Thursday, November 17, 2011

Notes on the Lockdown

When I was about eight years old, my mom, my brother, and I were forced to lie face down on the floor of our local post office by gunmen armed with pistols fitted with silencers.  Maybe this is why I took yesterday's lockdown at ECU seriously.

Maybe it's because I grew up in Los Angeles.  Maybe it's because I have been around responsible gun owners all my life and have been taught gun safety.  Maybe it's because, as a former high school teacher, I have been through lockdown training.  Maybe it's because this picture

looks enough like a man with a rifle slung over his shoulder that I'm glad someone cared enough to call the police.

Maybe none of that matters.

What matters is that this is the world we live in.  People do terrible things to each other.  And while I recognize the openings for debate here, there isn't a whole lot we can do about it.  What we can do, however, is take threats seriously.

I like to believe that I have a healthy sense of humor, but I don't think that any part of yesterday's lockdown was funny.  Yes, it turned out that the man was carrying an umbrella, not an assault rifle, and thank goodness.  But trivializing the situation while it is happening is going too far.  While my students and I sat on the floor, by the cinderblock wall, out of the line of sight of all windows, we read posts on Twitter and Facebook, trying to keep abreast of what was happening.  Out of a stream of 140 or so posts to the local news channel's breaking story about the lockdown, I'd say 70% of them were people fighting with each other about whether or not ECU had sent them an alert email, 20% were rumors about hostages, the number of gunmen, and where the police were, and the remaining 10% ridiculed students and police and noted how stupid people were in general.  Several times, I had to calm my students down.

After we got the all clear alert, another professor asked me what I had done for the close to three hour incident.  I replied that I had sat with my students on the floor of my classroom.  This professor wanted to know why we were sitting on the floor.

I was stunned by this question.  But it did explain why, at about hour two, we began to hear people walking around in the hallway and talking on their phones.  We also heard people in another classroom watching YouTube videos, loudly.  By hour two, enough people had Tweeted and Facebooked and texted and emailed that they were bored with the whole situation.  And, apparently, there are lots of people who don't understand that walking around and making noise during a threat of this kind makes you a target.

I do not suggest that we live our lives in fear.  I do suggest that we practice reasonable caution.  Since I was the teacher, whatever my students' ages, I was in the position of authority.  I felt responsible for their safety.  As such, when the alert came in at 10:11 am, I directed my students to sit on the floor, turned of the projector and the lights, and asked everyone to remain quiet.  They did.

Until the noise from the rest of our floor could not be ignored.  Then my students started to get up, walk around, talk.  What if the umbrella had been an assault rifle?  Closer to my point, no one knew that it wasn't an assault rifle until hours after the all clear.

Maybe I should just take heart from the apparent fact that there are plenty of people who did not believe that the threat to students, faculty, and staff at ECU could possibly be real, and that there are still people out there who don't know what to do in the case of a lockdown. 

Friday, November 4, 2011


CAPTCHA terms of the day:

nathoad n. a natty toad  OK.  That was lame.  I don't know why, but when I saw this CAPTCHA, I immediately thought of Mr.Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland, based, of course, on The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.  Why is it again that some of my favorite childhood books described people (or anthropomorphized animals) in places that were completely unfamiliar to me?  "A pastoral version of England" (thanks Wiki) is about as far as you can get from Gardena, CA.  We set traps out for rats.  Yes, we did.

orsabi slang a question meaning do you want soy sauce or wasabi?  Lame again.  I just can't resist these things, though.  This CAPTCHA also brought to mind Obi-Wan Kenobi AND "savvy" of Johnny Depp/Captain Jack Sparrow fame.  An interesting combination, that.

demancol n. This is, quite obviously, a new drug that will either bring out/tone down your inner demon or make the government's no-call list actually work. 

oogeds Any takers?  All I've got is a vowel switch for kicks of "eegads!" which makes as much sense as the rest of these.

And so, if you're still reading, this was my Sudoku, or "mental aerobics," for the day.  If only actual aerobics were this much fun...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Front Porch Art Show

I spent last weekend with some girlfriends of mine in Norfolk, Virginia.  Now this is a cool town.  We watched the Admirals win a hockey game (tickets only $20!), ate fantastic tapas at Bodega on Granby Street ("Little Plates, Big Drinks!") and seafood at AW Shucks, and went to an art "show" in the Ghent district near the Virginia Zoo.  This "show" is one of the Best Ideas Ever.

For you, my fellow artists and crafters out there, think about this scenario:  you don't have to pay an entrance fee, pack up, drive, set up your booth, display your wares, and hope to your favorite deity that someone buys something.  You are selling on your front porch.  The entire neighborhood - at least ten blocks - is selling art and crafts on their front porches.  Now, I'm not so naive as to believe that this would work everywhere. My front porch might as well be on Europa.  But this show was just so...nice.

There were people walking around with their dogs and their kids and their friends, looking at (and buying!) art, and the artists appeared, overall, to be relaxed and happy with their front porch experiences.  Most were having a glass or two and offering one to whomever happened by.  My good friend Kelly gifted me with this print by artist Jennifer C Hilliard:
Such an amazing talent.  I have linked her work to this blog.  Check it out!

I'll close by paraphrasing a recent Facebook post by my friend Jennifer Thielen:  If you really want to occupy Wall Street, buy from your local merchants, artists, artisans, and farmers.  As romantic as the idea of the starving artist is, well, ya know, tapas at Bodega are really nice, too.  : )

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Fall in love and have lots of sex"

This was Sir Salman Rushdie's advice for the freshman who had the nerve to get up during question and answer after Sir Rushdie's lecture Wednesday night and ask, "Um...I've been, like, sitting there, listening, and trying to come up with a question to ask you, and, um, like, I would be honored if you could give me some advice for my next four years and for, like, life."  After a (for me, anticipatory) moment, Sir Rushdie smiled and graciously responded, "Fall in love and have lots of sex." 

Rusdhie's lecture was nothing short of phenomenal.  Its title was "Public Events, Private Lives:  Literature and Politics in the Modern World."  He began by briefly examining America's obsession with "trivia" as opposed to the "news."  His humor in this examination; asking what Kim Kardashian actually does for a living, mentioning that Paris Hilton's 15 minutes, although over, greatly increased the name brand of her family's second-rate hotel business; set the tone for the evening.  Rushdie had the audience listening and laughing while examining very serious issues revolving around writers and their work in today's world. 

Rushdie raised the question of whether or not it is a writer's responsibility to address politics in his/her work.  He prefaced his argument with the statement that he would no sooner tell a writer that he/she should always include politics than Rushdie would tell the writer that he/she should never include politics.  However, he went on to point out that, in this information age, it is almost impossible to write a character who is not, in some way, directly affected by politics.  One of his examples was that Jane Austen was writing during the Napoleonic Wars, but she never mentions war at all.  Rushdie argues that the war did not affect her characters.  "One's character determined one's fate."  Rushdie argues that, today, one's fate is no longer determined by one's character.  For example, outside forces determine whether or not you will keep your job, regardless of how strong your work ethic is.  Therefore, modern writers almost cannot avoid writing "politically." 

He said it a lot better than I am relaying it here.  But the end result of Rushdie's lecture was, basically, telling writers, and everyone really, to speak up and speak out. 

I encourage you to read Rushdie if you haven't already.  When I read his novel The Moor's Last Sigh eleven years ago (!), it changed my life, literally.  Rushdie writes about being hybrid, or his word from his lecture "fragmented," in one's identity.  When we limit our definition of ourselves to "one thing," we narrow our vision and limit our capabilities.  Rushdie grew up in India, a society of caste and strict religious definitions, and his characters rebel against the small boxes their societies put them in.  In many cases, the characters are not successful in their rebellions.

Are we free, in today's America, to be who we are?  Every part of who we are?  Or are we forced to decide?  Do "identity politics" limit the scope of what we can do and how we are perceived?  Even worse, do identity politics limit how we perceive ourselves?  This concept of being plural in a society that wants me easily labeled and filed is something I have struggled with since I can remember. 

So, today, I am writing this blog not only to laud Sir Rushdie's lecture here at ECU, but also to speak out.  I am tired of boxes and limits and pigeonholes. As Rushdie said (quoting Saul Bellow), "For God's sake, open the universe a little more!"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Are you a glombrob?

Just now, I posted a comment on one of my students' discussions blogs, and the CAPTCHA word that came up was "glombrob."  First, doesn't that sound like it should really be a word?  Glombrob:  would it be a noun or a verb?  n.  a brob, or blob with some definition (because of the hard r sound), that gloms on to...a person?  v.  the act of a mob of bees glomming on to a person or, probably not.  I'm going with noun for now.

I often cannot read these CAPTCHA phrases, and therefore am sometimes mistaken for a spambot.  Ok.  How does that last sentence even make sense?  In my effort to write this blog, I searched for the term used for those nonsense words that you have to type in to prove you're not a computer.  CAPTCHA actually stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart," hence the all caps. Didja know that?  Kind of convenient that it also sounds like "capture."  Then I had to look up the word "turing" which I will not attempt to explain in this post.  Then there's the fact that there are actually such things as spambots, and that I can be mistaken for one if I fail to read the word "glombrob" and correctly type it in.  Perhaps I'm showing my age a bit, but really?  I'm picturing a bunch of tiny robots that smell like potted meat running around, breaking into people's blogs and posting things like "Your mama dresses you funny." 

And by the way, spambots are web crawlers that harvest email addresses which are then sold and used to send spam.  Let's look at the language here:  web crawlers and harvest.  Forgive me for tangenting (and yes, I'm giving tangent verb status) to the Matrix.  Wherein Keanu Reeves is the chosen one.  Yikes-o-rama.

So...make an effort to use your CAPTCHA phrase today, and you, too can be a glombrob:  n.  a person who gloms on to a blog and/or blog topic that contains numerous misspellings and/or mistaken ideas.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Hurricane Irene made me think about John Cusack...Yep

With apologies to Mark Twain:  Letter from the Earth:  humans are not in charge.

Well, dang.

As I write this, the water in Tranter's Creek is receding.  Our small pier has floated away, several large trees and their branches are lying around the yard and on our outbuildings, our power is back on, and the mosquitoes are breeding.  On the way to work this morning, I saw houses destroyed by falling trees and branches, storm debris everywhere, and wood neatly cut and stacked on curbs awaiting pickup.  In my first class this morning, one of my students talked about losing her car to a tree, and another student talked about losing her home to the Pamlico River.  On the news, people in Vermont and in North Carolina are stranded on little islands that did not exist before Irene.  Roads are washed away.  Homes are lifted off their foundations and destroyed.  Patterson, New Jersey is flooded.  People across the Northeast have lost everything they owned.  Some have lost their lives.

Lately, it seems that just about every day, nature brings her fury.  We are inundated with scenes of destruction through our televisions, our computers, and our phones.  What amazes me is that we refuse to give up.  We humans are determined to go on, to rebuild, to live our lives despite, or perhaps to spite, Mother Nature. 

I'm a bit at a loss here in this post.  Thoughts of 2012 keep crossing my mind, and not just of the Mayan apocalypse variety that people are talking about every time there is a major natural disaster these days, but also of the film variety with John Cusack, who I have loved since Sixteen Candles.  And what does that have to do with the price of apples?  I don't want to make jokes or make light of Hurricane Irene.  I know what it did to people and their lives.  But my brain just...goes...there.  John Cusack playing a dork and wearing a light on his forehead.  And perhaps this is what we humans do in response to not being in charge.

Or perhaps the synapses in my brain are faulty. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Help me Dexter're my only hope.

If you have not seen episode one of True Blood season 4, and you plan to, do not read this post!!!

In an earlier post, I admitted to being a big fan of all things vampire.  So it was with much excitement that I waited for the start of last night's season opener of HBO's True Blood.  Let's leave aside the fact that the writers chose not to follow the  perfectly good, and sufficiently full of HBO level sex and shock value, plot line that Charlaine Harris laid out in her Sookie Stackhouse series upon which the show is based.  We pretty much knew that was trashed after Lafayette got, well, not dead in the first season.  A very happy choice - love his character!  But last night's episode...seriously?  To quote "My Sassy Gay Friend" (whose videos you might want to check out on YouTube), "What, what, what are you doing?"

For those of you who have read the books, when Claudine showed up at the end of last season ostensibly to take Sookie away to Fairy Land, and she was decidedly NOT Claudine-like, I knew that something was truly amiss.  Why take a character whose curves would thwart a Ferrari and turn her into Earth Mother?  Last night, as D and I sat watching the first few scenes of Fairy Land, we turned to each other and said, simultaneously, "This is like that episode of Star Trek.."  Remember the one where all the aliens were young, beautiful, and totally naive?  There's one in the original and one in Next Generation - take your pick - that was Fairy Land.  Cheese city.  And then...they served everyone "light fruits."  Glowing orbs of honey colored light shaped like persimmons and served by beautiful fairies in GrecoRoman attire.  I am not making this up.  And of course, if you ate of the fruit, you would lose all track of time and could not leave Fairy Land.  Hadn't these people read the Odyssey?  The myth of Persephone?  The Bible?  Seen Percy Jackson?  Think once, think twice, think...don't eat the fruit.  Although, in Eden, A&E did gain knowledge, but that's a post for another day.

Then...the fairies turned evil and Sookie ended up somewhere in Joshua Tree and she had to jump into a deep abyss to get back to Kansas...I mean BonTemps...where...wait for entire year had passed.  This weak plot point/cop out served to allow the writers to fast forward through BonTemps time and completely change everyone's basic character.  Andy Bellefleur is addicted to V?  Sure.  Jason is the responsible cop?  AND he's responsible for all of the inbred inhabitants of Hot Shot, even though Crystal is nowhere to be found?  Um...ok.  Aunt Petunia Dursley (Fiona Shaw) plays a witch who brings her parakeet back to life only with the addition of Lafayette, who is apparently a powerful brujo, to her coven...wait...did I say Aunt Petunia?  From Harry Potter?  Yes, I did!  Bill is the King of Louisiana?  Yep!  His hair is cut differently, even though vampires' hair stays exactly the same as when they die according to this mythos.  Ok, I know that was a geek moment.  Eric owns Sookie's house because he was the only one who knew she wasn't dead...  I can't go on.  The sheer amount of cheese is overwhelming.  Oh!  I almost forgot!  Tara is a lesbian cage fighter named Toni!



There are only three television shows that I actually set aside time to watch regularly.  All three have short runs:  RuPaul's Drag Race, Dexter, and True Blood.  Psychoanalyze as you will.  Perhaps the universe is telling me I need to do something else on summer Sunday nights.  Sookie!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shabby Chic Cuff Bracelet OR my very short attention span...

Ok.  First - time goes WAY too fast.  What, exactly, have I been doing for the past week?  Yikes.

Second - new upcycled idea:  cuff bracelets.  Here is one I love.
I came across a few petite small (PS)  button down shirts that had seen better days at a yard sale a few weeks ago, and I liked the fabric.  First thought:  flowers!  The pastel colors and design of the fabric would make more "shabby chic" flowers than I have made in the past, but I thought that would be pretty.  As I was deconstructing the shirts, I noticed the cuffs just laying there.  Perfect!  Bracelets.  So...what do you think?

I left the bodices intact and will make little girls' dresses from them embellished, of course, with contrasting flowers.  I am looking forward to getting started on those.  The sleeves were made into flowers.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Next time, paint a bluetick!

Yesterday afternoon, I went to my first Umbrella Market of the 2011 season.  I was mainly selling my upcycled fabric jewelry, but I also took a few paintings that are reaching their expiration date.  We only have so much room for painting storage here at Dragonfly Landing, and when canvases have been around for a year or more, I figure they're not going to be bought, and I paint over them.  Reduce, know the drill.  Painting has taught me objectivity.  This is a visual art.  The impact on the viewer is almost always immediate, whether it is negative, positive, or indifferent.  And the viewer will tell the artist exactly what he/she thinks.  Reactions like, "What the heck is that?" thicken the skin, and, happily, have helped me to become a better painter and a better writer.  I'll get back to that idea.

This painting
has been commented on over and over again.  If a viewer reacts to it, it is either to tilt his/her head to see if the painting is hung right side up, or it is an instant smile.  Light in the eyes.  Happiness just to see this painting.  That makes me happy.  And yet, the painting is once again hanging out in the lodge.  I have shown this at at least six different art shows, but it is still homeless.  It wins the prize for the painting that was almost sold. 

Last night at the Market, one woman said, "If only the dog's coat were a little darker.  Then it would look exactly like my dog."  Another asked, "So, you have a lab?  I have two.  They do this all the time."  Another, "Doesn't that look just like Jojo?  If you painted a bluetick like this, you'd have sold it."

Art in all of its varied forms is intensely personal.  While a painting or a poem may appeal to a wide audience, that audience may not "buy" it.  Perhaps the color is wrong.  Perhaps the words don't ring exactly true.  The artist has to step back and look at the piece without being personal.  I have to accept the fact that this painting of my beautiful Napoleon might be painted over.  The story of his life does not apply to hanging a painting on a wall.  A poem I write about people and places important to me might be deleted or left to molder in a pile of papers to later be thrown away.

Stephen King says that you must kill your darlings.  Be willing to eliminate that which you have created in your writing to make the story more compelling, more effective.  Good advice, I think, but I believe I'll hang on to this painting just a little longer. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Talk about Sentimental

Craigslist post:  One Sealy Ortho Rest baby mattress for sale.


Yesterday, I took down the crib that A and C slept in.  A very few screws and carriage bolts held together what was at once a simple, wooden bed and a complex symbol of hope, fear, love, and family. 

I remember setting up the crib for the first time.  The delivery man had brought it a few days earlier than expected; he hauled the huge box up into the house by himself.  D and I sat on the floor of the nursery, freshly painted a light sage green with murals of the myth of Aurora and scenes from Winnie the Pooh, trying to figure out the cryptic directions.  After figuring out how "A" went together with "X" and not swearing too much, we stood before an empty crib.  I imagine that we held hands, felt a swell of emotion and the swell of my belly, grinned at each other.  We wondered how to keep the cats out of it.  Secretly contemplated if there was any truth to the cat taking the baby's breath tale. 

Both of our children's sleeping bodies occupied that small space, quickly growing to fit and then outgrow it.  The crib has now been converted to a double bed where, again, the babies seem so small.  D is ready for t-ball and Pop Warner; I'm waxing nostalgic over the thought of never buying diapers again.  I imagine myself, after Cyrus is potty-trained, sniffling at Huggies coupons.  My goodness.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Poetry - no secret decoder ring required.

As I sit here at my kitchen table, looking out at the riot of greens that is my front yard and the deep brown creek just beyond, listening to my children breathing on the baby monitor, it occurs to me again that I am  one lucky woman.  I just finished my second, ten day long, MFA creative writing residency with Converse College.  While I was gone, my husband's parents and my mom took care of our kids while D was at work.  They ferried the children back and forth to school, fed them, clothed them, loved them.  D was a single dad at night, bathing, cleaning, readying, feeding, and again, loving.  All of this so I could fulfill one of my favorite dreams - becoming a writer.  I am so thankful.

Residency was a wonderful experience filled with great writers, lectures, readings, and sessions with friends on the covered porch of our dorm.  Dorms, by the way, ain't what they used to be:  an elevator for a three story building; a full kitchen with stove, microwave, full size refrigerator; one bathroom for only two people.  I am finding it a little difficult to process everything at the moment, so I will just mention one person today, and I'll elaborate on the others in later posts. 

Many people do not like poetry.  Their experiences with it in junior high and high school were enough to put them off from it for the rest of their lives.  I hear this from my students almost every semester.  Stories of feeling stupid, feeling like a failure, because they could not grasp the ONE concept that the teacher felt was conveyed in the poem.  Poetry was a secret language that required a decoder ring not just anyone could buy.  If this sounds like you or someone you know, I recommend that you check out the poetry of Suzanne Cleary.  This poet's reading had us in tears...from laughing so hard.  I won't give too many specific details, but the title of the first poem she read is "Sausage Candle."  Yep.

Poetry can be fun.  It can also be intense, quiet, informative, moving, long, short, about beautiful things, and about the ugliest things in the world.  Most importantly, it is about language; it is about words and how we use them to communicate with each other.  Through Converse, I am falling in love with poetry once again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How is love like a corn dog?

This morning, I had the privilege to work with the kids in my daughter's mixed preschool and kindergarten class for a few hours.  And while my volunteer morning started on a somewhat sour and totally asinine note - instead of simply passing by the front desk, I actually remembered to sign in for my hours and was promptly rewarded with a tardy slip for 8:32 (school starts at 8:30) - the rest was at once enlightening and hilarious. 

My idea was to get the kids to write a poem about an abstract term using their five senses.  I started by giving them paper bags with oranges in them.  The kids then felt and smelled what was in the bags and described the contents.  "Squishy," "rubbery," "round," and "smells like oranges" were the most common answers.  Later, I worked with two kids at a time to write their own poems about either "love" or "friendship."

"What does love smell like?" I asked, my adult brain trying valiantly to ignore the answers I would get from my high school or college students...or my husband.  "Flowers" was pretty common, as was "strawberries" and "mom's shampoo."  Awww.  One little girl said love smelled like tortellini, her favorite meal.  I suddenly remembered I had only had a small Greek yogurt for breakfast.

Banishing those inappropriate adult, albeit juvenile, responses from my mind again, I asked, "What does love smell like?"  Some expected answers were "cake" and "chocolate," but my favorites were "spaghetti" and "corn dogs."  The girl who answered corn dogs was immediate with her answer and totally sincere.  Who doesn't think love smells like corn dogs?  Isn't that universal?

While some of the kids' answers proved that my acting skills are still pretty much in place, some of them, well, I'll let them speak for themselves.  Over and over, when I asked what love and friendship looked like, the kids answered "family." 

That got me thinking.  When I was a kid, what would I have said love smelled like?  tasted like?  I'm pretty sure my answers would have been pancakes and make-your-own ice cream sundaes at Coco's.  Making pancakes with my mom was a happy event, a content event.  And I remember it fondly to this day.  She would spell our names in pancakes, or make dinosaurs, or aliens, or whatever we were into at the time.  The smell permeated our little house for hours.  And since going out to a restaurant was a rare occasion, the opportunity to slather on chocolate syrup and not having to wash the bowl was joyous indeed.  Isn't that why so many of us have trouble with food as adults?  We equate it with love?

Ah...but the innocent minds this morning really taught me a lesson I thought I had learned well enough.  Love and friendship should look like family.  I only hope that that is what my husband and I are giving to our children. 

I'll leave you with A's poem.

Love tastes like cherries
sounds like birds tweeting
smells like milk
feels like the wind blowing
and looks like family.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Addicted to Vampires

I have a bit of "downtime" (if any mother of two small children can call it that) between semesters, so I'm doing a bit of light reading.  After trying to get into Black by Ted Dekker, and I did try - got to page 193 out of 410, I decided to go back to a tried and true good read.  Since the last (sob!) Harry Potter movie doesn't come out until July 15 and Season 4 of True Blood begins on June 26, I settled in with Charlaine Harris' series.  Sookie!

Ever since being scared out of my ten-year-old mind by a scene in an old vampire movie where a priest stuffs his vampire's victim into a furnace, I have had a love affair with all things fanged.  I read all of the Anne Rice books and saw the movies.  And yes, I'll admit, I do own the entire DVD collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and since there are no books to that series, I do own many of the comics as well. 

Then, a little over two years ago, along came Season 1 (I was a little late on the uptake) of something called True Blood.  My husband, brother, sister-in-law, and I watched the entire season in the course of two days, literally.  I had to have more.

Lo and behold, the HBO series was based on books!  I could not put them down.  I bought and read every single one of them, and I have read them all now about three times.  This series, while admittedly a "beach read" and something that, since I am a certified Prairie Home Companion  English Major, I have to dub a "guilty pleasure," is smart.  Harris manages to present vampires, werewolves, fairies, and other supernatural beings in a storyline that is fun and suspends disbelief.  She tackles prejudice (much as Rowling does with house elves, muggles, squibs, werewolves, etc) by showing humans' (often violent) reactions when vampires and shapeshifters "come out."  She also examines class structure, and prejudice in class structure, by writing her main character, Sookie Stackhouse, as an intelligent, strong, telepathic young woman from a backwater Louisiana town who never went to college and is...a waitress.  All while giving her readers a nice dose of soft-porn. 

I am already on book three, Club Dead, again.  Can't wait to see what direction HBO takes the characters this season!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What a Bargain?

Ok, it has been over a week since I've blogged...and since my goal is to try to write something every day (practice, practice!), here we go...

First, let me say that I love magazines.  There is something about them that the Internet will never replace for me.  Of course, I will never replace my entire library with ebooks either, so...big surprise.  Anyway, I received my complimentary copy of Country Living (May 2011) in the mail yesterday, and overall, I'm more impressed than I thought I would be.  It's a bit oversized in width which makes it feel fancy, and the information to ad ratio is actually pretty good. is titled "The Bargain Issue"!!  Be still my beating heart.  I could not wait to see what I could get for less. 

This issue covered a wide range of bargains, from fancy nail files for $1.75 to a house in Wilson, NC listed at $76,500.  But the article that caught my interest the most was "Family Values."  This is about a Charlotte, NC (woot!) designer named Lynn-Anne Bruns who decorated her house with "flea-market finds."  So you know, I'm all about that. 

Bruns' home is, indeed, eclectic and beautiful.  I would expect nothing less from a fellow bargain hunter.  But when I saw that $799 was paid for a bed and $2000 for a couch, I had to say...whoa Nelly.  While getting a $9000 couch for $2000 IS a great deal, they still paid $2000 for a couch.  I had to pinch a penny just to keep from feeling like my credit card had just been hacked.  (Which it was.  For real.  But the company caught it before any major theft, thank goodness.) 

I had to find out more, so I read the article instead of just looking at the pictures with captions.  The following quote told me everything I needed to know:  "All told, Lynn-Anne figures the renovations tallied around $350,000."  This in regards to the house the family purchased in 2006 which "needed extensive work to comfortably fit the whole gang."  Maybe it's because I grew up nervous about money, maybe it's because my husband and I are both in education, maybe it's because my leather Lane couch, chair, and ottoman cost me $150 total on Craigslist...whatever the reason, the idea of spending $350,000 on anything just about makes my heart stop. 

Much like the segments on morning talk shows that showcase Cute Summer Outfits for Less than $100!!! where a pair of pants costs $45 and the shoes don't count towards the total (only $60! can you believe it?), this issue failed to wow me in the bargain department.  I am, however, going to try the recipe for "Breakfast Casserole with Turkey Sausage, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes."  Yum.  It must be time for breakfast...I might even pay for the year's subscription...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Steal

Alright.  There's not a whole lot I can do about what the yard sale deal of the week is.  Today, it is, again, clothes.  I swear that, in the past, I have picked up much more interesting items like a Mohawk canoe for $125, but lately, it's all clothes, all the time.  Our friend R will not need to purchase any fall/winter clothes this year.  Apparently, every parent whose child had recently grown out of size 10's had a yard sale today.  I picked up Old Navy sweaters, Gymboree pants, and Gap dresses with the tags on.  Sweet A did, however, get a cute winter dress by La Princess $1 (which she wore all afternoon!).

She also got this gorgeous jacket by penelope mack, ltd $1.

But, the find of the week is this cute little jacket by coco bon bons $1.
This is yet another (as my good friend Kelly would say) chi-chi-lala children's brand that is, admittedly, so adorable.  The seller informed me that this jacket goes for over $100 new.  I just checked online, and that seems to be about right, unless it's on eBay.  This will be going out to baby S  whose momma is all about The Fashion. 

In the spirit of equality, I also picked up a genuinekids striped sweater and a Melissa & Doug spelling puzzle for C.  At 2.5, his letter recognition is amazing already.   He thinks it's more fun to call "s" "sssss," and really, so do I!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

West Meets East

Normally, my brain on its way to work is not what anyone would call together.  By the time I get halfway to campus, I realize that I've been listening to the Laurie Berkner Band (fabulous kids' music for those of you out of the kid loop), and I'm singing "booty booty, ya ya ya" even though my children are not in the car.  It's at this point that I usually switch stations, shake my head to clear the kid-friendly, mother-approved lyrics out, and wonder if I've hit anything in the last ten minutes of driving. 

Yesterday, however, I looked up before making that first turn on the road to academia, and this is what I saw:
Immediately, I was filled with a sense of clarity and wonder at the beauty of nature.  The clouds structured like the prow of a great ship; the curving line of trees; the fallow field - all framed by the trees bordering the road - felt like a window into "the larger context."  It reminded me to be in the world.

Who would have thought that a west coast girl would be inspired by, much less live in the midst of, east coast farmland?  When I was growing up in LA, taking the RTD down to Hermosa Beach or walking up Compton Boulevard to the Sav-On for a scoop of ice cream, I thought I'd never leave.  Now, I can't imagine going back.  I simply don't fit into the rush anymore.  Most days, I don't really feel like I belong here, either.  At risk of waxing philosophical, I am a product of two worlds.  In the south, I will always be "that girl from California," and in LA, they tell me I have a southern accent, y'all.  But every once in a while, I look up, and I am in the right place.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Candy, Candy Everywhere

I can remember Easter mornings when my brother and I were little; we'd wake up and start the search.  Eggs we had dyed the night before were hidden on the piano, in the plants, on the counter next to the wall phone...eggs for days.  But the baskets were the highlight.  Colorful woven rattan baskets filled with green plastic Easter grass, jelly beans, and huge chocolate bunnies.  Just to be sure we weren't too traditional, mom would throw in a gummy rat or two.  Then, in my memory, we would sit and eat everything - all at once - go into a sugar coma, put on some frilly clothes, and go to church.

Halloween was much the same, minus the church part.  There are pictures of my brother and me sitting on the brown linoleum floor, still in clown or hobo or gypsy costume, legs spread out guarding our candy hoards.

My children are blessed with two sets of grandparents who are not only close by, but who they see all the time.  This past Easter weekend, A and C got a TON of candy:  entire packs of Hershey's bunnies, candy butterflies, huge suckers embellished with frosting, chocolate bunnies, turtles, and chicks...our candy jar runneth over.  So, here's the thing.  Baby girl cannot eat candy in between meals without getting an extra shot.  She will never get to just gorge herself on candy on an Easter or a Halloween at, say, 3 o'clock in the afternoon unless she gives herself more insulin.  By proxy, neither can Cyrus snack on his Easter candy just whenever.  That would not be fair.

I suppose that this is healthier for all of us.  Since A's diagnosis, I rarely snack.  She and I might have something carb free every once in a while when she gets home from school - pickles, pepperoni, cheese - but we never have cookies and milk.  We never go out for ice cream.  We never go out for a Starbucks Frappaccino.

This does not make me sad, but it does, sometimes, make me angry.  Every little kid should be allowed to eat all the Easter candy she wants every once in a while.  And, I guess we could allow her to do that, but it would break the routine that we've established. Routine is EXTREMELY important to regulating a Type 1 diabetic's blood sugars.  There are a lot of "we coulds" and "yeah buts" going on in my head about our massive Easter candy pile.

Last night, for her after dinner treat, A had a whole, individually wrapped Hershey's bunny. C had a Lindt hazelnut turtle.  They'll have these treats until July.  When my brother and I were kids, all we had left by the Monday after Easter was plastic Easter grass and the sweet memory of chocolate.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Multitasking Sunday - Happy Spring!

Warning!  This post multitasks. 

Ok!  First, what a wonderful weekend.  Perfect NC weather.  80 degrees, clear skies, and a nice breeze.  We got to see family, eat some wonderful food (had Gloria's gumbo for lunch today - awe-some!), and stick our toes in the sand.  Ok, it was river sand, but I'll take it.
So cute!  And these spring outfits are brought to you courtesy of your friendly neighborhood yard sale.  A's outfit:  Laura Ashley dress ($10 - a splurge at "One Fish..." a traveling kids' consignment event), no name woven green hat ($1 with matching purse), SmartFit Leather Collection pink shoes ($1).  C's outfit:  genuinekids dinosaur print T ($0.50), Old Navy navy shorts ($0.50), OshKosh B'Gosh leather sandals ($1), blue bunny apron ($7.99 Target...yeah, yeah, I know...).  Total:  $22 or so.  You gotta love it.

The yard sale find of the week is clothes (again!).  Another cute outfit for R.
The Children's Place blue corduroy jacket ($1), Limited Too floral empire waist shirt ($0.50), Mossimo denim skirt ($0.50).  Total $2.  Mmm hmmm.  That's right.
Yard saling was a bit short Saturday because I went to sell my recycled flower jewelry at Spring Run.  Had a great time, and I sold the ivory necklace!  Didn't even get to wear it...dang. 

We got our first installment of our spring CSA, and I used the broccolini in some pasta with garlic herb sauce tonight.  So good!  We also got regular broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, about 20 irises - beautiful!, romaine, onions, and turnips via Brothers Farm out of La Grange.

Here's hoping y'all had a wonderful weekend.  I'm ready for Monday - papers to grade and finals in sight!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Run Market Saturday!

Click on the title of this blog post to go to the Spring Run Market web site.

I will be at Spring Run Market this Saturday from 11-2.  The location is the center of Arlington Village.  Come out and support your local artists, craftspeople, and farmers. Consider signing up for the spring CSA's.  I know my family and I will enjoy our fresh, local, organic veggies this summer!

I will be selling new, recycled flower jewelry - perfect accessories for your spring outfits!  Check out my "Royally Recycled" posts for pictures of my most recent creations.  Hope to see you Saturday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Royally Recycled - Ivory Necklace

At the St. James yard sale last Saturday, I found this pretty little Old Navy tank top ($0.50).  There was a small stain on the back.  I had not used cotton for my flowers before, but I thought the fabric was beautiful in a shabby chic sort of way, and I thought that it would make some beautiful jewelry.
The picture really doesn't do this one justice.  I didn't want to wait for natural light, though.  Instant gratification!  I chose to sew these flowers on to the necklace back piece because it ended up being much lighter than the polyester pieces. 

The leftover fabric will become individual flowers for hairpieces, pins, etc.  And for those of you who are curious, the scrap fabric is going to my talented mom for doll stuffing.  I will post pics of her dolls soon!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And the Pulitzer goes to...

So sue me for fashion ignorance, but until last fall, I had no idea who or what Lilly Pulitzer was.  Then, suddenly, there was a freshman comp paper on sororities, and lo and behold, an entire rush class of young women in Lilly Pulitzer dresses.

Then there was the ad for the yard sale in November that stated, in no uncertain terms, that the Lilly Pulitzers were priced as low as the yard saler would go.  No negotiating.  I went to this yard sale, curious to see what could not be negotiated, and found several sundresses that would have fit A beautifully had they not been priced at $10 each.  Firm.  I have my principles.

Today was the mother of all Greenville yard sales - the St. James Spring Fling.  This is the sale people line up for at 4am.  The sale that features church members hawking sausage! and cheese! biscuits starting at 5:30am.  The sale that is cordoned off with chicken wire until, at 6:30am sharp, the wire is rolled back, and the people run through.  Yes, I said run. 

This one is headed to furniture!  That one to toys!  The other to baby clothes!  Two years ago, when I was shopping for baby boy clothes, I was sifting through the immense mound of cute and tiny, when two women pulled up beside me with a wagon.  They proceeded to wipe an entire section of infant clothing into the wagon.  They then walked off stating, "We'll go over to the toys and sort through these there."  I was incensed.  Had those women not read the yard sale etiquette handbook?  Now that's what I call low class.

I woke up late today - 7am (bad yard saler!) - and so was not able to participate in the biscuits and stampede.  I got to the Spring Fling at 9:30, and had low hopes of finding anything.  While there was still an immense amount of stuff and things, there were several empty tables.  The good St. James volunteers had consolidated already.  I started going through the boys' clothes because C is the fastest growing kid east of the Mississippi, and found very little.  A pair of navy shorts.  A cute Gap button down featuring a surfing scene.  A light green sweater with a snow man for A for next winter. 

The kids' clothes exhausted, I went to the ladies' large table.  Holiday applique sweaters abounded.  I was about to give up, but then, peeking out from beneath a pair of red velour leisure pants, a little dress in pinks and oranges.  Size 10 - perfect for our friend R - and...wait for it...a Lilly Pulitzer.  $1.

I held my breath and worked the zipper.  Perfect.  Checked the hem.  In tact.  All this little dress needs is a washing and ironing, and Easter, here we come.

I just checked the Pulitzer web site.  While this dress is not current, the sundresses available are similar...and they start at $68.  Huzzah for recycling and decreasing my carbon footprint!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thank You, Montessori

Tonight I witnessed a wonderful thing:  families watching their children dance, children running around between the adults, rolling in the grass and playing in the dirt (the kids, not the adults!), and an entire school, pre-schoolers through eighth grade, parents, teachers, friends, relatives, and administrators coming together to celebrate this world we live in.  Each level of students at our Montessori public charter school studied different continents and countries, set up games and food items from those countries, and dressed in traditional costume and danced traditional dances.  We all sat outside in the late afternoon sun, the fields blowing green around us, and watched these children enjoy themselves sharing what they had researched, learned, and practiced.

I have to admit that when I first learned the Kidsfest program would start at 5 on a Friday afternoon and end around 8, I thought...well, my thoughts were not positive.  Do they not know we work all day?  Do they not know the kids' bed times are around 8?  Do they not know...??? 

I am so very grateful to this school for many things, not the least of which is their complete and utter dedication to each child's well-being, learning, and growth, but tonight, I am grateful for a vision of hope.  When 95% of the attendees at a school function are still there at the end of a program, long after their children have finished performing, you know something special is happening. 

After the middle school danced their final dance to the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (they had studied England, of course), the music and movement teacher said thank you and goodnight, and the students running the PA system started to play "Electric Slide."  As my mom and I were trying to pull A towards the car; the program was over, after all, and it was already 8pm - A's bed time; A was pulling us towards the concrete pad the kids had used for their performances.  She began to dance her bouncy version of the Slide, and my mom and I danced with her...until I noticed that the entire space was full of students dancing the Electric Slide.  Kids of all ages danced with each other; pictures and video were taken.  When the kids pulled the plug on the speakers after "Cotton Eyed Joe,"  everyone booed. 

The parking lot emptied slowly.  No one honked.  No one yelled.  No one cut anyone else off. 

My daughter's eyes shone in the waning light as we drove down the winding road to our home, and she sang, "There is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to ev'ryone, though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it's a small world after all."  Indeed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Royally Recycled

For the last few months, I've been obsessed with creating recycled flowers.  I use mainly recycled materials, and have found through trial and error that your standard bridesmaid's dress has the perfect fabric.  Natural fabrics do not melt - they burn - so I can't use a lighter to "seal" the edges of silk, linen, etc.  The polyester melts nicely, and, if I'm really careful, it doesn't even turn brown (on white fabric - I actually like the darkened edges of darker fabrics, especially reds).  I have used silk for more "knotted" flowers, and I like the effect.  This gives me something to focus on when I yard sale so I can more effectively pass up the way cool mosaic glass candle holders and occasional set of vintage wine glasses that I do not need and don't have room for.  : )

Here is a recent necklace that turned out well:

Necklace made from recycled materials. Recycled blue silk (scarves), recycled taupe poly-blend fabric necklace base (bridesmaid's dress), recycled faux cream pearls (old necklace), and new cream ribbon.

Pediatric Follies

This one goes out to all the moms, dads, and other brave souls who have ever had to take more than one child to the doctor at the same time

Our pediatrician is, in a word, awesome.  When you enter the waiting room, you first notice that the walls are lined with low wooden benches, and identical benches run the length of the middle of the room.  They are easy for kids to navigate, scoot down, crawl on, and are not too high to risk losing a tooth if fallen off of.  Although, for my kids, losing a tooth is always a distinct possibility.  There are a good number of toys to play with including several of those plastic wrapped wire contraptions with the multicolored beads that you have to guide through twists and turns to get through to the other side.  There are Melissa & Doug puzzles - the kinds with locks so no pieces can be lost.  Open the sliding chain lock, find a horsey in the barn.  Yay!

When we are called back by the nurse, she recognizes us.  She knows who we are, and she didn't even have to refer back to the chart in her hand.  She asks the kids questions about school and praises them for their height, hair, headbands, whatever sticks out that day.  Miss W directs us to an exam room, and, if we're lucky, we get the under-the-sea room, aka the mermaid room.  The fish, crabs, mermaids, and other aquatic life are painted with glow-in-the-dark paint, and the kids can entertain themselves for at least twenty minutes flipping the light on and off to find all the creatures.  After that, there are lots of books and climbing on and off the exam bench using the convenient child-friendly stool.  Fabulous, and I don't mind the wait.  Really.

Yesterday was A's quarterly diabetic appointment.  This is a practice that specializes in children - children with lifelong diseases and otherwise major health issues.  When you walk through the door, the first thing you notice is that it is a waiting room.  Standard issue, stain-resistant seats with metal arms linked together.  They are easy for kids to climb on, and the arms present a great temptation to climb over, which prompts many moms' hushed "Get off that right now...please."  There are no toys.  Zero.  So what's a kid to do?  Why, crawl under the chairs, of course.  I see no problem with this.  Obviously, the space between the seats and the floor is much more interesting than the baby Zhu-Zhu- pets we have brought with us because...there are NO toys...and so my kids play.  In the complete and utter silence that is this waiting room.  Towards the end of our "get to your appointment twenty minutes early" time period, I really want to turn my cell phone back on and check the time.  The receptionist has already collected my insurance card and picture ID, so she is safely ensconced in her glass lined area, her eyes averted from the waiting room.  Finally, we are called back by a nurse we've never seen before.  She smiles and points us to the room wherein my daughter's vitals will be checked and her A1C taken.

By the time we get to the exam room, I am vacillating between giving myself a gold star for patience and removing my mommy license for risk of head implosion.  Baby boy has missed his nap (don't even get me started on actually getting an appointment here, and yeah, I guess I could have planned better, but dang), and he has exhausted playing with the scale, the doctor's stool, the stirrups on the exam bed...and now the kids are drawing on the exam table liner with crayon remnants in the color scheme of a funeral parlor.  Not a mermaid to be found.

Do I expect too much?  When I was little, my pediatrician's office had a gigantic fish tank with sea anemone, lion fish, and all kinds of other cool stuff to look at.  My brother and I loved it.  Now, I'm not asking for an expensive aquarium, but, you know, one Melissa & Doug would be nice.  I thought about complaining, but I went from not wanting to be difficult to just wanting to get the heck out of there.  Perhaps that's their intention.

Baby girl's A1C came down by .3 points.  We went for clown ice cream at Baskin Robbins.  They deserved it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Buzz

I love finding costumes for the kids at yard sales.  Not only do they love playing dress up, but they also pretend to be whatever costume they have on.  So, less than five minutes after I arrived home with this adorable bumble bee outfit ($3), baby girl was collecting pollen and taking it back to the hive to feed the babies.  She had learned all about bees at a demonstration by beekeepers at the local library, and, of course, she had also seen Bee Movie.  Not one of my favorites, but we did get to talk about the importance of bees, their mysterious disappearance over the past few years, possible reasons for that disappearance, and the repercussions of our actions as residents of Earth.  Whew!  And baby boy was following behind big sister, learning all about bees, too.  Yay for learning through play!