Jenntertainment's Weblog

Adventures in children's theatre.

ExZooberance July 6, 2013

     I have a bad habit of getting myself worked up about things that are exciting to me, like birthdays or new flavors of Frappuccino. I imagine my impending joy with such detail that, by the time the event (or milkshake-disguised-as-coffee) arrives, it can’t possibly live up to the wonder I’ve created in my mind.

     Which is why today, a day I have been looking forward to for no less than three months, was such an amazing triumph of anticipation.

     Working in theatre, I don’t get a lot of weekends off. However, because Independence Day fell on a Thursday this year, and because we’re in the middle of camp season,  I hit the jackpot with an entire 7 days of vacation. Woohoo! Unaccustomed to such luxury, the only thing I could think of that I really wanted to do as a family was…

     …visit The Jacksonville Zoo.

     We visited the zoo for my birthday one year, and it was phenomenal. There were giraffes, and penguins, and giant elephant statues.

Phone Pics 087

May 4, 2009

     The only way I could imagine the zoo being any better was to imagine taking our adorable 15-month-old daughter with us. Lately she’s gotten quite good at animal sounds, and I thought it was time to let her know that the creatures in her board books are real and not just pictures to which I’d assigned arbitrary noises. Except for the kangaroos, who don’t actually go “boing-boing.”

   So that’s what I’ve been doing since March; imagining what it would be like to take her to the zoo. In my idyllic world, we would get up in the morning and have coffee with buttery, homemade cinnamon rolls, followed by some superb block-stacking. We would get into the car just at nap time, when she would drift peacefully off to sleep for the two-hour drive to Jacksonville. Upon our arrival, she would awake, pleased as punch to find herself in a new place that smelled faintly of manure. We would point at the animals and she would make the right sound, squealing with delight upon the discovery that parrots actually say “caw-caw” and that I wasn’t making it up the whole time.

     In my fantasy, we would pour our happily tired selves back into the car and Jamie would watch the DVD Curious George Visits the Zoo with a new-found appreciation for the elephant who paints billboards and the cat who makes pasta. The sun would begin to set just as we pulled back into our driveway, and she would snuggle in close to my shoulder as if to say “thanks for the super fun day, Mom.”

     Again, I may have over-thought this a little.

     Except today something amazing happened.

Jamie Kate & Lexy at the Zoo

Jamie Kate & Lexy at the Zoo

     Jamie turned all of the zebras into statues.

     Not really. That’s just a zebra calliope. But wouldn’t that be funny?

     Today was just magnificent. There might not have been filtered amber light shining on every part of my day, and it might have been 94 degrees with 1,000% humidity, and Jamie might have said “rawr” in answer to every animal call after seeing the lions, but everything else? As close to perfect as a trip to the zoo with a 1-year-old and a teenager (our exceedingly fabulous babysitter who came along for the trip) could possibly be. There were stingrays to be petted, and potato wedges to be devoured, and of course, elephant statues to be photographed.

Jamie Kate Elephants

Jamie Kate, Vann, and Lexy
July 5, 2013

      Don’t panic; the elephants were already statues before Jamie arrived. Why are all of our pictures with sculptures? I am too much in awe of God’s amazing creatures to bother with taking photos of them, so my zoo souvenirs (zoovenirs?) consist only of photographs with fake animals.

     The day was a wonderful success, complete with homemade cinnamon rolls, I-95 naps, and an overwhelming amount of cuteness in the form of baby animal imitations. I don’t think Jamie or Vann could have been any sweeter, and I can’t imagine anyone being more helpful and easygoing than Lexy. I claim this day in the name of wishful thinkers everywhere. We dreamed. We zooed. We conquered.

     Next stop? Georgia Aquarium!


Still May 19, 2013

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 8:46 pm
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It’s 8:30pm on Sunday. Jamie is in her crib; not asleep, but contentedly playing with her stuffed animals and humming to herself, waiting for the Sand Man to make his nightly visit. There are dishes piled in the sink, waiting to be transported to the dishwasher. There are clothes on layover in the washing machine, awaiting their departure for the dryer, though likely anticipating further delays. There are thank-you cards on my desk hoping someday to be addressed, stamped, and mailed. The rain that has been sputtering all day has stopped. The movie we were watching, Disney’s Dumbo, is on pause. Indeed, everything is on pause.

This moment in my home isn’t spectacular because of its cleanliness or tastiness, but only because of its happiness. I just spent an entire weekend with my family, which is a rarity. On Friday I took Jamie to Soft Play at the mall, then grabbed a latte on our way home, successfully keeping her little hands from stealing my straw. Friday night Vann and I went to a wonderful performance of Zombie Prom at the children’s theatre, and capped it off with dinner at our favorite sushi spot. Saturday, for reasons unknown but perfectly splendid, Jamie slept in until about 10am, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy my new book, Marmee & Louisa. As a family, we spent an uneventful day playing outside, splashing in the sink, organizing the garage, shredding old paperwork, and tickling newly found silly spots.

Today was a glorious husband-made breakfast and a wonderful sermon at church, followed by a nap. Followed by play. Followed by dinner, laundry, Dumbo, and at last, quiet.  None of these things by themselves are extraordinary, indeed, many may consider them boring. But to me, the workaholic who hasn’t had a complete day off since Easter some eight weeks ago, not even for my birthday, not even for Mother’s Day, it was the vacation my bones have yearned for.

And so, I thought, this moment of quiet in-between ought to be documented. Attention must be paid to these rare minutes of stillness, to mark them as unique and most welcome, and to preserve them as a memory for the coming busy-ness.

The dishes, I’ll do. The laundry, I’ll get to. The thank-you notes, I’ll think about. The peacefulness, I’ll treasure.


Little Women and Little Men April 28, 2013

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 11:44 pm
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     When I was eight years old, I did my very first play, Peter Pan. The director of that play would, in time, become my mentor and dearest friend, and the cast of that play would become the cast of my life, populated by future best friends, boyfriends, and my Maid of Honor.  But this isn’t a story about Peter Pan. This is a story about Little Women. 

     Just today I closed a beautiful production of Little Women the Musical (incidentally, stage managed by my aforementioned Maid of Honor and fellow Lost Boy), to great reviews. Our cast was exquisite, each of them perfectly suited for their role, and passionate about this remarkable story. After praising the performance, every audience member I spoke with would tell me the story of how they came to love Little Women. Each of them – mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters – had their own personal relationship with Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale. They remembered reading it aloud to their children, or listening to the book on tape on long car rides, or reading the chapter with Laurie’s proposal so many times that the pages fell out of the binding. Their stories made me think back to when I first became acquainted with Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy, nearly 20 years ago at a rehearsal for Peter Pan. 

     As I got ready for my first rehearsal, my mom suggested that I pack a book. She said that rehearsals were long, so I figured that the book I brought should be long as well. I grabbed Little Women, the thickest book on my shelf, and went off to Never Land with the March sisters in tow.

     A few weeks into rehearsal, I still hadn’t made it through the first chapter. I would start on page one, get completely lost in the vocabulary by page three, and sit there reading the same passage over and over again. Rhett, one of the teenage boys playing in Captain Hook’s band of pirates, asked me why such a very little girl was reading such a very large book. When I confessed that I didn’t understand any of it, Rhett did something truly remarkable, especially for pirate. He took the book from my lap and began to read it aloud.

     He explained to me that I was reading it all wrong. “You can’t read something like this to yourself,” he said. “There’s too many characters. You have to read it like a script, like a play.”  And so we did. We read each of the characters out loud to each other with different voices and faces, acting out the March family Christmas right there in the hallway. He had a prim, proper-sounding voice for Meg, and a whiny, nasally-toned voice for Amy. His Mr. Laurence was loud and booming, while his Aunt March was derivative of Julia Child. Rhett’s Laurie was handsome and bumbling, just as he was. With Rhett’s help, I slowly made it through all of Jo’s ups and downs. I also developed my first crush.

     Watching the story now, through more adult eyes, I find myself more and more astonished by how our lives turn out. Jo, who swears she’ll never marry, finds herself running a school with her husband. Amy, the young artiste who wishes for grandeur and fame, marries the boy next door. Beth, an angel in disguise, leaves her family all too soon. When I think of my humble beginnings in a community playhouse, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure to have been able to make theatre my livelihood, working right alongside my family and my best friends that I met while rehearsing Barrie and reading Alcott.

     I’ll never know why Rhett, a vivacious boy scout, chose to sit down with a little girl and help her to fall in love with a classic novel. Just like I’ll never know why, ten years later, Rhett would lose his life to a freak accident when his hotel balcony collapsed. What I do know is that he changed the way I saw those little women, and transformed the way that I read books. Like Beth March, he, too, was an angel in disguise.


Right of Nasal Passage December 21, 2012

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 10:53 am
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I actually wrote this in 2008, but I’ve recently seen several people on Facebook talking about their Neti Pots and I thought it was time for a re-post. 🙂

     Currently, I am busy coping with a double sinus infection, which comes with a sore throat, unbearable sinus headaches, a low-grade fever and the inability to breathe through my nose. Early this morning, my doctor gave me a prescription for antibiotics and suggested that I buy something called a Neti Pot, which is an over-the-counter treatment that my husband and friends have suggested to me many times.

     If you are not familiar with the Neti Pot, allow me to enlighten you. A Neti Pot is this little blue plastic teapot with an obscenely shaped spout (let’s just say that  I’ve decided to name mine Mr. Potts) and a screw-top lid. You fill it with a warm water saline solution, shove the inappropriate-looking tip up your nose and pour the mixture into your head until it comes rushing out of your other nostril, like Niagara Falls. For a more in-depth explanation, I encourage you to watch this video.

     Just to clarify, you pour warm water up your nose until it comes out of the other side. This so-called “treatment” was recommended to me by a highly respected physician and my gadget-centric husband. This is advanced medicine, people. No longer do we let blood to cure indigestion, nor do we snort cocaine to ease the pain of a toothache. We, my friends of the 21st century, are an advanced society with robot surgeons and vitamin-enriched bubblegum. We pay good money to pour saltwater up our own noses.

     I don’t need to tell you that I didn’t look half as graceful Neti-Potting as the lady in the video. Then again, I am a first-timer and she is obviously a seasoned professional. The model in the video is dressed for work with a perfectly smooth ponytail and a face full of makeup. She performs this unusual task with the greatest of ease, acting like it’s the most natural thing in the world. She even pulls one perfectly fluffed tissue out of a ceramic tissue box and gently pats her nose with it, as though she were applying powder. (Did anyone else notice that there wasn’t even a second tissue waiting to pop out of the box? Who was DP for this project?) When she’s finished pouring water out of her nose, she trots out of the house with a big smile on her face.

     There are only 5 crucial steps to this whole process.

Step One: Fill pot with water.

Step Two: Stir in saline solution and screw on top.

Step 3: Pour up nose.

Step 4: Blow nose.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 & 4 on opposite nostril.

     There are more than five steps to the way I apply mascara; this should be a piece of cake. Really, really advanced cake, like the kind you see on Food Network Challenge.

Step one: I unwrap the pot and carefully read the instructional pamphlet in my pajamas with my hair piled high on top of my head. The directions call for me to use distilled water, but to be honest, I’m not sure about the technical definition of ‘distilled.’ I’m pretty sure that distilled water isn’t what comes out of my refrigerator, and the only other thing I have that says “distilled” on the label is white wine vinegar. Fortunately, I do have a Brita water pitcher and I’m pretty sure that Shannon gave us a new filter for Christmas. Good enough. I filled the Brita pitcher with warm water from the kitchen sink, transferred eight ounces of it into a measuring cup and poured it into the pot.

Step two: After adding the package of saline solution, I fasten the top and take a deep breath.

Step three: As I lean over the sink to pour the solution into my nose, I have the following thoughts: Wow, that is a lot warmer than I expected. It did not seem that warm when it was outside of my nose. Should I stop? No, just keep going. Maybe I should have used distilled water. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be a baby breathing amniotic fluid? Oh my gosh, I’m breathing fluid for the first time since I was born! Is this what it feels like to drown? I think it is. More specifically, I think this is what it would feel like to drown in the ocean, as opposed to drowning in a fresh water pond. I just remembered I have a fear of drowning. Oh my gosh. I’m drowning myself in my kitchen and nobody knows. I should have called somebody before I did this. The last thing I said to Vann was “I’ll do that tomorrow.” Obviously I will not be doing that tomorrow and the last thing I’ve said to my husband is a lie. Get yourself together, Doubleday. Focus. You are not drowning. You are just treating your sinuses…by self-waterboarding. What the…whoa! It’s coming out of the other side, just like in the video! I’m doing it right! It is raining from my nose. Eww. While this is admittedly not the grossest thing that I’ve put down my kitchen sink, it is definitely in the top ten. I wonder when I’m supposed to stop. The directions did not specify a time limit. I need a sign. Shoot, I forgot to get shaving cream while I was at the store. What is that? Ack! Gurgle! Blech! They said not to swallow the solution! Spit it out! Spit it out! It tastes like melted pretzels and vomit, and I hate pretzels. Okay, that must be the sign for me to stop. I hope it doesn’t hurt when I pull this thing out of my nose. Oof.       

     All that took about ten seconds. I put down the pot and stood up, which, in retrospect, was not the best idea I’ve ever had. Once I was standing upright, all the warm water that was still up my nasal cavities came rushing down my face and onto my shirt. Do you remember Nickelodeon slime? I think this is what that feels like.

     At this point in the proceedings, I am on step four, which is to gently blow my nose while tilting my head. It would have been really great if I had prepared for this experience by laying out all of the materials ahead of time. Yep. That would have been awesome. Instead, I found myself running to the other side of the kitchen and rifling through my CVS Pharmacy bags, frantically trying to open a box of tissues, all while irrigating my kitchen floor with nose-water.

Step five. Repeat steps three and four on the opposite nostril. This time, I was much more prepared for the experience and had a handful of tissues waiting at the ready. I did not worry about drowning myself, although I did have the thought that this was kind of like a nose enema, which made me laugh and caused a whole bunch of stuff to come out of my nose all at once.

     For about ninety minutes, I could feel water trickling down the inside of my face, which is an interesting sensation. I honestly can’t say that I felt any better or worse after the treatment, though I did feel different. Anyone would feel different after doing that to their nose. The directions said to discard the leftover solution, if there was any. My Neti-Pot was about half-full after I had finished with both nostrils, which leads me to believe that I didn’t tough it out as long as I was supposed to. Maybe next time, I’ll put on really nice clothes, do my hair and makeup and invite a camera crew into my bathroom. Maybe then I’ll be cured.


How (Not) To September 19, 2012

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 2:31 pm
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   A friend of mine was over the other day while I was “cooking.” I put “cooking” in quotation marks because what I was really doing was putting three ingredients in a crock pot moments before walking out the door. She commented on how she really wanted to learn how to use a crock pot, but had just never gotten around to it. My brain computer immediately switched to share-good-things-with-good-people-mode and told me to write her a friendly How To Crockpot Guide. (Do you like the way I used the word “crockpot” as a verb? I do.)

   As I started thinking about what might go in this unasked-for guide, I realized most of the things that came to mind were things not to do. So here it is. Jenn’s unofficial, unauthorized, unasked-for How Not To Crockpot Guide. Bon appetito. Or whatever.

1) Do not visit crockpot websites.

   I know, I know. We live in the information age, and if you want to learn about something the first thing you do is hit Google. DO NOT GOOGLE “CROCKPOT.” If you do, two bad things will happen. First, you will be disappointed that Google does not retort “did you mean crackpot?” like you were hoping they would. Second, you will be shown a plethora of websites run by crockheads; crazy people who crockpot as if their lives, nay, all of our lives depend on it. These are the women (there may be men out there who do this, but I have yet to see any), who “batch cook” and freeze a month’s worth of meals by chopping, slicing, dicing, portioning and otherwise slaving away in the kitchen for 48 hours straight. Some of the lies they will tell you include “it’s so easy!” and “it saves me so much time and money!” or “I only drink medicinally!”

   If you are like me, and if you’re reading my blog you probably are, these women scare you. They make you feel like a disorganized mess because you do not plan your meals 31 days in advance. They make you feel inferior because you do not eat as many vegetables or use as many exclamation points as they do. These women and their hyperactive crockpottery kept me from using my wonderful slow cooker for about two years, simply out of the fear that I was inadequate.

2) Do not overdose.   

   Crockheads are obsessed with their pot, and they want you to be obsessed with it to. They are pot pushers, and like your kindergarten teacher told you, the best defense is to “just say no.” Apparently, crockpot can be highly habit forming.

   That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little recreational use. Just like any other tool in your kitchen, the crockpot should be used only for certain things, like making something really delicious when you don’t have very much time or have lost the will to stand. Throw in a few ingredients, push a button, and walk away. No $1,000 trips to the grocery store to buy a year’s worth of ingredients all at one time. No marathon mincing. Just toss and go, come back and eat. Exclamation point!

3) Do not be worried that the house will slowly burn down while you slowly cook dinner. 

   I was really concerned about this. I don’t like to leave the house with the dryer running, and I really didn’t like the idea of leaving the house with something ON and COOKING unattended. But apparently it’s totally fine and people do it all the time. In fact, I was so concerned about the hazards of crockpotting in absentia that I Googled “crockpot deaths.” All I got were links to crockhead blogs mourning the demise of their favorite 20-year-old slow cookers and the obituary of the man who invented them, who, incidentally, was bludgeoned to death with a brass lamp by his grandson when he was 83. May he rest in peace. While this is not a scientifically supported statement, I would venture to guess that more people are endangered annually by brass lamps than by crockpots. What is a scientifically supported statement is that crockpots use about two-thirds less energy than your stove or oven when roasting or simmering, making them easy and economical.

4) Do not keep tasty recipes to yourself. 

   Many crockheads slow cook with reckless abandon. Some of their recipes say things like “place 1 lb of cooked chicken and 1 lb of cooked rice in the slow cooker with 1 can of mushroom soup and heat on low for 4 hours.” Excuse me, why would I put cooked food in a slow cooker? It’s a cooker and it’s supposed to cook things for me, not me for it.

   However, good recipes do exist, and in my opinion, the easier they are, the better they taste. I have done a few fancy recipes from magazines and Food Network, but for the most part I keep it simple. If I can’t memorize it from reading it once, it is too complex for me at my current stage of life. Here are some of our go-to dinners.

Mexican Chicken: 1 lb of chicken, 1 packet of taco seasoning, 1 small can of tomato sauce. Heat on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Shred, and enjoy! I love Mexican food, so I’ll double this recipe and use the meat for enchiladas, tacos, taco salad, chalupas, you name it. Muy bueno.

BBQ Pork: 1 pork loin, 1 bottle of your favorite bbq sauce. Heat on high for 8 hours. This usually gets shredded and becomes bbq sandwiches, although sometimes I will slice it and serve it fancy-style with microwave-steamed vegetables and crescent rolls and it looks like I’ve actually cooked something.

Turkey Breast: 1 boneless turkey breast smothered in your favorite herbs, 1 can of low-sodium broth. Cook on low for 8 hours, slice and have fake-Thanksgiving.

Chili: 1 lb of ground turkey, 3 cans of your favorite beans (drained), 1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 can of chiles in adobo sauce, 1 chopped onion, minced garlic, and whatever seasonings you like. We use chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne and sugar. Cook on low for 8 hours. Mmm.

5) Do not pick up the crock pot dish while it is still hot. 

   You will feel dumb. Just unplug it, eat dinner, watch Grey’s Anatomy and clean it out later. They even sell little plastic liners that you can just pull out and throw away, but I haven’t tried them yet. Usually I just spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray before I put in my other ingredients. So far I’ve had absolutely no difficulty cleaning it.

   So there you go. I hope you’ve learned everything you ever wanted to know and more about How Not to Crockpot, or How to Crockpot Like a Normal Person Who Doesn’t Have Much Time to Cook but Still Likes to Eat Good Food and Have Her Kitchen Smell Like She’s Been Very Busy. The end.


Surprise! September 8, 2012

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 4:35 pm
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Overall, I felt adequately prepared for how tired I would be upon becoming a first-time mother. Everyone tells you how exhausting labor is and how mind-numbing the first few months can be, but nobody tells you that you won’t really care about all that because you’ll be having so much fun playing with your new squirming, laughing, eyelash-batting baby girl. Experienced parents are quick to tell you that you’ll never sleep again and that your life is about to become one lucid coma of diapers and bottles.

They’re half right. To be honest, I sort of lost track of my days and nights for the first couple of weeks. It was a runaway train schedule of feeding, diapering and intermittent napping, with very few moments that distinguished themselves as AM or PM. Little by little, though, your newly expanded family finds a newly expanded routine that somehow, magically, meets everyone’s needs. Okay, sure. I use a lot more dry shampoo now, and we eat a lot more frozen dinners than we used to, but that’s a pretty fine trade-off if you ask me. Fortunately, my husband has very low expectations when it comes to dinner and personal hygiene. He is equally as happy making his own peanut butter & jelly sandwich as he is eating homemade pot roast, and he seems to love me even more on the days when my personal makeup and hair crew don’t come to work. Which is most days.

The baby of the family, of course, doesn’t care one whit if I’ve showered or had a sandwich, which is also nice in its own way. Even nicer are her 90-minute morning naps when I get to do exciting things like vacuum or pay bills. She’s very considerate that way, actually. “I can see you’ve got some other irons in the fire,” she seems to say, “so I’m going to lay down for a bit and let you get on with it. Just don’t be late with my lunch.”

Yes, those  veteran parents are right. I now understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of military torture. I now understand why diaper pails are a necessity, not a luxury. And I now understand why people ooh and coo over babies and baby-related things. I’d never spent any time with babies until I had my own. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, I didn’t babysit, and I didn’t really know much about mini-humans until they got to be around age 6 and they came to take my theatre classes. But now I understand, ever so much more, the amazing gift and indescribable joy of young parenthood.

    We sleep just fine now, all three of us, and we sometimes even have Norman Rockwell-type breakfasts together before we all get pulled our separate ways to work or to play. I don’t suppose anyone can ever be fully prepared for anything that life has to throw our way, but I do feel that professional parents ought to sprinkle the gloom-and-doom advice with a little bit of happiness. The fun of having a baby is like a surprise party. First you have the “SURPRISE!!!!” with everyone jumping out and screaming at you, and then you have the party with the drinks and presents and fellowship. Perhaps it’s the initial terror of the surprise that makes the calm and pleasantness of the party that much more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s the fact that you weren’t expecting a party at all. 🙂


Roller Coaster Face September 5, 2012

Filed under: Jenn-eral — jenntertainment @ 11:14 am
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Oh, yeah. I have a blog.

     I was reminded of this fact over the holiday weekend, when every story I told was greeted by “that should go in your blog.” This is what makes me a poor blogger (bloggess?). True bloggers find a couple of paragraphs in everything that they do, whereas I have to be reminded that the things that happen in my days are interesting. This, along with my penchant for commas, separates me from the masters. Comma, comma, comma. Comma way with me.

     That, along with my natural ability to turn everything into a song, which doesn’t really translate well over the web because you can’t hear me singing or see my head-bobble dance.

But I digress.

     I’d like to say that I haven’t blogged in the past six months or so because I’ve been so busy with my new roommate, Jamie Kate. You want to see a picture? Okay, fine.


     Or I could say that I haven’t updated this site because I’ve been soooo busy at work. Sure, you can have a picture of that, too.


          But the truth is something that I learned in theatre class: the characters in a comedy don’t realize that what’s happening to them is funny. When you’re in the midst of something new and chaotic, you don’t really stop to think about the entertainment value of each experience. Kind of like when you’re on a roller coaster; you don’t realize that you’re making a crazy face until you see your picture on display in the gift shop.

          So here I go again, promenading my crazy face for all to see (all ten of you that read this, that is). I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.