“Do You Speak American?” Documentary Interesting and Relevant

Do people judge you by your accent? Yes, they do. I say y’all, drop my g’s from verbs and generally sound hickish if I’m not careful.

One way we are beginning to see real education regarding dialects is within the power of the modern documentary. In Robert MacNeil’s 57-minute film, he travels around the southern United States to explore the roots and regional flavors associated with those dialects. Working with Wolfram and many locals from the Appalachian Mountains to Louisiana and Texas, MacNeil’s fascinating documentary examines the richness of each state’s heritage as reflected in the speech of their citizens.

In particular, MacNeil discusses the idea of southern speech discrimination as well as bringing forth the idea of the “New South Phenomenon” in which some people either fake or acquire a Southern accent for monetary gain, such as in country music.
He interviews John Fought, who identifies southerners as the “largest body of speakers in America—and growing.”
MacNeil’s work will be helpful to me in my defense of keeping southern dialect as a part of identity, even in the composition classroom. His view of dialects as a “cultural heritage” supports my argument that a southern twang needn’t take away from true scholarship. By turning scholarship into entertainment for the masses, the first step for nationwide acceptance can be reached.


Beauty products that actually work!

all things messy...

beautyquoteSo you’re walking through the store, and you “stumble” (by sheer accident I’m sure) into the beauty section.  “My, my, my” you think to yourself, “which one of these little products is going to change my whole look and solve all my beauty issues?” Come on, surely I’m not the only one who has ever done that?  Let’s be real, as women we are ALWAYS looking for the next new and improved product that will fix our every flaw.

Up until about a year ago, I had never stepped a foot inside of Ulta (I tried once and I literally had a massive panic attack and RAN out of the store as quickly as I could).  What caused this trauma?  Fear of the unknown! Makeup is not something that I think most of us are taught about when we’re younger, so we really only know what we always use and…

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A new chicken dinner? I’m in!

From my friend Jennifer’s blog at allthingsmessey.

all things messy...

Are you tired of those same ole’, same ole’ chicken dinners?  I know that as a mom/wife who cooks almost nightly, I have a million ways to use every kind of chicken you can throw at me…except chicken thighs.  I have never cooked chicken thighs before, and I’m not really sure why? I started to do some research on this cut of meat and found that apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way!

It turns out that this dark meat section of a chicken used to be so unpopular among consumers that manufacturers would bulk package a ton of them and sell them dirt cheap.  But, due to the increase in awareness by all the new cooking shows out there showing this to be the “hidden gem” of chicken, it is now quickly becoming the new favorite among consumers, even getting voted most popular when compared to…

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Teen Speak: A Translation for Beginners–On Minecraft, WOW, and Other Irritants


Teen Speak: A Translation for Beginners

(The one where I talk about gaming and its continued annoyance in my otherwise perfect life)

The other day when my computer refused to charge, I used Mancub’s. As I booted it up, the computer itself seemed to cringe a little, as if wary of the new user. It was probably still hung over from last night’s Mine Craft marathon.  Immediately I was inundated with Minecraft world info…New Mods! New Servers! New Videos about the new mods and new servers! I felt like I was being yelled at by shifty carnies at the fair–my tactic is to avoid eye contact but that doesn’t matter here.  Dear Parent, if you have not heard of MineCraft, then you can just count your lucky stars. It’s one of the biggest time wasters on the entire planet. Picture everything you like about Facebook, then turn the resolution WAY down so everything looks like grainy legos. Then turn it down even more.

MineCraft itself is a world of its own. Remember how people talked about WOW? When I was taking Latin, there was this girl who sat next to me, so very confident in her Latin abilities (she was really good–I was unashamedly embarrassed of her translating skills) that she actually brought her laptop into class and played WOW during lecture. I cornered her after class and said, “Look, we’re all just thrilled to death that Latin, to you, is akin to a Dora the Explorer episode, but if you ever bring that to class again, I am going to totally rat you out. Count on it.” Mine Craft is similar to WOW in that it’s always new and exciting, and creative “mods” are introduced practically on an hourly basis, written by unwashed men who live in their mother’s basement and are far more acquainted with their online friends than annoying people IRL (in real life, for those of you who don’t know). The biggest problems on Mine Craft? People slowing down the server, the server being “down” (what will happen to our sheep??????), creepers (bad guys), and griefers (those who pillage the Mine Craft world, unfairly stealing from others who have also sat unwashed tinkering with one thing or another until they have the perfect sheep breeder or whatever. Coupled with the fact that people can actually talk to others who share their obsession AND watch hours of videos about the fascinating world of blurred legos, it can become quite a problem. Left unchecked, sleep, hygiene and skin tone can indeed suffer. When my boys play too long, they get sucked into the MC world and the real world seems…less fun.

Anyway, when I was using Nate’s computer, I was listening to music so I put on his headphones which are perfectly adapted to completely tuning out my voice unless the words “Hey….food” are heard. The Engineer comes in (he is similarly afflicted with the MIneCraft Virus) and asks me a question.

“What?” I say, much louder than necessary.

“I said, are we going to lunch?”

“Oh,” I pretend to deliberate. “I’m sorry–I didn’t hear you. I’m Mine Crafting.”

Lee is not impressed.

“Reallllly?” He says.

“Yeah. I was just talking to my friend Wart, who lives in Sarasota. We’re both sick and tired of Sasquatch29 griefing our turf. We’re trying to get him banned from the server.”

“Oh,” Lee says, trying not to grin at my completely lame attempt to speak nerd.

“Good luck with that.”

There are things you can do, dear parent. You can install a timer that shuts down the computer after a certain amount of screen time. I let Mancub play for 3 hours a day during break, only after he’s done a list of chores I’ve given him. Then, if he wants more time he has to earn it. How? By doing more chores or READING A BOOK. I took care to choose books I thought he’d like, including Ender’s Game and Divergent. It’s tough competition against a backdrop of lego pig farms, but it’s a cross he’s got to bear.


The Top 10 TV Dads EVER!!

When I was growing up in the 1980s, summer smelled like coconuts, sweet tea and chlorine. I watched a TON of TV, especially on summer break. About 95% of my TV viewing occurred mostly in my swimsuit because I migrated back and forth between the public pool and tv. I would stay at the pool with my best friends from noon to 6:00 p.m. when the pool closed. I even reasoned that it was a waste of time to shower because everybody knows the chemicals in the pool water completely sanitize both the water and everybody in it. Also, I would like to point out that sunscreen was not even invented, and I’m here to tell you that even if it WAS invented nobody would have used it back then because everyone wanted to be TAN. Nothing signifies the beginning of summer quite like a second degree sunburn. Who would have predicted that 30 years later I would have developed a vitamin D deficiency?

Anyway, after 6 hours at the pool, I’d come home, have dinner, and park myself in front of the television until I passed out.
Periodically, my mom would come in and say, “Turn that thing off! It’s been on TOO long!” So I would turn it off, wait a few minutes and turn it BACK on. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that part of what we base our expectations of fatherhood on the approximately 3000 hours of input into our tiny little psyches.

Nothing says Happy Father’s Day like a list of the best TV Dads.

10. Dan Conner from “Roseanne” would have been much higher in the lineup except for the unfortunate last season he cheated on Roseanne. Good dads cannot be cheaters! Before that happened, though, Dan was an awesome Dad who loved his kids and worked hard to support the family. He was real, too…a bit overweight which didn’t matter so much because come on, so is Roseanne. Those two were a match made in TV Land heaven. This clip is the one where Dan gets bailed out by Darlene. Yes, he’s in jail–for beating up Jackie’s boyfriend for beating her up. Because justice.

9. Mr. Krabbs from “Spongebob.” This was Mancub’s vote so I had to include it. Although he’s depicted as a penny-pinching stinge, nothing helps him open up that rusty wallet like his whale of a daughter, Pearl. He’s a single dad, too. Way to go Mr. Krabbs.

8.Ray Barone from “Everyone Loves Raymond.” Also a writer, Ray’s whining sometimes gets irritating but my favorite episode? When Ray drives to Jersey to get Allie the special trading card she wants, not knowing that it’s a super expensive collector’s card. And he gets it for her anyway. Also, when Ray encouraged his boys to be the best fairies in the school play. Love it.

7.Richard Gilmore from “Gilmore Girls.” I know he can be a bit snobby and pretensious, but come on! He made mistakes when raising Lorelai, but then he more than made up for it with Rory.

6.Jim Halpert from “The Office.” Even though Dwight tries to guilt trip Jim for working late when his daughter CeCe is at home, he’s actually seen changing a diaper in one of the episodes. Score!


5.Adam Braverman from Parenthood. One of the most patient and tolerant dads of TVdom, he manages to be firm yet kind with his unruly brood, even when his wife has cancer, his son’s autistic, he has a new baby and he’s managing a new business.

4.Stephen Keaton from Family Ties. Father of future superstar Michael J. Fox, Mr. Keaton could do no wrong. Even though he was a bit of a (gasp!) hippy…Mr. Keaton really was the “cool” dad.

3. Andy Griffith from the Andy Griffith Show.

I had such a crush on Andy! I would love to know the total amount of hair gel he used in his TV career. Also a single dad, Andy managed to keep the sleepy town of Mayberry safe while also taking time out to take little Opie fishing. Aww!

2.Paul Hennessy from 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. Paul is a writer so right away you know he’s just good people. Ok this is not always true but Paul is the real deal. Even though he managed to be kind of bullied by his teenagers, you know deep down that he’s just a giant softie and that if any of his kids were threatened, CRAP WILL GET REAL.

1. Charles Ingalls from Little House in the Prairie. A perfect mix of brawn, hard-working ethic and prayer, Pa was awesome. Did I mention he could also kick some prairie butt if necessary?

Don’t like my list? Think I skipped someone? Put it in the comments section below! 🙂

On Dad’s Grilled Cheeses and Not Giving Up

dadpic“Hey Tina, want a grilled cheese sandwich?” Dad beamed brightly, ever the morning person. Me, not so much. I’d sit at the table, bleary-eyed, and wait for breakfast, which he always cooked. It might seem weird that he cooked grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast, but our family was always unconventional. While the cold kitchen would heat up from the gas powered stove, he would make corny jokes that to me, as a teenager, were tortuous. It didn’t matter if I laughed at the jokes, because he would.

I’m a pretty good cook now, but before I ever learned how to cook anything, Dad taught me the secret of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. There is an art to it. When I was a little kid I used to call it “girl cheese.” Anyway, he taught me that when making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, the trick is not to use real butter. If you use cheap vegetable spread it works so much better. The smell of the fake butter on the hot iron skillet was heavenly. It was more than just a sandwich; it was the ambrosia of our redneck family. I didn’t realize then that I would learn more about parenting through a grilled cheese sandwich than a library full of books.

The grilled cheese sandwich turned out to be sort of a symbol of our crazy family. We never had much money, and the ingredients in the grilled cheese sandwich reflected that. Plain old white bread and American sandwich singles blend together perfectly in that pretend butter, but doesn’t really taste good unless the heat is right.

There was plenty of heat and pressure in our lives. Dad and Mom both worked hard, twelve-hour days at factories so they never wasted money, but we always, always struggled financially. Mom and Dad argued constantly at first, then gave way to just ignoring each other. I’m sure the long days in the factories where they worked left them drained, the last thing they wanted was to fight at the end of the day–fighting was a waste, and they were not wasteful people. Likewise, buying real butter seemed a waste to them. Both parents had grown up in shocking poverty and never forgot the lessons of their childhood. Being thrifty was in their blood.

There would be no way, for instance, you would catch my Dad in the drive-thru line for Starbucks paying $5 for a cup of coffee. The store brand was just fine, thank you. It also did not bother him if the coffee he brewed was older than Larry King. Coffee that was a week old, as long as it hadn’t molded yet, was good. He’d still drink it. I’d plead with him, saying, “Dad, you work hard for a living. You deserve a fresh cup of coffee! Come on!” He’d stare at me blankly like Clinton on trial. It just didn’t make sense to him. I shudder at the memory of the old coffee fermenting in the pot, but that was just his way. He didn’t waste anything.
On the very slight chance food did go bad, he’d always throw it in the backyard for the “wildlife” to consume, which was hysterical because he lived in town next to a major highway. Once, he inexplicably threw most of a package of stale tortillas next to the tree in the front yard. The tortillas, never getting consumed by the expected Bengal tigers or African elephants, sat there for months, morphing into moldy Frisbees. I’m pretty sure they are still there, fossilized for future generations like some sort of redneck Taj Mahal. It really embarrassed my sister, who didn’t know about the tortillas, and invited a bunch of friends over. I still remember her dismay as she asked,“What the heck Dad? Why did you throw tortillas in the front yard?” He just shrugged his shoulders, because he never believed in making excuses. Ever. He believed you should own up to your faults, warts and all. “Nobody is perfect, including you,” he would remind me. He didn’t blame others for his shortcomings.
Many conversations happened over those grilled cheese sandwiches, because Dad was a good listener. He was unflappable with my confessions. Trust me: there have been a few. I could have told the man aliens had abducted me and I swear he would have said, “Well, ok. Good thing they brought you back in one piece. No go do your chores.” We often ate those sandwiches before a long day of canning or working on the yard. It wasn’t that Dad didn’t know how to relax; he just appreciated the value of hard work.
He really disliked people that were slackers. He taught me that life gives you back what you put into it. He never gave me any illusions that life would be easy. When I went back to college after nearly 15 years, it was really hard and there were several moments I didn’t think I could do it. It’s not as if Dad and I had long, intellectual conversations about what it means to persevere. We didn’t have to, because Dad lived it, and I noticed. He never, ever gave up. Even when an oncologist used phrases like “It’s really a long shot” or “You’ll have to travel for an experimental treatment” Dad would say, “Let’s do it.” And, inevitably, when the results didn’t budge, he’d say, “What else have you got?” Dad kept trying until the last breath left his lips. He didn’t know how to NOT try.

And although I will always miss my father, I hear him laugh every day when my son giggles, and when my daughter makes me laugh with her dry sense of humor. I see him every day in the shape of my boy’s eyebrows and in his smile. Dad would have liked that. He taught me the hardest things in life were more palatable with a good sense of humor. Not that his jokes were that great most of the time, you understand. But he told them with such enthusiasm and waited with such expectation you had to laugh. It’s all about delivery.

Dad’s been gone for nearly eleven years now, and I know the memories my kids have of him have faded somewhat. But every time I make a grilled cheese sandwich, my youngest son Nathan takes a big bite and says, “Ahhhh. Just like Papa C. used to make it.” Nathan was three when his Papa died, and most people would argue he couldn’t remember him. I know he does.

It’s still early this morning, and I’m short on time. I think I’ll wake Nathan up with the smell of Papa C’s grilled cheese sandwiches, and a few jokes. Later this evening, I will use my father’s trick of cooking dinner to bring my daughters, now college students and in their own apartment, home for a while. My siren call sounds like this: “So, I made this burritos and homemade salsa, want to come over?” The food might change, but the intent behind the food doesn’t. And while we eat, I’ll take a moment to listen to what is happening in my kid’s lives. If there’s any leftovers, I’ll donate it to the wildlife of Texas.

Thanks Dad. I hope we’ve made you proud.

(reprinted from a previous Father’s Day post I wrote)

Our Favorite Literary Fathers


In celebration of Father’s Day, we’re remembering favorite father characters from beloved books.

photo (40)

Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter series
“Arthur Weasley is the beloved patriarch of the Weasley family, a role model to his children and a father figure to their friend, Harry. He is a sincere, curious, brave, loyal, hardworking, fair and fun Dad. And a pure-blood wizard, which is pretty badass.”

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Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“I like Atticus Finch, but maybe not for the reasons most people like him. Sure, he’s morally upstanding, a good example, etc. etc. But what I really like about Atticus is how he told his kids what was what, and then let them make their own decisions and mistakes. That’s the way I was raised.”

photo (42)

Adam from East of Eden by John Steinbeck
“Families are complicated and Dads can play their part in that. Adam’s…

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The hidden messages in children’s books

I remember reading something similar about the Wizard of Oz’s hidden meaning.

J. Giambrone

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Conversations With Mancub

Mancub in his natural habit. He's got it pretty rough, folks. Warning: this may be hard to read, like the "Arms of an Angel" dog commercials.

Mancub in his natural habit. He’s got it pretty rough, folks.

Warning: this may be hard to read, like those “Arms of an Angel” dog commercials. Not really.

Yesterday, I made it home kind of late. After teaching my night composition class, I was hanging out with my sweet friend Katie who just had an operation in which THEY BROKE HER FACE. Actually, the doctor broke her nose in an effort to reset and repair sinus issues that have been making her miserable for years. Anyway, I showed up at her house with Tacos and Tom: the best sick buddy combo ever. Tacos from Rusty Taco and a Tom Hardy movie. In this case, Wuthering Heights with Tom as Heathcliff. And before you ask. YES she likes Tom Hardy and YES she wanted to watch it…I know some of you were thinking that this was some sort of bullying on my part because Katie was poor and helpless with her broken nose. All you naysayers can just go to h.e. double hockey sticks because she loves Tom Hardy too.

Anyway, back to Mancub. It’s his first week of summer vacation and I’m already struggling with how to keep his butt from permanently growing into his desk chair as he “catches up” for lost time (meaning the annoyance that is high school) on his favorite past time: video games. During the school year, we don’t make him clean the kitchen (his normal chore) on Wednesdays because that’s when he goes to Youth Group with Watergirl and he needs time to do his homework and practice (theoretically) his horn and do the various good Samaritan deeds he does throughout the community and his many other philanthropic pursuits. Well, here’s the rub. It’s summer–so he doesn’t really have homework. He has youth group but that’s only for a couple of hours.

I’m over at Katie’s, selflessly hanging out with my medicated friend watching Tom Hardy (hey-she would have picked it if she had a choice! I swear) on Katie’s supersoft bed in her immaculate apartment when Nate calls. He’s asking for money to go to this restaurant called the Cotton Patch tomorrow for lunch. I’ve been there: it’s ok…good not great. However, it survives in Tyler for two reasons: it’s a family restaurant that serves everything deep fried. I bet I could ask them to deep fry my sweet tea and they would.

Restaurants have a hard time surviving in Tyler unless they are pretentiously expensive and serve all manners of booze. This one restaurant called “Double D’s” caused a big ruckus when it opened across the street from the high school and next to Toys R Us. That’s just good marketing, folks. Eventually it went out of business, so then it became some kind of chicken shack and now it’s for sale again.

Mancub knows I don’t carry cash so he’s learning to plan ahead where this is concerned. Never mind that he and Watergirl just went to Chili’s earlier (with the sisters). But I stopped by the ATM for him anyway. I also stopped by and got The Engineer and I some frozen custard. I didn’t get the kids any because I’m mean.

I came in the living room with the custard and Mancub’s like, “Did you get me some?” Um, no. I’m the meanest mom around, and sometimes I gotta remind him of that. Plus he just said he was avoiding junk food for “a while.” He gets this from me. Awhile means one thing when I’m dieting and another when I’m doing something painful like watching Sci-fi.

Earlier, he and Watergirl were making juice in the kitchen. They juiced an entire pineapple, some carrots and anything else they could get their hands on.They might have considered juicing the chihuahua but he’s mostly fat pockets which is not healthy.When they were finished, Mancub left the juicer exactly the way it was and didn’t rinse anything off. He gets THAT trait from his dad. Apparently if you just leave your dishes lying around or kick off your dirty undies next to the shower, it disappears like magic–presumably by our invisible butler named Jeeves.

If you’ve never juiced before, you should know that juice pulp, when left on a juicer, takes approximately ten seconds before it magically turns into a hardened, ancient oatmeal consistency that somehow manages to become part of the molecular structure of the juicer. The pulp clings to the juicer parts like the Gosslin kids used to cling to Kate before she got the hair extensions.

“Nate. You didn’t clean the juicer.”

“Oh yeah. It’s my day off.”

“I’m sorry? Day off?” I ask, with a slight lilt in my voice that suggests that I don’t understand English.

“Yeah. Youth group day.”

“How does that translate to “I get to leave a bunch of crap for mom to clean up?” In case you really thought we had a butler named Jeeves.


“Plus, what do you do today that’s left you so exhausted? Sleeping in? Hanging out with Watergirl? Napping? Watching reruns of Avatar? Fighting off creepers in Minecraft? I know these are all extremely taxing activities but I’m gonna have to ask you to clean up that juicier.”

So he did. Call CPS if you must.

You put the lime in the coconut…

Princess Pinterest has another great recipe for me to try!

all things messy...

186459892In the theme of Foodie Friday’s “coconut” lesson, I thought I’d make a few “Pinteresty” (is that a word?  I’m pretty sure it’s a verb now) recipes that I’ve been drooling over lately…and they turned out great! Both of them!  This must be some kind of record or something (for me at least).

The first one I made is the Chocolate Covered Coconut bars from “Art and the Kitchen”, and these were SO easy to make (click here for the post where I was talking about these), pure genius!  The combination of chocolate and healthy is a win/win for me every time! Four ingredients (it was my first time using unsweetened coconut, very different), went together very easy, can’t say enough about how happy my hubby will be to be snacking on these!

Did you ever have one of those days where the stars converge and you’re alone in the…

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