Snowy day all around

The snow started its gentle cascade yesterday and has kept going, blanketing the world in cold and stillness.

Yesterday I cleaned the birdcages— the budgie family is doing well— and spent some time cooking and checking on friends.

Snow days are for chili, and several others on Facebook had the same idea. My chili was a vegetarian version with kidney beans, black beans, black eyed peas, carrots, spinach and corn (and a Yuengling to make it just right).

I did some more concocting today. Made some pineapple-curry quinoa patties I had in the freezer and chicken potstickers with some sautéed pineapple anticipating that the teens wouldn’t be keen on the “burgers.”

I even used the juice from the pineapple to whip up some homemade sweet and sour sauce. Somehow though I grabbed the chocolate vinegar so my sweet and sour sauce turned chocolaty which actually accented the pineapple.

The animals meanwhile are either sleeping or in mischief. Minerva of the Roman Pride played in some red paint and Mistofelees decided he was a bird.

A video of Misty in the bird cage: Silly Misty in Bird Cage

The snow is still coming down and my shift at the Bizzy Hizzy has been canceled. I’m going to take my vitamins and watch another Brockmire.

I’m a Hank Azaria fan, in part because of his diverse and longstanding voice work on the Simpsons but also because he was hysterical in the Birdcage with greats Nathan Lane and Robin Williams.

I gave Brockmire a test run because of an interview on Fresh Air (this should link to the podcast). I’m finding a lot of humor and a lot of societal commentary and perhaps just reality. Some of Brockmire’s comments about larger issues like climate change surprise me. In general, Brockmire as a character experiences a lot of growth.

And he gets a tortoise in season three. As a former tortoise owner, the tortoise humor slays me. Even though he does keep calling it a turtle.

Clip featuring Clemenza: Clemenza, Brockmire’s tortoise

So now that my dishes are going and my coffee is done, let me head back to my Brockmire.

Streaming TV: Coming of Age stories

I tend to watch TV while doing chores or when resting between fatiguing tasks. I often watch TV on my iPad when putting Nala (my Goffin’s cockatoo) to bed.

I recently finished The Crown on Netflix which fed my love of history to my writer’s mind. When I work with historical documents in my academic work, I often imagine the lives in the text.

Though I do find it… awkward that they made a television series about living royals. Then I realized— it’s Queen Elizabeth’s coming of age story.

I recently watched Free Form’s Motherland: Fort Salem, which is an alternative history, a coming of age story and in my opinion— a political drama. There are heavy ethical questions in every episode even if the plot lines seem predictably anti-cliche.

And I find it difficult to extend my “willing suspension of disbelief” to accept that witches would call a truce with the Church and State and would serve as a conscript military.

And the magic is better than Harry Potter, and the technical aspects of it are done off screen though I don’t like that the magic is mostly vocal.

But I’m very anxious to know what happens next.

Speaking of coming of age stories, I also watched the French film Mignonnes (Cuties) that is trending on Netflix. Of course, the mainstream American discussion focuses on the objectifying and sexualisation of young girls.

The main character (Ami/Aminata) is French of Muslim descent hailing from Senegal. So her grandparents and community elders speak Wolof and she is black.

Traditionally, Muslims came to France as part of the African colonial legacy. Muslims struggle with their identity and acceptance in France— regardless of racial background.

So I immediately saw how all the kids from the French projects bonded through dance even if that dance was suggestive. The fat French girl, the Latina French girl who ironed her hair, the blonde and white French girl, the black French girl and, yes, the African Muslim French girl.

This was a story of the universality or growing up in a technology rich world as a poor female. And trying to find your place and a way “out” of difficult socio-economic places.

A very different coming of age story— offering a very different time and place— was Crip Camp on Netflix. I notice Netflix documentaries made by Netflix are often merely interviews and footage randomly strung together and as such rather boring.

Finally, I’m dying to watch a final documentary, and to some Jersey kids of the 1980s it might also be a coming of age story, Class Action Park. It’s currently on HBOMax and I am considering getting a trial so I can watch it.

Action Park was an amusement park in New Jersey with such crazy rides no one would insure them. Some of my friends used to go. I vividly remember the commercials.

TV Psychotherapy

My mind has experienced a lot of shifts recently. I have changed the way I communicate thanks to some insights of the teenager, some stress at work, and a variety of great support from friends and family.

In the midst of all this, there is the Coronavirus pandemic which allows a lot of introspection for those of us who try to be self-aware.

I’m not a big television watcher. I grew up in a rural setting in a valley by the river where we had poor television reception. We didn’t receive access to cable until I was a teenager.

When I left home, my husband and I chose not to pay for cable (and this was Netflix first started and they mailed you discs and prepaid envelopes— streaming was not a thing).

So, Hulu and Netflix on my iPad have allowed me to explore decades of pop culture. And I realize that many of these reality television programs can offer a window as to how we all face our struggles and build our relationships.

While I originally started watching Gordon Ramsay, it was because I love food and he had a reputation that I wanted to understand. I also like big, athletic guys with bad attitudes and exotic accents.

But the more I watched— whether it was Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell or other Ramsay programs— I saw people of all backgrounds reaching toward goals of increased knowledge and skills, wanting a better life, and working to impress not only a mentor but a larger-than-life icon, a modern God.

And Ramsay pulls talent out of people and sees something in people. It’s amazing to watch.

Inspiring.

Shows like 90-Day Fiancé show how desperately people want to be loved and the lengths they will go to— whether in hope of love or acceptance or, again, that desire for a better life or a Green card.

Now, I’m watching Hoarders. I watched the first episode because I’ve been in a hoarded house and it is mind-blowing. I wanted to understand.

I have learned how our upbringings and traumas intersect and influence how we communicate and relate. That stuff, shopping, accumulating, giving up and other verbs… it’s a manifestation of our emotional walls. I would classify My Secret Addiction (or is it My Unusual Addiction?) in the same realm—how to cope.

And then you take a show like Transitions, where people explore their gender identity, and I suddenly see how much of a struggle they have to live as the person they really are versus the person they feel forced to be by family and society. That’s strength.

And why you really want a good outlook, and to see hope, enthusiasm and change, you watch Queer Eye.

Kicking off my birthday

Many things happen in May that I look forward to, primarily the blooming of my lovely pink roses and Lily of the Valley (both fragrances I adore.)

Lily of the Valley, May’s flower

Warmer weather normally arrives (though this year we had snow). The school year is winding down. And there’s an anticipation akin to the new year that good things are to come.

My birthday arrives smack dab in the middle of this week and I know it’s significance will be dulled by major work deadlines and the pandemic. We do have a three day weekend coming for Memorial Day, all of which was why I had hoped to take vacation the last week of May.

Nala and I: Nala’s New Trick

That issue has not been settled, so I decided to have some mild fun to at least acknowledge to myself my birthday. Which is #45.

I ordered a sit down hot meal last night, instead of my usual stress meal of 2,000+ calories of pizza. My dear friend and editing client William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series suggested that the teenager and I deserved the treat. Ironically, it was the same restaurant my husband picked for my birthday dinner last year, Two Rivers Brewing.

More on Bill and his BDSM-themed crime novels: Sunday evening briefing: My Time of Debauchery Ends

Last time I tried Two Rivers delivery service: Two Rivers Brewing Delivery

I ordered a crowler of the Banker’s Brown ale, the breathtaking peanut butter bacon burger, bacon apple mac and cheese, and Brussel Sprouts. My daughter and I feasted like queens.

Speaking of queens, I started watching Hulu’s The Great, loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great of Russia. The costumes and sets are amazing. The script is witty and allows much thought of life and politics in that time period. I watched 5 episodes yesterday while doing housework.

The teenager had deserved a good meal as she had resecreened one of my bedroom windows.

She’s on the roof

A friend of mine texted early. He said it was a shame that people couldn’t celebrate properly because of the pandemic. But I pointed out that really nothing has changed. The teenager plans on baking me a cake— might be trying lemon cardamom this year. Cards still come in the mail. My friends and family have phones. And most restaurants have curbside or delivery.

I think the pandemic just removes a lot of the pretentious notions of what we need to survive and highlights how outdated the 40-hour workweek is. Employment for a lot of fields could be based on project completion versus time occupied at a desk.

I treated myself to a self-purchased birthday present today and thanks to the pandemic it comes with a free mask!

Dolls Kill

And this morning my mom surprised my with a few fun edibles (not THAT kind of edible) and a pair of tights.

Mom and Nala bonded and she approved of the teenager’s efforts in the garden.

So here’s hoping I can clean up this house and get my spirits to where they need to be to start the work week— and my birthday week— with enthusiasm.

Column: Halloween requires vampire TV (2006)

The paranormal has certainly blossomed in the mainstream during the last seven years. Spurred by the Twilight series and somehow morphing to Fifty Shades of Grey, there seems a bevy of options for fans of the supernatural. Pop culture always has monsters to offer society, whether you look at the classic fiction of the nineteenth century (Frankenstein and Dracula among them) or the mid-twentieth century soap opera Dark Shadows or Anne Rice’s successful franchising of her vampire chronicles and Mayfair witches.

As a mom and someone rapidly approaching 40, I have reached the out-of-touch generation. I’m still stuck in the era of Buffy and Angel, when YA wasn’t even a genre let alone an attraction for adults. I love some Harry Potter, but Bella and Edward make me cringe. And the best thing about Fifty Shades? Certainly not the writing or the sex scenes, but instead I’m excited that erotica is getting some attention from the mainstream. I never thought I’d see the day where erotica hit the shelves at Target.

I always loved vampires as a youngster. Vampires offer an examination of our individual struggles of good vs. evil in our own souls, a close look at the struggles of addiction, and an exploration of personality and the tendency to dominate or submit. The older I get the more I embrace more monsters: the witches who challenge their own power and their place in the universe, the werewolf who has to keep his animal under control, the psychic who must decide what to tell people and what to keep secret.

These are the themes the intrigue me as a writer and why I write paranormal fiction in my free time. I have three finished paranormal manuscripts and I am currently revising the second book in the series. I hope to revise my synopsis and get pitching to agents and editors again but that’s a topic for another day.

Today’s nugget (that spurred this whole blog entry) is an entertainment column I wrote about family friendly vampire television shows available in 2006.

vampire TV

Press Release: Fashion manufacturer expands (1998)

This was one of my first freelance PR clients. This event had a very specific purpose. This fashion manufacturer was expanding at a time when everyone else in the industry was outsourcing to Mexico or other locations. They were expanding, and they had purchased an old mill where the owner had a bad reputation. The client feared they would not be able to attract employees, so they hosted an Open House.

I publicized the event and attended the open house to talk with media personnel. The TV crews showed up as we were breaking down the event. We put the displays back together, lined the mannequins up and had a trusty employee who had stayed to help clean up give a demonstration. The manager’s family had to stand in for the guests, since the well-attended event had ended.

It yielded a really nice pair of television news stories on our local channel.

mahoning1 mahoning 2