Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Death by WebMD

The other night, I spent 15 minutes thinking I was dying because of the world's fastest appearing black mole, right there on my left arm. There are some people who may have noticed this small irregularly squarish shaped spot and thought, “Hmm. New freckle, I guess,” and then there are people who swallow hard, start to nervous cough, and hit the keyboard, fingers trembling as they enter,  “freckle.black.new.arm.”

But if you're on my team, #WebMDAlarmists, why assume it’s nothing when we can WebMD it and be told to get our affairs in order and make amends?  (By the way, search out “caskets.cheap” while you’re putting yellow post-it notes on who gets what from your necklace collection.)

WebMD  doesn't teach a gentle lesson — their target audience is not the common-sense kind. No, we are the ones who want to know, “WHAT ARE MY CHANCES?? Will I make it to my son’s high school graduation? I ask you, WILL I??”

The Internet is extraordinary and Googling is great. When I need to find out hours for the library, I check out my library’s website. When I need soccer cleats for my boys that won’t interfere with my Starbucks budget, I search for “family sports shoes. cheap.”  But WebMD, even if all you want is the low-down on pimple care, will offer you the serious ailment of the day. Because why not?
I want to break my online Doctor dependence — I want to go back to the land of watch and wait. It’s not a good thing when your kids start coming to you, holding out a scratched finger, asking you to “Google it, Mama — it could be worse than a paper cut!”

I need to start listening to what my twitching cheek muscles tell me, quit the WebMD symptom checker madness. They never tell you anything good. You won’t read a paragraph that begins, “Pshaw. You worry wart. It’s gonna be fine! No need for big toe amputation — most likely just a pebble stuck in your shoe.”

I like my life, I love my life. I don’t want it imaginarily cut short because of a sensitive ingrown toenail. The thing with me is that everything I read, I remember, and this “oh my god!” with each twinge of pain I feel is going to kill me. Until WebMD starts listing possible causes of back pain as “Bad Mattress” along side “Spinal Degeneration”, it's best for my sort to just stay off.

The voice I want to hear in my head from now on is not “Heeeeeere’s your death,” but the reasonable one that says, “Take it easy, let’s see what the doctor says.”

Why bury myself before I have to?

I will silently mouth to myself, that here and now, today is “Take My Life Back Day." I will begin by swearing off of WebMD. I need to, I miss the living in fatdumbandhappy land. I miss that.

Oh, and that suddenly appearing black mole with irregular borders? A small puff of wind blew it off my arm. Pizza crust remnant. I guess there's more than one reason for wearing long sleeved shirts to protect from skin damage.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Sometimes, We Forget

The sad thing, disappointing really, about human nature is that we take a lot of what we have for granted. Sometimes, the only way we stop and give a silent nod of heartfelt thanks for all that we are so fortunate to have and enjoy, is when we hear news of someone coming up against a challenge.

We hum along in our day to day, packing lunches, going for a bike ride, running our errands, and never think for a minute how our legs work, or bodies work, our freedom and ease of movement. We meet with people or speak in front of people, and give no pause or praise for the function of our brains and mouths and hands and eyes and all of it. We forget, it's not like this for everyone, or for someone, right now.

I have an internet friend, considerably younger than I am. Whereas my annual mammogram came back Good news! Everything looks good. Please make an appointment next year at this time! Hers came back, we need to do more tests now. And then they came back, we  need to start treatment now.

I am reflecting on my good fortune of good health. I am feeling how closely someone could be writing the above paragraph about me, versus me about them. This isn't meant to be a deeply introspective or depressing post. It's me waking up to the fact, that things happen. And the older I get, the greater the chance of things happening.

I don't want to only feel grateful when I come up with news from a friend that needs light and love, and prayer, and love again. I want to always feel grateful. I want to say it here, where it can be found, I want to say it to myself while I drive and when I walk with my children. I want it to hum like an undercurrent that keeps my heart going, Thank you Thank you Thank you I am good I am good I am good.

I want Thank you to be the steady pattern to my breathing so it feels out of rhythm when my inhale exhale isn't a living thank you thank you thank you. I want it noted somewhere, so it becomes real,  that I was thankful, grateful, aware and knew that I was fortunate, that I am good I am good I am good.

**Love and prayers to my friend, T. You are a beautiful, talented, powerhouse of a human being.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Everyone Watches Jesus Christ Superstar All The Time, Right?

My family quit trying to pretend to be normal a long time ago. We've even stopped wishing for it. Easter traditions in this house means shushing everyone and sitting down for the all time best of the favorite movies: the 1973 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.

"WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY should I dieeeeeeeeeeee ohhhhhhhh
Why should I dieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee."

Right here.

Our reasons for loving this 1973 classic are beyond measure, but I'll give you the quick tour: the best Jesus ever, Ted Neeley. There is no other Jesus possible. His octave range is from the heavens. The HIGH songs that never sound like wailing, but instead true lamentations of the soul. How else can you hold three boys stone quiet during a movie without one second of dialogue?

This movie is the best Jesus movie with the best Jesus songs and the best Jesus. You won't hear songs performed better by anyone as they are here. You won't see a scene played with more pained authenticity than when JS Superstar's Pontius Pilate washes his hands of Jesus' death.

To watch this film is to see an amazing masterpiece, the singing, the actors, the story, the zealots dancing, the Age of Aquarius hair! All without a single word exchanged. It's the gut punch of music that stirs emotions that words cannot.

My children were amazed when I pointed that out to them, a story told all in song. And they are not fans of musicals.

"This is a musical?"

"Yes it is."

"But I don't like musicals. And Dad hates musicals. Are you sure it's a musical?"

"Yes it is."

They never even noticed. They only love it because to them, it's now church.

Jesus Christ Superstar is over 40 years old. It's still, so good. Timeless, eternal. Just like the original story.

I'm going to sum up my obsession for this movie this way - chilling, to the bone, tears in my eyes, you can hear a pin drop in our house when we watch. Even after 1,000 views and now on to a second generation of fans.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Finding Your Place in the Blogosphere

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Tammy Soong of Blogging Betties for their newly launched podcast series. (Congratulations!) I was asked the question, How did you find out where you belong, what your space is, in the internet world where there are thousands of blogs?

I breathed an audible sigh because I wasn't thinking how obnoxious and rude that sounds when taped live, as if they're making me endure the biggest torture of my life, and then I went full-scale into what I feel explains how we fall into that which we're drawn to.

I hope you'll give the podcast a listen. And maybe, there might be a pearl or two of wisdom that will help you feel your way home in this vast world of internet real estate. (After all, miracles happen and it is Holy Week)

Thanks so much, and have a wonderful spring break!

Click here to listen: Podcast Episode #006: Alexandra Rosas Finds Her Place in the Blogosphere

**ABOUT Blogging Betties Blogging Betties Podcasts, where veteran bloggers/gal pals Poppy, Tammy, and Vanita share all the tips, tricks, and tools you’ll need to navigate the blogosphere. Each week we bring in top bloggers to tell their stories, spill their best secrets, and share their past screw-ups. Get ready to make your mark — the Blogging Betties are here to help. Follow them on Facebooktwitter, or the Blogging Betties website.

**thank you to Poppy, Tammy, and Vanita: I had so much fun talking with you!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Best Internet of the Week

A few internet wins from the week. I know you'll enjoy:

--A short imagined dialogue between an accountant and a manic pixie dream girl while preparing her taxes.

--A very funny tumblr that takes on Family Circus, Time is a Flat Circus.

--And 12 Keys To Stronger Writing, by Annie Dillard.

“You could think that your voice as a writer would just emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you’d be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. Even, and in my case, most especially, amnesiac. And that it had to be cut free.”

Have a great week, everyone!
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Monday, April 14, 2014

His Prayer on His Birthday

Before he fell asleep tonight, Auggie asked to say prayers together on his last night of being 11. I scooped his head under my arm, and listened while he whispered:

Thank you for everything that I have and the lessons I learned this year.
Thank you for the mom I have and my dad and brothers.
Thank you that my Auntie Adrian is here to visit me for my birthday.
Thank you that we have fun and that tomorrow is my birthday with my family.
Thank you for all the things I have.

I kissed his forehead and told him that that was one of the best prayers I have ever heard. I stayed with him until I heard the soft shift in his breathing, *six minutes, tops*, then I went downstairs and began decorating and wrapping. By 1:00 AM, we were ready for tomorrow's celebration. Crepe paper streamers, ribbons strung around banners, surprises wrapped in rainbow colored paper.

When everything looked just right, I went up to bed and in the darkness, I softly spoke my own words of thanks.

Thank you for the gift of this son.
Thank you for all that I have, it is so much.
Help me to be worthy of all you've given me.
Help me to never forget to be grateful, and to always remember this is what I dreamed of.

Early tomorrow, I'll hear Auggie knock on our door. He'll rush to the bed and I'll hold him inside my arms. I'll close my eyes and press my face against the warmth of his tousled curls. Inhaling his very existence, I'll whisper to him, Happy birthday, baby.

Happy birthday, sweet Auggie.
I can't wait for today, when we celebrate that you were born.

I'll keep hugging him and kiss his tender cheek. I'll look face on into his dark-lashed green hazel eyes, and remind him over and over again today, how happy I am that he is here.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Seasoned American Blogger 2

"I think so much. And that makes me want to say what I think. And I think about that all day. What's scary is if I don't say what I think, that would mean I wouldn't be sharing. Which means then no one will hear it. Can you imagine? I mean.... why even think? That's what a blogger wrestles with. Everyday."

In a world that asks for more, we bring you...  more.

Finishing what American Blogger started, Seasoned American Blogger 2, is life with no instagram, no FB, no tweeting, and no Pinterest. Because being a human is soooooo interesting.

Seasoned American Blogger 2. With more of what you loved in American Blogger -- more hats, more hair, more pillows, more thoughts, more age. A special film, for those who remember the days when we didn't take a picture, post on FB, tweet a funny thought, or instagram your new Aerosoles, in the entire day.

"Seasoned Blogger 2 is beautifully cinematically backlit and filmed from bed,  and filled with more of what Seasoned Americans asked for -- except the chevron pillows, 'cause this mama's seasoned and mama don't play fads."

Watch it today. It will change your life. Only because you'll lose the two minutes that you spend watching it. So, that counts for being true.

**no children's emotions were harmed in the filming of this video**


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Things That Having No Coffee Make Me Do

People who say that coffee doesn't do a thing for them are people that I don't understand. Look under their skin and I know our insides wouldn't match. Coffee beans are my spark plugs. They're the kerosene to my lamp and the Charcoal Briquets to my Weber grill.

I'm half the man I can be, without my coffee. And things don't go well when I'm not fired up on all cylinders. Like walking into a store, needing only one item, and walking around for twenty minutes, unable to remember what the hell that one item was.

No coffee tells my brain it's okay to drive the kids to school with slippers on. Being uncaffeinated convinces me that my husband's V-neck sweater pseudo pajamas pass for clothes at the school scholastic book fair.

Oh, yeah, no coffee is no good.

No coffee makes me think I can put a twisty tie in my hair and it's a hairdo.

No coffee makes me turn up the radio dial when I want more heat in the car.

No coffee and my 11-year-old son's winter boots don't look so bad on my feet.

No coffee and the mailbox with that morning's newspaper just seems ssssoooo far away.

No coffee and I pack five fruit roll-ups as the kids' lunches (it'll be a fun surprise!)

No coffee and emptying the dishwasher feels like I'm lifting stone slabs up the sides of the pyramids.

No coffee and I'd rather walk around with one hand pulling up my pants all day than go all the way to the bedroom upstairs into the closet to get my brown belt.

Coffee is good and coffee does good. It connects the wires in my brain into the slots where they're supposed to go and makes shouting back at talk radio in the mornings a fun thing.

Coffee makes me into an Olympian and I can do an hour walk on the treadmill on a steep incline and as long as the radio is on to permanent hearing damage range, I don't get bored.

One of the first jobs I gave to my children as soon as they could pull a kitchen stool up against the counter, was that of measuring out two heaping scoops of Folger's grounds. I have the water set, and all they have to do is push the button to start the gurgling. Our household has grown to find the snoring lion sounds of our Mr. Coffee in the morning a soothing thing.

To my children, the sound of coffee bubbling and perking is a promise to them, that they won't be eating six packs of Pringles for lunch that day.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

In Case You Missed It

Fun finds, deep finds, lots of good stuff. Here are some of my internet favorites from this week:

--Texts from Jane Eyre via one of the best humor websites on the internet, The Hairpin (love the hairpin) This one is as wonderful as it sounds. Don't miss it.

--The New York Times, nothing else I need to say. Except this very important read, good and life changing, if we even incorporate for two minutes a day: The Trick of Life .

--Finally, this one to mark for later: 14 Writing Tips from Anne Lamott. (yes. I printed it out.)

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone! I think spring might be here today.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Yoga Monologue

Let's see.... this video says *beginner* -- should be okay. That's me.

My mat is down, comfy clothes, but I think this would feel better if I used the dog bed.

Ah.... so much better. Let's get this party started.

"Welcome. My name is Tara Stiles. Today we will begin with a few positions. These are so easy." Great, Tara! I love how this starts. We can be friends because I like easy. Sounds so much nicer than lazy. So, she's stretching... Oooooooh, oooh, oooh. Waitwaitwait. Yeah, *so easy* must mean if you're 23 and in super shape.

Holy heck that intro music freaks me out. Sounds just like a TED talk. I'm waiting to hear applause and a catchy one-line opener.

"Nice and calm, niiiiiiiice and calm," she coos. That's gonna be kinda hard for me, Tara. My kids keep asking me if I'm okay.

"Soooooooooo easy." Here she goes again, and yet, she says this while she places her knees in her armpits.

"Now, pull yourself up niiiiiiiiiice and tall." Tall? I'm already sunk. I've looked like a comma since I was 15.  

"Really simple, just let your body mooooooooove through the motions." Moooooooove? I don't think she means jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerk.

You know what, Tara? If I may? You need to change your move introductions from "Easy" to "Easy FOR ME."

Whoa. Where's the fire? 90 mph with the directions. Gimme some time to untangle, okay?

"Up Over Nice big Spin Reach up and Over Next tuck in Now back to the top BIG DEEP BREATH Soften up and eeeeeeeeeeeeeease inward Waay back Settle in Waay back. And LUNGE!"

I'm sorry, there you go with the "Easy." What's easy. I don't believe you anymore, Tara, and I'm not falling for it. Also, you need to look up the word "easy."

"Get in a position. Whatever is comfortable for you." Oh, Tara, you don't know me at all, do you? Whatever is comfortable for me is laying down, right over there, on the sofa.

Also, do not invite me to "close my eyes and go deep inside" because that is an invitation to nap if I ever heard one.  

"Yoga is based on observing animals and their poses." Let's call this one we're doing right now The Grand Marm of The Elephant Herd at the Watering Hole.

Maybe easy means something different in the urban dictionary. Going to go check. 

Oh, this is trouble. Whenever she introduces something with "this one is tricky" she means I'm screwed. I do appreciate her reminders to keep breathing, though. Things were getting dotty there for awhile.

Where's that intro again? This is called "Yoga Solutions" -- I think we need to ask Tara a question first because I would ask her for a yoga solution to my KitKat problem. 

Ha! That's a good one: "Now here's a move everyone can do." Everyone in shape you mean.

OMG My Wrists! Sweet Jesus I think I heard a snap. I'm going to need a can of Os-Cal after this.

Man, her butt's pointy. And more important, HEY. How come her triangle pose looks just like a triangle and mine looks like a stepped on staple.

Stay calm, she tells me. Kinda hard when you're shaking like you've got a blood sugar reading of 19.

I just have to say this. The music kinda seems like it's oddly displaced.

"Take it into a nice squat." Oh, you sweet young child-free thing. There is no such thing as a *nice squat* after you birth babies.

"Relax the forehead." Not without $500 worth of botox is that gonna happen.

"This next one will take some concentration" is code for this is a good time now to go finish that twinkie in the kitchen.

Oh, that's rich. "Match movements with your breath." If I was matching my movements with what you call breaths, I call heaving, I'd be moving like a Samurai who was just handed his polished sword.

I wonder if she knows that what she's telling me to do right now with my spine is dangerous.

Is there anything here that doesn't require upper body strength and flexibility? Sheesh.

I have no bendability. And the stuff coming up next looks like Grover doing the Alphabet Dance.

"Use your belly as a nice shelf." Maybe your belly makes a nice shelf, mine's more like a palette loader.

This music is stressing me out. Don't they have panpipes instead of this Third Encounters meets Dieter stuff.

What? Three minutes? I've only been doing this for three minutes?

Lord lord lord LOOK how good she is. A spine like a Slinky.

Tree pose? She's as still as an oak and I'm wavering like an Emerald Ash Borer got to my insides.

"This is so easy," she says again. That does it. I am looking up easy. Because easy does not = placing entire body on your hands.  

Well, in fairness to her, 92 lbs is probably easy to place in your hands.

Okay, now I'm quitting. That's it -- she looks exhausted with this next move that's all on one side. Which means pretty sure I'll die if I try it. 

I think I'll just sit here watching her and applaud. There is that other twinkie I still have to finish.

You're doing great, Tara! You go, good stuff. Love love love watching you - you make it look so E-Z. You just keep on growing the tree branch or whatever, I'll google "Easy."

EASY : Urban Dictionary:
a way to tell people to relax. Easy, ease down, relax, be calm, chill.

Oh. I knew it. I so got this.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014


When I was little, my grandmother and I would spend afternoons at vintage and antique shops. We'd walk along creaking wood floors, browsing through aisles and forgetting about time. She would reach for pieces that sparked a memory, explaining the history of each item to me. Smoothing our hands over fabrics, my grandmother would share stories about the dresses she wore. Together, we'd toss guesses out about the women who once owned the treasures we were unearthing.

There was a history to everything we saw. Later, when I was able to buy my own clothes, it was vintage shops I was drawn to. I found my choices there, among the mohair sweaters and the pencil skirts of the '60s, that fit who I was more than any of the current trends.

It's no small surprise why I fell head over heels with the debut novel, Vintage, by Madison, Wisconsin based author, Susan Gloss. Hourglass Vintage, the setting for this novel, is a vintage shop owned by the main character, Violet Turner. It's the kind of boutique where I imagine my grandmother and I would have spent our afternoons. As if by magic, Susan Gloss has taken the exact sentiment from my heart, and wrapped a story around the characters and artifacts in Violet Turner's shop.

Each chapter is introduced with a description of a consignment item that's been brought into Violet's store:

Wedding gown, 1952, good condition,
minor discoloration,
Ivory, tea length, scooped neck, cap sleeves. Silk taffeta.
Source: acquired from couple's daughter

I loved this unique start and found myself looking forward to each chapter to see what piece would be featured next, and why. Life histories are woven in along with the items that are brought into Violet's shop -- a reader can't help but be captivated. I went without sleep to finish Vintage, sinking into bed at night, eager to open my book and enter the world of Hourglass Vintage again.

We meet young April Morgan, who purchases a 1950's vintage wedding gown from Violet, only to come back to the store, needing to return it. Then there is Amithi, who, one at a time, surrenders her beautiful Indian saris to Violet's curated care. Violet, April, and Amithi forge a strong friendship, an unlikely one, that spans the experiences of a lifetime. They hold each other up through the unanticipated twists of each of their lives, and they grow to love, depend, and count on one another. The friendship that these three women form is a surprising one, one they never went looking for and now see they can't do without. So very much like spending an afternoon at an antique store with my grandmother and spotting that one special item, the one that would bring a tale to my grandmother's lips and that we would have to bring home. Susan Gloss' book is made all the more charming when you discover that she herself is proprietor of  a vintage shop on Etsy.

Vintage is a novel of pure pleasure, with flesh and blood characters that let you inhabit their lives for the 308 pages that they are ours. Susan Gloss has created a world in Vintage where it was easy for me to imagine myself a part of, and made me so sad to leave. I didn't want Violet's, April's, or Amithi's stories to end. I didn't want the vintage pieces from Hourglass Vintage's collection to no longer be listed. I didn't want this book to end -- something that makes this debut novel a winner.

I'm fortunate enough to offer a copy of Susan Gloss' debut novel, Vintage, to a lucky reader. Please leave a comment, and I'll let the author know of the winner!

Good luck!

Susan Gloss is the author of the novel Vintage, coming in March 2014 from William Morrow/HarperCollins.  She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in English and Spanish, and the University of Wisconsin Law School.  She lives on Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, with her optimistic husband, young son, and neurotic hound dog.  When she's not writing fiction or toddler wrangling, Susan can be found working as an attorney, heading an online vintage shop at Cleverly Curated, or seeking inspiration for her blog, GlossingOverIt. She also blogs every Wednesday at The Debutante Ball for debut authors.

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