The Cleanest Mess in the World

Spring Cleaning weekend is nearly upon us! It’s a hell of an endeavour but I really do enjoy it. This year is a little different, however. This year, I am generally creating my own cleaning supplies instead of purchasing myriad sprays and scrubs that are flush with chemicals and dyes and cloying fragrances. And I like making messes in my kitchen. Especially messes that are meant to go into prettily labeled sprayer bottles.

My quest for “Greener Cleaners” as they say has resulted in some successes and some failures.

After formulating and reformulating and researching, I finally found a make it at home laundry detergent that does the job. Our washers kind of suck, but that’s a different issue entirely. Yes, there is a 5 gallon orange bucket of goo on our back porch. But I decant it into smaller bottles for easier hauling. I’ll give you the link to the recipe if you’d like it.

You might wonder why I started doing all this in the first place. Well, linen spray. I wanted some lavender linen spray, and some essential oils laying around for scenting things. So I did that. And then I went to the library. (Most expensive messes in my life, when self-inflicted, start at the library. How I manage to make a free institution of learning and community become a costly mess is beyond me. But it often start with finding books like The Naturally Clean home.)

For some time now, I’ve resented the high cost of laundry detergent. It’s pretty ridiculous, and if you read up on it, possibly dangerous (I say as I knock back the rest of this aspartame-sweetened Diet Coke), but mainly it’s just stupid expensive. Like Brita filters (I also found a way to make your own Brita filters but I’m holding off on that one. It involves fish tank supplies.) I’ve also been wanting to “Go Green”, and I had always assume that that would mean a recycling program. But when you see the official Blue Bags being pitched into the garbage truck right alongside with the trash…well…you feel like that sort of effort might be wasted. So I started to think wow….I bet Ajax and Comet and bleach are really unnecessarily potent for most of the things I need to do (Don’t worry. Cat Box Disinfecting will probably still involve bleach). And then I’m a big fan of How CLean is Your House where the Ladies are cleaning out drains with baking soda and hot water and I try it and it works! So I figure there IS a better way. And I love a science experiment.

The latest failure is dish soap. I don’t care how toxic one purports sodium lauryl sulfate to be. I need suds people. Even if they are just for show. Homemade dish soap does not lots of bubbles make. And I need them.

Another failure: homemade fabric softener…i.e. vinegar. I mean, I suppose it worked in the sense that the clothing was fluffy and soft. It failed in the sense that we smelled like a giant pickle. So to all the ladies on whatever the hell blog I was reading that said, “The vinegar rinses out! You can’t smell a thing!” Go get some decongestants. And beg forgiveness from your poor children who have gone to school smelling like salad dressing lo these many years.

Now, the vinegar incident DID inspire me to try one more…not greener, but cheaper alternative: homemade dryer sheets. You mix up a little liquid fabric softener and water in a bowl. Cut up an old tshirt into squares and slosh the squares around in the bowl. Then hang them up to dry. You can throw them in just like regular dryer sheets and they last a few loads, AND you don’t have to throw them away. AND the bottle will last basically forever. So there’s that.

I have had some success with baking soda sink scrubbers, tea tree toilet cleaners and club soda. So we’ll say I’m 50/50 at this point. My next project will be, from the book Folk Wisdom for a Natural Home, the “Almost Dry Cleaner for Mattress”. I have a feather bed that needs attending to.



I have proudly avoided taking the bait when someone is being inflammatory for quite some time. But every once in awhile, I can’t resist. I totally took the bait this morning on an off-handed comment about rape victims. So sue me. It was worth it. I haven’t yelled at anybody in awhile.

If you’ve read my blog, you know that raised eyebrows and lack of respect directed towards women who do not apologize for their bodies has riled me up forever, and unless standards change, I suppose it always will. I’ll remember to keep a hanky in my cleavage for just those purposes.

Speaking of not apologizing for my body, I’m actually interested in my body apologizing to ME. Why when I do something beneficial for you, oh body, like working out and doing 3 sets of 12 reps of Ballet Butt Lifters do you leave me with a sore ass and a bad attitude? Un. Fair.

So, in the interest of good workout music, last night I puttered over to Itunes to download Lady Sovereign’s Love Me or Hate Me. Which I did. BUT I then discovered I-tunes cache of Chorale music and the Alan Lomax collection and ended up in a land of folk music and sacred harp singers. Now, if you aren’t familiar with the Sacred Harp tradition, that’s cool. And by that I mean you are cooler than me for that fact. However, if you choose to take an auditory peek, let me warn you that as far as I can tell, there is a female of the alto/mezzo persuasion and a nasally tenor who show up on EVERY recording and lord help me if they don’t always have the high parts. It sounds like a kazoo with lips and a voicebox. They also tend to hit off-words like “AM” and “OH” and “AND”. I actually picture these people singing as if they were baby birds reaching their necks out of the nest for a worm. Like the dwarf that yodels on Snow White. Seriously, I picture a group of people standing around a music stand, with this lone offender in the background craning their necks to heavens and bellowing out their nasal cadences.

So you might ask yourself, did she download it? Yes, she did.

Smart Water and Catharsis: A weak metaphor

Smart water has electrolytes. My sister in law swears that it prevents her migraines. You know what else has electrolytes? Tears. Now I’m not suggesting you purposefully weep into a drinking glass. Just bear with me.

A conversation with a friend led me to thinking about what we do when we need to get it out. I know people who have to walk it out. I know people who have to punch it out or yell it out or even break a few glasses. It being…well, anything really, but usually some form of stress. I usually have to cry it out, but I don’t often see it coming. I don’t seek catharsis. Catharsis finds me and it’s usually in public which is oh so convenient.

After my cousin was killed in a car accident, I came back to Chicago and puttered around and grieved and worried about my family members. And then one night, Will and I went to see Finding Neverland and I lost my damn mind. I cried for hours. Shaking, uncontrollable sobs. I could barely walk out of the theatre. I’m misquoting here, but there is a moment in the film where JM Barrie says to one of the children, “There it is. Your childhood just ended.” Or something like that. Basically, you see the moment in the kid’s face where the spark in his eye that was his Mom goes out. And while my story does not even come close to being at all like that film, when my cousin died, our childhoods ended. And while I wasn’t a fan of this fact coming to light for me at the cineplex on Western, I’m grateful that it did anyway. And I’m grateful a very special man was there to hold me up.

I feel like catharsis is a moment where you are more spirit than body. It’s almost like shedding a skin. Post-cathartic moment, I always feel very free and very quiet. And while maddening displays of incredible emotion are not my favorite thing, those free and quiet moments are few and far between. And I think we need more of them.

Sometimes you have to tell the truth in a big big way. And sometimes, like for me, it was to myself. And in other times, it’s to other people. Life is short. Drop the excess baggage be it grief or anger or envy or regret. Guilt. Whatever. They are non-functioning entities. And they are toxic.

I can only speak from personal experience, but you have to face the truth sometimes and while that can be painful, it’s always the best path to take. And sometimes you have to leave some people behind who are content to play in a big old mud puddle. You’ve got some cleaner rehydrating to do.

Bust my Buttons

I kind of like Mondays. It’s a fairly recent development, but it’s true. New audition postings, reviews, new to do lists…better weather (at least this week). I like a sense of renewal, and I think Mondays provide that.

On tap today? Working on a monologue. I haven’t done that in so long! But I needed a Tennessee Williams, and the one I have is not appropriate for the part I want. So new it is. We’re getting ready to fly to Pittsburgh this weekend for a wedding, so I can memorize on the plane, I suppose. In fact, today will likely be a theatre-y day. I have no auditions scheduled but it’s time to prepare for a cabaret! I am oh so very excited about this. It’s my first cabaret in Chicago and I’m fairly thrilled. ( I won’t reveal what I’m performing, but I believe I may be allowed to use a boa. And whaddya know? I’ve got a pink one at home. Anyway, proceeds from the cabaret go towards funding Point of Contention’s fall show. A worthy cause indeed. I also need to download the cast recording of Poseidon the musical for research and audition preparation purposes.

As you can see, my quest for a solid month off of theatre for restorative purposes was just a pie in the sky, and as Ernest T says, skies too high (and no, I really have no idea what that means. Just sounded appropriate). But I’ve still managed to regroup and restore a bit. And I’m looking forward to our mini-trip this weekend. Still have to run to Williams Sonoma for a wedding gift but I think that will go on Wednesday’s to-do list.

A bit of a non-sequitor, but for a website purporting to make one’s life easier, doesn’t Lifehacker’s interface seem overly complicated and hard to read?

On the domestic front, I have found a recipe I adore: Baked Oatmeal. It is perfect! You can make it the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning, and have a healthy (IBS friendly…sigh) breakfast before shooting off into your hectic day! Sure, I sound like someone’s grandmother on the way to a bingo marathon, but it’s true. Cheap healthy and convenient food is a theatre girl’s bread and butter. And I do a little jig when I find one that works. I can give ya the recipe if you’re intrigued. And Will liked it. Which is a victory in and of itself.

So let’s see, that’s to do’s, food, schedule. What’s left? AH! Mani/pedi of course. I told ya I was going to a wedding and that means breaking out the strapless shoes for the first time since…alright last week. Whatever. The point is a Beauty Night is in order. It’s like Spring Cleaning for my appearance. And what do I always say are the most important things in my repertoire? Eyes and Eyebrows. Eyes and Eyebrows. And since I’m beginning to look like the Gatekeeper of the Emerald City (just in time for St. Patty’s!) the time has come for some maitenance.

Stone Soup

I’d like to talk about the economic crisis.

This Economic crisis, while crushing and frightening, is more a crisis of perceived reality. Sure, up until perhaps a year or two ago, corporations were living high on the hog, but it turns out in at least a few cases (and I hazzard to guess we’ll see more) these profits were based on illigitimate dealings. Ergo, while they may have had fun for awhile, it wasn’t in any way living honestly. And obviously, some of them are fine with that. Whatever, other than inherent disgust, I don’t really care. Yes, I care about the little guy. Trust me when I say it hits closer to home than one might think. This crisis, at least at this point, isn’t serving the function it could be serving. For example, I think a lot of us on the ground here have tightened our belts as a precaution. Unfortunately, people have lost their jobs, and are having to watch their 401K’s lose money at obscene rates. Last I checked, I was losing at a rate of 10%. This angers me only in one particular sense, that it is losing money based on speculation. Now, I know that that is what 401K’s are about, and that is how the stock market works, but I refuse to base my inhaling and exhaling on whether or not some trader farted on the floor of the Exchange. I wasn’t about to say no to a company match, but if I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s diversify, not just your portfolio. Diversify banks, insurance…hell, diversify which mattress you’re planning on stuffing it under.
Yesterday on the morning news, a reporter asked someone on Wall Street, when will know if this is a real rally? The analyst said, UNfortunately, not for awhile. Well, it will be a real rally if the traders continue to invest. Really. The free market is doing both a natural and unnatural Survival of the Fittest Spring Cleaning. Unfortunately, traders are a bunch of scared baby kitties that spook when anybody runs the vacuum cleaner, so much of the time, we have to watch them slowly crawl out from under their giant screens. That’s right. I said it. Traders are pussies. Sack up and invest. Don’t tell me to spend what little money I have on crap I don’t need. Sack up and invest. While I have problems with a free market economy, I’m aware it’s what we’ve got at the moment. Quit trying to prove a damn point and invest. No, I don’t think the banks should be lending. Why? Two reasons. 1. Overlending is partially why we are in this mess in the first place. It’s like one of two things I disagree with Obama policy. And 2. Because the debt to capital ratio right now is comparable to 1929. That’s why. Consumers don’t need more debt. We need to pay off what we have. Corporations need to invest. Trust me, if I had the capital, I would be investing a hell of a lot more. But I don’t. So I’m not going to.
For years, myself included, we bought what we couldn’t afford when we knew we couldn’t afford it and watched our friends and neighbors do it too, which for humans is a like a giant green light.
Basically it’s this, we have had a national (and global) come to Jesus meeting. So we have two choices, live on what we’ve got, or don’t and wait for this to come around again, bigger, nastier and possibly devastating.
So am I behind the stimulus? Yes. Because my paycheck is 5 bucks bigger? No. Because it might cause some private institutions to become temporarily nationalized? No, although it doesn’t make me worship the spector of Ronald Reagan and beg for salvation. I support the stimulus because we are finally investing in what we should have been investing in from the very beginning: Education and Future generations, green society, and fucking health care reform. The economy shouldn’t operate like a teenage boy having sex: Is that a status symbol or are you just happy to see me? Let’s do this like adults. Patience, my brother. There’s no one to impress.
I also know this, you don’t have to be a socialist to help a neighbor. People got through the Great Depression by helping a sister out. Even a restaurant where I used to work was famous for doling out a free meal out the back door in the 30’s. We’ll be fine if we decide we’ll be fine.
Let me tell you something else: As a Midwesterner, I’ve really been resentful of my retirement funds resting on the East Coast, my elected leaders being beholden to the South, and my pop culture being decided by the West coast. It’s the Midwest’s time to shine. We got the attitude, the ability, and a very low tolerance for bullshit. We also can make very large amounts of food and serve it potluck style. We’re gonna be okay. But only if we make it that way.

And now, I shall end my blog with a first: A Peter Paul and Mary song. Break out the guitar, let your hair down, and join hands. Most of us are children of hippies. No need to hide it.
“Tell me why you’re crying, my son
I know you’re frightened like everyone
Is it the hunger in the distance you fear?
Will it help if I stay very near? I am here.
And if you take my hand my son,
All will be well when the day is done.”

I need a drink

I don’t review a lot of theatre here. As an actor, it’s a tricky position to be in, and I also empathize with actors who find themselves stuck with a really terrible script. It happens, and there is benefit in sucking it up and dealing with one. As an actor or a director looking to gain some stage time and experience.

But Saturday night, I was not an actor because I was an audience member. I paid 10.50 as did my friend to see a show. Post-show, I tried to escape the theatre as quickly as possible, but in retrospect, I should have demanded my money back.

Paul Barile has written the single most offensive play I have ever seen. I was offended first as someone from a rural area, secondly as a woman, and thirdly as an intelligent human being.

The play was entitled Cold Weather Comfort and was produced by NUFAN ensemble. On some level, I can’t fault a playwright for being inspired to write some dreck. That happens. I do fault a group of people for getting together, reading said script, and then thinking, “Hey! This one we gotta produce.” Sure, it’s their right to do so. But it’s also my right, especially as someone who paid for a ticket, to verbally glove-slap them across the face. What on earth were you thinking?

Let me just give you a run down of the plot. I suppose I should issue a “Spoiler alert” but the show has since closed and god willing no one will ever produce it again, I think we’re safe. And also, you’ve probably seen Cape Fear, Night of the Hunter, Little House on the Prairie and Goodfellas which are so heavy-handedly ripped off here. So we find ourselves near a nameless town on a “farm” in downstate Illinois. I’ll get to why “farm” is in quotes in a bit. We meet Sharon, wife of farmer Buddy Lincoln (A farmer named Lincoln from downstate Illinois. How precious.) who spends most of her time imbibing hot beverages, reading, and generally delivering some of the most trite, cliched Strong Country Woman views and opinions on various situations. Buddy’s kid sister, Alex…our prodigal daughter arrives home from some sort of shady business in Chicago to take a break. What follows is a generally inocuous, ill-informed play about coming home(?) and people who are the salt of the earth and whatever. It doesn’t matter. Because just as you think to yourself, AH, we’ve arrived at the final scene after some minor plot discrepancies (We’re getting ready for a special dinner tonight…after we go to bed and have it tomorrow…) and in just no time at all, I will be back in my car and I can forget this whole thing. But then the alluded-to shady dealings arrive from Chicago in the shape of “Earl”, the livin’ breathin’ gun-totin’ Italian Gangster stereotype just written to be played by Robert Mitchum, if Robert Mitchum would have played crappy terrible roles (thankfully he never did) and off we go into the depths of theatrical hell.
Firstly let me start out on the farm-life scenario. Having grown up on a farm in Paulding County, Ohio and living in farming communities for almost my entire life minus these past few years in Chicago, I think I can go ahead and make a few critiques on the farm depicted in Cold Weather Comfort. 1. No one actually works on this farm, except for Sharon who makes beverages constantly, and when she isn’t doing that, she’s getting ready for a seemingly never ending Sunday dinner. I’m just going to go ahead and stop here and say this, at our house, if you needed a beverage…you got it your damn self. Also, farmers don’t spend all day puttering around the barn and whittling animal shapes out of old wood or refurbishing guns they find at a flea market (and Paul…did you honestly think we’d be surprised to see that thing come back into the picture?). They work. Hard. Presumably the Lincoln farm is sustained by actual farming and yet Buddy seems to have the time to do oh just nothing at all. First of all, Buddy wouldn’t just be working the family farm. He would also be farming other people’s land that paid him to do so. He would be dealing with highly technological equipment including machinery steered not by his hand, but by satellite. Judging by the time frames covered here on the ol’ farm…we actually should have never seen Buddy… nor would Buddy frequent a local watering hold named, god help us, “Salty Rob’s.” Salty Robs is the hangout for the manufacturing sector and the RETIRED farmers. And it wouldn’t be called that either. Sharon, our upstanding farm wife, would first of all more than likely not be a housewife, because…I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but farming ain’t bringin’ in the dough like it used to. So Sharon would most-likely have a day job, or at the very least be shuttling her children around because the school won’t be within walking distance. Most-likely the county has consolidated school districts, so much of Sharon’s day is spent on the road as opposed to baking bread and making endless vats of iced tea.

Let’s move on to Alex, the rural girl who escaped “on the first bus” post-graduation to the big city. Alex, who grew up on this homestead, asks as thunder rumbles in the distance something along the lines of “Will this porch hold in a storm?” This is where Alex grew up. The porch has stood for decades. It’ll hold, Sister. And by the way, can we get you something refreshing to drink?
Might I add that if actually offered iced-tea from the farm, Alex would adamantly refuse knowing that she can’t handle the well-water anymore(which probably has a nice aftertaste ranging from copper to sulfur), and quickly brandish several bottles of water brought from the city. Otherwise, she might as well accept that that glass of iced tea is akin to a big ol’ dose of high-powered laxative.
And this is…oh…maybe the first five minutes? So as you can see, I could spend the rest of this blog just bitching about the rural inaccuracies, but I think I’ve made my point.
Let’s move on to the modern farm woman. She rarely looks knowingly into the sunset and spouts such items as “Sometimes, a good man has to hurt people.” Hmmm…Um. No he doesn’t. He just…doesn’t. Certainly not in the “beat the face off the biker dude who had the nerve to sit by my wife!” manner. Jesus Christ. “You’re a good man, Buddy!” Sharon says. No he’s not. He’s an affable bum who is no way shape or form an actual farmer. Wait…I can’t move on to Sharon yet, because first we have to introduce the greasy Italian gangster named Earl. Earl who, at gunpoint, forces Buddy to sign away the farm to his sister so that she can sell it to developers (Yeah, that’ll hold in court. No question.) Also, you do realize that any land deal isn’t going to be settled with a couple of signatures at a kitchen table, deal or no deal. It will takes months of negotiation, gun or no gun. And Buddy, before you stumbled into the kitchen knowing that some crazy tough is roughing up your family, mayhap you would have called the Sheriff?

Anyway, long story short, Earl threatens to rape Sharon. Sharon sacrifices herself to Earl know…if he just rapes her, everything will go back to normal. I’m talking Sharon walks up and kisses the assailant. Mr. Barile, thank you so much for dragging myself and the rest of an unwilling audience into your sexual fantasies. You grossed me out and insulted me in like…a nanosecond. Well done. But wait! After the near-rape, Buddy grandly rejects Sharon for being sullied. She’s not an upstanding woman anymore! She was nearly raped! Her body will no longer be mine and mine alone! I mean, the misogyny and female ownership was just dripping out of this script. Jesus, Nufan, did you actually read this thing before producing it or did you just take Mr. Barile’s word for it? Irresponsible? To say the least.
But eventually in an absolutely not-surprising blackout due to the storm that has been threatening to hit for three days (and as Buddy states, is coming in fromt the East. Yes, Sharon corrects him that it is in fact coming in from the West, but 1. A farmer would know that, and 2. They never come in from the East. That’s not how the Jet Stream works.) somehow miraculously Earl gets dead. And whaddya know, Buddy didn’t have the balls to pull the trigger. But our Strong COuntry Woman Sharon sure did. Alas, we mustn’t dwell on our unclean woman’s heroism, because somehow the cops are arriving and Sharon has to make some coffee for our “guests.” And so ends the saga of the Lincoln family from Illinois.

I want my money back.