Archive - October, 2012

The creative process: Halloween edition

image courtesy of

I don’t consider myself to be cheap. I don’t even consider myself to be thrifty. (I just heard my husband yell “Amen!” in my head.) However, I’m not one to buy things that I consider to be ridiculously overpriced, especially in these uncertain economic times.

Enter Halloween costume shopping for my 11-year old daughter and 15-year old son.

My daughter wanted to be a whoopie cushion. If you knew her as I do, you would understand just how well this costumes suits her. And at $29.99, I was willing to buy it off the shelf at the local costume store and be done with it.

As for my son’s costume? He wanted to be Captain America. He’s 15–a few years past the trick or treating age. But since they’re both going to Halloween parties, I agreed to get him a costume. That is, until I started adding up the cost of said costume. Basic Captain America suit: $79.99

And while the shield is pictured, it is not included in the price. What self respecting Captain America would be caught without his shield? Which, incidentally is $24.99

At $105 plus tax, the chances of my son being Captain America for Halloween were quickly waining. But then I saw this tee for $9.99 and the creative juices started to flow:

I could buy the $10 shirt, probably pick up a pair of blue sweats for less than $20. For $30, the costume is halfway complete. But what about the shield and the mask?

I’ll be honest. I walked around Party City with that shield for a long time, but I just couldn’t justify paying $25 for something that would be used once. Then I happened down the catering supply aisle and found this plastic sandwich tray for $5.99:

The first thing I noticed was that it was the same size as the overpriced shield I was holding in my hand. Next, I noticed that the circle in the middle of the tray was about the same size as the as the circled star in the middle of the shield. Exit shield, enter plastic sandwich tray and craft paint.

That left the mask. I almost bought this for $19.99:

But it’s not really a mask. It’s a winter hat. Besides, I think it’s sort of stupid looking with those long braidy things on the sides. I left Party City with an incomplete costume plan but determined to get started on the shield.

The plan:

Paint the underside of the plate beginning with the silver star in the center and layering the paint outward, then go over the painted portion with silver duct tape to keep the paint from chipping off when the shield is flung forcefully at someone. My son’s a 15 year old Avengers’ fan. You know that’s gonna happen. Worry about attaching a handle to the underside later.

The process:

The beginning of the process went smoothly. I found a star shape in Microsoft Word, sized it to fit inside the circle. Print, trace, step one complete. Step 2 was even easier: paint the rest of the circle blue. It was only when I contemplated the painting of the red and white stripes that I ran into trouble. Because the stripes needed to be evenly spaced and evenly sized. And the steps required to accomplish that goal came dangerously close to involving math–my arch nemesis. (Yes, I know I’ve said the grocery store is my arch nemesis, but for the purposes of this story, it’s math.)

I began to measure and calculate. And check email, Twitter and Facebook. Because when the going gets tough, the ADD afflicted procrastinate and avoid. Then it happened. As I stood typing on my computer which sits on the bar which looks into my kitchen, I spied the solution to my creative block. A way to create evenly spaced stripes without using math. The chicken plate:

Brilliant, no?


Let me explain. Wait, let me show you a picture–often worth a thousand words, but in this case probably more like 120:

Do you see those red stripes? Do you see how they’re relatively even? What’s that UNDER those stripes?

Chicken plate, BABY!

The rest of the project was easy peasy. Couple coats of red paint, couple coats of white. Duct tape, epoxy and a belt my daughter no longer wears, and Presto!

Wait…that’s not that impressive. Ahem…


Random trips to the mall and the grocery store later that day netted sweat pants for $15 and a mask for $9.99:

The Results:

Voila! Complete Captain America Costume for $41.00:

All done without math! Well, except just now when I added up all the stuff I bought.

And just between you and me?

I used the calculator app on my iPhone…

Happy Halloween!

The Hillbilly Guide to Air Travel (repost)

It seems the fine folks at Thomas Nelson liked Billy Coffey so much, they have invited him down to Nashville for another visit. To celebrate this meet and greet and to remind him (and possibly you) of all the things you can no longer bring on an airplane, I have decided to repost this handy guide originally published back in March. Sorry/you’re welcome…

In case you haven’t already heard the news, our friend and critically acclaimed author Billy Coffey recently signed a multi-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing. His next book, When Mockingbirds Sing will be released Spring 2013.

The fine folks at Thomas Nelson have arranged for a meet and greet with Billy in their offices in Nashville. Which is wonderful and exciting, but also creates a bit of a conundrum, because in order to get from Virginia to Tennessee, Billy will need to get on an airplane.

Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal for many of us, but Mr. Coffey is a man who likes to stay close to his mountains, and his one and only round trip flight on an airplane occurred during the Clinton administration. The world is a different place these days, and knowing the do’s and don’ts of air travel is quite a lot of information for a country boy from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Never fear, katdish is here to save the day. I assured Billy that I would tell him everything he needed to know before he heads for the airport, provided, of course, he would allow me to use it as blog fodder and have a few laughs at his expense in the process.

I know. I’m a giver…

So for Billy and anyone else facing the daunting task of modern day air travel for the first time, may I present the Hillbilly Guide to Air Travel.

I don’t travel often, but I have been through my fair share of airport security checkpoints. Often enough that I don’t give much thought to the post 911 security restrictions. They’ve become as second nature to me as knowing which side of the gas pump to pull my car up to. But things don’t become second nature if you never do them, and a person who never travels by airplane doesn’t give much thought to what you can and can’t bring with you.

It’s rare to find any self-respecting manly man, particularly a southern manly man, without his trusty pocket knife, but if you find him trying to get through an airport security checkpoint with his trusty pocket knife, you won’t find him there for long.

We carry handguns here in Texas, but they won’t let you on a plane with one of those either. Here’s the FAA list of prohibited “Sharp Objects” for carry-on luggage:

I feel safer knowing the guy sitting next to me on a flight won’t have immediate access to an ice pick, meat cleaver, saber or thrusting weapon, don’t you? It’s also nice to know that if you really need to take your meat cleaver with you everywhere you go, you can put it in your checked luggage.

And while some tools are allowed in your carry-on luggage, I’m sorry to say that you’ll have to leave Bessie at home, Tonto.

It’s a shame you can’t bring a cattle prod with you on a flight, though. I imagine it would speed up some of those slow pokes in the aisle during deplaning.

There are also restrictions for sports equipment in your carry-on luggage, so unfortunately you’ll have to leave your baseball bat in the gun rack of your hoopty.

I’m hoping the results of your meetings will be cause for great celebration, but any celebratory fireworks or hand grenades will need to be purchased and consumed while in Nashville after successfully unboarding your flight.

But enough about all the things you can’t bring with you. Let’s discuss what you can bring.

I know you’ll want to be looking and smelling your best for your big day of meetings, and you can bring just about any of your usual toiletries you use at home, you’ll just have to make sure they are in containers which hold 3.4 ounces or less and they’ll need to fit into a quart sized, zipped topped plastic baggie.

Here’s a brief summary/explanation from our friends at the TSA:

There is a detailed list of personal hygiene items you are permitted to pack in your carry on luggage, but for your convenience (katdish = giver), I have highlighted the ones which pertain to this particular situation:

"Scalp oil? You know that's right!"


TSA and FAA approved mouthwash - YES

TSA and FAA approved mouthwash - NO

In addition to any clothes, boots, cowboy hats and above aforementioned items which will fit into a 22″ x 14″ x 9″ carry on bag weighing less than 40 pounds, you may also bring your computer, ipad, notebooks and fancy pens in your man sack, er…briefcase. The captain or one of the flight attendants (who do not like to be called stewardesses) will notify you when you may turn them on.

In conclusion, just a few more suggestions:

  • Plan on arriving 1 to 2 hours prior to your flight in case of delays
  • Make sure you wear nice socks without holes in them because you’re going to have to remove your boots before you pass thru security
  • Be prepared to remove your watch and/or any jewelry which contains a lot of metal or you’ll set off the scanner
  • Don’t be nervous. Air travel is statistically much safer than driving.

I haven’t discussed the possibility of a full body cavity search by the TSA screeners, but I’ll tell you all about that in a separate email. Snort!

Air travel these days can be an enormous pain in the back side, but I hope these tips and suggestions will make your flight plans a little less stressful. Happy flying and think of me while you read the Sky Mall catalog! Good luck.

Something to cheer for

On Sunday, October 14, 2012 with millions of people around the world watching, Austrian Felix Baumgartner became the first man to break the sound barrier outside the confines of an airplane.

In the days leading up to this historic jump, I asked myself why anyone would want to do this. The risks seemed to far outweigh the potential achievement of what seemed to amount to a publicity stunt.

From The Telegraph, UK:

The former military parachutist rose in a purpose-built capsule beneath a giant helium balloon to a height of more than 128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airliner.

After a salute to the millions watching around the world, Baumgartner jumped from the capsule and plummeted toward earth, reaching a speed of 833mph – or Mach 1.24 – faster than the speed of sound, according to his spokesman.

His remarkable feat came exactly 65 years to the day after Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier in an aeroplane, and it was one of three world records Baumgartner set with his jump. He also smashed the records for the highest manned balloon flight and the highest skydive.

Minutes before his historic leap, which was broadcast on television around the world, the 43 year-old sat anxiously on the edge of his capsule, looking down at Earth.

As he was instructed to cut his oxygen supply and release his safety harness, mission control in Roswell, New Mexico, told Baumgartner that a “guardian angel was with him”.

He addressed the world with a short speech ahead of his leap. He later clarified that he said: “I know the whole world is watching right now and I wish the world could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.”
He then added: “I’m going over” before jumping.

Infrared cameras captured him as he initially tumbled in the air before settling into a steady head-first descent.

Baumgartner’s family and friends, including his parents, Ava and Felix, and girlfriend, Nicole Oetl, who had travelled to New Mexico watch, cheered and celebrated as it became clear he was safe.

As he fell to Earth, Baumgartner complained that his visor was steaming up before he pulled his parachute cord. After two or three minutes he appeared against the cloudless blue sky before steering himself to safety, landing on a patch of New Mexico scrubland, just nine minutes after jumping.

Despite his incredible accomplishment, Baumgartner looked almost nonchalant as he hit the ground running before settling into a slow stroll. Only once his parachute had fallen behind him did he drop to his knees and punch the air in celebration.

After reaching such heights, Baumgartner’s next ambition is to take to the sky once again. Although this time his ceiling will be much lower. He hopes to move to the country with his girlfriend, dividing his time between the US and Austria, where he plans to fly helicopters, performing mountain rescues and firefighting.

I did not watch the entire jump live, but I did tune in for the final moments of his descent. While I would never attempt such a thing myself, I’m glad there are men and women willing to push the boundaries of what we are capable of. If for no other reason than to strive to do more, to be more, and to inspire future generations to follow in their footsteps.

Yes, the world is a mess and Baumgartner’s achievement did nothing to make it any less messier. But sometimes it’s just good to have something or someone to cheer for.

In a press conference after the jump, an emotional Baumgartner said, “When I was standing there on top of the world so humble, you are not thinking about breaking records. I was thinking about coming back alive. You do not want to die in front of your parents and all these people….I thought ‘please God, don’t let me down.”

Felix Baumgartner sat on the edge of space looking down upon the world not considering how big his accomplishment would be, but how very small he was, and he reminded me that being small is not such a bad thing, when a God so big holds us in the palm of His hand.

Indeed. God did not let him down.

At least you’re STILL not Dwayne…

Confession time. I’ve been a bit consumed by the political process lately. But rather than write about it and risk offending some or possibly most of you, I think I’ll just keep my discourse to myself. For now.

In the meantime, while we can probably always find SOMETHING to complain about, this old post reminded me that if nothing else, at least I’m not Dwayne…

Anne Geddes image courtesy of

I was recently the recipient of one of those emails that your sweet Aunt Martha tends to forward to you.

You know the ones I’m talking about.

Those emails that have been forwarded so often and to so many recipients that you have to scroll down half the page before getting to the body of the email, only to find that much of the body is filled with cute pictures of babies dressed as flowers and/or those annoying flashing emoticons?

I’ll be honest. I usually delete these emails unread. But for whatever reason, I was feeling generous and decided to read it. You’ve probably read it before, or one very much like it. It was one of those well intentioned object lessons which are supposed to make us count our blessings and be grateful for what we have:

To realize
The value of a sister/brother
Ask someone
Who doesn’t have one.

To realize
The value of ten years:
Ask a newly
Divorced couple.

To realize
The value of four years:
Ask a graduate.

To realize
The value of one year:
Ask a student who
Has failed a final exam…

That’s just a portion of it, but you get the idea: Maybe things aren’t as bad as you think, because someone has always got bigger problems than you do.

I’m not a big fan of this kind of reasoning. Mostly because for me, there’s just something inherently wrong with making yourself feel better because someone is eating a bigger crap sandwich than you are.

Comparing ourselves with others–whether their lives are easier or harder–is never a good idea. If you’re struggling, rest assured there are others who are also struggling. Life is a series of peaks and valleys, and while no two life experiences are identical, we all have our share of high and low points.

Sometimes life is savored and enjoyed.

Other times it feels like an act of endurance.

And even though I just finished telling you that comparing yourself to others is never a good idea, I’m about to ask you to do just that.

Because on my very worst day, I could have honestly said,

“At least I’m not Dwayne.”

Editor’s Note: I may or may not have written that entire introduction just so I could post the above commercial.

“Man, that thing does not like Dwayne.”


How you play the game

62 - That's my boy!

If you’re a regular here, you probably already know I live in a little town just west of Houston. Houstonians might call us a suburb, but we’re fond of our independence. You may also know that my son plays on the freshman football team at his school. Or I should say, he plays for one of the freshman teams–there’s two. The “A” team consists mostly of boys who have been playing football since pee-wee league and/or are naturally gifted athletes. The “B” team consists of everyone else. My son is on the “B” team, which suits him just fine. He told me before school started that he would rather be a starter on the “B” team than a bench warmer on the “A” team, and that’s exactly how things have worked out. And did I mention that his team is 4-0? No? Well then, his team is 4-0.

Texans take their high school football very seriously–some more than others. The high school team to beat in our district bears the same name as our town, and it is extremely rare that anyone ever does–beat them, that is. From their freshman squads to their varsity team, they regularly beat their opponents by 50 points or more. It’s not enough to win, their philosophy demands that they crush their opponents. If your son’s not a starter, he may as well be the water boy. He’ll get about the same amount of playing time.

I’m not a fan of that philosophy. Oh, I’m not one of those mamby-pamby parents who think that everyone’s a winner and a kid should get a trophy just for showing up, but what kind of life lessons do we want our kids to take with them as they move on to adulthood? That winning is everything, no matter how you play the game? Maybe it would better to teach them that winning is important, but how you win (or lose) will speak volumes about what kind of leader, what kind of person you may become.

The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to the head coach of our team from a parent whose son played on the opposing team last week. The team he’s referring to isn’t the team my son plays on, but the coaches are the same for both “A” and “B”. The fact that this was “A” team’s first victory of the season adds weight to the content of the letter (I’ve taken out specific names, but the rest is word for word):

Dear Coach,

I know you are busy getting ready for your big game vs. our varsity tomorrow night, but I wanted to send you a quick note to compliment your staff on how they handled the Freshmen A team game last night.

Your Freshmen squad scored at will and logged 24 points to our zero, and it probably could have been a lot worse…our team ran back the opening 2nd half kick-off, and at that point your coaches could have come back with that, “well I show them mind set”…but instead they continued to play their 2nd team and move their regular starters around.

The final score was 36 – 24, with your team kneeling the ball on the one yard line as the clock ran out. So because of the class displayed by your coaches, our boys could walk off the field with some dignity.

And as I football zealot, I know your team could have put 60+ points on the board if they wanted to.

Good luck the rest of the season and I hope your team wins every game…well, except for the one tomorrow night.


A Parent

I’ve never been much of a football fan until my son started playing last year, but I am now convinced that team sports in general and football specifically can teach kids invaluable life lessons they will carry with them always. Perhaps the least of which is about winning.