How Disney’s FROZEN Should Have Ended

I totally agree with this assessment.

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How to Kill a Spider in 14 Steps (If You Must)

Spider with fly

WARNING: THE TITLE OF THIS POST IS ONLY A TEASER. THE ACTUAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR HOW TO KILL A SPIDER APPEAR WAY, WAY DOWN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST, AFTER A BUNCH OF REALLY INTERESTING SPIDER COMMENTARY. IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A SPIDER EMERGENCY, PLEASE SCROLL TO THE END OF THE POST NOW.

Otherwise, read on.

I’ve never really been scared of spiders. This may be due to the fact that the house I was raised in was nestled deep, deep in the middle of the woods, where spiders were such a common sight that to be afraid of them would have meant living in a constant state of fear. In fact, I was far more likely to encounter a spider than another kid. Come to think of it, this may account for a number of my idiosyncrasies. But I digress.

To arm me with the knowledge necessary to protect myself in the fierce wilds of Franklinton, North Carolina, my mom bought me a poster with images of all of the poisonous snakes and spiders that are native to my home state. That poster hung over my bed for years. In the arachnid category, there were only two species: the black widow and the brown recluse. Black widows are pretty easy to spot; they’re black and kind of scary looking, and the female (the only one with a poisonous bite) has distinctive red markings on her undercarriage. The markings are usually shaped like an hourglass; which is meant to remind us that our time is running out. (Just kidding. A black widow bite, while not exactly pleasant, is rarely fatal.)

Whoever designed the Black Widow should receive a promotion. Her sinister appearance serves as an ingenious early warning system to would-be prey.

Whoever designed the Black Widow should receive a promotion. Her sinister appearance serves as an ingenious early warning system to would-be prey.

Brown recluses are a little harder. First of all, they’re kind of, well… reclusive. Even more so than spiders in general, which is saying something. Secondly, they kind of look like your average small, brown, unassuming spider. They are supposed to have a “fiddle shape” on their backs, but it doesn’t look very fiddle-ish to me. More like a nondescript, curvy thing. And many small, brown, unassuming spiders seem to have some sort of nondescript curvy shape on their backs. So even after many years of staring at this photograph of a brown recluse in the morning while I was waking up, I still can’t confidently identify one.

The brown recluse spider is also called the "fiddleback spider", due to what some delusional scientists insist is a distinct violin shape on its dorsal (back) side. Do you see it? No? Me neither. The designer of the brown recluse ought to have his pay docked.

The brown recluse spider is also called the “fiddleback spider”, due to what some delusional scientists insist is a distinct violin shape on its dorsal (back) side. Do you see it? No? Me neither. The designer of the brown recluse ought to have his pay docked.

Anyway, I’ve always just viewed spiders as basically non-threatening entities that kind of hang out on the periphery of everything. Innocent until proven guilty. In the case of an alleged brown recluse, the adjudication entails lots of indecision and referencing of the National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, which, if the verdict is guilty, nicely doubles as an instrument of execution. Luckily, brown recluses are typically not aggressive and will wait patiently for you to decide, as long as you don’t make any threatening movements, in which case they will scurry under the nearest piece of furniture, never to be seen again.

There is one other type of spider that you need to watch out for in North Carolina, according to the old timers. Not because of a poisonous bite, but because it is reputed to be psychic. I am referring, of course, to the writing spider.

If you see your name woven in this spider's web, don't operate any heavy machinery for at least 48 hours.

If you see your name woven in this spider’s web, don’t operate any heavy machinery for at least 48 hours.

She’s a beauty, isn’t she? Well, traditional wisdom dictates that she’s also a killer. If you see a person’s name written in the writing spider’s web, that person is soon to die. I have met some individuals who claim to have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand. I can’t testify to their level of sanity, though. I don’t personally hold with this theory, but if you’re the superstitious type, you might want to consider legally changing your name to something really long and hard to spell, like “Mahershalalhashbaz”.

It can’t be denied that there are some seriously scary spiders in the world. Spiders that make the three previously mentioned in this post look like fluffy kittens in comparison. For instance, there are those spiders that lay eggs under your skin while you’re sleeping. Ew! You wake up with an itchy bite that gradually turns into a big, purplish boil, and a few weeks later, baby spiders hatch out of it. And then there’s this guy:

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Two words: Muscle Paralysis. Yep, pretty scary. But even a bite from the dread Brazilian Wandering Spider, the deadliest spider in the world, is rarely fatal, due to the fact that modern medicine has discovered an effective antivenom. Also, the toxin causes long-lasting erection in men, so, take that, Viagra!

Irrational fears in general are not on my to-do list, and it sort of irks me when people have them. But this is especially true of arachnophobia. I mean, come on! Spiders are really pretty awesome. They enjoy lurking in dark, out of the way places. They kill all kinds of insects that can prove to be much more annoying or even dangerous. They are often pretty to look at. And they’re just all-around badasses. They make sticky thread that comes out of their butts and is as strong as alloy steel, yet flexible enough to withstand hurricane force winds. They paralyze their prey before wrapping them up in the arachnid version of duct tape and draining their blood for sustenance. They have eight legs and eight eyes. How awesome is that!? And they are possibly the most accomplished artists of the animal kingdom. Sure, it kind of sucks when you accidentally walk through a spiderweb, but think how the spider must feel!

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Ok, as promised, I will now offer advice on how to kill a spider.

How To Kill A Spider In 14 Steps (If You Must)

  1. Don’t kill the spider.
  2. Seriously. What did that spider ever do to you?
  3. Still want to kill the spider? Ok. But first, do the rest of the Earth’s inhabitants a favor and determine if it is, in fact, a poisonous specimen. Here’s what you do. Place an overturned cup or jar on top of the spider
  4. Slide a piece of paper under the jar and quickly flip it right side up.
  5. If you have performed steps 1-5 properly, you should now have a spider in a jar.
  6. Now. Get on the internet and try to identify the spider. Go ahead. Google it. We’ll wait.
  7. Is the spider poisonous? No? Refer back to step 1.
  8. Yes? Ok. Now take a moment to think about how unlikely this spider is to hurt you or your loved ones. Seriously unlikely. Let that sink in for a minute.
  9. Isn’t the primary objective to Not Have Poisonous Spiders in the House? You’ve already got the spider trapped in a jar. Why not take it outside in the back yard, or across the street, or on your least favorite person’s porch, or you know, whatever distance is most comfortable for you, and release it?
  10. Step 9 too humane for you? Ok. I suppose you may kill the spider.
  11. Here’s what you do: get a newspaper.
  12. Roll up the newspaper.
  13. Release the spider from the jar.
  14. Smack the spider with the newspaper.

All done! Enjoy your spider-free existence, you murderous fiend! Have fun fending off all those extra house flies.

Minimalism for the Modern Woman

The other day I was standing in a long line at the grocery store, and to entertain myself while the lady in front decided which half of the contents of her shopping cart she no longer wished to purchase, I picked up an interior decorating magazine and flipped to a random page. It was a picture of a gorgeous room. A blindingly clean, practically empty room. The kind of room my overwhelmed, stressed-out mind yearns to own, so that I can sit serenely on the solid-color sofa, staring off into blank space.

I would dearly love to have such a room. And it wouldn’t be only for staring into space. I would also use it for writing. And reading. And thinking about writing and reading. And doing research on topics about which I intend to write. You know, just a place that is dedicated to feeling inspiration and acting on it.

My dream writing studio looks like this, but with more books. And maybe a solid colored sofa for staring off into space.

My dream writing studio looks like this, but with more books. And maybe a solid colored sofa for staring off into space.

Ha! Fat chance!

There are several factors that contribute to the extreme unlikelihood of my ever having such a room. They are as follows:

  1. My Humble Abode: I live in a three bedroom home. It has about 1450 square feet. In addition to the three bedrooms there are two bathrooms, a living room, a dining/kitchen area, and NO storage areas apart from the small clothes closets in two of the bedrooms. As you will see in the points to follow, this setup is not conducive to the outlandish “minimalist writing studio” dream.
  2. My Husband: My husband is a musician/audio engineer/collector of various types of cables and gadgetry. He has claimed the third bedroom for his own. This is where he composes music fit for choirs of Hell’s Angels (not in a bad way!) and sometimes does profitable work that entails playing the same snare sound thirty six times in succession at a fairly loud volume. This is also where he keeps his assortment of noisy things, broken guitar strings and pieces of paper with cryptic messages written on them. Because my husband’s art requires so much more STUFF than mine (All of my writing accoutrements will fit neatly in a case the size of a placemat), it only makes sense for him to claim the one extra room in the house. It’s fine, really. I’m not bitter. I actually enjoy doing my creative work in bed. The ensuing stiff neck and sleeping legs are just the sort of privations that drive the soul of my craft.  
  3. My Daughter: A packrat if there ever was one, my daughter’s bedroom is filled to the brim with headless Barbies, mateless shoes, real estate circulars (don’t ask) and rocks from every place she has ever been, including the laundromat and that place on the side of the highway where the car broke down a few months ago. Oh, and toilet paper tube sculptures. And she refuses to throw anything out or give it to Goodwill. Last year we somehow persuaded her to get rid of about half of her stuff, but only when Grandma allowed that she could bag it all up and keep it in her storage unit. You know, just in case she ever has need of three giant stuffed rabbits or a baby doll with a mustache drawn on its face in Sharpie. But even after trucking all the stuff over to Grandma’s, there was still a sea of stuff in there, and it overflows into the rest of the house like some kind of alien slime invasion.

    image

    My kid’s rock collection is like this, x 10.

  4. My Dog: The reason we don’t have a couch in our living room.
  5. Myself: If you asked my family members and friends to list my positive personality traits, no one would mention “domestic goddess”. Or even “pretty neat and organized”. That’s because I’m not. I’ve got that mad scientist thing going on. There is a stack of books on the desk in the living room that has been waiting to be moved to the empty space on the bookshelf for about two months. Every time I think to myself, “I am going to put those books away now”, I start leafing through them instead. Three hours later, I’ve learned several things I did not previously know about the tribal culture of the British Isles prior to Romanization, but the books go right back where they were on the desk. Albeit in a different order. I’ve gotten better over the years since I formed a hive. I am usually on top of the laundry situation, and I make extra effort to wash dishes daily and keep the floor swept. My husband helps a lot, and our little worker bee enjoys scrubbing toilets, of all things, but becomes petulent when asked to pick her alien slime off the floor. Suffice it to say, I accept my share of the blame here. But I’m just saying, if I lived by myself, I would have a blindingly clean room with a solid colored sofa, and I’d hire a maid to clean it.

    I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that if this lady and I had a kitchen cleaning showdown, she would win and I would end up in the hospital.

    I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if this lady and I had a kitchen cleaning showdown, she would win and I would end up in the hospital.

Anyway, as you can see, my home can not physically contain a minimalist room, and even if its proportions were increased through some sort of magic embiggening charm or perhaps one of these high tech “additions” I keep hearing about, a minimalist room would soon become a wormhole of dog hair and missing socks. I’ve thought of obtaining a tiny house (I love them) to use as my own office space.

It would look something like this.

It would look something like this.

In fact, I’ve more than thought about it. I plan to do it even if I have to build it myself out of woven grasses and bricks of compressed dryer lint. I would hang a sign on the door that said “DO NOT DISTURB… UNLESS I’VE WON THE LOTTERY. OR IF YOU INTEND TO CLEAN.”

But lately, it occurs to me that perhaps minimalism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, there are a lot of extra little things that significantly improve my day to day life. Like ice. And my iPad. And retractable pens. These things don’t impact my ability to survive. I could probably even live comfortably without any of them. But darn it, they make me happy! And realizing that helps me to relate to my husband’s compulsion to stack coils of cable from the floor to the ceiling, organized by circumference. And it gives me a little insight into my kid’s thing with rocks. I mean, rocks aren’t particularly useful, and, at least to me, the ones you find on the side of the road don’t tend to be beautiful, but to her, there’s something special about having several boxes of rocks under the bed. Ok, who am I to judge? I like to always be within ten feet of a stack of random books.

There is something to be said for a comfortable, distraction free space that can be entirely dedicated to the practice and development of a craft. “A room of her own”, and all of that. But isn’t it an even worthier goal to learn to overlook the small distractions, the imperfections, and all the ways in which things “aren’t quite right”? Because a room of your own is still a thing. It can burn to the ground. It can be infested by hornets. It could conceivably be zapped to another dimension, never to be seen again except as a sliver of something the color of dryer-lint that disappears when you walk past it. But the ability to focus on a project, to allow yourself to be consumed with it, to love it and nurture it to completion and then destroy it and build something even better out of the tear soaked shreds; now THAT is something to strive for.

What do you think? D0 you have trouble finding the space to work on your art? Or are you a domestic goddess who always finds the time and space for everything? (If so, would you be interested in taking on a second domestic environment?) Let me know in the comments!