Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Week's Best

Time for a wrap-up of some of the interesting things I found on the internet this week.
Here they are, good stuff links. Enjoy!

--All the people are talking about Ello. I haven't checked into it but the buzz is that people are abandoning the Facebook ship to climb aboard Ello. Not sure what to do once you're there? Here's a primer: from Readwrite, How to Ello in 5 Easy Steps.

-- This was good good good. From WritersWrite: 15 Questions Authors Should Ask the Characters in Their Novel. If anything, reading this makes you a better, more aware, reader.

--Click, please don't miss: from modern farmer, Beautiful Chicken hair-dos.

--Seeing someone laugh until they cry, I never say no to a chance for that. Here's a short clip of Bill Hader doing just that to Kristen Wiig while talking about their new film Skeleton Twins.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Falling Asleep to Words

I remember a morning this past summer, when a little girl leaned in against me, her small shoulders pressing close. In the loud raspy force that children think is whispering, she blew into my ear, “My mom tells me to not read and read. So I stop but then when she goes away, I start again. I can't help it. I want to know more stories.”

I nodded knowingly to her, turning my head so we'd be eye to eye. "Yes,” I answered back. “My mom used to tell me the same thing.”

With her eyes wide, her mouth agape, so astonished, she asked, “She did?”

“She did. And I would wait until she went away and then I'd start reading again...”

She was too young, or else I'd tell her, that she will never change. That even when she gets to be as old as she thinks I am, which is from a time where she needs to question me about my life, “Did you have TV? Were there cars yet?” that this will always be.
That if she one day shares her home, her partner will call to her at night from upstairs to put her book down and come to bed, that she needs to sleep.
That if she has children, over breakfast they will ask her, “How late did you stay up to finish that book?”

I want to tell her how wonderful it is to be a reader. That one day, the people around her will begin to see that's who she is. Their questions will change from “Why do you read so much?” to “What book are you reading now?”

I want her to give herself the title of Reader like a crown, with a jewel at the tip of each letter like the points of a star.

I want her to fill in the blank with Reading as one of the firsts under "Your hobbies or interests?" I want her to feel no embarrassment or shame over her love of books, as if it's something she didn't want to be true about herself. When someone asks her what some of the things are that she likes to do, I want her to answer “reading,” just like that, and not stumble for other things to say instead.

I want her to remember how words fill her mind and take her to a place where time stands still. Where turning page after page soon becomes an impatient 11p.m. rap on the bedroom door with orders to put away the book now and get some sleep. I want her to spend afternoons amid piles of books, where each story calls to her, as if chosen especially.

I want her to forever love the feel of the weight of pages in her hands, to look forward to the stories that await on her nightstand at the end of her day. I want her to flutter to sleep with her finger lingering on the last words she reads as one day crosses the thin line into the start of the next.  
If I could have whispered a confidence back to her that day, it would have been to tell her to swim, full and deep, no matter what, in the words that make her laugh, her heart pound, her throat gasp, her mind think, her eyes tear, and that take her into another world.

I want her to always smile, hard -- and never second guess when asked, "Tell me about yourself..."

"Well, I like to read,” is my dream for how she one day answers that question.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Candid Q&A (honest)

Today, I play Honest Interview with myself, answering from a combination of questions that have been emailed and posed to me over the last few years, as well as culled from pretend NPR interviews I do to myself while waiting for my kids in the school pick up line.

Alexandra, your name was an unusual one during the time of your youth, to the point of you squeezing your eyes tight and wishing Dorothy-style to be named Debbie, Francie, or Suzy. How do you feel about your name now?

Great question. I like it now, though it is true that in the third grade, I prayed for Francie to be my name in the morning when I woke up. Some people don't care for the length of my name and shorten it to Al, Alex, Ali, Lexie, it's all fine with me. I even answer to Alexander and Alexandria. I'm not particular that way.

Do you really drink as much coffee as you say you do? Or is it part of your persona?

I have a coffee love. Never a problem, but a definite co-dependence but not in a dysfunctional way. Oh, I mean, it's not like I'd be late for Easter mass because I had to get coffee, or like the school principal made a "general" statement about coffee in church is still coffee in the house of God, or like my husband can never find the Starbucks cards he gets from work though he swears he "put 'em right there." I mean, it's not like that at all.

Do you ever have writer's block?

No, I don't. If I need to find an idea, I log on to twitter. There is inspiration ticking by at a mile a minute there.

If you had a hundred dollars, what would you do with it?

Put it in the bank.

If you could live to be 100 years old, what would your birthday party be like?

I would have my favorite meal of Twinkies, Starbucks double espresso, and string cheese. Then I'd either chew it on my own *fingers crossed* or have one of my kids put it in a blender for me.

What google search brings the most people to your blog?

Can Mexicans wear jeggings.

What's your favorite thing about blogging?

Okay, what's my favorite thing about blogging or what's my favorite thing about having a blog?

About blogging.

Blogging is incredible. It's how I solidify and timestamp who I am. I see it as sticking a flag in it and claiming my ideas, my values, my strengths, my confusion, my muddling through, and my joy in this life. Sticking a flag in your life, and making it yours. Do you want to ask me now about why I love having a blog?

I guess.

Having a blog is the first thing that I've created that I planted, nurtured, nourished, fed, watered, tended, and beamed back at with pride. This blog is that one thing that I've done in my life.

What's your favorite thing about life?

The surprises that happen. The juicy delightful moments that make you laugh out loud and wipe your tears away from how lucky you are. That's what I love.

You have a curious face, may we ask, how old are you?

I've heard that before, thank you. Anyway, old enough to remember when water didn't come in bottles.

What kind of people do you like?

Depends on the person. I can like any kind of people if I like the person.

How do you manage change?

First off, thank you, I'm flattered that you see me as someone who is able to. And second, I don't. My coping default is placing a McDonald's napkin over my face and soothechanting ohmygodohmygod until I can't anymore.

What's been your big surprise information discovery that you found out on your own?

It happened a few months ago. I was in the bathroom putting on my make up and when I stepped back to look, it was then it made sense, why magazines advise against black anything on a face over a certain age. It's because a black line near your eyes looks like plastic surgery stitches. You can't wear black anymore, middle age is the time of the very real subconscious question sitting in the mind of the one facing you, "Is it Maybelline, or is it Dr. Costas?"

Do you have any quick tips on how to make yourself attractive in ten minutes or less?

Make me attractive in ten minutes or you attractive in ten minutes?


A surefire trick I've been using for the last nineteen years is to go five days without make up then on the sixth day when I do put on my mascara, blush, and mystic mauve lip-glo I just look so damn good then. Like I started a multi-vitamin or something.

Gladiator Shoes, a $400.00 hobo bag, or a butter soft red leather fitted jacket?

I live in Wisconsin. Nothing comes before two Target infinity scarves atop each other, Dr. Seuss striped fleece mittens, and the colonial pantaloon.

This was wonderful, Alexandra, thank you.

It really was, wasn't it. I enjoyed this time with myself, too. Thank you.

**To Find Out More about Alexandra, you can park behind her at school pick up time. She conducts her interviews daily, and leaves her minivan windows partially open until mid-November.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Right People for You

Posing by a giant skull, because they get it...

During a sociology class in college, I remember our professor saying that the most successful relationships are those where both parties share the same values.

Like being with people who will pose in front of a giant skull, no questions asked, because they know you like to do things without having to explain. And they even smile while doing it.

Shared values with people who believe you and don't try to talk you out of things. When you tell them you mean it, you don't want store bought cards but a letter from the heart instead -- even though it's more work for them, they give you that letter from the heart instead.
The wondercards

When you share values with someone, you will go to the grocery store when it's cold and raining for ingredients because home-made spaghetti in is what you prefer to a birthday dinner out.

Today we celebrated my birthday, and I spent it in a way that holds worth for me. A meal made by my husband, cards made by my children, and a visit to see my son who is away at college.

We went walking, and I told of how when I was little, my father would take me with him for a Saturday afternoon beer at a corner tavern. He'd place a single dollar on the counter, light up a cigarette, and sip his foamy beer while I sat, legs dangling off the bar where he had set me, nibbling from a foil-wrapped Hershey candy bar. It was just me and my father, and these private times together are a treasured memory. My husband tried to re-create my childhood afternoons inside of a suburban five dollar a glass wine bar instead of a ten-cent-tap city tavern. He doesn't smoke so he puffed on a pretzel stick instead. Our children were mortified, but I was thrilled, and my stomach ached from laughing.

So suave and sophisticated
I knew someone years ago who, when she found out it had been my birthday, asked me, "What did you get?" I told her everything I wanted, a home-made meal, and crayoned cards from my children. She told me she'd be angry if there was no dinner out, and no gifts.

I couldn't believe what she said, and she hurt my feelings with how she thought I had "no gifts." She wasn't the right people for me.

Looking at these pictures, I wonder how she could say no gifts?

Shared values. The most important determining factor in friendships, relationships, with the people we know.

The right people for me are the people right here. The ones who understand, and gift me, with exactly what I hold dear to my heart.

I love you, my family, I love you so very much. Thank you for a wonderful birthday.
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life is Rewarding, but Challenging

I plan on sticking around for the long run. What that means, is that to be here, as long as I can be -- bar an unfortunate early demise -- I need to make changes.

I like my life. Through the unlikable moments bordering on feeling unsurvivable, still, at this moment, things feel good.

If we want to enjoy life as long as we can, there are some things that have to happen, without question. Non negotiables that are required on a daily basis to have the odds be ever in our favor.

The biggest things of the largest crucial impact over time, are basic (basic does not mean easy, look it up):

Eat right. Sometimes (okay a lot for me) that means saying no to Twinkies, or whatever your Twinkies is. Put the Twinkie down and say yes to nuts, fish, raw vegetables, raw fruit, whole grains, and wonderful water. Keep good stuff in the house as in good for you, and leave the Fig Newtons on the shelf at the store. Not easy, that's why I said "challenge."

Move every day. Without question, you need to exercise, or walk, or play catch outside. Get up and off the buttchair. Everyday, rain or snow or too hot or too foggy or too lazy, you move your body and don't go to bed until you do it for 30 minutes at least once that day. Don't be lazy.

Sleep. Skipping sleep to find more time in the day seems like an easy answer. I know it does, but it's not. Time management in your day, with strict limits on how many minutes you spend where, is the only way to find time. Time Management is another way of saying Discipline. Sleep no less than six to eight hours a night. Go to bed.

Company. Oh, watch who you are with. If you can help it. Keep your group filled with encouragers and light bringers. There will be times when those you know need you, and maybe will be not their usual selves -- if you keep yourself strong, you can be there for them, and lift them back up to being where they want to be. But the ones who bring you down with negative comments or wear you out by always finding the worst in situations... reflect on their place in your life, because it can be mentally unhealthy to talk to some people. You may not have to unfriend them, but you could get busy doing other things that keep you fulfilled. This is hard.

Be a good guardian of your mind. This takes work. There is a lot out there that you really don't need to know about. The one in charge of what you see is you. Be aware but watch your sources and your doses. We need to know about our world, without a doubt, but we don't need to know about every single sick act out there. Take care of your soul -- watch what you read, what you listen to, what your ears and eyes fall on. Do not fall for the clickbait.

Find something that takes you into the zenzone. Faith, prayer, meditation, focus, writing, running, playing with your kids, music, community theatre, drawing, baking, singing. That thing that makes time stand still is that thing that recharges you. Find it and disappear into it. It can be what I do. Don't get out of your bed in the morning until you spend two minutes listening to your breath, and feeling who you are. This is an important one.

You can pull everything together by saying, Pay attention to your life. This takes work, and the challenge is to care about the situations we create for ourselves, with our eyes as wide open as we can. The reality is that we are a sum of our daily activities. There are rewards to the challenge of saying yes to the right things.

I want all the time I can get, because old people tell the best stories.

Should add ten years... 
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