I heard that the rescue dogs were going through protective booties like crazy. I visited pet stores and only found one pair. I sent them to New York. I got the nicest thank you letter weeks later.

I remember delivering a meal to a friend who had just had a baby. I dropped off the food and watched more of the TV coverage from her living room. Her husband came in, took a stack of business cards from his wallet and started separating them into piles. He was in finance and did a lot of business with people in New York. The largest pile of cards all bore the address of World Trade Center. He held them up and said, "I don't even know if these people are still alive."

On Thursday of that week ten years ago, I started a letter to Princess.

My Dearest Princess, Sept 13, 2001
One day you will ask me about the events of this week. I know I will never be able to explain to you exactly what went on and exactly what it did to our country and our way of life. The world will never be the same. You will never know the New York skyline as I did. You will visit a memorial to the Twin Towers as I can visit a memorial to the ships at Pearl Harbor. I pray that you will know a world without fear and without threat. I pray that you will never know the feelings that I have had the last two days. I will try to recount what happened and how I felt.
First of all, your daddy is on a business trip to Baltimore so Grandmommy and Grandpoppy are staying with us so I won’t go nuts! Tuesday morning I was getting you ready to go to Mother’s Day Out (which you love!) when Uncle Lance called. He asked if we were watching TV and I said no. He said, “Turn it on.” I thought that maybe one of our friends was being interviewed on TV (we know some artsy type people) and so I joked to Uncle Lance, “Why? Are we at war?” He said, “Almost.” That’s when I knew something was really wrong. I turned on the TV and saw the Twin Towers smoking. They had been hit by two hijacked planes. In my mind it wasn’t real. I couldn’t believe that I was watching these two proud giants so wounded. I can’t really describe to you what was going on in my head. I was in such shock and disbelief. No one could do this to US, the United States of America! Who could do it and HOW? We watched for a long time and they had footage of the second plane going into the building. It just sliced into it and then there was an incredible explosion. It really was like a movie. I’m sure that you will see footage of it over and over. It will be archival to you. But it was real to me. I called your daddy’s cell phone and left the first of several messages. I debated whether or not to take you to Mother’s Day Out. I didn’t know if I wanted to be away from you. I finally decided that you would have more fun there because I was going to be useless to you all day! I’m so sorry that I felt that way. You didn’t mind, though. You love to play with other kiddos! Shortly before I packed you into the car they came on the TV and said that something had just happened at one of the Towers. The reporter said that he couldn’t tell what was going on because of the dust and debris, but he thought that a chunk of the building had come down. As the dust was clearing we realized that the entire building was gone. It had totally collapsed in on itself. We found out later that it melted from within. The inside was melting and collapsing and the vacuum that caused made the outer structure cave in, too. It was amazing. I was trying hard not to cry. I didn’t know anyone who worked there, but it was just the idea that someone had destroyed a part of our country. Someone had messed with our way of life. And I knew that I would never feel totally safe again.
I had the radio on as I drove you to Mother’s Day Out. There was a correspondent at the Pentagon who reported that they felt a blast there, too. At first I thought that it was just someone panicking and thinking that a car back-firing was gunfire or something. Then he said that he could see out the window and construction workers were running away from the building. He was very confused about what was going on and I was having trouble comprehending it. At that point they didn’t know that the Pentagon had been hit by a plane, they just knew it had been hit. They also came on the radio and said that they were grounding all flights in the United States. All flights were coming down out of the air. There were reports that they couldn’t make contact with a certain number of planes and I thought the worst. I was running through my mind where they would strike next. Would it be Chicago? San Diego? Houston? Dallas? Where? Atlanta was mentioned on the radio as going on alert as was Boston (where most of the hijacked flights originated). It was unreal. As I was pulling into the parking lot at the church Peter Jennings reported that the second tower had come down. Princess, I could only sit there and cry. Both Towers were now gone. And all of those people in them. And we still didn’t know who was doing it. We didn’t know what was next.
All day on Tuesday we watched the news. All day we heard horror stories. And stories of courage. You will know some of those stories. You will see the pictures that I saw. But you can’t know the feelings that our country is experiencing right now.

I wish I could have finished it, but the emotion was too raw. I'm kind of glad that it just stops, though. I think it illustrates the point.

I remember thinking when Diana died that her death was my generation's JFK. For years the question would be "Where were you when you heard that Diana was dead?" I wish I hadn't been wrong.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breaking Point

In the early nineties I worked for a seasonal haunted house here in Austin called The Nightmare on Fifth Street. It was tons of fun! I have many, many stories about goings on in and around the Nightmare. The one I was thinking of today is the one about the bass player.

Those of us who worked the hallways in the Nightmare wore walkie-talkie headsets so that we could keep up with each other and with what was going on in different parts of the house. If Frankenstein needed help with an unruly patron, we would know. If there was a cute girl who was really afraid to go through by herself, of course the single guys on headset needed to know. You get the picture.

The Nightmare was located right next to a building that rented rehearsal space for local musicians. Apparently they could rent at any time of the day or night. There was one bass player whose equipment was tuned to the frequency of our walkie-talkies and we could hear his bass as he practiced. The first night it was funny. It became a joke. The second night it was a little more annoying. After that it was a kind of torture. The thing was, he didn't rehearse on consecutive nights. Sometimes the space between rehearsals was a week. Each night that we were open we wouldn't know when or if he would show up. The anticipation was almost as bad as listening to the rehearsal itself. And yes, we did try to change frequencies. The shared frequency was the only one that held up inside the building.

So, every night that the bass player practiced I had a contest in my mind. Who would snap first? We had five people on headsets and each night each one of us would have our own different breaking point. One night I might be able to stand it for 45 minutes at a time. The next I was off headset after 10 minutes. I could be walking the hall going to check on a particular scene and hear a strained voice in my ear saying, "I can't take it! I'm turning off for a while." I remember one night being outside on the sidewalk when a fellow headset wearer stomped out the front door, screamed, ripped his headset off and sat down on the curb with his head in his hands.

I bring this up because it applies to every day life. Some days I can take the constant questions, comments, requests, stories, toy noises, etc. Some days I want to rip off my Mommy headset and just sit on the curb. Today is one of those days.

I'll be off headset for a while.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One More Reason to Love Kids' Birthday Parties

"Excuse me."

I heard the small voice behind me, but I didn't know that I was the one being addressed so I kept going. I was headed down the steps of the clubhouse to the bouncy castle to give Buddy the "five minute to departure" warning.

"Excuse me." A little louder this time.

I turned. A small girl of about three years old looked up at me. Her hair was disheveled from bouncing. Her feet were damp from the grass. She lifted her oversize pink t-shirt to reveal shorts with pink and orange flowers. Then she pulled the waistband out with one hand while the other hand disappeared down the front of her shorts. I watched and wondered with not a little horror at where exactly this was leading.

"Is this yours?" she asked as she pulled out a red cellophane bag full of pinata candy.

I cocked my head. So many things went through my head.

"No, sweetie, it isn't. But thank you for asking," I replied.

"Okay." And she stuffed the bag back into her shorts.

I almost asked her why she wasn't using the rather large pockets that I observed on her shorts, but she had already run up to the clubhouse.

I'm not sure that she found anyone to claim the bag of candy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


"Just wait"

I hate hearing those words. Ninety percent of the time they precede something I don't want to heard. The worst time to hear those words, though, is when they are used in regard to your life as a parent. I remember the first time I realized what damage those words can cause.

A friend was over with her two year old son. Princess was about 9 months old and perfectly content to crawl around and play with a variety of toys while I put together a page of her baby book. As my friend pried a pair of decorative edge scissors out of her son's peanut butter grip, she said, with a little bitterness, "Just wait until she's his age. You can kiss THAT hobby good-bye." There was know way that she could know my reaction to that casually tossed out comment.

I was really depressed there for a few weeks. Here I was, still a relatively new mom, having a more seasoned mom tell me that my future contained hours upon hours of chasing a hyperactive, peanut butter coated kid around other people's houses while my beloved scrapbooking supplies collected dust. Okay . . . so maybe I just took it kind of hard. I did go through another round of "baby blues" (a hormone related emotional low) when Princess weaned - which was around this time. But still, I think that it was an insensitive comment.

It wasn't until much later that I realized something very important: EVERY KID IS DIFFERENT!!!!! Say it with me now: EVERY KID IS DIFFERENT!!!! Oh, and while we're at it: EVERY PARENT IS DIFFERENT. And . . . EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT!!!!!! My "just wait" moment is not necessarily the same as another's. So it's just best to keep your mouth shut!

(For the record, as Princess got older, I was still able to scrapbook. I haven't done it in quite a while, but my reason for scrapbooking was to document events in her life and in Buddy's life. Hello blogging!!!! Does anyone want a set of decorative edge scissors?)

But, please forgive me, I know that I "just wait" people, too. A friend of mine is pregnant with her first child. I find myself thinking "just wait" in her general direction constantly. I don't think that I've actually said those words to her because they are such a trigger for me, but I have probably said something very similar. I hate that. It's a fine line between wanting to share your experiences and opinions with a friend and being seen as that "seasoned mom" who only barks out warnings. I hope that I've stayed on the more positive side of the line.

Being a parent is a wonderful experience. And yes, there are many, many things that you won't fully "get" until you have the baby in your arms and start the journey of parenthood officially. But there are so many variable that I don't see how anyone can possibly feel that they have a right to utter the words "just wait" as a warning. Because if you sit around and wait for the "just wait"s, you miss an awful lot of the good stuff.

Speaking of waiting, there are also the "I can't wait"s that threaten to rob you of your in-the-moment-joy. I made a decision early on - before Princess was even born - that I wasn't going to get bogged down in the "I can't wait"s: I can't wait until she can crawl, I can't wait until she can talk, I can't wait until she's out of diapers, I can't wait until she's off to college . . .. You see how those can pile up? I wanted to enjoy each moment, each stage of her life because I will NEVER get those moments back. And, although it is very cliche to say, it goes too fast! I remember getting up in the middle of the night to feed her and soaking in every quiet moment. It was a sweet, special time that only she and I would share. I remember feeding her rice cereal and having it get all over the high chair, and I savored the sweet aroma and the stickiness of her cheek. I remember taking my time changing her diapers. After I would put the clean diaper on, I'd talk to her on the changing table, I'd tickle her tummy, I'd show her her own hands and feet and name her nose and ears and chin as I touched them. Soon she was pointing to them as I asked her where they were! All of those times would have been glossed over had I been focused on the future - which is so easy to do. I've taken the view that I "can't wait" for things that are actually on my calendar as events.

In conclusion, I would like to present a few of the Cabin's "wait"s:

Just wait until . . . .
you count the fingers and toes of your newborn.
your baby smiles for the first time.
you look at your husband/wife for the first time as a parent.
your cat/dog hears the baby cry for the first time!

I can't wait until . . .
we go to the circus tomorrow.
Grandmommy and Grandpoppy come in next week.
Princess and Buddy get home from school.

In my humble opinion, those are the kind of "wait"s that are okay to be spoken. Oh, and I try to only say, "Wait until Daddy gets home" in regards to when we'll order pizza.

Hell on Earth? No, It's Just Texas Weather

Here in Texas, we are in a drought of Biblical proportions. Most of the state is in a "D4" stage of drought which is labeled "exceptional". Yeah, it's hot and dry.

(For anyone living in the deserts of the western United States, just stop reading now. I'm going to whine a lot about our heat and triple digit temperatures. You live with that every summer. We're not used to it. So please, pat my head and let me get it out. Then we can have a popsicle together.)

I hadn't realized how how much I take running water for granted until I really had to starting thinking about it. In the United States, if we want water, we turn on the tap. It's pretty much that simple. Yes, there can be a drought, but really (we think), our water is not going to run out. I can just turn on the tap and get a drink whenever I want. Okay, I'll cut down my shower by three or four minutes. Maybe I'll think twice about that bubble bath. But really, we're not going to run out of water.


There are towns in Texas that have their reservoir going dry. You may have read about Big Spring, where the big spring is drying up. They are resorting to some extreme measures there. Some towns are turning off the water periodically. Austin closed some city pools early this summer.

We got word this week that we are going to Stage 2 water restrictions next week. Stage 2 includes:
  • Watering allowed 1 day per week for all City Water customers
  • Hand-watering allowed anytime
  • No automatic-irrigation after 10 a.m. on designated watering day
  • Vehicle washing on designated day before 10 a.m.
  • No charity carwashes
  • No automatic fill valves for pools or ponds
  • No outdoor fountains except to provide aeration for aquatic life
  • No water to be served at restaurants unless requested
  • No washing of sidewalks, driveways, parking areas or other paved areas
Sounds serious, folks.

I've been struck by the way the conditions have been permeating my everyday life. If you step outside, it is quite literally like stepping into a blast furnace. So the heat keeps us indoors. (Hubby - who's from Michigan - tells his relatives that our "winter" is August and September. We just don't go outside.) If the kids get bored and restless, I can't send them outside to play. They can't go ride their bikes because they might get heat stroke two blocks away. It's THAT hot. So we stay in and try to find ways to amuse and entertain ourselves that don't constantly involve electronics or screens. That's kind of hard after almost 70 days of triple digit temps.

There seems to be an undercurrent of anxiety and worry. Most of it is the economy, yes, but I can't help but think that the knowledge of a water shortage is always lingering in the back of most people's minds. Of course, it's all we can talk about. "Can you believe how much your water bill is?" "How are you cutting back?" "I haven't washed my hair in three days!" "Have you seen my lawn?" And the worst, we keep reminding the kids "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down" for bathroom breaks. (That's the first restriction I'm leaving behind when this thing is over! Ick!)

Visually, you can't escape it at all. All of my plants on the back porch are dead. Our backyard has a brown, crispy swath cut out of it in the middle - the ribbon that is in full sun all day long. I refer to as the Yellow Brick Road. You can tell which homeowners have been heeding the current water restrictions. There are many lawns that are just completely baked - no green whatsoever. There are also lawns that are full and lush. (I hate to be mean, but I really hope that those people are fined. It's not just the bratty side of myself saying, "If I can't do it, I don't want you to!" It's now gotten to the point that I see those lawns and I feel like they are completely wasting water that we might need for sustenance in a few months. I get angry when I see those lawns. I feel that those homeowners are flipping us off. Maybe that's just me.)

The thing that I am most sad about is my garden. I really enjoyed harvesting the veggies from my own patch of earth. I LOVED the cherry tomatoes and the cucumbers. The okra were fun to give away (I discovered I'm not a huge okra fan). The peppers and eggplant were slow to grow, but worth it. And I have harvested and dried MUCH basil and sage. I love gardening. LOVE it. But I'm afraid that I'm going to have to give it up until this drought is over. I do have the ability to go out and hand water the patch (which I did the other night), but the city has really jacked up the price of water this summer, so it's costing a lot to keep the garden going. I'm not sure at this point that the return is worth it - and that's adding in the enjoyment factor.

So yes, it's been a hot, dry mess of a summer. The heat is oppressive and the drought is scary. We will come out of this okay, I know. And we'll be better for it. I'm learning so much about what I need and what I can do without. I NEED to wash clothes. I can do without the extra rinse cycle. Along those lines.

I will now close this post and go out and do a rain dance. And I promise that I will never sing "Rain, rain, go away" ever again!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Post Roast Experiment - Success!

This week I found this recipe for a pot roast done in a slow cooker. It looks really good and I like the fact that it has butternut squash as an ingredient. However, once I really read all of the directions, I saw that the recipe required more time than I was able to give. I was going to be gone all day, returning only in time to eat. I wouldn't be able to add the squash the last two hours, much less do all the simmering and whisking. So . . . here's my version:

1 3-4 pound lean beef chuck roast
1 large sweet onion
2 cups baby carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
hickory flavored liquid smoke - about 1/3 bottle
1/4 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup water

Cut onion into wedges and put in crock pot with baby carrots. Brown roast on all sides in olive oil then transfer to crock pot. Pour 1/3 of bottle of liquid smoke on meat. Combine water and coffee and pour over meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your liking. Cover and cook 4 to 5 hours on high or 7 to 8 hours on low.

The smoke and the coffee really compliment each other well. I never would have thought of using coffee to season a roast, but I'm going to use it more often!

What are some of the most unusual, but successful, flavor combinations have you tried?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Scorpion Story

We're in a horrible drought here in Texas. It's the driest summer on record. Lawns are brown and crunchy (well, except for the lawns of the people who stubbornly ignore the watering limitations - like we can't tell!). People stay indoors as if it were winter on the Great Lakes.

Another thing that happens in a drought is that critters start quite literally coming out of the woodwork to find water anywhere they can. Last week a neighbor said that she saw a coyote walking down her street. There was a report on the news about a wild fox and a kitten sharing a drink at a backyard watering bowl. I was reminded of the time that we had an unwanted visitor in our front room. This is a post from April of 2008.

I really wanted to be on time for my yoga class. I hate missing the warm-up. We were on track to just make it! I called again for Princess while I filled my water bottle at the sink. I heard her bounce down the stairs. There was a pause. Then what I can only describe as a vocal siren.


I will try to describe the chaos, but . . . like any good comedy, you just had to be there.

Princess came running full tilt through the living room to the back door. As she passed Buddy, he jumped on the loveseat and immediately started sobbing. Princess grabbed the doorknob, then let go (still screaming - I think she may have a future in horror movies), then ran two or three steps, then ran back to the back door. Buddy was jumping up and down on the loveseat, sobbing loudly. I came around the counter to where Princess was quite literally running in circles screaming. It was like the Marx Brothers meet Wes Craven.

Me: Calm down, Baby. Calm down. What's going on?
Princess: (still screaming in the Mariah Carey range) A SCORPION!!!! IN THERE!!!! (she pointed to the front room)
Buddy: (loud sobs alternating with small yelps)
Me: Okay, okay. I've got it.

I walked in the front room and, sure enough, there in the middle of the hardwood floor was a scorpion. It was mad as a hornet (sorry) and just looking for someone or something to sting. It made me wonder if scorpions can hear.

Me: Okay, Baby. I'll get it.
Me: Where?!?!? Did it get you? Are you okay?
Princess: I'M FINE! I HAVE MY SHOES ON! BUT I STEPPED ON IT! AND I ALMOST TOUCHED IT! WAAAAAAAHHHHHH! (I found out later that after she stepped on it she thought that it was one of Buddy's toys and almost picked it up. It moved just as she was about to touch it.)
Buddy: (now only whimpering)
Me: I'm going to get it. It's okay.

I went and got the flyswatter. I thought about squashing the thing with my shoe, but the shoe I was wearing had a textured sole. All I needed was to have it wriggle into a crevasse and come out even madder.

I do need to pause here and tell about my one and only scorpion sting. It was the night before my birthday a few years ago. I had just gotten a cup of hot tea and was walking back into the living room. As I sat down on the couch, I spilled a bit of the boiling hot tea on my ankle. Or so I thought. What had really happened is that I stepped on a scorpion's head. I was wearing slip-on house shoes that don't have a back, so it's tail came straight up and got me just below the ankle. It felt JUST like boiling hot water. Long story short - I wound up going to the ER because 1) my lips went numb and 2) the pain was incredibly intense and was not subsiding at all. Turns out I'm mildly allergic to scorpion venom. The sent me home with Vicodin and Benadryl. So I do freak out a bit at scorpions and will do almost anything to avoid them.

But I couldn't avoid this one. It was in our front room. In our HOUSE. What does Lady Macbeth say? Screw your courage to the sticking place? Yeah, right, Lady M. I don't think YOU ever stared down the business end of a scorpion!

As I made my way to the front room, I could hear Princess saying over and over, "I wish Daddy was here. I wish Daddy was here." I turned and smiled as I waved the flyswatter and said, "Me too!"

In the front room I had an awful thought. What if I brought the flyswatter down and somehow the scorpion grabbed it with its pincers and then when I brought the flyswatter back up I flung the horrible beastie onto my back? I honestly don't recall ever killing a scorpion (I always have someone else do it) so what if one whack wasn't enough to crush its armor? What if I had to beat it and beat it and it got madder and madder? I was working myself into what could have been a full-on freak-out. But you would be amazed how much bravery you can muster when two sets of trusting little tear-streaked eyes are on you. I brought the flyswatter up like a light saber and WHACK!

Scorpion's armor is really thin. They splat pretty good.

(I didn't wind up making the warm-up for the class, but I figure that the adrenaline surge burned one or two calories.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Musical Substitute

In honor of the beginning of the school year, I shall repost an entry from September of 2006.

Substitute teaching is not for the faint of heart. I know. I have been a substitute teacher. I didn't last long. I can't remember which class was my last - the kindergarten class when I had to put ALL of them in "time out" at the same time, the high school art class where they were throwing clay at each other or the middle school class that broke the pencil sharpener because all of a sudden EVERYONE'S pencil was too dull.

I think it was payback for some of the things that I did to substitute teachers. I wasn't that bad, but I did participate in a spitball marathon one time and another time I agreed to switch seats with someone and answered to a different name all class period. There was one teacher, however, who made a distinct impression on me.

He was a substitute for my eighth grade history class. He was probably in his late sixties or early seventies. No one had the heart to mess with him. Our teacher had left instructions for us to read a couple of chapters and do the study questions - enough work to keep us busy for the entire class period. Well, I was a quick study so I got done pretty early. I sat in the first row so somehow I struck up a conversation with the substitute. I am so glad that I did.

He was retired and substituted for something to do. I don't remember his primary career, but I do remember what he said he did as a youth. He had been a piano player for the local movie theater in the days of silent movies. He told me stories of his life in "the movies". He must have been an exceptional player. He said that they would send the reels of film and the score at the same time. Most of the time he wouldn't have any time to practice before the first showing. He would sit down and see the music and the film for the first time when at the first showing. Also, the sheet music would have been all over the country with dozens and dozens of other piano players and sometimes it arrived with a page missing here or there. When that happened, he had to improvise. Think about that - he had to improvise a musical score to a movie that he had never seen. That sounds amazingly fun!

That man is the only substitute that I really remember from my whole school career. I never saw him again after that day. I don't remember his name. I barely remember his face. I just remember that I came away from that class period with romantic scenes from the silent movie days dancing through my head to an improvised piano.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Double Take: A Buddy Story

I've decided that one way I can get in the habit of posting over here is to repost some of my favorite entries from LiveJournal. Here's one from spring of 2010.

Princess and I were cleaning up after breakfast when Buddy called down from the upstairs bathroom.

Buddy: Mom!!! I pooped!
Me: (a little surprised because he hasn't felt the need to announce this in a while - also, I'm frantically trying to think of what he might have eaten to cause his poop to distress him so) Okay . . .
Buddy: And it was big!
Me: (relaxing a bit, thinking that he was just proud) Oh!
Buddy: It splashed me.
Me: (thinking that he's freaked because of a wet bottom) Well . . . (on my way to say "Just wipe your bottom with some toilet paper")
Buddy: And some water got in my eye.

Just think about that for a second. Princess and I did.

Me: It got in your eye?
Buddy: Yeah! What should I do?!?!?
Me: Um. When you're done then wash your eye out with water, I guess.

By this time Princess and I were silently doing the "creep out" dance. You know the one: where you face involuntarily screws up and you get the shivers and scuff your feet. But we were also trying very hard not to laugh out loud at what we were seeing in our mind.

Here's what we deduced: Buddy does not sit on the toilet seat when he poops. He puts his feet on the seat and then squats. Yes. You read that right. How do I know this? Because several times he's called me into the bathroom to bring him a new roll of toilet paper and when I enter the room I've found him in that position. I thought that he was there just because he was being silly for me at that particular moment. Nope. That's how he poops. Yes, he takes off pants and underwear completely, perches his little tootsies on the seat and squats. It stands to reason, then, that a large plop could make it to his eye. Especially if he was looking down at that particular moment. Which, I'm sure, he was. Sigh.

I have absolutely no idea why he does this. He doesn't either. When I told him he needed to SIT on the seat, he replied that he didn't know how. At that time, and at this time, it's just not worth it to argue or try to teach him otherwise. I'm thinking that because he's got such a teeny little tush, he's afraid of falling through. I can understand that fear. I might address this at some point, but I'm thinking that he'll actually fix this on his own. I can't imagine him still doing this as an eight or nine year old. Or maybe this is something that his father should address. I don't know. All I know is that it makes for a good story!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Fit To End All Fits

Enough time has gone by that I can finally talk about The Incident in Wal-Mart. Beware. This is a long post.

March 31, 2006. Princess was a few weeks away from turning six. Buddy was still a few months away from being three. It was a nice spring day. Princess had asked if we could get out the watercolors and paint. I thought that was a good idea, but, alas, we didn’t have any watercolors. I told them that if they behaved that morning, we’d go to Wal-Mart that afternoon and get some watercolors. They behaved.

I have a theory about Wal-Mart. I believe that they pipe in some sort of air that contains a chemical that causes small children to become screaming, wriggling sacks of goo. But I digress . . .

I had a modest shopping list as we walked into the store - cleaning supplies, office supplies, etc. I put Princess in the back of the shopping basket and Buddy in the front. We went down several aisles and stopped in the school supplies for the prize of the watercolors. I handed each of them their tray and they gazed upon the colors with wonder. Then Buddy began to bang his on the front of the cart.

I told Buddy not to bang the paints.

Bang, bang, bang.

Obviously he hadn’t heard me OR I just didn’t give a good enough explanation (because I didn’t want to be the type of mom who said, “Because I say so!”). So I told him that if he slammed the paints on the cart, he might break them and then he wouldn’t be able to use them.

Bang, bang, bang.

Sigh. He heard me tell him to stop and then he heard me tell him why. Now it was just about obedience. I told him that if he slammed the paints on the cart one more time, I’d take them away from him and put them in the back with Princess.

Bang, bang, bang.

I calmly took the paints from him and put them in the back of the cart with his sister. Oh! Tragedy! Buddy began the Cart Twist Move - trying to twist around in the seat and maneuver out of the ornamental seatbelt that they have on the cart to make the cart seem safe. All the while, the wailing had begun. Yay!

I told Buddy that if he continued to twist around and yell, I would put the paints back on the shelf and he wouldn’t get paints this time.

Twist, yell, twist, scream.

Up went the paints.


Now Buddy was screaming at the top of his lungs and twisting around with such vehemence that it was getting dangerous. Because I had been reading a book on behavior, I immediately deduced that at that point his fit was about attention and, in order to quell the storm I must ignore it. So I took Buddy out of the cart and put him on the floor. He immediately threw himself on my feet sobbing and wailing.

Because I needed to ignore this behavior and not reward it with ANY attention (even negative attention is attention), I slowly walked three steps to my right and browsed the scotch tape (seriously wondering if anyone would notice if I used it over his mouth). He crawled on hands and knees and again flung himself on my feet. Again, I calmly stepped away and moved back toward the cart, wondering if there was any way on God’s green Earth that the store was populated by deaf individuals. Buddy crawled back to me and collapsed once again.

Silently cursing the stupid parenting book that I had wasted so much time on, I decided that the rest of my list could wait and we just needed to get the hell outta Dodge. I scooped Buddy up with one arm and pushed the cart with the other - heading for checkout.

At this point in the story you may wonder why I decided to actually go through the checkout line instead of turn tail and run. Through this whole ordeal, Princess had been quietly playing in the cart. I didn’t want her to be punished just because Buddy had decided to do his impersonation of the Tasmanian Devil.

Please picture this - I’m pushing a cart with an angelic, blonde six year old girl who is sweetly naming off all the things that she’s going to paint when she gets home, and I’m holding an almost three year old wild thing who is screaming his head off and thrashing about so much that I almost lose him on several occasions. Yeah, you want me behind you in line.

I couldn’t risk putting Buddy down. He was too out of control. So I kept him on my hip as I took the items out of my cart and put them on the conveyer belt. I was not paying enough attention to Buddy or his fit, so he decided that he’d get my attention again. He bit me. Yes, you read that right. He sunk his teeth into my shoulder. Hard. Hard enough for me to cry out and instinctively swat his head. I gritted my teeth and told him NOT to do that again. He ignored me. More biting.

At this point, I had absolutely no idea what to do. Had I been at home, no problem. That was a spanking and then room banishment. But you can’t spank your kids in public. (Obviously.) You can’t even talk about spanking your kids. (I’m really risking something by admitting it here.) So I was out of options. I had THAT kid. That out of control, screaming to the point of discoloration kid. Everyone was looking at me. Most were looking at me with sympathy as if to tell me that they had been there. I do remember one lady looking at me with such scorn and ridicule that I almost walked over to her and handed Buddy to her and said, “Okay, show me how it’s done!” But at that point I was just ready to leave.

After a couple more bites, I put Buddy down on the ground. I did NOT, however, let him go. I kept a firm grip on his little wrist because I had absolutely no idea what he would do or where he would go were he free. He promptly bit my hand. Then he whirled around and, I am NOT kidding, he bit my butt.

That brought me to some sort of reality. It was all I could do right then to stifle my laughter. I saw the complete absurdity of the whole thing and I actually relaxed just a bit. I picked up Buddy (and my shoulder got a few more teeth marks) and I paid for our items. Then I took the screaming little mass outside to the car.

By the time we got to the car, Buddy was peaking. He was thrashing, gnashing and sobbing so hard that I thought he might hurt himself. I, however, was calm and collected. I knew that at that point that the only thing that would calm Buddy was sheer exhaustion. I wrestled him into the car seat and started the car. Then his screams started to be coherent.

He had begun yelling, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!!!” I was perplexed for a moment until I realized that “stupid” was the worst word he knew. He was cussing at me. That was enough to make me laugh out loud. My almost three-year-old was calling me a b*tch in his own little way. Oh me, oh my.

On the way home I called my mom and dad and just held up the phone for them to hear what was going on. They loved it. Payback is hell.

Throwing a fit that intense takes a lot out of a little body. He had calmed down a little by the time we pulled into the driveway. I got him out of the car and took him immediately into the to his room. I put him to bed where he screamed for another half hour before he fell asleep.

Of course I called Hubby to tell him all that had happened. When he got home, I showed him the bruises on my shoulder (yes, I had quite a few nasty bruise-bites). Hubby sat Buddy down and had a pretty intense heart-to-heart. He told Buddy that I was his (Hubby’s) WIFE and that Hubby was charged with taking care of me and protecting me and that he would do that no matter what. Hubby said that he knew that I had already given Buddy his punishment, but that if Buddy ever hurt me again, he’d have to answer to Hubby. Hubby did NOT do this in a threatening way. He didn’t intimidate at all (if you know Hubby, you know that), but he did make his point.

It’s been five years since this incident. I get a lot of mileage from this story! I enjoy telling it and, believe it or not, Buddy enjoys hearing it. He laughs and says, “I can’t believe I did that!” And then sometimes he’ll come and kiss my shoulder where he bit it. But we can laugh about it now because it was an isolated incident. That was the last knock-down drag-out fit that Buddy has ever had. It could be because we gave him swift and appropriate consequences. And it could be that we continue to demand of him (and his sister) good manners and acceptable behavior.

Or it could be because we now patronize Target instead of the poison-aired Wal-Mart.

And . . . Let's Try This Again

The recent troubles of LiveJournal coupled with my desire to really try for an audience (hello, Audience, whoever you are!) have spurred me to redesign this blog and try to make it work. I may still post on LJ because I have quite a few friends on that blog (not to mention that's how my mom keeps up with my life), but I think I'm going to concentrate on this site for a while.

For background posts, please go here: My LiveJournal Cabin77 Blog.

To everyone who may be new - welcome!