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Jumping the shark

From Wikipedia:

Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that is used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.

The phrase jump the shark comes from a scene in the fifth season premiere episode of the American TV series Happy Days titled “Hollywood: Part 3,” written by Fred Fox, Jr.[4], and aired on September 20, 1977. In the episode, the central characters visit Los Angeles, where a water-skiing Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a confined shark, answering a challenge to demonstrate his bravery. For a show that in its early seasons depicted universally relatable experiences against a backdrop of 1950s nostalgia, this marked an audacious, cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry and continued the faddish lionization of an increasingly superhuman Fonzie. The series continued for nearly five years after that, with a number of changes in cast and situations. However, it is commonly believed that the show, out of ideas and even trapped in its own success (largely due to the disproportionate popularity of the “Fonzie” character and the show’s (executives’) intense desire to continue “milking” that), began a downhill slide, becoming a caricature of itself often filled with little more than its popular catch phrases and character mannerisms.

The idiom has been used to describe a wide range of situations, ranging from the state of advertising in the digital video recorder era, views on rural education policy, the anomalous pursuit of a company acquisition and Facebook’s efforts to “modernize its home page … with empty bells and whistles — take, timeline and subscribers, for example” before an anticipated 2012 IPO.

Or perhaps it could be used to describe trying too hard to make something perfect–fretting over some tiny little detail like a couple of stray paint specs in a mural that no one else but you would notice, scratching them off the wall, leaving two giant scratch marks in the wall, trying to fix what you should have left well enough alone, and then having to come up with yet another element in an already full mural to cover up your nit pickiness.

I thought the shark I had painted which still needed to be fixed to my satisfaction would be the element which would cause me to jump the shark–which would have made the title to this post more fitting, but despite my original disdain for the shark I painted,

fixing it wasn’t nearly the headache I thought it would be.

Ironically, the element which was surprisingly one of the quickest and easiest to paint, the turtle, was what gave me fits towards the end of the job. Actually, not so much the turtle, but two tiny specs of yellow paint I had dripped when painting the yellow angel fish above him.

Here’s the turtle with the yellow specs above him, which, for the life of me, I can’t see in this picture.

But just like the pearls on the mermaid that probably would have been okay if I had left them as they were, I could see them up close. Unlike the pearls on the mermaid, my attempt to make things better only made things much, much worse…

Note the white spots courtesy of me gouging the wall with my fingernail.

Several attempts to glaze over the spots just made a mess of things, which is why I decided that the turtle needed to be blowing some bubbles.

Even though I was able to fix what I should have left alone in the first place, when I look at that wall, my eye is immediately drawn to that place on the wall where the water is just a little bit darker because of my feudal attempts to fix my mistake. A constant reminder that fussing over tiny details instead of looking at the big picture can often lead to jumping the shark.

Many thanks to my neighbor Louie for lending me his wide angle camera lens. I gotta get me one of those!

How not to be a jerk in a parking lot

Maybe it’s just me, but lately I’ve noticed that many people aren’t as courteous as they used to be. I’ve spent the majority of my life in Texas, and it really is true what the lyrics to London Homesick Blues says, the home of the armadillo has the friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen. Of course, I may be slightly biased.

And while I still think people are generally friendly when they’re face to face, something strange comes over people when they get behind the wheel of a car. It’s as if being surrounded by metal and glass gives you permission to release your inner jerk. Few places highlight this phenomenon better than a public parking lot–more specifically, a grocery or super box store parking lot. So as a public service, I have compiled a handy checklist in order that you might determine whether you’re being a jerk in a parking lot. I know–you’re welcome.

You might be (and by “might” I mean you most probably are) a jerk if:

  • Despite the fact that every tenth parking space in the grocery store parking lot has been replaced by a shopping cart corral, you leave your cart in the closest free space available, quite often precariously close to someone else’s car. Could you BE any lazier or inconsiderate?
  • You remove your groceries from the shopping cart but not the trash you’ve accumulated from free sampling food in the store. That’s disgusting.
  • You take up two parking spaces in the hopes that no one will ding up your fancy car. Which incidentally, makes people want to take a key to the paint job or at the very least put a booger on your door handle. (Or so I’ve heard.)
  • You are the proprietor of a business who puts flyers on people’s windshield. Not only will I never, ever darken the door of your business, but you’ve also denied my the pleasure of balling up your flyer and throwing it on the ground, which is what I really want to do, but I’m not a litterbug.
  • You remove flyers from your windshield and throw them on the ground.
  • You park in the handicapped parking space when you’re not handicapped. And yes, I’m talking to you, Guy who borrowed his grandmother’s handicapped parking permit hang tag.
  • You notice that the lot is full and people are waiting on parking spaces, and yet rather than quickly exiting the space you’re occupying, you choose to change the radio, check your lipstick, email, twitter and Words with Friends games.
  • You leave your young child unattended in the car while you run in to pick up “just a few items”. Not only is this jerky, but it’s illegal in many states.
  • You sit in your jacked-up hoopty, windows down and stereo blasting as the bass loosens the fillings in my teeth. We get it–your stereo is loud and you’re a player. Nobody cares, Homey.

These are but a few incidents I’ve observed while in parking lots. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to parking lot etiquette or lack thereof?

Editor’s Note: I’m pretty sure this will be the first in a series, because life gives us endless opportunities to act like jerks, no?

And speaking of not being a jerk, as fate would have it, my friend Janet Oberholtzer wrote a post entitled How not to be a jerk when someone’s life changes which offers some real, practical suggestions on how to be kind and not say the wrong thing when someone you know has experienced loss. It’s surprising how many of the things you think you’re supposed to say aren’t at all helpful. You should check it out.

Moving past your fear


It’s graduation season again. It seems like every year we get at least one of two graduation invitations–mostly from kids we know from church, but this year we received invites from some very special kids, special to me, that is. Because these kids grew up right before my eyes. I swear it was only last week they were graduating kindergarten, and now here they are about to enter college. Even though they’re not my own, I’m so proud of them all, and their graduations remind me how little time I have left before my own kids will be sending out those invitations.

But that’s not the only graduation invitation we received. We also have a good friend graduating from law school. After three years of juggling a blended family with four kids (the fourth being born a little over a year ago), heading up the children’s ministry at our church, AND going to law school, she now has a law degree and a bright future ahead of her.

High school graduation gifts are as easy as writing a check, and that’s exactly what I’ll give to the high school graduates. But what do you give someone graduating from law school? A nice pen set? That would be good, I love a good pen set, but that’s so typical. In the end, I decided to combine two things I love: painting and a good quote:

In case you can’t read my scripty writing, here’s the quote again:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
~Marianne Williamson

I love that quote, and not just for the graduate. It’s for you, too.

Instead of thinking of a thousand reasons and excuses why you’ll never be the person you’d always dreamed you’d be, instead of insisting that you could never be good enough to do that thing that makes you feel truly alive, instead of asking yourself, “Who am I to think I could ever reach the stars?”, ask yourself, “Who am I NOT to?”

It’s your life. Live it or live in it.

Congratulations, Kerri. You’re amazing.

Expecting more than what meets the eye

Mwha ha ha!

In case anyone is wondering, yes, I’m still painting. I’m hoping to be done by this week, but who knows? My time management skills are, as my mother would say, “the sucks”, and I never know how long any one element of a mural is going to take to finish until I actually finish it.

Take Zombie Mermaid for example. She’s no longer a zombie, but she always will be in the the above photograph. It’s a fairly simple design, but she’s got a lot of layers. In this first picture, she’s got some details added to the base design: the hair and the fins are given some dimension with a few well placed brush strokes.

More layers after that. I’ve added ribbons and pearls, started on the eyes, nose and lips and added shading to her skin.

There’s still much to be done, but as I stood back and looked from a distance, I liked the progress. I especially like how the pearls were looking.

From a couple of feet away, I thought they looked great just like they were, and for about half a minute or so, I considered leaving them. Because frankly, painting each pearl one by one is pretty dang time consuming. But then I got up close again.

And up close, they look pretty crappy.

How many people will see that mermaid, then decide to get close enough to see those pearls up close? Probably very few. Chances are, no one would ever notice that what they see from two or more feet away isn’t what it appears to be upon close inspection.

But I would know.

Despite what everyone else may see as acceptable and even beautiful from far away, the creator has an intimate view of her creation and knows the flaws others might never notice.

And when the creator knows a flaw can be worked on and made better, she goes about doing just that. Because a flaw that can’t be seen from a distance doesn’t make it any less a flaw to her.

Of course, walls don’t have free will, aren’t willfully disobedient and don’t talk back.

They’re much easier to deal with than we are.

Next up, I have to work on the many imperfections of my shark. Which may look okay from a distance, but up close it’s total crap…

***

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: More, hosted by the lovely and talented Peter Pollock. For more on more (ha!) please visit him at PeterPollock.com.

Putting off pruning

image courtesy of bing.com images

Anyone living in South Texas or similar tropical climates is probably familiar with sago palms. I’ve read that they are considered slow growers, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. After we built our house, a landscaper suggested we plant a young sago palm in the flower bed  between the front porch and the walkway leading to the driveway. Within 3 or 4 years, it was so massive it was taking over the bed. We decided to move it to the backyard just outside my son’s window. It survived the transplant well and has been thriving there ever since with the help of a little annual pruning of the bottom fronds. Pruning is not absolutely necessary, but because sagos are toxic to pets and we have a small dog, I like to keep the fronds far off the ground. Ultimately, I would like the palm to look more like a tree than how it appears in the above picture. Something very much like this:

image courtesy of bing.com images

My reasons are twofold. First, prefer the look of a tree to the large fern-like expanse of the first example, and having the fronds high off the ground prevents my dog from wandering underneath the palm out of my view and eating any part of the plant. The process is simple. You need only gloves, long sleeves and long pants, some sort of eye protection and a pair of pruning shears–preferably ones with long handles. The frond’s needles are very thick and sharp. You could literally put an eye out. The palm is nowhere near tree-like yet, but I’ve made progress over the past couple of years:

I’ve noticed that the palm has been looking a little ragged lately and that it was probably past due for its annual pruning.

Not only that, but apparently, it’s given birth.

After initial inspection, I was psyched to get some pruning done. Heck, I might even take off four of five layers of fronds and cut off whatever that giant loofa sponge looking thing is in the middle.

I never said I was an educated gardner. Or any kind of gardner, for that matter.

I just wanted to cut away the ugly.

Give the plant a fresh look.

No harm, no foul, win/win.

Except upon closer inspection, I realized that this plant that I walk by every day, this plant that I mostly ignore until I chose to notice it had become home to some new residents.

A family of mockingbirds have built a nest and hopefully will soon set up residence just outside my back door. So I’ll have to look at that ugly plant for a little while longer.

Because it’s all well and good to want to cut away the ugly and the useless;

to give ourselves a fresh look and a new start,

but we need to think long and hard about doing so when it comes at a high cost to others.

Besides, like Atticus Finch said. It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, so I suppose tearing up their home is akin to that sin.

“…because mockingbirds don’t do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat people’s gardens, don’t nest in the corncrib, they don’t do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us.”

Happy Mother’s Day

Thursday afternoon:

I’m sitting in my office checking my email at my computer. My 14 year old son walks through the back door and into my office holding a birdhouse.

Son: Happy Mother’s Day! I made this for you in Tech Class.

Me: Thank you! You did a great job. What’s this inside?

Son: It’s a card. I made that, too.

Me: That’s great. Mother’s Day is Sunday. Were you going to paint the birdhouse for me?

Son: No. Why would I do that?

Me: Yeah. What was I thinking? Well, thanks!

It’s that kind of unabashed honesty that makes the poem he wrote for me inside the card all the more special, because I know he meant every word. I won’t be sharing that gift, though. Some things are meant to be shared by only the giver and the recipient.

But I will share the birdhouse:

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Especially all you mothers out there.

Leftovers: Wherein I share my secret shame

I’ve been painting my little heart out the past week or so, and I’m far from being finished with what I hope will be a delightful undersea mural for a children’s room in a chiropractic office. I need to give this gal some non-zombie eyes so as not to freak out the children:

Mwha ha ha!

I love to paint, but it has cut into my writing time, so I hope you don’t mind if I share some leftovers with you today…

image courtesy of photobucket. com

If the Hokey Pokey really was what it was all about, I would be in serious trouble…

I may have mentioned this in passing before, but today I make an all out confession:

I suffer from Left-Right Confusion,

Which in layman’s terms means I often can’t tell my left from my right without pretending to eat.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

It’s more embarrassing than anything else. I’ve called people moments after giving them directions to my house and asked them to repeat them to make sure I didn’t say turn left when they should turn right.

Joey, I feel your pain...

I don’t know if the two are related, but I also have a horrible sense of direction.

I’ve mostly come to terms to my condition and have given up my dreams of ever becoming an air traffic controller. But sometimes situations arise which remind me just how different I am. And not necessarily in a good way.

Such was the case Wednesday night.

I have this amazing book called The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher. I’m sort of at a loss for words as to how to describe it, so I’ll let Amazon do it for me: “Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways is an absolutely extraordinary and inexhaustible “guide to visual awareness,” a virtually indescribable concoction of anecdotes, quotes, images, and bizarre facts that offers a wonderfully twisted vision of the chaos of modern life.” It is the big book of awesome, and I mean that literally: it weighs 5 pounds.

Anyhoo, I was looking through the book last night (there’s no beginning or end–you could start anywhere), when I came across an exercise which tests whether you were left or right eyed dominant.

Before I continue, I need to give you a little back story. When I was a young tot first picking up a crayon, my natural inclination was to lead with my left hand. My older sisters, apparently fearing being left-handed would make me more of a freak than I already was, forced me to write with my right hand. I’m convinced I should have been left-handed. I credit them for me being amberdextrous ambidexterous able to do things with both hands. I also blame them for my left-right confusion and the delayed discovery of my creativity. (It’s okay–they don’t read my blog. Feel free to heap burning coals upon their heads.)

Now, about the test. It started with a picture:

If you're right-eyed dominant, you probably see the above figure as a rabbit. If you're left-eyed dominant, you probably see a bird.

I was really hoping to discover that I was left-eyed dominant, which would confirm that I am truly left-handed and right-brained. This is my logic. Just nod and follow along, please. Well that was not at all helpful. I see both, and not really one more than the other.

But wait…there was more! Here’s the other test:

Stretch out an arm, either will do, and point with a finger to a distant corner of the room–keep both eyes open.

Staying in this position, close one eye, then the other. In one case your eye will match whatever you’re pointing at in the corner, in the other your finger will be pointing way off the mark.

If you’re on target, that’s your leading eye.

I took the test.

When I closed my right eye, my left eye stayed on target.

Yes!

I really am left-eyed dominant.

Redemption.

Until…

“Um…what are you doing?”, asks my husband.

“I took a test to see if I’m left or right-eyed dominant. I’m left-eyed dominant, by the way.”

I proceed to read him the instructions I followed to the letter. Then I repeated the test again.

“Which eye stays on target?”

“MY LEFT EYE! See?” (repeats test)

“Kat?”

“What?”

“That’s your right eye.”

DRATS!!!

What about you? Have any secret shames you hide from the world?

This is a safe place.

Talk to me, freaks!

katdishionary, Part 12 (The Florida edition)

Oh, it’s been too long since my last katdishionary post. From the blog that brought you such words as Pornographic Cheese Buttler, Skymalladocious, Fatassatosis, the Jesus Frying Pan and many, many more, katdish.net is pleased to present Part 12 of this neverending fountain of blog fodder: katdishionary, Part 12, the Florida Edition:

For those of you who haven’t been here in awhile, first of all, shame on you.

Secondly, you may not be aware that I recently spent the better part of a week in the land of Micky Mouse and all things touristy, Orlando, Florida.

The purpose of said trip was to attend Exponential: the largest gathering of church planters in the Universe. (It’s not billed as such, but I’m gonna take a stab in the dark and assume there aren’t some alien life forms gathering to talk about Jesus at some huge interplanetary mega church. Even though that would be pretty cool.) Anyway, I ranted incessantly about it a little last week, meant to share a little more with you, but then the non-virtual world was calling me, so I’m just now getting around to sharing some new and exciting katdishionary words with you now–I know. You’re welcome.

Now on with the katdishionary:

Orlandosinusitus (pronounced Or-lan-doe-sign-u-site-us)

The view from our condo, overlooking the beautiful "Wet n' Wild" theme park. If you squint and look just left of center, you can see Hogwarts, which we didn't go to because last time we came to this conference, we went to Disneyworld without the kids and they're still pissed about it.

Definition: a condition of alternating runny nose to completely stopped up nose caused by the city of Orlando, Florida.

Origin: Trip to a church planter’s conference in late April. I had allergy attacks the entire trip. I’m either allergic to tourism, Florida, church planters, or some combination of all of the above. This debilitating condition forced me to go to bed each night with a Breathe-Right nasal strip adhered to the bridge of my nose and Kleenex stuffed in my nostrils. (Also? I’m bringing sexy back!)

The Mo-fauxhawk (pronounced ma-fo-hawk)

This is the closest version of what I would truly define as an actual Mofauxhawk. See further description below.

Definition: Edgier version of the fauxhawk, where there is what appears to be an actual mohawk centered on the top of the head

surrounded by the classic fauxhawk on either side.

Imagine if you will a well manicured box hedge lined on either side with monkey grass. Now put that atop someone’s head and you have the Mo-fauxhawk.

Incidentally, it looks nothing at all like this:

Origin: People watching at the Exponential Conference.

A Scarf too Far, or AS2F (pronounced a-skarf-too-far)

The following are all elements of the Christian hipster look:

The Christian/tribal tatt

The free-for-all facial hair look

The lacoste porkpie hat

The Spongebob Squarepants glasses

Skinny jeans

The ugly shoe with a heart of gold: Toms

The Ricky Lee Jones throwback beanie

The nerdy/environmentally correct tee

The peacoat with deep front pockets to plunge your hands into while walking purposefully.

and, of course…

The ginormous scarf

This is only a partial list. Feel free to include body piercings, those big hockey puck earrings, the man-purse (murse) or something else I’ve forgotten. They can be mixed and matched (or mismatched as the case may be), but an attempt to incorporate too many into one outfit will result in what I like to call A Scarf Too Far (AS2F) and turn them into the very thing they fear the most: a walking cliche’.

Origin: People watching at Exponential.

The Chewpacca (pronounced chew-pa-ka)

Chewpacca

Definition: A large, inexpensive duffle bag on wheels which can be purchased at the Super Target on the way to the Orlando airport when you’ve exceeded the 50 pound weight limit on your luggage and don’t want to pay the extra 50 bucks they charge you for going SEVEN POUNDS OVER.

Wheels designed for maximum noise creation.

The wheels are designed in such a way as to make the loudest noise possible when pulled across an airport parking lot, and when pulled across the moving walkway once inside the airport, to my delight and everyone else’s annoyance, they sound almost exactly like this:

(You should play that video two or three times. It is THAT delightful!)

Origin: Jeff Hogan. Who, after walking behind me and my new duffle bag named him Chewbacca.

This concludes the latest edition of the katdishionary. Please remember that many of the words contained therein have come from alert readers (including the term “katdishionary”), so keep those cards and letters coming!

May the fourth be with you

May 4 is called Star Wars Day because of the popularity of a common pun spoken on this day. Since the phrase “May the Force be with you” is a famous quote often spoken in the Star Wars films, fans commonly say “May the fourth be with you”. (source: Wikipedia)

Personally, I’m not a fan. It’s not that I dislike Star Wars, I just never had an affection for the movie series bordering on obsession like so many of my friends seem to have.

And as long as I’m here, I might as well tell you that I never watched any of the Star Trek series or movies with any regularity. The same holds true for Battlestar Galactica or Dr. Who. I share this with you because for some strange reason, people often strike up conversations with me assuming that know as much useless information about sci-fi shows as they do. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I can’t explain it except to say that maybe I’m some kind of Nerd Whisperer, but I digress…

As you find your own special ways to celebrate how Star Wars, Star Trek and countless Superhero movies have forever impacted your lives, remember the immortal words of William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise:

Anyway, enjoy your day all you sci-fi fans. You’ll never see me at a Comic-Con convention, but I won’t judge you for being there. Much. Oh, I’m kidding. Live long and prosper.

Masterpiece in the Mess

I suppose every storyteller–whether their tools be pen and paper or the gift of gab and a captive audience–have their own way of getting to the end of a story. The processes are probably as varied as the storytellers going through them. As I began painting a mural today, it occurred to me that mural painting isn’t too much different than my writing process.

I begin with an overall theme or idea and a blank space.

The theme is an ocean and this particular blank space is a room at a chiropractic office designated specifically for children. There are certain “must haves” requested by the client: dolphin, sea turtle and mermaid, but everything else has been left up to me. (These are my favorite kind of clients, by the way.)

But the blank spaces are rarely ever truly blank.

There are cabinets, electrical outlets and light switches to consider, not to mention the furniture that will be in the space once the painting has been completed. When we share our stories, we bring our past experiences with us, good and bad. In either case, we can work around them or choose to incorporate them into the picture.

When painting and when creating a story, it’s good to remember that things often get messy. Lines are blurred and smeared. You have to work towards the picture in your mind and rest assured that you have the talent and the tools to get you there in the end.

And speaking of tools, you’ve got to work with what you have in your tool bag.

This brush has seen better days. The tiny nails that fasten the brush head to the handle have worked themselves loose over several uses, which makes it necessary to grasp the brush at the base of the handle rather than the handle itself. There are bristles in the brush that are permanently stuck together which cause the paint to streak on the wall. I’ve got better brushes at home. I’m not sure why I grabbed this one. But you know what? A better brush wouldn’t have created the perfect, water-like streaks when I pulled the glaze and paint across the wall. Imperfection can help create unexpected beauty. Old and well-worn doesn’t necessarily mean useless, quite the contrary.

I’ve lost count of how many walls and ceilings I’ve cut in with this brush. It’s hardly a thing of beauty, but when I put it in my hand, I know exactly how close I can get to a ceiling or a baseboard without getting paint where it doesn’t belong. I trust it to do what I need it to do. I can’t say that about a new brush, which is why I rarely buy them. I do my best to take care of the parts that matter–the bristles–and accept the ugliness of the parts that don’t.

I’ve only just begun this mural. Many elements and layers still need to be added before it looks anything resembling an underwater seascape. But I know what I’m doing. I’ve done it before.



I’m confident that when I’m packing up my paint and brushes on that final day, it will mimic finished room I have in my head.

I can be confident of a good outcome despite the messiness I now see. Me–a person who has never taken an art class, someone who has just figured things out through trial, error and experience–how much more confident can we be that the Creator of the Universe, the One who knew your story before you took your first breath, can see the masterpiece He created in you.

His masterpiece in the mess.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Much, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more posts on this topic, please visit him at PeterPollock.com

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