Thursday, October 30, 2014

Seven Halloween Movies for ChickenSh*ts

I'm a chickensh*t. I call myself that so many times in a day that not knowing its origin was driving me nuts. I found it, right there between chicken skin and chicken septicemia. Chickensh*t: cowardly, ineffective, lacking courage.

What'd I tell ya? Chickensh*t. But does that mean that I don't like to be scared? Does that mean I don't enjoy the adrenaline rush of a thrill? Heck no, especially when the opportunity for fright comes with handfuls of M&Ms and tiny gold foil packages of Snickers.

Halloween is here and I will join in the spirit of this holiday, sh*tting in my pants or not. Naturally, the question you are having about me at this point is, Alexandra, how do you get into the ghoulishness of it all if you spend most of your autumn day jumping 5 feet in the air when a falling leaf nonintentionally floats across your face? (hey! I didn't see it coming!)

You can laugh at my spineless existence, I still love you. And I know you know someone like me.
For those of delicate constitution, I give you my list of
Movies for ChickenSh*ts (because we are a thing)
Please watch these movies in true chickensh*t fashion - broad daylight - you'll get the satisfying Halloween freak out we all seek, but without the need to call Flight for Life for resuscitation.
Haaaaaaaaave fuuuuunnnn (mwahahahahahaha)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Man in My Dreams - A True Tale of the Supernatural

It was always him.

I was in my late 20s when he first appeared in my dreams. We would pass each other on a busy afternoon in the bright light of day. Our eyes would meet, and we knew instantly, our faces eerily familiar to each other. We would look, not believing and not understanding why. Watching each other walk past, wondering with an uneasiness how it was that we knew each other.

He was thin, but not slight, and wore a grey suit. His rich, black hair was combed back, straight, except for a precise side part. He was attractive and dark, with brown skin that shined from being freshly scrubbed. In the dream, I would be rushing, almost running, as I passed him along the inner side of the street. He would be standing on the edge of a curb, pausing as he readied for a step.

We immediately recognized each other, in an uncanny, bewildering way. He would continue standing, and I would briskly rush past. No words were ever said between us, but I would glance back over my shoulder, my eyes fixed on him, haunted by why he was there. His eyes remained on mine, asking the same thing. That was the scene, over and over, never changing.

I often told my mother about this man in my dreams, and confessed how hard it was to not wish for him in real life. My mother was a superstitious woman, and she told me that he represented one thing: Death. She had me promise to never go to him in my sleep. And if I were to ever see him in real life, I was to ignore his calling and run from his grasp. I hated to hear her say this, but I promised her I would not follow him. Still, every night before I fell asleep, I felt no foreboding as I held the hope to see him. 

My dreams with him didn't stop. They didn't happen often, but when they did, my heart would race simply by the angle of his face as he turned to look at me. His presence in my dreams made me feel more alive than any man I had known, and I wanted to reach for him. Despite my mother's fright, I purposely concentrated on this man before bed in the hope that I would see him. As much as I feared him, I was drawn to him. Privately, I practiced what to say to him if he did ever appear to me in real life. I fell asleep wondering about his voice, if it would be smooth, if he spoke English. More than anything, I wanted to ask him why we were in each others' lives.

On the nights I dreamed of him, I didn't want to wake because then he would be gone. I wanted the dream to grow into something more, the barrier of not speaking when there was so much to say, was like a hundred pound brick that sat on top of my chest. But the scenario would play out the same; in the middle of a crowded city, we would sense each other amid the weaving and bobbing heads, and we would inexplicably know who we were before we even looked. His dark eyes would find mine, and would stay pinned to me as we both continued in our opposite directions, with me running west, in my dress clothes and work shoes, and him standing at the corner, facing east, not moving. His look when he saw me was one of disbelief, and mine of equal confusion. We moved past each other, asking with our eyes, why do you know me?

One summer when I was in my early 30s, on a day warm enough that I wore only a light blouse to work, I took an early lunch. I had decided to step out of the closed office that I had been in since morning and take a fast walk. I was trotting west, into the bright sun, and hurried through to enjoy the minutes of fresh air. I stopped and waited to cross at a busy corner, holding my hand over my eyes as a visor from the high sun. While I waited, I absent-mindedly scanned the crowd across the street.

I felt my knees turn to rubber when my eyes, with a mind of their own, stopped on a man in a grey suit who was standing at the edge of the curb. His hair glistened, dark and shiny, under the noon sun. From across the way, I could see his face, rosy cheeked as if he had just come from a fresh shave.

Instantly, I knew. Blood pounded in my ears because it was him. The man from my dreams.

I couldn't believe the moment, and I stood with my hands trembling as to how something so impossible could be. I thought of the promise I had made to myself, that if I were to ever see him in real life, I would run to him with my questions. But I froze, my tongue dry in my mouth, and panic taking over my body. My heart raced as I thought of my mother's warning. She was a believer in the message of dreams, and I had more of her ways than my own in me. I knew I couldn't go to him. My mother's insistence of his ominous presence was the only thought in my mind.

He was Death, and I knew that if I allowed myself to be lured to his side, then that would be exactly when a car would come from nowhere, and I would fall victim to the purpose of his presence in my dreams.

My legs shook, knowing I had to escape. But before I did, I couldn't stop myself from one last look. My heart pushed against my chest when I looked up to see his stunned eyes meeting mine. He stood stiff and frozen, and I watched as his mouth fell open in slow motion. He was a statue, his face stricken, as if he had just seen a ghost.
With my heart in my throat, I began to run, no longer wanting to ask how and why it was that we knew each other. I took the nearest street that led away from him. I never looked back, though with every step I felt his breath on my neck.

Since that day, I haven't dreamed of him. No matter how hard I plea.
* * *
**The photo above is of my mother. She is the woman looking at the camera. This is also her tale. If I counted to a thousand, it still wouldn't cover the number of times she told it to me. Despite its many recountings, she was frightened every time she recalled it. In the last months of her life, my mother would wonder aloud about the man in her dreams, and ask me, "Why did he know me? Why did we see each other? I have never forgiven myself for being a coward and running." She wondered of him her entire life, this man, the one she couldn't resist but had to. What I wondered, is why out of six siblings, I was the only one she had told this story to.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blogging Like It's 2009 - 5 Random Things About Me

Old School Mean Pretend Teacher
Picture if you will, a time when blogging was a small circle comprised of people who found blog fodder through blog hops, memes, themes, and tagging. It was a time when blogging awards were given out like stickers at a Dr.'s office after you behaved for your exam.

The time, 2009. The blogosphere then, a commenting wonderland. Today, that period in blogging history is known as "Old School." A lot of us miss old school. Mr. Linky misses old school.

My corner of the blogosphere is raising Old School Days up from the dead with a meme, and I am deliriously answering Yes Yes Yes like the brunette in the Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo commercial. Vikki Reich of UpPoppedaFox, thank you so much for tagging me old school style, with "5 Random Things About Me."

1. When I was little, I would pretend-have school with my dolls. I would line them up in front of me, all of them leaning against the baseboard, and lord over them. Contrary to my online image, I was not a kind nor patient teacher. "YOU!," I'd scream, "in the red pigtails with the freckles! Sit up straight, I don't care if you're filled with sawdust!"

2. In Catholic kindergarten, I thought the songs we sang in church were "My Country Tisothee" and "Gladly the Cross-eyed Bear." Obviously, the name of America before it was America was Tisothee, and Gladly, well, he was cross-eyed and Jesus was going to fix that right up as long as we kept petitioning on his behalf.

3. I was a sneaky, willful five year old. Slyly slipping downstairs to watch unsupervised and scared out of my gourd, my one and only love Rod Serling on the Twilight Zone. Heart palpitations and sweaty palms, absolutely, but I have been addicted to the narrative arc ever since.

4. I have trypophobia. If you don't know what it is, DON'T LOOK IT UP. In fact, forget I said this.

5. One of the significant events in my life that has contributed to me now being a quiet adult, are memories like the time on the 3rd grade playground when I assumed everyone was lactose intolerant as I was. Thus causing me to pose the following rhetorical question in a casual, relaxed tone to the fellow 3rd graders around me, "Don't you guys just HATE how ice cream and milk make you poop in your pants?" The response of stunned silence let me know I had scored another point for Miss Popularity.

I now joyously tag the following 5 bloggers for 5 Random Things About Me:

Jocelyn of O Mighty Crisis
Leslie of Hungry Little Animal
Jenny Kanevsky of  In Other Words
Casey of Life with Roozle, and
Deborah of Peaches and Coconuts

*Hey, you too can turn back the hands of time. Don't wait to be tagged for 5 Random Things. You go and do it yourself, go ahead. Be a free will loving blogging hippie from 2009.

* * *

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Manual

Halloween is nigh, ready or not. October is in our face, even if middle age has us blinking and rubbing our eyes to see it clearly. When you're as old as the trees in front of your house like I am, things take a flip. Special measures need to be taken for your safety now on Halloween night, no longer your kids'. You may not like being a pedestrian in the dark (pesky uneven sidewalks) and you may get colder than usual (darn that aging thyroid) but you still have to get out there and walk the long orange mile of jack o'lanterns and scarecrows propped up on adirondack chairs.

When it's a middle age you taking the kids out on all hallow's eve, it won't just be the ghosts and floor boards they'll hear creaking in the night, it'll be your knees. Well, I've got you covered, friend, from greying head to bunion toe. With a few necessary adjustments designed to keep yourself safe, you'll be able to groan and moan along with the best of them. (moaning will be for our fallen arches and groaning for our aching backs, but who needs to know, it'll just sound that much more authentic)

How To Be Safe on All Hallow’s Eve [geriatric crowd edition]:

1. With your advancing short term memory loss, it’s a good idea to plan a route and draw out a map with familiar landmarks. No one is saying you’ll get lost, but ’tis better to have it and not need it, then to be found frozen behind your neighbor's house in the morning. (oh, but she was sooo close to home!)

2. Aging eyesight makes contrast between light and dark a necessity for clear vision. Walking in the dark against a dark sidewalk isn’t going to help you. Bring along the glasses you’ll need for your night blindness–or not, if you're okay with feeling your way around like a naked mole rat.

3. Choose face paint over face mask any time you can. Masks will muffle your voice, causing you to feel disoriented when you hear it; throw in the night blindness and hyperventilating panic that will make you think it's the big one, Elizabeth, and you’ve got the makings of full blown chaos and confusion. Don’t do this to your kids. Say YES to paint.

4. Bright colored clothing, for real. Go as Gramma Neon. Be Seen, Be Safe, that's my new motto [patent pending].

5. Wigs, capes, costumes: the triple threat! Wigs will overheat you when you’re already hot-flashing, capes will make you feel claustrophobic because of the string tied around your neck waddle, (a new thing that takes getting used to) and costumes?? Just wear what you wear when you shovel snow. Go as “Mrs. She-Just-Gave-Up-One-Day.”

6. Stop muttering and talking out loud to yourself when you cross the street. Wits about you, people! in the face of traffic. Small, darting children–yes, motorists are prepared to be on the lookout for those BUT doddering off-kilter adults? You'll catch them off guard, not a good thing.

7. Please don’t go inside anyone’s house. The home owners will grab you, lock the door behind you, then run out the back shouting “Kids! Surprise! Your new gramma and grampa are gonna babysit tonight!”

8. Older men, watch your choice of costumes. With your hairy ears and eyebrows, the werewolves of the night will find you and drag you back to their den to be their new alpha male. Ladies: now is not the time to stop the botox you just discovered. You'll look ripe for the picking when they come looking for lost souls of the dead.

9. Once home, have someone with good vision inspect your candy for hard and too sticky to chew pieces. Last thing you want on a night like this is to bite down and crack a tooth, or pull a crown, or snap your bridge in half, all from cheap peanut butter twists or stale popcorn balls.

10. Finally, TAKE CARE. Remember that this is the only night of the year that the door to the underworld is open. The departed are allowed out to harvest souls. Be careful, with our one foot in this world and one foot almost into the next, we are the tenderoni the underworld seeks. *I know we're starved for having someone look at us hungrily the way they once used to, but this kind of lip licking and eager hand rubbing in our direction, is not what we think we want.

Are we ready, troops? All right then, everyone grab their neon vest and flashing pumpkin necklace, we've got our job cut out for us staying on this side of the underworld for a few more eves.
Glaucoma badboys courtesy of Walgreen's
* * *

Monday, October 20, 2014

Best of The Internet

We were soccerbusy this weekend. Those who know what I mean are shaking their heads, I hear them, "Ohhhhh, yeah." But it's Monday night now and I'm 1/4 caught up with the things. So, here we are, the best of the internet from, um, errr, last week (still amazing info., check it out!)

--I stumbled onto "Tech4Moms," founded by  Sarah Kimmel. Sarah is a Microsoft Certified IT Manager who blogs on new apps, new gadgets, everything you need from toddler to teen technology. Click over and find out more about family tech news, apps, digital equipment...

--Never rush a story. Easier said than done when the words are all pushing to the front to get out first. But, it's important, "let your story simmer." Great writing advice on penning your best, via HippocampusMagazine  "Craft: The importance of the simmer."

--And this one. You'll have to play it to see what I mean, but typing lower case letters in an orange square was never this much fun. Via craymachine.

Have a great week, everyone, I hope it was off to a productive start.


Friday, October 17, 2014

The Strength That is Found - To My Sister

My older sister would take me to the library. She never came out and said that's what we would be doing that day, but a Saturday morning would happen and we'd be on our way. There was a neighborhood library about half a mile away, but it was our city's main library that was our destination.

The Central Library was a grand structure, looking as official as the White House to a six-year-old like me. My sister would hold my hand for the block long walk from home to the bus stop, where we would wait for the bus to come.

We would see the No. 22 bus lumbering closer in the distance, and when it finally pulled in front to pick us up, she'd help me climb the stair well and hand me my coins to drop into the token slot. We'd still be holding hands while we'd look for a seat near the driver. I'd sit and look out the window quietly, wondering what everyone else was going to do on this day and if they knew we were headed to the library. The ride was long, and if you included the idle minutes of waiting time, both ways, our entire Saturday would be spent getting there.

The first bus took us most of the way there, then we would transfer to any next connection headed up the main street of Milwaukee's downtown. Though there would be no clue on my solemn face, I couldn't wait to get there. Our central library was a massive concrete structure with majestic columns in front that told you, this was the library that mattered. Our one level neighborhood branch held a corner of the building for children's books, but this library had an entire floor dedicated for children.

As we neared our stop, my sister would pull me up on the bus seat so that I could pull the buzzer. She would lead and step off the bus first, immediately turning around for me. She held her hands out, and I would stand. Frozen, every Saturday it was the same. I couldn't make that jump to the curb.

It was so high and away from the street. I was a child that feared disaster. Life had shown itself to be unpredictable, and I knew that things could happen in an instant. I worried that I could disappear in the unexpected flip of fate, like rolling under the front door of a city bus. I would look to her face and feel the dizzying squeeze of panic begin to make me feel light headed. Somehow, she could read my eyes and she would lean in, softly saying, "It's Ok. Come on, you always do it."

I would hold my breath, stretch my arms out hoping she would meet them, and jump. My grip landing on her so tight I could feel the rings on her fingers cut back into mine, but she never pulled back. She stood, and gave me the time to settle on my own feet, as I lunged from bus to sidewalk.

Without a word, we would walk up the twenty cement steps to the heavy brass front doors. She would press the door open with both hands, and I would walk in. I knew she was behind me but I couldn't stop myself from turning around to check every time. I would walk with small steps, so scared that the back of my shoe would catch on the door before I got my body all the way through.

We would cross the slippery marble floor, me on tiptoes to keep my heels from echoing against the tiles under us. I didn't want to be the one to make noise and disrupt the hush of people buried in their books. The children's section was on the second floor, and though taking each step upstairs had my knees tapping my chest with their height, I managed with the solid railing and my sister's hand.

On the second floor was everything I could have dreamed of. Shelves no higher than my shoulders, so I could see things for myself, filled with books on princesses, queens, servant girls, and saints. Books on fairy tales, rescue dogs, heroes and heroines. Tales of families, history, made up silly nonsense rhymes and achingly true biographies. I read them all, not for pleasure, but in hope that if I read every single word, I would find ones that matched the silence caught inside me.

I would pull a book off a shelf, and turn to the last page, first. My heart would pound because I couldn't bear to find an unhappy ending. If I saw that everything worked out well, I would walk the book over to the pile where I had set aside the others to take home.

An odd thing happens as you get older, things occur to you that you missed before. I remember the ages I've been, and what I did then. When I think back on being a child, I don't hear laughter in those memories. I don't hear the sound of my voice, or the sound of anyone's voice.

Our house was a stunned silence, not by nature, but by the drop of a bomb. Our father's suicide, when I was 6 and my sister was 18, had left us wide eyed, and without tongues.

I can't imagine my sister, being newly 18 and all that a monumental loss at a time like that knocks out of a tender adult. But she found the strength while in her own darkness to take a little girl, numb and holding her breath, to the only place she could exhale, in between the spaces of those shelves of books. There must have been so much she needed to do for herself in her new life as a grown up, but she was with me.

I'm moved to tears while I remember, because she knew. I had lost the words of my own, and so my sister took me somewhere where I would find books that spoke for me, until I found a way back to my voice again.
* * *  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Post of Mind Blowing Facts

While listening to NPR, I heard a guest say that we are at our most alert and excited when we are learning. Anytime we are given new information that we can process and understand, we're like gratified monkeys who just figured out where the bananas are kept. I get it, I, along with my family, spout random facts at each other around the clock, because information is irresistible.

Every year, I learn something mind blowing. Through magazines in Dr.'s offices and newspapers at the dentist, listening to public radio, TED talks, school field trips, or what my children tell me when I pick them up from school and say, “Ride home will cost you one interesting fact from today.”

They've coughed up some good stuff this year.
Now, tell me these things don't get you all hot and bothered, too:

George Washington lost most of the battles he fought in.

You can prove anything with math.

Eating less carbs and more protein makes you feel better. ( I did it. It worked.)

You can make yourself exercise, even if you don't want to do it and you can do more than you want to. (1st part yes, 2nd part, no)

Drinking water does cure a lot of what ails you.

Naps matter! They allow our brain to “housekeep” and solidify memory. (say no more)

Meditation helps with anxiety.

Music will always help with any mood or long put off task.

A hot shower is still the best, cheapest, most possible escape. And one at midnight puts you to sleep like a powdered baby. (the 2nd sentence is my fact)

The word ‘man’ was originally completely gender neutral, meaning more or less the same as the modern day word “person”. It wasn’t until about a thousand years ago that the word “man” started to refer to a male only.

The bigger the navel on a navel orange, the sweeter it will be. (I still can't believe how it's always true.)

Dogs and cats do not see in only black and white.

The NFL is a non profit and receives 100 percent of ticket sales. (and are tax-exempt)

The first physician to perform a C-section was a woman disguised as a man. She attended medical school dressed as a man. This wasn't discovered until after her death. (women are more awesome than history lets them be)

Cheerios was originally Cheery Oats. (this is my favorite)

Mild mannered Mr. Rogers swam naked every morning. (still waters run deep)

Coffee in the morning does make you more alert. (duh)

Teddy Roosevelt was shot in Milwaukee. (WOW)

Andrew Jackson lived with a bullet inside of him for a long time.

If the population of China walked past you it would never end because of the continuing birth rate.

Russia didn't consider beer alcohol until 2011. Until then it was a soft drink.

Caterpillars totally liquefy before transforming into butterflies or moths. wuuuuuut??

Naked mole rats are neither moles, nor rats. They are also incredible in the physiology department: most amazing: imperviousness to pain, low-oxygen needs, and resistance to cancer. (and still ugly)
*I'll stop here, because a heart can only take just so much heart pounding enlightenment. But I promise you, if anything new comes my way, you'll be the first to know.

Xo (origin of the xo signoff: middle ages, the X because many were illiterate and the O for the eternal circle of love)
* * *

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Best of The Internet

The week's best, links that had me saying, I gotta share this.

Have a beautiful week, guys.

--An eye-opener: An hour of sitting affects our heart health, but a study reveals that just 5 minutes of walking every hour can help. "Five-minute walks prevented the decline of blood flow and arterial function during sitting. Walking does not erase the effect of sitting, it just does not allow sitting to be as harmful." Read more here 

--What happens when 2nd graders are treated to a 7-course, $220 a person meal. From the NYT: and absolutely delicious. Watch and see.

--Just for fun, and an interesting read, who wants to know how hard life is for a billionaire? A handful tell us here, and one of the most common complaints? "What adds to the stress: billionaires can never publicly complain about how tough their money-filled lives sometimes are, because everyone else will freak out." How right they are.


* * *

Friday, October 10, 2014

That Day in July, 2010

My stats show that this blog just reached 1,403,370 views.

I remember the day my traffic spiked. It was July 31, 2010. I had been blogging for almost five months, when I wrote this post.

I wasn't yet on Facebook or twitter, nor was I stumbling or pinning, but the good and generous friends I had made in those few months since I went online shared my post. This post won BlogHer Keynote Voice of The Year and I had the unimaginable opportunity to read it aloud at my first BlogHer Conference, which was in San Diego that year. 

People tell me that I'm generous with sharing their work, tweeting it, posting it, putting it on Facebook. I'm generous, because I learned it from you.

Thank you all, for what you did for me four years ago.

You pretty much changed my life.

I won't ever forget that.

* * *

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sudden Sharp Noises May Lead to Knee Injuries... and ...

Last night I read about a study put out by Clowns International that reported findings of children being less scared when accompanied by clowns for medical testing. I was highly skeptical, one, because surprise! look who put up the study and two, of course they had a lower Galvanic skin response... the kids were passed out cold from the shock of a clown popping into the exam room like a Twilight Zone episode. The kids had lower heart rate and pulse findings because there was temporarily no heart rate and pulse to find until they came to.


These studies are amazing, "High heels give you bunions," "Sleeping on a bad mattress causes backache." Both studies funded by These Are Not Your Mama's Heels and The Airfoam Mattress Association of America.

But in today's paper? I don't know what to do with this one. “Sudden Sharp Noises May Lead to Knee Injuries.”

They neglected to add a few things.
Like “... and Trauma” because among the list of things that sudden sharp noises may lead to, how could they overlook:


--Getting hit by cars when you jump into the road

--Cracked skulls from tripping in your hurry to get away

--Broken wrists from breaking your fall as you run away

--Girly screams

--Chipped nails

--Stubbed toes

--Embarrassment down to your soul

--Humiliation depending on who's there to see

--Low self esteem as your children watch you jump because of an air horn

--Negative self talk as you chastise yourself with “It's only a motorcycle beep for crying out loud”

--Peril as you choose oncoming cars over a safe sidewalk

--Slipping tripping and falling from the sharp surprise bark of loose dogs behind you

--Cracked knee caps from falling while walking the dog who takes off from his own reaction to said sudden sharp noise

--Going into shock in a quiet house in front of the glow of the computer when a picture frame *sharply* drops from the upstairs bathroom

--Paralyzing flashbacks of sharp sudden barking dog encounters that didn't end so well

--Spasms as subcircuits in the brain -- like all of them ever – fire off all at once in both hemispheres

--Ruptured Achilles tendon from fight or flight response

--Broken bones from falling from running away

--Unsteady gait from the guarantee of adrenaline Jello legs

These are just a few overlooked outcomes to Sudden Sharp Noises. To this sudden sharp noise caveat of only worrying about your knees, I say, please.
Where's the warning to worry about the Double Threat now? Not only are you injured but the thing making the sudden sharp noise is going to get you for sure because of your cracked skull and broken wrists from flight or fight.

What do you have to say about that, Knee Study? What does your "Only worry about the knee" committee want us to do with this information? If it's to be en garde and prepared -- well, it's that pre in prepared that concerns me.

It would appear that the only way to be sure of any potential Sudden Sharp Noise Injury Avoidance is to be alert but not too alert, because you'll just startle yourself prematurely in anticipation and then what happens if you fall and you break your bones and the noise startles you again and you can't get up now? I think the pre in prepare will make the actual startle even worse.

It's not that I think too much, Knee Committee, because consider this. Every time you hear a noise from now on, because you will be more worried about your knees because of this study thank you that was meant to prepare you (I'm guessing that's what you wanted), you will proactively be jumping because of what happened with the last surprise noise that made you jump and crack your elbows and now muscle memory has set in. Because that's how it works.

The only good advice I can give anyone who read this study like I did, is to put on headphones.

A knee brace and headphones.

And now I am as guilty as the newspaper publishing this study because look at the mess I got you into by even bringing this up.

Okay, new advice – Backtrack and forget you read this. I want you to go back to before the time of knee pre-fear and have you not pre-prepare for the pre-noises that could cause the pre-knee injuries.

If all else fails, just walk around with a clown. I just read a study that said clown presence in your life puts off knee replacement surgery by ten years.

* * *

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rod Serling, King of My Heart

I would have lost TV privileges for a month if anyone had caught me sneaking behind the sofa to watch television late at night, but that's the irresistible fixation I had with a terrifying television series when I was little. It wasn't sci-fi, like Outer Limits, and it wasn't horror, like Alfred Hitchcock, what it was, was something I was ready to risk any form of punishment for.

I'm talking about the Twilight Zone.

As a kid, I hungrily gobbled up every rerun in the "dimension of not only sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a land whose boundaries are that of imagination ... at the signpost up ahead, your next stop ... the Twilight Zone.”
It's the 55th anniversary of the Twilight Zone. Each week, when I would hear the adrenaline-inducing doodoo-doodoo of the Twilight Zone's theme music, I would hide behind the sofa and not a sound would leave my lips as I watched the episodes behind my teen sisters' backs. The episodes lasted 20 minutes, but in that time, Rod Serling created a depth in his stories that made his tales complete. He had no story line that carried over from the week before, and there was no drama series to string the episodes together, but he managed to expertly satisfy us with a recounting that always promised a twist. Oh, you knew the twist was coming, your clenched stomach didn't let you forget that, but you didn't know when, or what, or from whom, and that's what kept you chewing on your fingernails, eyes bugged open, gripping the sides of your chair. Every time the crux of the story was revealed, I came *this close* to giving away my hiding spot with the sound of my gasps.

When my children were old enough to watch the Twilight Zone, which was about ten years older than I was when I shouldn't have been watching, I began our weekly family TZ viewing. On weekend nights, their imaginations and senses are hooked and drawn into supernatural stories that they don't even notice the show is in black and white (often a complaint).

Rod Serling holds you spellbound because the man can tell a story. His everyday character who finds himself in a shocking twisted world made me bite the tips of my fingers off from my secret viewing spot. If something could happen to someone who was as normal as they are, I'd tell myself, then it could happen to me! That was the frightening, yet fascinating, magic right there. You could be that poor victim of an outrageous fate. A bent reality booby trap was possible for any of us! You uncomfortably squirmed as you witnessed their logical mind slowly begin to unravel. I knew I should look away, but I couldn't help myself. I kept watching, my eyes peeking out from in between my fingers.

55 years ago, Rod Serling wrote of things we find ourselves still fearing today: nuclear war, technology dominating our lives, social isolation, prejudice, inhumanity, the government's increasing presence and role in our life. As an adult, I see him as a visionary, but as a little girl, he was the man responsible for my life-long love of storytelling.

As well as for my first nightmares.

If you're barely familiar with the Twilight Zone, before you watch, I have to warn you: You won't easily fall asleep without checking under the bed after seeing my Top Four favorites:

"Eye of The Beholder"
"Young Man's Fancy"
"The Hunt"

And, best for last: "Living Doll."

You will be screaming at the screen, "Turn around!" with the psychological thrill of "Young Man's Fancy". You'll be terrified in ways you didn't think possible. But with "Living Doll?" So not a good idea if you anthropomorphize the toys in your bedroom, much like this once little girl did.

No doll for me, thanks, Mom. Not for my birthday, or Christmas, or any other occasion under the sun.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Best of The Internet

It's getting colder. We're not indoors more, as I'd like to be, because soccer season rules right now, but when I'm in, the internet keeps me good company. Like always, the gems abound. Here's the choice few:

--From a video shot from a streetcar traveling down Market Street in San Francisco in 1905. (super cool) I can see why they had to sit down and say, "Hmmm, thinkin' some rules for the road might be a good idea with all these new street cars we got here..."

--Ah! I discovered this kickin' new site. 12Most. I am in love with lists, and the ones featured here daily are uniquely charming. Like, 12 Most Reliable Ways to Build Trust, 12 Most Honest Ways to Break Off a Friendship, 12 Most Clever Ways to Ask Someone on a Date. You get the idea. Go check them out.

--Food for thought, via one of my favorite sites, Brain Pickings. "It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it." A meditation on the importance of our time: The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and The Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long

--These tips via BuzzFeed really work. Especially #17. "27 Ways To Make Your Groceries Last As Long As Possible." Do 'em, because how dumb is it to keep buying well intended fruits and vegetables, then throwing them out because they get slimy and brown? Pretty dumb. So here's how to keep them fresher, longer.

Have a great week, everyone. xo

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Cilantro Way

In the kitchen of my childhood, in the middle of our round wooden table, sat an ever present rinsed-out glass herring jar. My abuela had repurposed it to hold her home-made Colombian spicy sauce, called Aji. On sunny mornings, the day's rays glinted off the jar's ruby red cap and sent rainbows shooting out from the raised fish outlines etched on its sides.

Sunday afternoons would find my abuela pulling out her wooden cutting board and with a heavy thud, she'd set it in the middle of the table. Her board had been worn to a caramel brown in the center, and on it, she would begin slicing white onions, flattening garlic bulbs with the edge of a butter knife, dicing tomatoes, chopping cilantro, seeding Aji peppers, and filling our house with the sweet ripe smell of onion and garlic. When the ingredients were ready, my grandmother would take her wooden spoon made smooth with years of use, and mix everything together in a glass bowl for the week's Aji.

My abuelita's Aji wasn't blazingly hot, as the Aji peppers would lead you to believe, but instead it was a condiment that skimmed across your taste buds turning what seemed lifeless before you, rice, soup, potatoes, chicken, alive with a more profound level of experience. All you needed to do was unscrew the jar's squeaky metal rim, reach in with your tablespoon and bring it back up generously filled with the Aji, and spoon atop your food. With a snap of a finger, your meal was abracadabra'd into something that made you smile through a mouth watering explosion of delight.

The Aji peppers never made the original taste of the food disappear. The opposite happened. Your  chicken, your beef, became more -- from something routine to in-the-moment sparkling.

My grandmother is gone now, but the lesson I learned from her then, of how a few embellishments can catapult the ordinary into the stratosphere, has stayed with me. 
With some small effort, the surprise addition of the new and novel, an already delicious existence can become spectacular. Like a walk on a misting day without an umbrella, a spontaneous weekend away, or throwing down a blanket unannounced in the living room and spreading out a picnic dinner.

Just a small dusting of lip-tingling unexpectedness and life goes from mundane to thrilling.
Just like Aji spooned over a 5 o'clock dinner.
Abuelita's Aji
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
2 seeded, chopped Aji peppers
1 sweet onion cut in strips
2 coarsely chopped plum tomatoes
Juice of three limes
3/4 cup water
1 crushed garlic bulb 
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Mix together in a glass bowl. Let sit at room temperature for a few hours, then keep refrigerated in a repurposed glass jar. (it must be a repurposed jar)
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mommy, Is it True Introverts are Rude and Mean?

"So here’s what I have to say to the quiet, stay-at-home, Meg from "Little Women" introvert: Get over yourself. What we have here is a failure to communicate. At all. Because you don’t like talking. Why do I have to learn how to handle you? Why do I have to hear about your inner workings? And most importantly, why do I have to excuse your antisocial behavior? I really don't have it in me to give you the benefit of the doubt, so, here's an idea: Be Friendly!"

Oho! And Whoa! See this? This is something I just read on a pretty big site. Sure sounds like we, of the introvert variety, are not her favorite type of people. In fact, she's ranted a full-on war nerf-gunned straight at us. 

There's lots I could say, I mean, I'm hurt enough to start defending myself, but I'm taking a deep breath, and asking this, instead: Why do some extroverts let us bother them?

Do we rain on your good times?
Do we bring you down?
Do we grate on your nerves and just over all annoy you?

Instead of not liking us, why not try something new -- don't let us get under your skin.

If you view us from a different perspective, maybe you won't pull your hair out the next time you're seated next to us at the school fundraiser. I mean, you tell us, Just talk already! like that's the easiest thing in the world. Which it is, for YOU. But you forget, therein lies the chasm. Because *Just talk already* works for extroverts; that's why you self identify as an extrovert, which is something introverts don't answer yes to on personality profiles. It's not that we're not friendly, it's that we're just not the extrovert's definition of friendly.

Imagine this, as unnatural as it would be for you to picture yourself being quiet, that's just how uncomfortable it is for introverts to be gregarious. It goes against our nature. Is this helping you understand us a little bit now? It's like this, say you tell introverts "get over yourself" -- ooh, wait! you just did! -- well, that would be equivalent to us saying to an extrovert "can't you just dial it down at this party? You don't have to meet everybody!" Hard, right? Because it's not your personality type. You like the mingling, the electricity, the buzzzzz of connecting. We do, too, just not at Action Level 86.

We're okay with you when you do things differently than we would. When you stand two inches from our face asking us 59 questions about our childhood, our first Christmas toy, how many generations deep do we know our family tree, we go with the flow as long as we can. We may back up a few inches, but we allow you in. If we begin to feel lightheaded from losing out on oxygen, we'll excuse ourselves, refill our lungs, and we'll come back. And then we can answer the rest of your questions.

It sounds like you're taking our subdued vocalness personally, Extrovert. It's not aimed at you. If you talk to us, and I know, I know, you're tired of being the one to have to make the first move, but if you do, you'd find out surprising things. I identify as an introvert, so does 30 percent of the population. That's a lot of people to turn your back to, right? But if you did slide over and spend some time with me, you'd find out that I love to speak publicly. I'm an oral storyteller, and I donate my time to hospitals and community clinics, teaching about finding humor through tough times. We're worth the extra effort you feel you don't have the energy for. 

So, Extrovert, truce, please? Let's not have separate camps, because some days I feel extroverted like you. And maybe some days you feel introverted like me. (no? never? okay. see? easy going) We don't hate you, we love you. And we love talking, too, it just takes us longer to assess and ponder, which is why we love you. You make a lot of things fun, and you do it fast, you really do.

I'm going to ask you to consider loving us back, with our contemplative quietness and all. We don't shun people, we have friends, and we even like to do things with others. Admittedly, we prefer and are more comfortable one on one, which is when we really shine. (Try us, you'll like us!) While you'll never find us working a room or standing in the middle of a circle at a party, our arms in the air and voice booming while we retell a story of being attacked by howler monkeys in Costa Rica (ooh, it's a good story, remind me to tell you next time we're together, just me and you), we're not snobs, we're not conceited.

We're not recluses.
We're not hermits.
We're not boring.
We don't think we're socially superior.
We don't need to be fixed.

We are just chill.

That's pretty much it. But we're nice people. Introverts aren't panic filled at the sight of people, we enjoy conversation, we just approach it differently, for sure, but we're interesting, and good listeners. Some of us are funny.

You know what? Let me read your paragraph again.

Now that I re-read it, extrovert, I think you meant to write about rude people. Oh, it's all good now. Then, yeah, absolutely, I agree, RUDE PEOPLE! Get over yourselves!

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