Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick Or Treat

I must say that Halloween is not on my list of Top 10 holidays to celebrate. When the girls were little, I enjoyed it a little more. I used to host Halloween parties at our house and I made the girls' costumes. Some of them were very cool - the Eeyore costume with all the individually pulled strands for the mane, the bookworm costume that involved a hand painted cover of Black Beauty, the Cat in the Hat, the cute little gray mouse, etc., etc. As the kids got older, none of the costumes that I was willing to make appealed to them. Then we moved to the country where trick or treating doesn't happen. For the past several years we have done something really festive, like go to see a movie, on Halloween.

This year Erin was invited to a party, a party that required a costume. My enthusiasm for making costumes has long since died. Her enthusiasm for coming up with one from things at home was equally dead. So, we made a trip to our local costume shop. They had many choices - from Sponge Bob to Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, before we got there Erin had decided that she wanted to be either Cinderella or Minnie Mouse. With no trouble at all, we found a Cinderella costume that fit perfectly. Mission accomplished!

If Disney were running a Cinderella look alike contest, Erin would certainly be a contender.

She had the dress and, thanks to her Fairy Godmother, she had the hair. She is missing only a few things that would give her away if she tried to convince everyone that the castle at the Magic Kingdom is her primary residence.

No glass slippers . . .

and no handsome prince.

She also lacked those little mice, but she has an awfully cute puppy!

So, Erin went to the party and I stayed home. That was OK. I have not been home much lately. I almost had to use Mapquest to find the way from my bedroom to the kitchen; it has been so long since I have actually cooked a meal. What did I do tonight to celebrate Halloween?

I cleaned out the refrigerator! Believe me, there were no treats here; it was all tricks! It is a good thing that I have not cooked anything lately because the only things in the fridge were salmonella and botulism. Now it is all cleaned out and the only things in it are butter, jelly, and pickles. I suppose that one could make a meal of such things if one had bread for a butter and jelly sandwich. You guessed, no bread. And pickles are just not an effective delivery system for butter or jelly.

I also ate a few pieces of candy leftover from what I took my class this morning. They left all the Milk Duds. These are not my favorite candy, which is good because I was able to keep myself from eating all that remained. However, Milk Duds lose their teeth extracting capabilities when they have been softened by riding around in the warm car all afternoon.

Since I have an empty refrigerator and because I did not eat too much candy today, I can hit the 50% off Halloween candy sales first thing in the morning and take advantage of both of those situations. Treat time!

I leave you with a message from Cinderella . . .

Bibbidi Bobbidi BOO!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Bloody Details

No, all that blood is not ketchup (or catsup, if you prefer). I am surprised how many people truly believe that stage blood really is ketchup. If only it were that simple. All of the considerations for the blood used in a show such as Dracula are more complicated than feeding an entire room of people with every food allergy known to man. It is not so much that the actors are picky, but that several different effects are required.

There is fresh blood verses dried blood. Dripping blood verses spurting blood. Animal blood verse human blood. Edible blood verses non-edible blood. The only place that there really is no choice is in staining blood verses non-staining blood. It all stains.

Many different recipes for stage blood can be found. Some simple concoctions and others that require the talents of a mad scientist. The choice of ingredients in many of them may surprise you.

In making non-edible blood, the crucial ingredient is blue laundry detergent. Yes, using this as a base does help to keep the red dye from setting, but more importantly it is used because the blue coloring when mixed with any of the various red colors (food coloring, jello powder, kool-aid, etc.) makes the overall color more realistic in both color and consistency. Other recipes add a flour mixture to this basic recipe. Some add a hint of green coloring to enhance the blood color.

The edible blood recipes are a little more interesting. Obviously the blue detergent is no longer a main ingredient (unless you need characters to foam at the mouth). Corn syrup is a popular ingredient because of its viscosity. However, when this is used as a base, the sticky mess that results is just gross. Truthfully, any of this stuff is pretty gross in the amounts that it is used in this show. Another common ingredient in the edible blood is Hershey's chocolate syrup. This too creates an awful sticky mess but at least it tastes better than plain corn syrup. Several other recipes use either jello or Kool-aid, usually black cherry flavored, mixed with water. Sometimes these colors are tweaked with a few drops of blue and/or green food coloring.

Obtaining the correct color and consistency of blood necessary for the desired effect on stage is an art in itself. Then there is the vessel that must deliver the blood on stage. Blood packs are the most common means of this. Fortunately these can also be bought rather than made fresh for each performance. Blood packs are like a water balloon filled with some mixture like those mentioned above. The problem with them is, like a water balloon, they don't always burst like you want them to. The actors are responsible for hitting the pack "just right" so that the blood appears. This too is an art as is the placement of the packs by the various technical crew. It is quite an operation. This is one instance of when it is done properly a bloody mess results.

Then there is the clean-up of all the dispersed blood props. In the case of Dracula, by the time the shoe is over, the stage and several of the actors are covered in the red stuff. The stage is not such a problem. A good stage crew and a little soap and water can ready the stage for another go of it tomorrow. The costumes are another story. Because in this show many of them are white, they must be washed and bleached after each performance. The cast here is great. I washed everything last night and several other people have volunteered to take a turn. I am grateful for this. I would have a hard time justifying doing theatre laundry every night when Erin and I don't have any clean clothes! So, I think we have a system for keeping all the costumes tidy for performances.

Then there is the audience. The other night during rehearsal, blood from the scene where Lucy has the stake driven through her heart spurted out onto the first three rows of the audience. Fortunately, it was just a rehearsal and these seats were empty. We joked that the front rows ought to come with ponchos and a warning, much like the close up seats at Sea World's Shamu attractions. Maybe just a sign with the warning, "Splash Zone" would do. Hopefully the problem has been fixed. Now Lucy is very careful to bleed in the proper direction.

This has been my first experience with stage blood. Though I have learned a lot, I can';t say that I have had much fun with this. Luckily, other people are responsible for doing most of the blood work. I did get to build the bleeding rat. That was fun. Actually I have two different versions - the pathetic little rat who must live in a really clean city and thus is starving, and the big, fat, hairy, sewer rat. They both bleed really well!

I promised the bloody details and there you have them. The discussion of blood stops here. It will now turn to something just as amazing - the massive amounts of chocolate that this cast has put away while hanging around in the green room. It is a good thing that it is Halloween and candy comes in those big bags! Perhaps chocolate makes a great blood chaser.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Showtime . . .Again

I finished my role as (lame) stage mother while Erin was doing Best Little Whorehouse, and now am working nonstop as prop master for DCT's production of Dracula, which opens this weekend. Needless to say, the prop list for this show is a bit weird. Blood, blood, garlic, stakes, a hammer, blood, a rat, garlic, working blood transfusion apparatus, a bloody crying baby, blood, a meal of chicken and vegetables, rosaries, flaming crucifixes, blood, and communion wafers. Every one knows where to find these things. Right?

Surprisingly, the most difficult thing to find was artificial garlic. I looked every place in Denton that I thought should have it. I came up empty handed. BK and I tried several more places in Dallas that also should have had it. We visited some areas that no respectable women should be seen . Still, no garlic. We enlisted some friends on our search. They made some great suggestions. Unfortunately, we still had no garlic. Finally BK's sister, MH the super hero, found artificial garlic in El Paso and shipped it to us 2-day. It came today and I have made five lovely garlic braids. Thank goodness for friends in other places.

Shopping for some of the other props was a little more entertaining. Retailers in our area are usually polite and willing to help. In the case of looking for these props, however, the response to their question of "How may I help you?" shocks them a bit. When I was looking for the rat, I replied to the offer of help with, "Do you have a life-like rat that is hollow so that I can slit him down the middle and fill his belly with a blood pack?" The clerk quickly showed me one that she was sure would work. I suspect she thought I was smoking something and that she could find me any rat and send me on my way before I asked for anything else. She was lucky that she did not work at my next stop, Toys R Us.

This was my second trip to the dreaded toy store this year. But, I needed a baby doll. The pleasant clerk who is obviously used to making kids happy by pointing them to the shelf that holds the newest Elmo doll, or PlayStation game, or superhero action figure, was not prepared to help me find a doll that kicks and cries and whose limb can be ripped off and replaced after each performance, and again, whose body can be filled with blood packs. She simply pointed us towards dolls and left me to find the one I needed. Surprisingly, we found one that works great, as long as you hold her upside down. She kicks and cries while upside down and coos and gurgles when held in a comfortable position. We don't want any of those happy baby sounds. So, it is three weeks of being upside down for this little doll!

The crying baby first appears on stage in a burlap bag. We made a trip to Wal-Mart to purchase the burlap to make the bag. It was early in the day so the woman in the crafts department was cheerful and chatty. "What are you going to make with this?', she inquired. "Um, you really don't want to know.", I say. "Yes I do.", she replies. "I am making a sack to hold a kicking, screaming baby who is about to have her leg eaten off." With a funny look, she manages, "Oh.".

Then there was the visit to the Catholic bookstore. We needed several rosaries. There were many choices - from the ones with plastic glow in the dark beads to some very beautiful ones made with precious stones. I kept praying, literally, that the one woman who was working at the time would not ask for what special occasion we needed a rosary. I am fairly certain that she would not have taken well to hearing that we needed a rosary with a large crucifix that would rid our lives of vampires. I also did not ask her for a crucifix that would spontaneously burst in to flames. I made that myself. A girl must earn her keep as a prop master!

The Catholic bookstore did not sell communion wafers so we visited the Methodist bookstore for these. Again, I was hoping that they did not ask why I needed them. When I asked where I would find the wafers, the friendly clerk pointed me to them with no questions asked. It was like I was asking where the Oreos with the orange filling were; no big deal. Since the wafers are not consecrated, using them in the show also is no big deal. They are just like any other piece of Styrofoam that you go to the store and buy. Right next to the communion wafers was ash from palm leaves. I also needed a little ash. This was my lucky day. I paid for my stuff and left without any questions about what I was going to do with these things.

I have just about completed my collection of prop items. One of the few remaining needs is a bottle of wine. Unfortunately for the actors, they can't have the real thing on stage. So again, I must earn my keep and empty a bottle for them. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Those on stage will have pomegranate juice because one of the actors is allergic to cranberry juice, my usual red wine substitute.

And the blood - that is an art in and of itself. Stay tuned for the bloody details.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Day With Big Tex

Yesterday we spent the day at the Texas State Fair. If you know anything about this event, you know that Big Tex is the master of ceremonies and that you can get just about anything deep fried.
Here is Big Tex keeping an eye on all of the last weekend fair goers.

This year's addition to the list of deep fried favorites is fried cookie dough. To thoroughly enjoy the fair, you must throw all worries about your cholesterol levels to the wind and just promise to do better tomorrow. After watching the dog trick exhibition, we succumbed to the cookie dough. We had been on the fair grounds for almost an hour before this happened! Six of us shared one serving (by fair standards) so we cut our caloric intake from 12663 calories to a mere 2110.5. That left us room to try the fried ice cream, fried green tomatoes, fried burrito, fried cheesecake, or the infamous fried state fair corn dog later on. And then, for a well rounded fair meal, there is the funnel cake. It all sounds soooo good. I only had a corn dog later in the day. I had intended to have a funnel cake as a night cap, but after a few rides, my desire for food had been suppressed!

We made our way through the car buildings so that everyone could salivate over the new cars that we are not getting. Erin, who will be 15 in December and is anticipating that learning permit, thinks she needs a Nissan Titan truck. She crawled in the cab of the demo at the fair just to check out the fit. She looked pretty good, but the sticker price . . .not so much!

We are all big softies when it comes to animals-even livestock. The number of 'Aaaww"s" from the six of us was a little on the pathetic side. On the amazing side was Boris. Boris is a 1171 pound hog. His sole purpose in life is to sit around and be admired by fair goers.

During the afternoon, the kids went to see the Lion King. Seeing this show has been on Erin's "Must Do Before I Die" list. Mission accomplished. They all thought the show was pretty awesome. John and I spent the afternoon in the exhibit halls listening to vacuum cleaner sales pitches, admiring woodwork, avoiding the many gimmicky sales people, and looking at a whole lot of unimpressive knitting and photography.

I usually really enjoy looking at the juried arts and crafts, particularly knitting and photography. Both were on the lame side this year. Some of the things that won knitting first prizes were things that we knit all the time - Carol Anderson's Ramblin' Rows afghan and the felted hedgehog (maybe he won because he was turquoise?). Even John, who is not a knitter himself, asked me what was so special about the items that won. He said, "that looks like the stuff you guys knit all the time." And, it did. The deal is that those people who won prizes took the time to submit their work, and we didn't.

The finale for every fair visit is a night time ride on the big Ferris wheel. That is for everybody except me. I have had issues with Ferris wheels since I got stuck on one when when I was four. I'm sure there is a support group for this problem somewhere; I just haven't found it yet. In all the years that we have gone to the fair, I have never ridden the Ferris wheel and I had no intention of changing that this year. Except that I was the only one who was not going to ride so I would have to sit and wait all by myself. Being alone is usually OK with me, but it did not sound appealing last night in the midst of a very crowded fairground. Erin asked me to ride. In a moment of weakness I agreed. What the heck was I thinking?! I considered a beer to dull the senses. However, I decided that was not the best plan. In the end, I rode because Erin promised me a gold star.

I knew I had to take pictures to prove that I was a big girl . The problem with picture taking is that your eyes should be open; it makes for better pictures. So, here are the pictures for proof of my bravery. The first one is taken from the ground. The next one from the cart way up high! All these pictures were taken on my phone rather than my camera because I was too lazy to carry my big camera around all day. I do have a few regrets about that.

Once I had survived the Ferris wheel I was feeling gutsy. I also rode the swinging pirate ship. Okay, I did sit in the middle rather than at either of the ends. That should at least earn me a silver star!

We had a great day. Though there were many people, everyone was polite. And though it was nearly 90 degrees, a breeze blew most of the day. A beautiful day filled with fried food and pig races . . .it doesn't get much better than this!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Do You Lean To The Right Or To The Left?

If you are a regular reader here, you know that if the question about leaning to the right or to the left is asked with regard to politics, I am laying on my left side. There is not even any room for debate. However, I am not talking about politics here, or religion. I am talking about my brain. Not whether or not I have one that is functional, but which side is dominant, the right or the left.

Simply speaking, a dominant left brain is associated with logical and mathematical thinking. A dominant right brain is responsible for creativity. As a musician, one would expect my right side to be the dominant side. Except that I am really a music theorist; I look for meaning and logic in music. That sounds more like a left brain activity. Hmm . . .

There are many simple tests that will show you quickly which side of your brain is dominant. Try this. Reach both hands above your head. Clasp your fingers together comfortably. If your right thumb is on top then you are left brain dominant. If your left thumb is on top then you are right brain dominant. According to this exercise, I am right brain dominant. According to my friends, I am left brain dominant. I think in their minds this translates to anal retentive. Truthfully, when I look at both right brain and left brain dominant characteristics, I find an equality between the two with regard to my own behaviors.

This whole issue came up during a dinner conversation last night. A friend said that he had a test that was designed also to give you a quick read on this issue. You will find this test here. For me, this test was both amazing and scary. If you have not looked at the link, do not read on.

When I first looked at this image, there was no doubt in my head that she was turning clockwise. OK, I AM right brained. I tried to force myself to see her rotating in a counter-clockwise motion. I could not see it. I watched for several minutes. I sat back in my chair, paying no attention at this point to the whirling girl on my screen, and called BK to ask her if she had taken the test. When I looked up, damned if that girl wasn't turning counter-clockwise. I was convinced that this video was a trick, that she actually does change directions. BK and I watched together. When the dancer's direction changed again, I asked BK if she saw the change in direction. She responded with a confident, "Nope." What is going on here?

I became mesmerized by this little game. I continued to watch for several more minutes and, as I expected, my favorite ballerina changed direction several times. Still, BK did not see these shifts. We finally hung up the phone. I continued to stare. After about fifteen minutes of looking at this image, I realized that now the dancer looked to me like she was not even making a complete rotation. She was moving side to side in a movement much like windshield wipers. The explanation on the web page does not address what seeing this particular motion suggests. At this point, I became a little freaked out and decided that sleep might fix the problem.

When I got up this morning, I was still fascinated by this whole thing. I tried it again. Like last night, my initial response to the dancer was to see her spinning in a clockwise motion - making full circles. I began to wonder what would happen if researchers were to hook you up and monitor brain activity while you were looking at this picture. As these thoughts entered my mind, the girl changed direction. She began to move counter-clockwise.

Is it possible to have a brain where nether side is dominant? Or, both sides are equally dominant? I continue to be amazed at this whole thing. I guess the good news is at least I have a brain that is doing something.

Try it again. Do you see the same thing that you saw last time?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


It seems that we all have more to do than we want or need to be doing. The only solution for most is multitasking. The ability to multitask is considered to be a great asset by those who are concerned primarily with human productivity. The greatest proponents of multitasking may be today's students. They are the ones who can do their math homework in English class while taking notes and secretly text messaging their friends with the phone hidden in their pocket so that it won't be taken away. Is this really a good thing?

Maybe I am just bitter because I am lousy at multitasking. Yes, I can chew gum and walk at the same time. I can cook dinner and carry on a reasonable conversation. But generally speaking, I don't like to multitask. For me it is counterproductive. I may be doing two (or more things) but I feel like I am doing neither of them well.

I like to devote my full attention to whatever the task at hand may be. If I am reading, I don't want to be talking. If I am watching a movie, I don't want to be folding laundry. If I am writing, I don't want to be checking my email. Perhaps my personal aversion to multitasking comes from my training as a musician.

When practicing, whether it be technical studies like scales and arpeggios or a difficult concerto, the only means to success is absolute attention to the finest details of what you are doing. Anything less than this guarantees that you will miss the nuances of the music and thus present a mediocre product. I feel that I must be 100% present at any given time to a single task to be able to accomplish what I want, which I admit is perfection.

An inability, or an unwillingness, to multitask is quite frustrating to those who prefer no other way to work. I know that my refusal to look to the right or the left when I am focused on a single thing in front of me drives those around me crazy. Their propensity for overlooking details is equally frustrating to me. So, I guess we are even.

We all have a right to choose our preferred method for accomplishing our required tasks. However, the question still remains, is multitasking really more productive and thus more desirable than focusing whole-heartedly on one task at a time?

If you are curious about your abilities as a multitasker, here is test.

Dr. Meyer’s Multitasking Experiment
You’ll need a deck of cards and four quarters. Before you begin, pull all the 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s from the deck and set the rest of the cards aside.
To start, place the seven of clubs to the left, the nine of hearts a half inch beside the seven to the right, then the six of spades, and finally the eight of hearts. Place each of the quarters about three inches below the row of cards in an even row. The quarters should be three inches from the edge of the table.

Part One. Numbers: Take the remaining 12 cards and shuffle them. Holding them face down, turn them over one by one, placing the sixes on the quarter below the six of spades, the sevens on the quarter below the seven of clubs, the eights below the eight and so on, saying the numbers as you place them.
How much time did it take?

Part Two. Suits: Shuffle the cards again. Holding them face down, turn them over one by one, this time sorting the cards by suit. You’ll put all the clubs below the club, all the hearts below the heart, etc., until you’ve gone through all twelve cards, saying the suits as you place them.
Again, how long did you need?

Part Three. Numbers and Suits Shuffle the cards one more time. Holding them face down, you will turn them over once again one by one. But this time, you will alternate between sorting by number and sorting by suit, starting with numbers. So, you will place the first card by its number, the second card by its suit, the third card by its number and so on until all twelve cards have been played. Be sure to announce the card as you place it.
If you’re like Dr. Kramer, you will spend a lot more time sorting by numbers and suits than you did using only one criterion.

I hated step three! I just was not born to multitask. I will continue to make my never ending lists and accomplish things one at a time. Rest assured that whatever I am doing at any given moment, I am giving it my undivided attention. I may not be as productive as you are, but in the long run, I may be more sane!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Life On The Creative Edge

For as long as I can remember, I have lived the creative life - from the four year old poet whose masterpieces have remained tucked away safely in my baby book, to the artist who at seven or eight took brush to canvas with the help of my grandfather (the real artist), to the performing musician who spent many hours practicing the clarinet and piano, to the composer who wrote the sounds that carried friends to the altar, to the creative soul whose life now is a mish-mash of writing, photography, music and knitting. Walking the path of creativity is challenging, fulfilling, frustrating, heartbreaking, exhilarating, magical, terrifying, amazing . . .

Every human being is born with a spark of the Creator that resides within. For some of us, this spark ignites a fire that is almost impossible to extinguish. For others, the creative coals may smoulder for a lifetime without ever bursting into flames. No mater how the creative spark manifests itself, we each have a responsibility to tend it. Just like we can't leave a burning campfire unsupervised, neither can we leave the fire of creativity to burn unattended..

My earliest recollection of my own creative spirit is from kindergarten when I decided to write poetry. The meager little rhyme that I wrote was enough to alert the teacher to the fact that perhaps there was something there that she should nurtured. During that school year, she collected all of my literary gems. On the last day of school, she gave me a typed anthology of my verse. That was enough of an incentive to keep me writing. (So, those of you who have read the poetry that I have posted on this blog and wondered why I thought it was a good idea can blame Mrs. Daily. It is all her fault.)

During that same year, I began taking piano lessons. I'm not sure if I exhibited musical abilities or if I was taking piano lessons because that guaranteed my mom at least thirty minutes of peace and quiet each day while I practiced. Whatever the reason, music was the fire that was kindled inside me. It consumed nearly every minute of my life for about twenty five years. Though I guess that technically by profession I am a musician, right now I enjoy several other creative outlets as well.

For me, photography is just plain fun, probably because I can partake without the burden of expectations placed on me by myself or others. Writing is challenging. Expression through the written word demands that I bare my true self since I prefer to write non-fiction. I am not creative enough for fiction. Knitting is both fun and challenging. I have reached a level of competence that allows me to pick up most patterns written by other people and make a fairly accurate go of it. The fun comes in choosing colors and making, usually minor, changes to make it my own. Creating designs and patterns of my own is more challenging.

I have never been very good at forced creativity. I really do have to wait for a visit from the muse. This is probably why I can't make a living as "an artist". Whether it be music, writing, photography, or knitting, something inside me has to be moved to create. This makes coming up with the designs that I am responsible for in Spirit of Knitting a scary proposition sometimes. As a composer, I am forever asking myself, "Does that melody or progression sound like something else?" And as a knitter, "Have I seen that somewhere else?"

We all grow by expanding our knowledge base. It is mandatory that musicians listen to the works of other musicians, that painters study the masterpieces of other artists, and that knitters study the work of other knitters. In each of these instances, we run the risk of experience and expression co-mingling. In other words, something we thought was our own idea actually belongs to someone else. I am not talking about blatant copying or plagiarism, but rather experiences that result in the same means of expression by different people.

BK, Alissa, and I plan the projects for each issue of Spirit of Knitting at least a year in advance. This gives us plenty of time to perfect our ideas and designs. Unfortunately, it also gives others a big window through which to beat us to the punch. Such was the case today. Like I said, studying the work of other artists in our field is absolutely essential to furthering our own creative spirits. So, I make an effort to at least look at, if not buy, any new knitting books that I can. The other night I had a date with the "1 click" button on which resulted in the purchase of two new knitting books. At this point, only one has come, but that is enough. I was thumbing through the great designs in Mags Kandis' book Folk Style when all of the sudden I was stopped dead in my tracks. There on the page staring straight back at me was the exact design that I am working on for the January issue of Spirit of Knitting! That issue of our newsletter is all about knitting socks and other foot coverings. I thought (over a year ago!) that I would design a child's felted Wellie that would then be embellished with needle felting. Mags Kandis had the same idea, and hers made it to press first. So, I am heading back to the drawing board. That part is a little frustrating though I guess there is some consolation in knowing that at least someone thought it was a good idea. If only I had gotten there first . . .Such is the way in the creative life.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What's For Dinner, Mom?

Adidas is always on the prowl for something good to eat. Last night his efforts earned him four cinnamon rolls. The pickins' are not so good tonight.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's A Wonder Any Of Us Made It Beyond Infancy!

It has been fifteen years since I have had the occasion to shop for baby stuff. Boy has the world changed! There are whole stores, big ones, dedicated exclusively to the needs of babies. Okay, maybe, need is overstated. No kid needs all those things. And no young parents should let themselves be convinced that their kids needs all that paraphernalia, because they don't. How is it that babies haven't changed in forever yet the equipment to rear one of them changes on a daily basis?

I am all for pieces of equipment that lend themselves to keeping babies safe. Car seats are definitely good things. However, they are CAR seats. I am convinced that because car seats can be removed in no time at all, some babies never get out of them. I see mothers with their babies dangling at the end of their arms as they stroll through the grocery store or Target. The carriers are swinging back and forth. What these women seem not to notice is that the babies look like bobble heads. Because the mothers can't or don't see the infants, they don't know that their little heads are just bobbing back and forth - despite the fact that they have a color-coordinated roll thing in the seat. News flash: The roll thing keeps their heads from falling over to the side and making the baby look like an evil child's Gumby toy. It does nothing to keep a baby's head from bouncing back and forth to the beat of a mother's shopping feet. Whatever happened to carrying a baby in your arms? To holding them close and keeping them warm next to your own body rather than buying all those contraptions sporting different configurations of flannel and Velcro to swaddle your baby in so that it feels the security of being held? Just hold the precious little thing. In the big scheme, they don't want it for very long.

I was overwhelmed by my whole shopping experience. The "Baby Care" section may have been the worst offender. There were shelves that extended from floor to ceiling of soaps, lotions, shampoo, oil, powder, and other household cleaners. Whatever happened to the one liquid cleans all? You can buy more lotions and potions for infants than I ever thought possible. Then there are the nail clippers with the LED light on the end. Are babies like dogs? Do you have to sneak up on them in the dark so that they won't bite you when you trim their nails?

Speaking of biting, mouth and tooth care occupies another whole wall in the baby superstore. You can find toothbrushes with every TV character, Disney princess, and endangered species, toothpaste that claims to be endorsed by Big Bird (I don't think Big Bird even has teeth!), Barney, and Cinderella, ointments to sooth teething woes, rings, and sticks, and balls to freeze and then shove in the kid's mouth. Popsicles do the same thing and taste a whole lot better.

But the one baby care item whose possibilities just amaze me is the thermometer. Every mother needs a thermometer. If you call the pediatrician"s office to make an appointment they will always ask you if your child is running a fever. (Do they run a fever when they have bones sticking out of their arm, Doc?) So, there is no question that a thermometer is a must have. This is one of those pieces of equipment that has been improved vastly over time. Though you can still buy a rectal thermometer, who really wants one? Maybe some purist parent who has sadistic tendencies. Oral thermometers are definitely an improvement but it is hard to convince an infant whose natural tendency is to tongue thrust to keep that thing under his tongue for 60 seconds. Most babies prefer those soft squishy things in their mouths - even fake nipples are preferable to that poky thermometer. Enter, the armpit thermometer. Its accuracy has always seemed to be questionable. And like the dreaded rectal thermometer, the baby has to be half naked (you choose the half) to even use the thing.

The ear thermometer was new when my kids were babies. Those things are awesome. Ears are surely a preferred orifice over mouths, armpits, and rectums. I still use my ear thermometer. The only problem I have with it personally is that my temperature is different in each ear. Maybe fevers are like Shingles, they usually only happen on one side.

When you discover a good thing, and the ear thermometer is a good thing, you should just stop there. But no. Someone had to keep trying to invent the perfect thermometer. I don't know why they couldn't use their desire to create perfection by working on the perfect purse or knit bag or something. They had to mess with the thermometer.

Here comes the thermometer that masquerades as a pacifier. The baby sucks on it and the digital panel on the front displays his temperature. They kind of look like gasoline pumps with the prices changing every minute. Maybe these aren't such a bad idea. It solves the tongue thrusting problem and the biting (or gumming, depending on the baby's age) when you try to shove that thing in some opening that the kid was not expecting. Just as I was getting on board with the heat sensing pacifier, I came across the model that made me change my mind.

For all those people who are either unable or unwilling to read the digital display on the pacifier, here comes their heat sensing superhero - the pacifier that plays "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" if the infant's temperature measures greater than 99.9 degrees. How many other baby toys are there that play this song? Then there are the children's cell phones (real ones, not toys) that ring to Mozart's musical gem. Now the buzz in the mall play yards is going to be "Is that my pacifier going off?" "No, it is just the busy box on my stroller." "Hey, that kid has my fever tone."

I've got it! I'm not much of a business person, but this just might be my ticket to big bucks - Downloadable pacifier tones! What do you think?
I could start with "It Sucks To Be Me" from Avenue Q. . .

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Feast Of Saint Francis

Today is the feast day of St. Francis, the day that he met, with joy, Sister Bodily Death. As I sit reflecting on this day, I find myself thinking about Francis' last words. As he lay dying, Francis wrote the beautiful Canticle of The Sun. These words, in my mind, have remained unmatched over time in terms of how they convey the awe that Francis had for God's work. He died having given thanks and praise to God for all of God's amazing creation. I find myself wondering what he might have said to those of us left on earth, back then and today. The following poem is the result of my meditation on this question.

What Now, Francis?

Waste not
your tears on me;
on what was
or could have been,
maybe should have been.
Save your weeping
for those who live -
the hungry, the thirsty, the cold,
the sick, the beaten, the longing
For those who still have breath.

Turn all your tears to hope,
To fuel God’s work,
the death of injustice, pain, and suffering,
With joy.

Cry not for me;
I have eternal life in Christ.
Weep only,
as I do,
For God’s hurting people on earth.

KME 10/4/07

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Hurry Up And . . .

On a trip south on I-35 this weekend we passed the church pictured below.
The big banner advertising a 30 minute worship service caught my attention because my own church is doing all they can to shorten the service supposedly to make more time for Christian Education. I am all for education, but in the case of my church, readings from the Scriptures are being omitted. Go figure . . .

Because various members of our clergy and I have exchanged emails about my unhappiness with our present service format, I could not help but send each of them this picture with a note that read, "Perhaps they will share their tips." I have not had a response from any of the priests. Perhaps they fail to see any humor in the above picture.

On a serious note, why are we in a such a hurry? I have always been under the impression that we have fast food, one hour glasses, drive-thru banking, etc. to simplify the mundane tasks of life thus freeing up time for the more important things - like church. I am having a hard time figuring out what we are supposed to be doing with all of our time. What is so important that we need a 30 minute worship service?

There are Sundays when sleep seems more important to me than going to church, but there a very few times that I actually give in and stay in bed. If I am going to get up and go then I want to attend a full service. It is hardly worth getting up and dressed for 30 minutes. I could just turn on one of those televangelists if that is all I need.

Maybe I am just sensitive to issues of time - because I never seem to have enough of it. I can think of ways to manage my days a little better, but reducing Sunday worship to 30 minutes is not one of them. Central Market for a cup of soup rather than cooking it and doing dishes afterwards - that's a possibility.