Do It Today!

Working till noon today, then off we go to the North woods with the grand kids for a couple of days. Grandpa already has plans for the four of us to camp out in the living room and  play games and eat popcorn and watch dumb movies and stay up past 10:00 pm and sleep on whatever couch we find. There is fishing to do, grilled cheese to make, take the dog fetching in the lake — a full schedule before the parents get there.

It’s great life… One that is moving way too fast for me. I’m trying to take life one day at a time, But as you get older, one day feels like 12 hours, Not 24.

I try not to let that part get to me. But it always does.

I day dream a lot of things when I get away from my responsibilities. My day writing job has not turned out like I thought, some family and friends around me are not doing well, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before a shoe drops on my head.

I have great plans for once I retire which is only a 112 days away. But you know Sagittarians…  we plan big and carry out average and end up small.

I still have the dream of Paris or Ireland. But that dreams on hold until I get this writing thing together. And as I work on starting a proof reading/editor business, my grand kids are starting soccer. One is 4, the other is 9, so that works out to 2 games every Saturday.

These games bring me back to when my own kids played soccer. Was it really so long ago? 10-15 years ago I sat on the sidelines watching the loves of my life run up-and-down the field. No matter what the weather, we were there. There was really no time to write back  then. Life was too busy being a mom.

But I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

Now their kids are starting out running across those same fields and no matter what the weather, there I am, sitting on the sideline, watching the loves of my life run up-and-down the field.

There’s not much time for writing these days either.

So what you must do — what we all must do — is take each day as it comes. Period. Plan if you can, laugh if you can’t.

For everything you do can bring you joy.

Get out of your mindset that it has to be this or that that makes your full heart beat. Do what you need to do, find time to do what you love to do, and hope that everything eventually comes out stuck together in one big happy giant ball.

I probably won’t see you till Sunday night in the gallery. But do me a favor.

Do something fun this weekend. Do something magical this weekend. Just reach out and grab that magic that’s right in front of you and make it yours.

Always drive home down A, B, C, D? Try driving home A, B, K, R, D. Take a view of your world you don’t often see. Always look at that same tree driving somewhere? Stop for a minute an take its picture. Write about it. Paint it. Pretend there’s a swing on it. Connect with it. Always eyeball that ice cream stand in the next town? Stop there! Get some ice cream! Big deal!

Do it alone, do it with someone. Put your face in the sunlight or the wind or the rain and just be there. Let go of self repercussions and self hated or frustrations and just go wherever the moment takes you. Forget about housework, looking for a new job, loosing those extra pounds.

Just take the moment and see what you see.

I know I’m going to.

Pillow fight in the living room!

Granny the Enabler

th-1Did you survive?

Did you eat too much? Drink too much? Get up too early to shop on Black Friday?

I did two of the three — and survived.

I admit my feet gave up before the second store…maybe I should have stopped and bought shoes, too. Actually, the crowds weren’t too bad. Yet I fear I was one of those shoppers everyone else hates to be around.

I let my 1.4 year old grandson run around the store.

What’s wrong with me?

My husband always calls me the enabler. He’s probably right. I’m the one who ventures forth where no one has gone lately. Grandbaby was crabby. Who wants to sit in a shopping cart when everyone around you is running around filling theirs? There are so many pretty sparkles up and down every aisle — surely there’s no harm in letting baby go check out a few while mom and dad slip away a couple of aisles down.

Enabler.

So here I go, toddling after the toddler, pulling him away from one thing, tempting him with the next. It’s amazing what interests a toddler.

The tags than hang under the merchandise, boxes that were way too big to pick up, emoji pillows, dog pull toys, duck tape, all were temptations the babe couldn’t resist. Nor could I pull him away from. After a few dramatic stretches on the floor, mom or dad would come back and place him gently in the cart or in the carrier.

Enabler Bad Granny.

Grandbaby was pitching a fit at Taco Bell for breakfast…wet diaper, hungry tummy. Nothing would satisfy the moment. So Granny gave him a few sips of her Pepsi through the straw. No sugar or caffeine for grandbaby.

Enabler Bad Granny.

What’s my problem? Am I that out of control?

Maybe it’s the holidays. Maybe it’s my second childhood. Maybe it’s my own kids all over again. What Grandparent says no? I mean, I do draw the line with dangerous things, with car seats and baby gates and no peanuts and diaper rash. I never endanger my kids, my grandkids.

Having said that, what’s wrong with a little exploration through the jogging pants at Kohls? What’s a sip of Pepsi here or french fry there? Life is full of sneak peeks. Of chocolate before bed and staying up to watch movies when the parents aren’t around. What’s wrong with playing soldiers with a 6 year old or dancing in the rain, getting all wet and silly?

Grandparents are supposed to do these kinds of things. The kind of things that parents smile and shake their head about. These are the treats, the perks, the golden magic between two generations that has skipped the one in the middle. It is the secret space that all grandparents hide in with their grandkids. The private tricks they play on all-knowing parents.

My inlaws did it to us: my kids were taken on more trips to Kiddyland, more staying up lates, more homemade cookie baking and animal farms than I ever thought about. At the time I was a little miffed; why were my kids’ grandparents trying to steal the show?

Now older, hopefully wiser, I see what really went on. I didn’t have grandparents to spoil me; my husband did. And my husband’s love for his grandma and grandpa is something he still talks about today.

So it is with my kids; hopefully it will be so with theirs. I hope when I am long gone I will be the star in the stories my grandkids tell again and again.

Granny. THE enabler.

 

Be Nice

1035x1035-20140310-elton-x1800-1394485893I was going to write a blog today about the election.

Nah.

I was going to write a blog about violence on TV these days.

Nah.

Then I thought about talking about writing. My writing, your writing.

Triple Nah.

Then I thought…what’s left?

In this crazy world, the flux bends reality until none of us recognize what is right in front of us. I try and put my finger on the pulse of the world, and most times all that happens is that I prick my finger. The media has turned and twisted every day conversations into fodder not even fit for cattle.

Why do we do it? Why do insecurities make crazies out of the simplest people?

We all are motivated between fear and confidence, between being someone and being no one. We are taught to listen and obey. Too extreme. Now it’s attack or be attacked. We are judged by what we wear and how we speak and what we know or don’t know.

It’s a mean world out there.

I’m not saying previous generations were any better. But they did not have social media at their disposal as a tool to bully and lie and pontificate. Generations age, and as they do, tend to give up the fight sooner.

I’m not giving up — every day I meet good people. Honest people. People who love and are afraid and have hope. These good people are overshadowed by the runaway media that is intent on pounding us into the ground until we resemble oatmeal.

I’m not saying we don’t need media: we wouldn’t have such strong child rights and animal rights and the ability to track down serial killers and molesters and everything dark with the world without it. But we don’t need social media trolling or bullying in the name of getting more “likes”.

Me — I’m going back to ground roots philosophy. Write a book, write a blog. Donate to a charity of my choice. Teach my grand kids to live and love and to be nice to each other. Give someone a ride. Pick up and put back things that have fallen off the shelf. Read. Give positive feedback to blogs, stories, and tweets.  Bake cookies. Play fetch with my dogs. Play fetch with YOUR dogs. Take a picture.

I’m going to tell everyone to Chill Out and Be Fucking Nice To Each Other and Move On.

My friend Elton said it best:

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can’t plant me in your penthouse
I’m going back to my plough

Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I’ve finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road        ~Elton John, 1973

I Love Being Proved Wrong

cam01949-e1461204089526I love being proved wrong. Especially when I’m negatory on the subject.

Being in my early 60s, I like to think of myself as still perky, fun, wild, and all the positive adjectives that people who love life possess. I also like to come home from a busy crazy day and be a vegetable. I figure I’ve work enough years that I deserve to veg if I so choose.

Yesterday eve the boys all packed up their he-man duds and took off to turkey hunt for 4 days. Before Jr. left for turkeyland he mentioned that oh, since he wouldn’t be there to coach soccer practice on Wednesday, would his wife and mom mind taking his place?

I looked at him like, WHA?? Me and a dozen little 4 and 5 year olds? Kicking around a soccer ball?

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced little kids and soccer. Think of 12 fireworks going off in 12 different directions, some colored, some those loud bangers, some duds, some a fireworks-in-a-fireworks. Kids that age run around in knots, some wander off to go to the bathroom or chase their ball or talk to their mom or look at the birds flying by. Concentration is definitely not their middle name.

But it was my grandson’s team. And I’m Granny. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to help him learn about the world. But coaching 12 of him — boys and girls? I didn’t think I could handle the chaos. I looked to the sky — a chance of rain. Great. I checked the forecast every hour, hoping that the rain forecast for tonight made an early appearance. Guilt followed my every weather check, but I just really didn’t want to do this.

The rain never came. So my  daughter-in-law pappoosed her 7 month old onto her front, and she, my grandbaby, and I made our way out onto the soccer field.

And I had a ball.

I squealed and laughed and encouraged each and every one of those little dickens as they kicked their soccer ball all over the place. I experienced 12 different personalities, 12 different attitudes, and 12 different laughs. A couple other moms helped us, and we all found a way to have fun and teach soccer at the same time.

Why am I such a meathead? Why do I always judge what sort of time I’m going to have before I even get there? I seem to prejudge a lot of things these days. Movies, restaurants, people. I imagine the worst instead of at least mediocre.

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t follow my instinct. My intuition. Some people I just don’t like from the very moment I meet them. Some TV shows stink from the get-go. Second chances aren’t needed on a lot of things. But other things often prove to be 100% different than what I imagined. It’s that kind of pre-judging that makes me a meathead.

I am so much better in my expectations and anticipations than I used to be. I do have a Que Sera, Sera sort of attitude on most things. I strive to grow, to understand, yet know that some things I can never, or will never, change.

But I also know that there’s so much more left in this world to explore, and that I should just get off my dukkas and try them more often. Yes, this fiasco at the soccer park could have been a downer. It could have bugged me and irritated me and left me grumpier than Monday mornings.

But it didn’t.

I had a great time from the minute I walked from the car and onto the field. The kids laughed and asked me to watch as they ran around with the soccer cones on their heads. Their innocence was infectious. They were pure and raw and developing attitudes of their own.

And I almost missed it.

Don’t listen to those lazy buggars in your head. Go and do something new any chance you get. If it doesn’t work out, so be it.

If it does — it just might turn you into a soccer coach.

Repeat That Lovely Day (or Lovely Blog, Whichever…)

In the Midwest we are FINALLY getting the touch of spring we were promised, which has opened the flood doors to many projects (real and imaginary) in my creative world. Sometimes I scare myself with all the great things I want to do (but will most likely never do).

Trolling to see what I wrote last year about this time, I came across this blog, and it seemed so appropriate for today.

Except today is Friday. But you’ll get the gist.

Happy Friday Y’all!!

 

 

FASHION RULE NUMBER 2CAM01211

I didn’t think I’d be adding to my Fashion Advice Blog (my FAB blog…heh…) so soon. After all, I just packed two paper bags to give to Good Will.

But dressing this morning Lesson Two dawned on me:

Don’t let the crabbies dictate your outfit.

Now, being on a different shift than my other half, I’m often looking through my closet in the morning with the flashlight app on my smartphone. Yesterday I woke up crabby, and neglected — no, downright ignored — the outfit I had picked out the night before. I couldn’t fall asleep, I didn’t want to wake up. So why should I look fresh to the world?

Because of that frumpy choice I felt off-center all day. Even my bling of a necklace couldn’t push me left or right of the funk. By the end of the day, though, the temperature outside was near 60, the sun danced between the clouds, and I had a great time outside with my grandbaby.

Just think that I could have had that feeling all day long if I’d just dressed in what I had originally chosen.

We’re not big dresser-uppers at work; the younger generation does wear great outfits, but the middlers and post-middlers don’t often follow suit. Well, I want to follow suit. As I said in my earllier blog (Be a Fashion Plate — Not a Platter, http://wp.me/p1pIBL-ZR), I don’t want to be that monochrome person (paraphrasing, of course…)

This morning I was again crabby. Not the I’ll-knock-your-socks-off-if-you-talk-to-me crabby, just a why-do-I-have-to-do-this-five-days-a-week crabby. The sun was rising over the trees out my back window; the promise of 60 degrees in the air. So I went back and picked out yesterday’s outfit: a blue top and flowered skirt, and a pair of blue sandals.

And I feel young again.

Now, I hear many of you say, “I’m not a skirt/dress person.” During the winter I’m not either. But there’s something in a flowy skirt blowing in the breeze that makes me feel fresh. Different. Lighter. As if my cares have fluttered away. Lightweight pants and flowy tops can do the same. Or colorful scarves.

Kinda like church on Sundays back in the old days.

So that will be Lesson Two. Pick out your outfit the night before (when you still have some fun left in you), and don’t be swayed by the grump you can sometimes be. Lighten Up. Take a Chance. If you can’t do the night-before-thing, take an extra three minutes and do it right in the morning. Don’t go searching with the flashlight app. You may pull out blue bottoms and a different blue top.

Think of the horror of mass boredom you might create.

Garage-Envy

gold-chrome-wrapped-bugatti-veyron-owned-by-flo-rida-looks-grotesque-61670_1I am suffering from a bout of garage-envy these days.

I know it’s not the most controversial or personal subject to stress about, but for me it’s a malady that can never really be cured.

I don’t think I’ve had a garage in 40 years. First it was growing up at home, then an apartment, a townhouse, then a bungalow, then a B&B, then a bottom flat rental, then my current house. Unfortunately, none of of these humble abodes bode a garage for me and my flashy vehicle.

We have a pole barn/garage these days, but there’s no way to squeeze my fancy 2005 black Buick Sable in there — not with the boats, decoys, snow plow blade, workbench, mowers, toys, yard rickrack, spare tires, boat parts, camper, trailers, and other assorted oddities my husband cannot live without.

I know living “in the country” (as so many people like to refer to a mile out of town) has its perks, but often garages aren’t one of them. When we had our house built, there was barely money to build the house, no less an attached garage. We needed a pole barn (which is almost the size of the house) to house country paraphernalia, but the paraphernalia soon turned to collections and old stock and a holding spot for my son’s paraphernalia until he moves in a month.

Most of the time I don’t mind going straight out the door and a few steps over to my car to go to work. But come winter, those few steps become starting the car, scraping the windows, wiping the foot of snow off the hood, losing my shoe in the drift, etc. I envy those who have remote start, heated seats, Sirus music — anything and everything I don’t have.

Come spring I kinda get over the freezing fact, but move onto the real garage-envy stage. Shiny, clean cars laugh at my dirt splattered, mud puddly fancy 2005 beast. It’s like they’re saying, “Ha! I slept inside last night! Where did YOU sleep?” I then begin to feel more like a hillbilly and less of a contributing member of the work force who happens to drive an antique car.

I know you say, “Go and build a garage!” At this point in my life, I’d rather spend a couple of thousand dollars elsewhere. Like going to Ireland or Italy or buying a hot tub or something. Or saving for that fantasy world called retirement.

And besides — with my luck, that cute little 2-car garage next to my house would fill up with outdoor paraphernalia faster than you can say Jack Rabbit. Who will also have no place to live.

Too many duck decoys in the way.

Pardon My French

a5398fcb9f0275c8ba5a7abb4dfcc63e

Bon jour!

Dear me — I’m transforming — again. I have been bitten by the Paris bug.

 I have wandered down many a reincarnation in my short 62-year life. As I have said in other blogs, I went through a Renaissance period in my 30s; shields and maiden dresses and unicorn tapestries. There was a cool working-downtown-Chicago phase when I was really young; I was never cool nor chic enough to keep up with the bubbles downtown, but it was fun pretending while it lasted.

Now I’m on the French train.

I am thinking of changing my writing name to either Claudette or Colette or Jacqui; my short term/long term memory is shot, so I can’t really learn French, but I know enough to eat (who doesn’t know Coq au vin or baguettes or Éclairs?) I have watched Midnight in Paris a hundred times, ordered Hemmingway’s Moveable Feast, and Colette’s Gigi; and signed up for a couple of French  accounts (Haven in Paris on Twitter, Tongue in Cheek in email).

My BoHo Chic wardrobe-in-progress will fit splendidly on my pretend-jaunts through the French countryside, along with the pretend-designer purses I pick up at Good Will for my jaunts into Paris Proper. I have glanced at what basics a French Madame needs (flats, cars, cardigan, boots). Well, still working on that.

What is it twith this L’influence française?

It must be my never-ending desire to role play. To know who I am and who I can pretend to be. Who cares? I never did much dress up as a kid; my body was never conducive to mini skirts or leggings or stilettos. But my imagination has always played the boundaries. And the older I get, the more I can’t help but push.

This newly found love of Paris in the rain and wine tasting at La Cloche des Halles and spending the day at Versailles are all pipe dreams I’ll never really live. Kids, grandkids, work, car repairs, second mortgages, school loans, all take a toll on my very small pocket-book.

But then again, I probably will never wander through the lavender fields in England or the Moors in Scotland or the castles in Germany. But through adult-style role playing, I can write and draw and cook and pretend any time I want.

We all grow up too fast. Watching my 5-year-old grandson pretend to be Ironman or a farmer, he finds all the pleasure without the consciousness of pain and labor and broken dreams. They are happy in their own world, happy that you’re in it, too. That’s the state of mind I want to get back to.

People are so cynical these days. Creativity Creates Chaos. If you don’t look and act your age and status, you’re an easy target for rdicule and repremands.

Well, I say — lighten up.

Am I going to raise children through adverse poverty like in Les Miserables? Am I going to drive around aimlessly in the pouring rain singing La Vie En Rose? Am I going to spend an entire paycheck on some overpriced French perfume?

I think not.

Maybe I love getting lost in someone/someplace else because I have an idea for a story about two people who meet at a French bistro one evening and, for one night, find their soulmate. Or maybe I want to write a poem about the remarkable River Seine. Or maybe I want to sketch an op art picture of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile.

I once wrote a story about a girl who ate lunch at an outdoor cafe, and drifted off to an encounter with a guitarrista in Mexico. I wrote another about a time out of time, a touch of midieval. One of my novels takes place in a displaced Eturia (Rome). I dove into each of those worlds with both feet. I researched ancient Roman cultures, Mexican hideaways, and King Arthur’s realm. And I think it helped make my worlds real.

I want to play with my characters. Feel what they feel. Live in their world. I want to tell their story. And if I get lost in a little pot au feu or astralology or Romans in space, so what?

Use your imagination to be whomever you want to be. You know where your core is — you’ll never get lost. You can come home to your warm bed and IPad and cable TV any time you want.

But in the meantime…(clears throat…)

 

Quand il me prend dans ses bras    

Il me parle tout bas

Je vois la vie en rose…..

 

Good Intentions Still Need a Disclaimer

peace lillyAs I sit and add images to my newly created Sunday Evening Art Gallery blog, my mind wanders back to a non-incident last week.

I know that, for the most part, showcasing others’ artwork is a step through the thornbushes, to be sure. The reward: fields and fields of fragrant, beautiful flowers. The punishment: thorns that can rip and make you bleed. And that, even with the best, most honest intentions, someone, somewhere, might get upset. Such is the chance I’m willing to take.

I placed a disclaimer on this wandering, unusual blog: not much, I imagine, in the scheme of things. But nonetheless, an attempt at honesty.

Here it is for you all as well.

DISCLAIMER

 

There are so many unbelievable, fascinating, beautiful works of Art out in the world. The intention of this blog, Sunday Evening Art Gallery, is to share this beauty with the Internet Public.

These are creations that most of us never come across. I know every time I find something new and unusual I can’t wait to share it with you. I am taken aback by the genius behind the art. And I believe their passion should be discovered and appreciated by everyone.

Whenever possible, I have listed the artist and their website for your further exploration. In other situations, the topic is so diverse that often there is no one source for the images.

At no time is it my intention to steal or claim as my own photography any image I put on Sunday Evening Art Gallery.

I make no money from this world; I claim only the photography that is mine. My intention is to share the websites of these gifted people so you may further enjoy the fruits of their labors.

If at any time you discover I have taken your image and not given you proper credit, please let me know. My e-mail address is humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

I hope my intention of spreading the beauty I come across has lightened your day. There are so many hard-working, creative artists in the world whose creations most of us never see. I hope to make this blog a melting pot of the unusual, the unique, and the awe-inspiring.

I hope you come along for the ride.

 

Scared Straight

scaredA beautiful Sunday morning — a bit cloudy, a bit cool, but quiet, romantic, inspirational. The younger side of me says I should go for a walk, clean out the basement, do all sorts of “active” things on my one full day off. My creative side says it’s a great day to sit and write. You can imagine which one I am going to listen to.

I was all pumped up this morning to write about an article I just wrote for Retirement and Good Living (http://retirementandgoodliving.com/retirement-is-a-10-letter-word/) which is about retirement and the doors that open once you say sayonara to punching a time clock or being a slave to an alarm clock. (It’s really a great article…check it out!)

But on my way here I had to pass through Yahoo, and couldn’t help but stop and peek at the news headlines.  A singer demands a wheelchair-bound member of the audience stand before he continued his concert. Another singer asked the world to “Forget My Weird Butt — Check out my Underboob!”   This sports figure beat his 4-year-old with a switch and this other knocked his girlfriend out. And I begin to wonder — what’s the point?

We struggle all our lives to make it to the golden grounds, only to find it’s polluted with nonsense and outrageous behavior. I know show business has been show business since the first caveman bopped another on the head and a third thought it funny. But I also am seeing how it takes more and more to get a rise out of an audience these days. Things that were off-color years ago are the rage today, and being a close-to-senior makes it even more difficult to fathom where entertainment will go next.

I myself am a parody of the media of today. One of my favorite television shows has turned gruesomely violent this year, and some part of me still wants to watch what “happens” to all of them in the end. As if my moral compass ticks and says, “they’re all so bad something bad HAS to happen to them.” Another show I started to watch has turned into such a screwed up mess that all I want to do is see what the alien baby looks like. I could care less about the drama surrounding the main characters. Just let me see the end product. One of my favorite chefs is a pillar of manners in one show and a cursing madman in another.

The world has become a frightening place of voyeurs watching, not doing. I myself am squirmy at blood and guts. I abhor violence and am a fraidy cat when it comes to people yelling or losing their temper and throwing things (or worse). Yet I find myself sitting on the edge of the entertainment world, watching it from afar, uncomfortable and nightmarish, looking for a silver lining amongst the blood and gore.

Even the writing world has broken its limits as to what is readable and what is not. Everyone around me has read this entertaining novel about a man who murders a family and the girl survivor who unknowingly hitches a ride with him in his camper. I freaked out about half way through the novel, tried to read it again and again, but just couldn’t get passed the kid who was killed and stitched up in the window.

What makes the world rotate like this? Why is humanity such a violent place?

I know this topic is way off the retirement mark. But it’s like I pretend that once I “retire” I can cut off the horror of the world and live in my own antiseptic version of reality. That I can wake up and write and clean a little and go watch my grandson play soccer and the world will be a safe one to fall asleep in.

Which, of course, is a fantasy in itself.

My solution is a naive one, yet I believe it will help me keep what little innocence I still have. Stop watching TV shows that butcher anything but a chicken, let the entertainment world entertain itself, and stick by the simple things in life that make me happy. I don’t need to be involved with the parts of the world I can’t do anything about — I should stick with those parts where what I do DOES matter. Work with disabled children, walk for the Cure, be a shoulder to cry on for friends who are having a hard time of things.  Go to charity events that benefit those I love, help those less fortunate get back on their feet.

Life is too short to be worrying about entertainer’s wardrobe malfunctions or their asinine antics in front of an audience.  Let them live in their world, and I’ll live in mine.

Besides — how funny would it be if MY wardrobe malfunctioned?

 

Reposting the Guilty One

9 Hand of GuiltLast Friday afternoon I was supposed to go to Chicago to be a part of my good friend’s Soirée … a magical moment where music and art and writing came together in true spirit. That morning the weather scared me off — rain and thunderstorms and ice storms threatened my 2-hour journey. So I didn’t go. And it didn’t rain. Nor thunderstorm. Nor ice storm. And now I feel bad. Maybe it’s a girl thing.

So in honor of miscues and missed moments, I am reposting an oldie but goodie from December of 2011.

The Hand of Guilt

Raise your hand if you carry around a bunch of guilt with you every day. I don’t mean the extreme, over-the-top stuff — I mean a good, healthy fistful of remorse for things you should have or should not have done. Now, keep your hands up if you would like to get rid of that guilt. Keep them up if you have tried to rationalize and theorize why you shouldn’t carry said-guilt around with you everywhere you go. Now, keep your hand raised if you have failed in shaking off the afore-mentioned guilt that’s still perched on your shoulder. Is your arm getting tired yet?

Somewhere in a woman’s ancient psyche development a seed was planted that all females should have responsibilities and goals that prove their worth as human beings. Back in cave dwelling days, I can see the logic of some of that reasoning. If Urg goes out hunting buffalo or mastodon and is gone a month or so, someone has to keep the cave clean and make sure a saber tooth tiger doesn’t grab junior and eat him for breakfast. But responsibilities have evolved since Urg brought home a trophy yak for dinner. Men and women have turned the responsibility umbrella upside down, and responsibility is more a nebulous outline than a fact carved in stone.

 Most would say that guilt is wasteful and stupid. I would raise my hand to that. When chances are such that you could succumb to pneumonia or be involved in a car crash at any time, dirty dishes in the sink should be the least of your problems. Then why do we feel it? Why is it an effort to tune out the self-reprimands that come with things we didn’t do?

I admit that I feel less guilty about things as I get older. Things that upset me in my 20s are nothing like what upsets me in my 50s. I don’t worry about getting married or getting pregnant or what shoes go with what purse. I used to think that that was some accomplishment. But when I came home from work sick the other day and worried about how much housecleaning I could squeeze in between diarrhea and dinner, I realized I hadn’t accomplished much at all.

 I have never really had a day all to myself — for myself — without wiping something, washing something, or fixing something. Even those days when I am home alone, basking in the morning sunshine, reading a great book, listening to enchanting music, there is always something in the back of my mind whispering, “Why not throw a load of laundry in while you sit here? It can be washing itself…and you can keep reading,” or “Why don’t you call and make an appointment for your son’s haircut before you sit down? It will only take a minute…”

 When did vacuumed floors and folded laundry take the place of listening to the wind chimes outside my window? When did eating the last piece of cake become such a terrible thing? This isn’t about men vs. women or kids vs. moms — this is about that snickering devil who tries to measure my self worth by how many soccer games I attend and how many sodas I leave in the frig for others. This is about looking around and seeing the beauty of the world without caring if my toenails need polish or if there’s toothpaste in the bathroom sink.

Yet, however easy it sounds, getting rid of guilt dust bunnies is a full time effort. I don’t want to feel too dismissive; after all, there are health and safety issues in dirty sink water and science experiments in the frig. I don’t want to be too carefree and punch in late or miss my dentist appointment. Time is a constraint no matter where you are and what you are doing. Perhaps that is where the guilt monster hides — inside the clock.

I feel guilty if I sleep the morning away instead of cleaning or going for a walk. I feel guilty if I pet the dog and not the cat. I feel bad if I promise chicken parmesan and produce hotdogs and beans. Why do I sabotage myself? Why do I let my emotions get so sidetracked? I mean, it would be one thing if I shredded the electric bill along with credit card applications. But what I’m really talking about are guilt trips about everyday things that don’t really matter in the long run. As if someone is going to care if I stop at the gas station for cappuccino instead of gas or if I keep an extra dollar from the grocery budget for myself.  

These days I have a little sign that says “slow down” right on my computer stand in front of me at work. Although this typed message was meant more for multitasking on the job, it should be plastered all over my house. I need to slow down and listen to the birds outside of my window. I need to and stop and watch a favorite movie instead of mow the lawn. I need to sing along with my favorite songs at the top of my lungs, and take a nap on the sunny porch when no one’s around, and throw a candy bar in the shopping cart even though I’m trying to lose weight.

Yet in writing this confession, I see there is another sign I should make to remind me that life doesn’t need to be clean and orderly to be enjoyed. I need to remember that long after I am gone there will still be stacks of laundry and empty soda boxes and overgrown gardens in the world to deal with, and all my guilt about not taking care of them meant diddle in the end. I need a sign that lets me know that the cosmos will evolve the way it will: that dogs will always beget puppies, women will always cry at sappy movie endings, and the sun will always rise another day. I need a sign that says:

Lighten Up.

What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

Is That Religion With A Capital “R”?

On your tippy toes, my friends…On your tippy toes…

 Not too long ago I wrote an article about religion, the evolution of belief systems, their differences, originations and separations.  I wanted it to be witty and irreverent, but in the end it merely sounded preachy.  It wasn’t meant to be sermon-y, but by the time I was done what little humor there was shriveled up into something that looked like ginger root.  Why do you think that was?

 I was trying to write a story about one of the two taboos in conversation and correspondence:  Politics and Religion.  Two innocent words that can set buildings on fire, melt the polar ice caps and render intelligent species impotent.  I don’t pay a lot of attention to the innuendoes and intricacies of politicians and their worlds; I listen to the basics and ignore the rest (especially TV commercials), doing my best to understand all sides of the proverbial coin.

 Religion, on the other hand, hits a nerve deeper than indigestion in most people.  Many find it hard to be light about spiritual possibility or probability, as its premise strikes everyone at their core.  Normal human beings can sit down next to each other at a banquet or movie or conference and have a great time talking, noshing, telling secrets and planning futures without ever raising an eyebrow.  But drop a stray word or two into the mix — church, witch, baptist, muslim — and suddenly the hairs that sit atop those same eyebrows are standing straight up.  Why is that?

 There is something very volatile about religion, especially one starting with a capital “R”.  Most people seem to be able to toss off the lowercase word in with the lightest of air.  We say things like “it’s a religious thing” or “he’s got religion” and no one seems to think differently.  But let someone say “My Religion is Lutheran” or “the Religion of Mother Nature” and suddenly we are getting too personal.  If one worships in a temple and another a cathedral, are they any different than one who worships in a mosque?  Or one that celebrates under the full moon?

 When we put that capital into our vocabulary we are suddenly touching that nerve that pulsates deep within each one of us.  The nerve that is attached to ego: to who we are, what we can be, what we will be when it’s all over.  We need to believe our suffering means something in the long run, and that by seeking penitence we can clear up past mistakes and open the way forward to happily-ever-after.  When someone messes with our path to happily-ever-after, they slow us down.  How dare they get in the way of our forward movement? Since ego needs to be right, those who do not believe as we do are obviously “wrong.”  And we are uncomfortable with wrong.

 Religion and worship has its place in the scheme of things. There are many reasons why we need something outside of ourselves to inspire us, to coach us, and to forgive us, especially when we find it hard to forgive ourselves.  But if you stop and think of all the hearts that have been broken, all the lives that have been destroyed because of the same message being skewered from religion to religion, you begin to stop capitalizing the word.  You start to realize that as long as one’s god or goddess, one’s savior or one’s reincarnation keeps harmony and peace and honesty and love in the world, what does it matter what he or she is called?  What difference does it make whom you pray to?

 The twisty thing is that, to many people, the who does matter.  The afore-mentioned nerve flares up with such intensity that you can often see steam radiating from their head.  Their bodies subtly tremble, their smiles get hard and thin, their eyes widen and their pupils dilate.  If you are brave enough to discuss and debate the differences between spiritual preferences, you are often taken to heights and depths never dreamed by mortal man.  It is this way or that way because it has always been this way or that way.  Religion takes no one off the hook, assuring all that theirs is the true path to salvation.

 You know what I have realized through the ups and downs of spirituality?  That everyone is headed in the same direction.  If one’s skin was peeled off and replaced by a clear plastic replica, all of our hearts would look the same.  They would all beat in the same rhythm; they would all bleed and break and rejoice the same way.  One’s salvation would look the same as the other.  It wouldn’t matter if one believed in heaven or reincarnation or astral travelling to another a planet that had nothing but flowers and puppy dogs forever. For under the skin, under the indoctrinations that we all have gone through, we all want to believe in something.  Something greater, cleaner, calmer, than anything we can find in this world.  Religion gives the weak strength, the angry peace.  It is a venting post for everything that is wrong with this world, and a cauldron for all that is right.

 So I think the solution lies somewhere between lowercase “r” and uppercase “R”.  A safe middle ground that encompasses both sides of the great cosmic, spiritual divide.  Something with a bit of flair; an “R” yet not an “R”. Maybe a curli-q R. Maybe we should kick off one leg and…that makes it a…P….

Oh, good grief — that just leads to that other taboo…oohhh…my tippy toes hurt….

Goddess Beauty Tips for Women and Men!

Mirror Mirror on the Wall……Who’s the Wackiest Chick of All?

Looking for a homemade remedy or a magic potion?  Here are a few fun ditties I found bouncing atop the Yellow Brick Cloud Tops. Believe what you will. My personal advice ― don’t give up your doctor…

 Curing a Cough

 To cure a cough: take a hair from the coughing person’s head, put it between two slices of buttered bread, feed it to a dog, and say, “Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound.” Have you ever heard a dog hacking?  I’d rather have the cough…

Curing a Sty

To cure a sty, stand at a crossroads and recite: “Sty, sty, leave my eye, Take the next one coming by.” Beware of those winking at you…

Fevered Onions

An onion cut in half and placed under the bed of a sick person will draw off fever and poisons. I suppose if nothing else your bedroom will smell like a hamburger joint…

And You Thought Wine Was Just For Drinking

 We all know that red wine is good for our health, but I hear it’s fab for your skin, too! The antioxidants and polyphenols found in wine are good for softening skin, and they’re easily absorbed through through it as well. Similar to a milk bath, fill your whole tub if you’re feeling dried out. Just don’t be tempted to drink your bathwater…

Curly-Haired Boxers

Curly-haired ladies should borrow a pair of their man’s boxers to dry their locks, since a towel’s fibers can actually increase frizziness. Simple cotton is far less agitating. Just don’t raid the dirty laundry hamper…

Olive Oil Baby

 A quick and easy tip to make your body feel like silk? Olive oil. After a shower while your skin’s still damp, apply olive oil all over your body and pat dry with a damp towel. It’s moisturizing and dead sexy. Or so they say. It makes me think of a fine vinaigrette…

Avacado Anyone?

 This guac-like concoction works wonders on your hair, too. The recipe calls for mashing up one to two avocados (depending on how much hair you’ve got), working through your hair, and letting sit for 10 minutes before rinsing.  Add a bit of cilantro and lime, and…mmmm…

Trick or Treat…Smell my Feet

Beat stinky feet by soaking tootsies in a black tea bath. They say the tea’s tannins are good at neutralizing odor.  Or just take a shower…

Shoe Etiquette

Do not place shoes upon a table, for this will bring bad luck for the day, cause trouble with your mate and you might even lose your job as a result. Besides that you have no idea where those shoes have been…

And Men…Don’t Feel Left Out

Beard stuff

Do you shave three times a day in hopes of growing an Abe Lincoln?  Genetics and hormones are the major determinants of an individual’s beard development, not frequent shaving.  Cutting or shaving the hair does not make it darker or coarser. However, a hair shaft is darker and coarser at the root than at the tip, hence cutting it near the root makes the hair appear darker and coarser.  A forever five o’clock shadow, then…

Knuckle Down

The cracking sound that you hear (mostly from men’s hands) is usually just the release of gas bubbles or the ligaments or tendons moving over the bones. No evidence has been found which suggests that the habit of cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis later in life. However, it probably will annoy other people, so stop doing it anyway.

And, finally…

Men with Big Feet also have Big…

It is true that the development of male broomsticks and toes (as well as women’s splash guards and fingers) are influenced by the same gene. But the length of one does not predict the length of the other. Numerous studies found that there was no correlation between the self-reported size of feet and that of the crown jewels. We’ve always told you…it’s the size of the heart that matters anyway…

The Hand of Guilt

Raise your hand if you carry around a bunch of guilt with you every day. I don’t mean the extreme, over-the-top stuff — I mean a good, healthy fistful of remorse for things you should have or should not have done. Now, keep your hands up if you would like to get rid of that guilt. Keep them up if you have tried to rationalize and theorize why you shouldn’t carry said-guilt around with you everywhere you go. Now, keep your hand raised if you have failed in shaking off the afore-mentioned guilt that’s still perched on your shoulder. Is your arm getting tired yet?

            Somewhere in a woman’s ancient psyche development a seed was planted that all females should have responsibilities and goals that prove their worth as human beings. Back in cave dwelling days, I can see the logic of some of that reasoning. If Urg goes out hunting buffalo or mastodon and is gone a month or so, someone has to keep the cave clean and make sure a saber tooth tiger doesn’t grab junior and eat him for breakfast. But responsibilities have evolved since Urg brought home a trophy yak for dinner. Men and women have turned the responsibility umbrella upside down, and responsibility is more a nebulous outline than a fact carved in stone.

 Most would say that guilt is wasteful and stupid. I would raise my hand to that. When chances are such that you could succumb to pneumonia or be involved in a car crash at any time, dirty dishes in the sink should be the least of your problems. Then why do we feel it? Why is it an effort to tune out the self-reprimands that come with things we didn’t do?

            I admit that I feel less guilty about things as I get older. Things that upset me in my 20s are nothing like what upsets me in my 50s. I don’t worry about getting married or getting pregnant or what shoes go with what purse. I used to think that that was some accomplishment. But when I came home from work sick the other day and worried about how much housecleaning I could squeeze in between diarrhea and dinner, I realized I hadn’t accomplished much at all.

            I have never really had a day all to myself — for myself — without wiping something, washing something, or fixing something. Even those days when I am home alone, basking in the morning sunshine, reading a great book, listening to enchanting music, there is always something in the back of my mind whispering, “Why not throw a load of laundry in while you sit here? It can be washing itself…and you can keep reading,” or “Why don’t you call and make an appointment for your son’s haircut before you sit down? It will only take a minute…”

            When did vacuumed floors and folded laundry take the place of listening to the wind chimes outside my window? When did eating the last piece of cake become such a terrible thing? This isn’t about men vs. women or kids vs. moms — this is about that snickering devil who tries to measure my self worth by how many soccer games I attend and how many sodas I leave in the frig for others. This is about looking around and seeing the beauty of the world without caring if my toenails need polish or if there’s toothpaste in the bathroom sink.

            Yet, however easy it sounds, getting rid of guilt dust bunnies is a full time effort. I don’t want to feel too dismissive; after all, there are health and safety issues in dirty sink water and science experiments in the frig. I don’t want to be too carefree and punch in late or miss my dentist appointment. Time is a constraint no matter where you are and what you are doing. Perhaps that is where the guilt monster hides — inside the clock.

             I feel guilty if I sleep the morning away instead of cleaning or going for a walk. I feel guilty if I pet the dog and not the cat. I feel bad if I promise chicken parmesan and produce hotdogs and beans. Why do I sabotage myself? Why do I let my emotions get so sidetracked? I mean, it would be one thing if I shredded the electric bill along with credit card applications. But what I’m really talking about are guilt trips about everyday things that don’t really matter in the long run. I treat each decision as if it will change my life forever. As if someone is going to care if I stop at the gas station for cappuccino instead of gas or if I keep an extra dollar from the grocery budget for myself.  

            These days I have a little sign that says “slow down” right on my computer stand in front of me at work. Although this typed message was meant more for multitasking on the job, it should be plastered all over my house. I need to slow down and listen to the birds outside of my window. I need to and stop and watch a favorite movie instead of mow the lawn. I need to sing along with my favorite songs at the top of my lungs, and take a nap on the sunny porch when no one’s around, and throw a candy bar in the shopping cart even though I’m trying to lose weight.

            Yet in writing this confession, I see there is another sign I should make to remind me that life doesn’t need to be clean and orderly to be enjoyed. I need to remember that long after I am gone there will still be stacks of laundry and empty soda boxes and overgrown gardens in the world to deal with, and all my guilt about not taking care of them meant diddle in the end. I need a sign that lets me know that the cosmos will evolve the way it will: that dogs will always beget puppies, women will always cry at sappy movie endings, and the sun will always rise another day. I need a sign that says:

            Lighten Up.

One Time Only!

This is the only time that I’m going to spend quality blog time babbling about a personal roadblock.

I started this blog with the intent of mingling magic with middle age, something that I am quite familiar with. I truly believe there is a galaxy of potential floating just in front of us. A galaxy that is real, a galaxy that can be tapped into with nothing more than desire. Our learning curve never ends. We are always stumbling and tripping forward, hopefully laughing along the way. It just stinks when the lessons hit a little too close to home.

I have never been one to bring attention to myself. Writing was one way of projecting my personality into another dimension that couldn’t always be directly linked back to me. When I write I can be a cat, a faerie, a crushed car or a cutting-edge housefrau. For all intent and purposes, it’s my words that matter. No one knows my personal side; no one knows about my struggles, my personal demons. And so it should be. But when a cosmic demon descends, it hits a raw nerve that makes me want to reach out just a little. Cancer is one of those demons.

I hate the word “cancer.” I hate the stigma that attaches itself to one of the most prevalent diseases in history. I don’t want to be a symbol as a “survivor” ― I don’t want to talk about it at all. But I feel it is my duty to at least acknowledge what many of us are experiencing ― or might experience in the future. And while I believe in the magic of the future, I also acknowledge the drama of today. Of the struggles we go through to move through the grey into the white.  Cancer is one of those greys.

I’m not comfortable talking about myself. I don’t like sharing the ups and downs of personal insecurities. After all, everyone has their own demons to fight every day. My problems add nothing new to the landscape of personalities that read this blog.  There are many, many writers who talk about their struggles in cinematic detail. That is their brilliance, their therapy. I leave those depths to other writers who share their experiences more eloquently and emotionally than I ever could. I am more of a background girl. I would rather people like me for who I am ― for my sense of humor, my compassion, my naivety or my off-the-wall nonsense. I don’t want to be remembered for my battle with a disease that strikes one out of every eight women. I don’t want to dwell on the ups and downs of malfunctioning cells that multiply into something that eventually overwhelms their host and leaves them barren and one step closer to the fertile fields of Never-Never Land.

I decided to attack this topic only once. We all fight battles ― some more serious than the one I was surprised with. Life is full of ups and downs, ecstasy and tragedy.  We cannot stop the march of time, the march into the future of which we are not a part. What we can do is to live each moment as our own. We can make a difference with each other, with our family and with our place in the world. We all cannot be Einsteins; we cannot be Mother Teresa or Kim Kardashian. But we can be good people. Honest people. We can share our knowledge with those who are willing to learn. We can tell stories, share laughs and the ups and downs of the lives we’ve led. We can mentor children, or let someone mentor us.

What is life really about, anyway? We all have a future that is shrouded in misty black and blue clouds. No one knows what lies around the corner.  The strength of middle age ― really, of all ages ― is to let life run its course. We deal with what we can, change what we can. We are strong, we are beautiful, no matter what fate has in mind for us. It is what we pass along to future generations that make us who we are today. Few of us will be as monumental as Madam Curie or Martin Luther King Jr. Most of us will forever be merely Sue or Claudia or Nancy or Rose.

The funny, great thing, though, is little does the world know the power of these “merely’s.” They forged a future that seeded itself inside of us, growing and glowing and transcending generation after generation. The names of those who have been and who will be can be stronger and more inspirational than names of heroes who have nothing to do with who we are today.

Don’t let little words like “cancer” or “bankruptcy” or “unemployment” stop you from growing into the flower that eventually turns into an eternal garden. We all have so much to offer, no matter what our setback.  You are more powerful than you ever imagined. Don’t let go of your dream. And don’t be afraid to share your dream, your essence, with others. After all, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas started with a dream as well.

Look where it got them.

Oh ― and just for the record ― don’t be a dip. Get a mammogram.

Viva Las Vegas!

If you ever want to go to a place that is a cornucopia of faces, bodies and energies, there is no more an entertaining place to lose your money or your mind than Las Vegas.  Forget this Mecca’s main thrust — gambling — and slip around the edge to the weirdness that permeates the city that never sleeps.  It’s magical in its own sparkling way — gambling and lights and music and shows and people.  Lots and lots of people. It’s a place where cosmic energy mingles with electric billboards, turning normal, well-meaning visitors into Dr. Jekyll /Mr. Hyde parodies. 

 The first time I went to Las Vegas I was very family-conscious.  My husband and I took his parents and our two kids to the land of decadence and sunshine.  One child was 12, the other seven.  This was the time of the “family friendly” Vegas — acrobats flying across the ceilings at Circus Circus, knights jousting at Excalibur.  Besides stopping now and then to throw a quarter or two into a slot machine, we also rented a van and toured Hoover Dam and Death Valley.  I left the world of lights with a blue glass from Excalibur and most of my gambling money in tact.

A few years later and my husband and I got the urge to go again, this time leaving the kids with the afore-mentioned grandparents. I went out and bought some sexy dresses and a couple of those individual liquor bottles to mix with my soda on the plane.  We caught a topless show and dared to walk the length of the strip drinking strawberry margaritas right in the open.  The lights and nights were magical.  I stayed up a little later and got up a little earlier. I left the world of lights with a winning jackpot and a gold glass from the Hilton.

 The third time it was my 25th wedding anniversary, and what better place to renew our vows than in the land of drive-thru churches?   We almost said “I Do” in front of Elvis, but decided we’d rather buy Elvis dice instead.  I wanted to stay up late, sleep late, lie around at the pool, win money, and get kitschy with Liberace and his museum. But my best laid plans sooner or later became parodies of themselves.  My biological clock just didn’t want to kick into glitter time.  We burped up dollar hot dogs and cheap beer. I got sunburn at the pool, put too much wasabi on my sushi, and developed a painful blister on my foot.  We drank strawberry margaritas for breakfast and milk for lunch and Pepto Bismol for dinner.   I went to bed a little earlier, slept a little later, and didn’t go through as many quarters as the last time.  I wasn’t interested in the shows, and the restaurants were less designer chef names and more all-you-can-eat buffets.  I moved a little slower and sat down a little more frequently.

What happened to the magic?  Where was the glow of the child, the carefree gambler, the woman who wanted to rub elbows with Wayne Newton and Celine Dion?  Did I finally outgrow my need to be sparkled and jingled to death? This time the glitter felt  different.  The energy that permeated the casinos and lounges had turned around on itself, slowly becoming more a part of me than something outside of me.  Maybe it was because I stopped judging everyone else’s clothes and size and gambling habits and let myself flow down the river rather than speedboat up the opposite way.  Once I let Vegas be Vegas, I was able to experience the myriad of energy levels that constantly billowed around me. And I realized I didn’t have to buzz through that world 24/7, seeing all, doing all. I just let the world of sparkle sparkle.

Once I got away from the mad desire to throw one more quarter into the slot machine, I found Vegas a world filled with all sorts of faces and personalities, all ages, all races. In this world, people felt free to be who they were, or, more often, who they dreamed they were.  In this world of make believe, all dreamers were equal.  Farmers, secretaries, and corporate presidents shared fantasies of castles and pyramids, Italian palaces and French towers.  Both babes and grandparents got a glimpse of life in the fast lane. Grannies sparkled as much as show girls, and cowboy boots walked right next to tennies. Winners and losers were all the same here: both sides of the fence existed at the same time. Einstein’s theory of relativity threads through it all, rewarding some, cheating others, and sadly, caring not what you leave behind.

People were always laughing, whether at themselves, the crowd, or each other. There was a constant flow of bodies moving between casinos, a maze of colors, heights and textures.  I didn’t know if they were rich or poor, sick or lonely; if they had won a million dollars or if they just spent their children’s college fund.  Nor did it matter. We were all merely specks of glitter in the galaxy of life, sharing a moment or two with others in a reality not our own. We shared a nod, a raised glass, a glimpse of understanding. We became part of the throbbing heartbeat of a city that swallowed us all, spitting us out when it came time to go home.   When the vacation was over, I left the city as I found it.  I left the sparkles, the glitter, and the dreams of fortune and glory to those who would follow. I had all the glory I needed back in my little town in Wisconsin.  What I did bring back, though, was a glimpse of my other side ― the kooky one who peeks out now and then, daring me to follow. That side assured me I would be back.

I forgot to get my glass.

Merlot at the Lake House

Quick.  Name a handful of your favorite movies. Not the “great” ones that are in your library ― the ones that define you. The ones you don’t admit entertain you time and time gain.  Are you what you watch? Are you big enough to admit that you are what you watch?

 It’s Saturday night: the boys are sleeping, the dogs have had their bonies, and I have settled down with a glass of merlot. Been a long day, a long week. Having just come off of my father-in-law’s passing and pressure-filled days at work, I find my emotional state still dancing on stalagmites. So I pull out a movie ― one I haven’t allowed myself to watch in some time. The Lake House.  Why is that?

There is nothing wrong with movies and books that reflect our inner selves. We are, of course, a reflection of many things around us — movies, books, the weather, the heart.  We develop our creativity based on what we’ve learned and what we’ve experienced. That is why self-help and raw human confession books are so popular. We are a world lost in the chaos of ego, everyone needing to be heard, no matter what the cost.

But back to movies and books. Both are tools of escapism; both reflect a little bit of what fascinates us deep inside. Not that we would live that life ― just that that life seems to resonate a bit with something Freud or Nietzsche would have had a field day with. Some connections are obvious; others are as nebulous as the morning fog.  My husband is nut when it comes to John Wayne ― any form, any era. Is he a big, larger-than-life hero type? Maybe not, but I can see flashes of the Duke in the way he struts sometimes.  Another good friend of mine loves books by Stephen King; I don’t think she is off on some modern-day blood and gore pilgrimage, but I can see her fascination ― the impossible becoming possible.

So what about The Lake House? Does this genre define who I am?  Am I lost in the fantasy of two time periods communicating through a mailbox? I am a preacher that we are  all multi-faceted diamonds in the rough. That we are so much more than the whole of our parts. And we are. But there are still signs in the universe (and in the media) that are plainly obvious.  Some resonate louder than others. Let’s ramble off a few of my favorite movies: The Lake House, Passion of Mind, Practical Magic, Chocolat. I’m sure that says a whole lot about my inner and outer spirit. That I am an escapist, a romantic, a time traveler. Funny that I also write about time travel, modern day women thrust into arenas not of their choosing:  alien worlds. Does my writing parallel my movie and book preferences? Does yours? Not just your writing, but your artwork; the books you read, the homemade cards you design, the jewelry you make, the dishes you cook when you are free to be yourself.

Sometimes we fall prey to pressure from the outside to be or think or watch what everyone else is being and thinking and watching.  As we get older, we fear we will be made fun of if we do not get the meaning of Barton Fink or Super Bad, or we don’t get rap or MTV, or we don’t laugh at movies filled with stoned characters or girls with their breasts hanging down to Brazil and back. I myself tremble at the thought of telling others I enjoy listening to Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra as much as Gaelic Storm or Steely Dan or Metallica. How can I be spread so thin over the planet? How can music and movies and books reflect who I am, who I’d love to be, when I’m in a hundred places at one time?

 As we get older our needs change. What thrilled us at 20 bores us at 50. Not that our youth is invalidated; on the contrary. We have evolved, just like everyone else. The things we thought risqué at 25 make us smile knowingly at 40. I suppose that’s because the world ever evolves, ever moves forward. And even though we move forward as well, we have the ability to focus on whatever era we wish. I have a friend who loves science fiction; the science part, the infinity part. This person works with computers, a field infinite and definitely scientific. Is sci-fi merely an extension of their reality? What about another friend who is very logical during the day yet hooked into murder mysteries all other times? Is her enjoyment of figuring out “who did it?” a reflection of working things out in her life?

 I suppose the point of this story is to encourage you to follow whatever direction your spirit guide sends you. When I was younger I questioned everything. “Does this mean something?” “If I turn right and go through the woods, instead of left and down to the field, does it mean something?” Now I know that every decision is just that. A choice. Turn left, turn right. It doesn’t matter. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a choice. Both turns take you back to who you are. Just like whatever movies you watch, whatever books you read. Enjoy adventure, enjoy historical sagas. Enjoy accounting manuals. It doesn’t matter.

 Having found that contentment regarding my decisions, I wonder what it means that my other favorite movies include Boondocks Saints and Con Air.

 Put… the bunny…back in the box…

Sprinkles

          The past few weeks have been the bottom of the roller coaster ride for me. After a bit of a medical drama, I am well, back into whatever groove middle aged women get into, trying to build my energy back up to see what trouble I can get into. How much trouble can a goddess like me get into? We won’t go into past details, but there have been times in the past that I have stepped over that preverbal line, most times with no consequences, other times being dutifully chastised and set back upon the straight and narrow.

            The funny thing about my misadventures is that, in the eyes of the world (especially to those under 40), the things that I’ve gotten in trouble for are powdered sugar compared to what others have done. I have never hung with the “wild” crowd, never gotten arrested, reprimanded by principals, or been asked to leave.  I’ve led a pretty vanilla life and stayed fairly happy and clean cut. I try not to compare my life, my ups and downs, with others. For, as you know, you will always be overblessed in one way and underblessed in another.  My dirty laundry is someone else’s humorous fluff.

            Going in and out of the hospital changes your perspective on a lot of things. Suddenly losing those last few pounds doesn’t seem so important. Or finally losing weight to get healthy rises to the top of your list. Your family becomes a priority, along with your health, your pets, and your pastimes. You sit and wonder why you’ve wasted so much time setting unrealistic goals and then were so hard on yourself when you didn’t achieve them. Your desires and your timelines seemed to have gotten crisscrossed, a Celtic design that has no beginning or no end. You will do A as soon as you accomplish B. You will buy outfit C as soon as you lose D pounds. You’ll go visit someone as soon as you (fill in the blank).

            I know you’ve heard this story a thousand times a thousand different ways. Don’t wait until trauma and tragedy arrive at your doorstep before you learn to live your life.  Well, what do you do if that dynamic duo arrives at your door and you’ve already been living your life? Are you supposed to go further off the deep end? Are you supposed to  throw away the restraints of society and be a wild and free sprite?

            I was lucky, not only to have a good prognosis, but to have wild and fun things to come back to. Our Polish Sausage Making Party has been going on for 14 years, an annual madhouse that seems to be growing every year. I had a laptop, waiting for me to create another fantasy, another out-of-the-box story. I have kids to bug and a grandson to spoil and friends to compare drinking stories with.  I have a room full of second-hand books waiting to be read, sweaters that need sparkles sewn on them, and sushi that  needs to be shared with girlfriends.

            I decided long ago that I was tired of being on the outside looking in. I was tired of being vanilla in a rainbow world. I’ve always respected my bosses and the law, always been polite (sometimes to the point of nausea), and given money to charity or to my kids (sometimes the same thing). But I also found out that if you want something in  your life, you need to be the one to go for it. You can’t wait for those things to come to you. That goes for friends, restaurant reservations, and health issues. Sometimes “going for it” makes you a little more aggressive than you usually are. Succeeding at “going for it” makes you feel stronger and smarter.  It makes you raise your own bar a notch or two higher. And you have yourself to thank for it.

            Going through a health predicament only reinforced the importance of finding out who I am and what I want in life. That what I wanted in my life is nothing more or less than anyone else wants. I just make sure I made lemonade every time I can. I make a point of getting together with friends often, and family birthdays become family reunions a  dozen times a year. I don’t want life to pass me by and at the end be filled with thoughts of why I didn’t do this or that.

            You are never going to be rich enough, thin enough, smart enough, for A to really ever meet B. So take the victories you make along the way and celebrate them. Don’t spend days and months and years waiting for the “payoff.”  The payoff is here and now. If you pass up picnics on the beach with the family because you want to lose weight first, you’ve done nothing but miss a great picnic. If you wait until your kids are in college to go away for the weekend you’ll never get away, for most of the time they come back to haunt you. Turning down an invitation to walk through a festival with family members because you need to clean your house does nothing but toss another fun time into the twilight zone.

            There is always room in your life for adventure. To cross some lines. To speak up. To stand up.  There’s always time for you to change your direction, your health, your dreams.  To be proactive. Not inactive. If the jester hat fits you, wear it! If bling is your thing, bling!  Always wanted to try and cook Thai? Go for it ― even if you’re the only  one who will eat it. Don’t wait for someone else to initiate a pizza night or drinks after work ― call, plan, and do it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to “take their turn.”

            This is the only turn you’re going to get. Don’t let anyone else take your turn for you. There’s nothing wrong with vanilla, but just think of how much better it is with hocolate syrup and whipped cream.  

            And me?  I think I’ll try rainbow sherbet with multi-colored sprinkles. Can’t get enough of that color thing…

Reincarnation as a Walmart Greeter

            Most of us run blindly through life, taking kids to football games or buying groceries or celebrating birthdays or oohing and ahhing about flower beds and great lasagna dinners, never stopping to think that one day all this wonderful madness will end.  There are those who believe in the ever after: angels and Elysian Fields and all the chocolate you can eat.  Others believe in reincarnation: behaving yourself in this life is a sure bet you won’t come back as a newt or a grasshopper in the next.  Some believe you never wake  up; others believe eternity is one big, made-for-TV movie. But what happens if you don’t want to think about the afterlife, period?  What happens if all you want to do is get  lost in Star War movies or the Food Network or dreams of vacationing in the Bahamas?  Does avoidance equal ignorance?

            I sometimes wonder if humans were meant to dwell on the afterlife as much as we do.  After all, whatever is going to happen is going to happen.  When all is said and done, if we are all going have a glorious resurrection, why should we worry about it?  If we believe our destiny is to reappear on another planet in another galaxy, why sweat the small stuff? 

            None of us like to think about death.  Most of us unconsciously think we will live to be 90 or better.  We pop a few vitamins or walk around the block or stop smoking and think we have it made.  And, for the most part, we do.  We look around us, feel terrible about those our age who have passed on to greener pastures, and hope we can stay out of
those same pastures a bit longer. Yet there is always that heebie geebie feeling we get from that foul reaper that makes us feel we should do a bit more to insure a place in the afterlife.  Whether its prayer, abstinence, volunteering or tithing, we always make an effort to hedge our bets, putting an extra chip on the gambling table just in case.  We give a little extra to the United Way or volunteer to work the concession stand at the high school football game, even if our kid doesn’t play football.  We help old women cross the street, and try not to get uppity if someone offers to help us cross the street.

            How does that lessen our apprehension of our final moment?  How does contributing to the bake sale or adopting a pet from the shelter make us breathe easy about our last moments on Earth?  The older I get, the more I realize that all the anxiety, all the trauma I go through worrying about what happens at that final moment doesn’t mean a thing except heartburn.  One of the prices we pay for being born into this world is having to leave it at the end.  I’m not sure there is some cosmic string that is destined to be cut at some particular moment; I do believe that the joy we find in this life, and possibly the next, is based on the pleasure we give and receive from others.

            Whether you read the Bible or Harry Potter, you cannot escape the fact that good deeds do not go unheeded.  That even if there is no cosmic God or Goddess who pats you on the head for being a good person, you are rewarded anyway.  There is something  about doing something nice for others — and for yourself — that brings its own brand of satisfaction.  Putting a plus in the “good” column just plain feels good.  Accepting that we don’t always get accolades for our diligence is a learned experience; I find myself still waiting for acknowledgement that I saved the life of a cat who was beaten by an irrational neighbor 20 years ago or that I was the DD more times than I can count. I know
my heart always feel better when I label myself “nice” instead of “mean.”  I feel good when I put a smile on another’s face; I feel bad when I make someone cry.

            Whether or not those points add up to admission through the pearly gates I don’t know.  I myself don’t have a clue whether I will meet my mother and father on the other ide, or if I will be reincarnated into a wealthy family (something I would thoroughly enjoy).  What I do know is that it makes me feel good to do good in this world.  I have no control of what happens when I close my eyes for the last time — no one does.  All I can hope for is that my good behavior and loving heart will have counted for  omething.  That loving my kids over and above normalcy and giving my dogs extra bonies push me up a notch on the ladder of happily-ever-after.

            It will be my luck that the day I decide to visit Scotland, the Loch Ness Monster will instantly devour me in one gulp, and all this angst will be for nothing.  My fear is that my repayment for being such a jolly good soul is that I come back to this world as a Welcome Wagon Lady or a greeter at Walmart.  Which, on second thought, isn’t such a bad idea.  After all, that’s what I want to do when I retire in this life.

            Although I know I have to fight my husband for the job.

To Dream or Not to Dream…That Is the Question

       33 To Dream or Not to Dream     One of the yin-yangs of hormone fluctuation is sleep, or lack of it.  Between hot flashes and finding a comfortable position, my REM’s make rare visits,  leaving my consciousness floating in the bubbles of semi-sleep through the world of dreams.  Now, many people say they don’t dream; others leave a notepad on their nightstand so they can record the ching chang jumble that comes out in the middle of the night.  I believe we all dream, but length, depth and retaining capacity is what makes everyone’s claim different.

         Scientists and talk show hosts tell us our lives are influenced by anything and everything, and our dreams are one way of dealing with all of it. Dreams, and  their alter ego, nightmares, can result from everything from eating pizza before bed to an argument earlier in the day. Dreams can be triggered by stress, anticipation, having too much time on your hands or, more likely, not enough.  Scary movies, sappy movies, long distance phone calls — everything can leave a chip in your mind that can explode into a myriad of dreamy scenarios.

            The great thing about this flight through those shadowed clouds, though, is the variety of experiences it presents.  I doubt my conscious mind could make up half the things my subconscious does. And if it could, would it be as fun?  In my dreams I interact with bosses from 20 years ago and talk to family members who are no longer with me.  I wander the halls of my grade school, look out on Lake Michigan from a high-rise balcony, and walk through castles of long ago.  I have driven off cliffs and been chased by  unseen dragony/monster things. I have stood in a shadowy alley talking to Edward Norton and had coffee with Kiefer Sutherland.  I have run from building to building to building, either looking for something or trying to get somewhere, and have jumped and bounced and flown my way across the landscape.

            Where in Jove’s name do we get these ideas from? 

           Being a writer, I often bring some of the unearthliness of my subconscious and put it into forms that entertain me and others. Without analyzing every laugh and tear, I try to bring these esoteric beings into my writing. The more nonsensical, the better. Other people transform their dreams into paintings, gardens, photography, and card making. 

            Of course, the down side of dreams is that they don’t always give you a direct answer to your cosmic questions.  It is fairly obvious that when I dream of my son as a toddler rather than a college kid, I am searching for the olden days connection we had when I was omnipotent and he was subservient.  When I am wandering through corridors and cross loading docks and down long hallways filled with shops and warehouses and theaters I am lost in more ways than I care to admit. But instead of interpreting these dreams as portents of bad things to come, I would rather see them as insights to the possibilities that lie ahead. We have the ability to choose which meanings we take to heart and which  we toss out.  We can choose to see rain in the clouds or we can just see clouds.  We can choose to see dragons shapes or bouncy cotton balls in those clouds or we can just see clouds. 

            The best course is always to take a little of both. Don’t ignore the clouds that are really thunderheads, and don’t get the idea of stepping out of a plane to bounce on their springy tops.  But also let those clouds be dragons or snakes or baby diapers. Nod at the thread of reality that runs through the middle, then make what you will of the rest.   Don’t worry what others think your dreams mean, or if you can’t remember their endings.  The old adage that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, is just as true in your onscious state of mind as in your conscious one.  Don’t read more into your dreams than what is there.  And create whatever you want from them.

            As for me, I’m looking forward to tonight.  I told Kiefer I’d meet him at the coffee shop sometime around eleven.  Maybe I’ll even ride my dragon there.

I’m Not Paranoid — I LIKE Looking Over My Shoulder

          

Have you every done something, created something, that, even though it was fun at the time, gave you a feeling that one day it would come back and bite you in the…leg?  I don’t mean those illicit or illegal things you may or may not have drank/smoked/ingested when you were young and stupid.  These are more the things you have done in
the heat of the moment of your adult life that make you look over your shoulder and say…oh dear…what if someone finds out?

Let me explain.  One day I was having a bad day — you know those kinds of bad days — stress and miscommunications and a bout of acid reflex that turned out to be gallstones. Too many projects, too little time. It was a tough moment: deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.  I needed therapy, I needed relief.  Other than finding another job, I needed a way to release all of my pent up emotions so that I wouldn’t start playing a kazoo in the parking lot every morning.

So what does a writer do to release the pressures of every day stress?   We write, of course!  I sat down with my little laptop and wrote this wonderfully twisted short story about sales managers and voodoo symbols and poisoned candied violets.   I had a psycho antagonist and a young, up-and-coming, newly promoted female heroine. I had a clash of egos, a bit of upper class snobbery, and even a twist ending.  It was great writing, great therapy.  So much so that, after polishing it up a bit, I thought about trying to get it published.

It was then that I felt the nibble on my leg.  What if I did get it published?  What if it became a best-selling short story?  What if I actually made money on it?  What if the world — or worse, someone I knew — found out that the story was inspired by them?  It’s kinda like having your best friend buying you a present from her favorite store, something that fits her personality to a T but is a major faux paux in your fashion circle.  She loves it, you hate it.  You think about taking it back to the store to exchange it for something more…you.  So you laugh about it with a friend at a barbecue, and who should appear on the other side of the grill but that same-said friend wearing the same-said T.  What if she heard you?  What if she asks you why you weren’t wearing your “gift”?  What if someone says, “Isn’t that the awful shirt you were just talking about?”  Odds are your friend never heard a word, but…

 This sort of paranoia crosses all generations, all friendships, all common sense. It’s not just a writing thing ― we all get weird when we say something about someone that we later regret, fearing the repercussions that might follow.  We do many things in the throes of passion that make us feel self conscious when we come floating back to reality sometime later. What would happen if the kids walked into the bedroom one night to legs and arms were all over the place when they thought you were out to a movie? What  would happen if we called in sick to work only to run into our boss at the mall? What if, in a fit of rage, we threw a rotten squash out the back door, only to inadvertently smack the neighbor’s dog in the chops?

We have been taught that we have to please everyone, make everyone feel good, even at our own expense.  While that may ring true most of the time, there are times you just need to take a chance on being naughty.  Take a chance on getting caught.  I didn’t mean any harm when I started writing my ditty.  I had always wanted to see if I could write something spooky and revengeful and strange and it was just an accident that the bad guy looked a lot like the co-worker hulking over my shoulder all the time.  I never really meant for the antagonist to resemble my co-worker. Nor would I ever think that he would go out and poison the world because sales were down.  But it made for such darn good fiction!

Maybe I’m just overreacting. The resemblance to any real person, place or publication is purely circumstantial.  Isn’t that what disclaimers are all about? No one I know would read “Horror Daily” or other scary publications and recognize my antagonist  — they are too busy reading gossip magazines.  And anyway, there could always be a dozen other “Claudia’s” in the writing world.  No one would know it was me.  Would they?

So the dilemma is this:  What do I do with this great story now that it’s written?  Do I keep it in a journal, hidden away, only to go back and read it whenever I am under pressure?  Or do I get brave, send it out to contests and publishers and take my chances?  Do I give in to my paranoia, or throw care to the wind and just go for it? 

I think for now I’m just going to let it sit in my computer.  I’ll wait until the pressure is released and the people in my office return to being human again.  Then I will send it out to such obscure publications that there would be no way in Hades he would read it.

I also will remember not to eat any candied violets.

Frivolous Facts and Faldaral Part II

In Star Wars, The Millennium Falcon was originally modeled after a hamburger with an olive next to it. Because the name of the ship had not been finalized at this time, storyboards refer to as the pirate ship. Some boards indicate for the first version of the pirate ship (which became the Blockade Runner) to be changed into the ‘Hamburger Boogie’ version.  Hans Solo rides off into the galaxy sunset aboard the quarter pounder.

In the movie Carrie, the slow motion scene at the end of the movie was filmed in reverse to simulate ghostlike movement effects. If watched vigilantly, cars can be seen driving backwards in the upper left hand corner of the screen. When I was younger, playing “Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles backwards revealed Paul was dead, too. Alas, I could never get the turntable to turn backwards fast enough to prove anything.

For the movie the Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was paid $35 a week while Toto received $125 a week. That renubds me of one of my earlier blogs, Diamonds Are A Dog’s Best Friend.

To achieve the sound of thousands of snakes slithering in the movie Indiana Jones and the Raider’s Ark, sound designer Ben Burtt stuck his fingers into a cheese casserole. This was augmented by applying wet sponges to the rubber on a skateboard. Eww. Clever — but eww.

Basil (the herb) was once believed to have the power to breed scorpions. According to one recipe, “three crushed leaves are put under a clay pot. After a few days a tiny scorpion will be born”.  With the help of basil one could also summon scorpions. Pliny, a Roman writer, claimed that a handful of basil pounded with 10 sea crabs would do the trick. What the real connection between basil and scorpions was we will never know. Nor do we want to.

Average number of eggs laid by the female American Oysterer year: 500 million. Usually only one oyster out of the bunch reaches maturity. Those numbers make me itch.

Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour – about 1.5 pounds a year. By 70 years of age, an average person will have lost 105 pounds of skin. I wonder why that never equates as pounds lost on a diet.

Chocolate syrup was used for blood in the famous 45 second shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho, which actually took 7 days to shoot. The article never said how much chocolate syrup was used. A lot of sundaes went topless that week.

 Jethro Tull is not the name of the rock singer responsible for such songs as “Aqualung” and “Thick as a Brick.” Jethro Tull is the name of the band. The singer is Ian Anderson. The original Jethro Tull was an English horticulturalist who invented the seed drill. Reminds me of the movie Armageddon. Oscar: I tell you one thing that really drives me nuts, is people who think that Jethro Tull is just a person in a band. Psychologist: Who is Jethro Tull?

 During World War II, bakers in the United States were ordered to stop selling sliced bread for the duration of the war on January 18, 1943. Only whole loaves were made available to the public. It was never explained how this action helped the war effort.

 The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. It was the fashion in Renaissance Florence to shave them off. I wonder if they wore underwear that peeked out of their pants, too. No one would ever know.

When the Mother Ship passes over Devil’s Tower near the end of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, R2-D2 can be seen hanging from the bottom of the ship.

The carpet designs seen in Sid’s hallway in Toy Story are the same carpet designs seen in The Shining. That’s the creepy side of recycling.

Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with. Yum. Or is is it Yuk?

The strawberry flavor in your ice cream contains 50 different chemicals. Nature cannot be imitated, and this is the best example. Just to recreate the flavor of “strawberry”, some fast food companies add 50 different chemicals including benzyl isobutyrate, phenythyl alcohol, amyl acetate, mint and cognac. So, the next time you consume strawberry flavored ice creams, milkshakes or desserts, do remember the recipe. Now that’s not Yum OR Yuk. That’s Ick. Vanilla, please.

A quarter of raw potato placed in each shoe at night will keep the leather soft and the shoes smelling fresh and clean. They forgot to add that if you don’t take the potato out it turns into potato toe jam.
In 1939, the Hollywood Production Code dictated what could and could not be shown or said on screen, and Rhett Butler’s memorable last line in the famous Gone With the Wind, presented a serious problem. A few of the suggested alternatives were “Frankly my dear… I just don’t care,” “… it makes my gorge rise,” “… my indifference is boundless,”  “… I don’t give a hoot,” and “… nothing could interest me less.” Although legend persists that the Hays Office fined Selznick $5,000 for using the word “damn”, in fact the Motion Picture Association board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939, to insure that Selznick would be in compliance with the code. Henceforth, the words “hell” and “damn” would be banned except when their use “shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore … or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.” With that
amendment, the Production Code Administration had no further objection to Rhett’s closing line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  Which is a damn good thing.

And, finally…..for those of you with time on your hands….

 If you counted 24 hours a day, it would take 31,688 years to reach one trillion!

Cosmic Chatter

              Do you sometimes have a hard time concentrating?  I don’t mean pay-attention-to-your-driving duty or don’t-cut-your-finger-when-chopping-onions duty.  I mean concentrating on spiritual things.  Ethereal things.   The airy-fairy connection between us mere mortals and that famous ‘higher power’.  Do you ever wish that your mind would shut up for five minutes while you try to summon a spirit from the Great Unknown?

            You know how it goes. You clear your schedule, get rid of the kids, feed the dogs, and hide the cell phone in the silverware drawer.  You make an effort to visit your special place, your sacred altar.  This can be your garden, a spot deep in the woods, your kid’s sandbox, or your living room sofa.  You tell yourself that today you are really going to connect with the void and what lies on the other side.  You have read books on angels, faeries, ghosts and extra terrestrials, and figure it’s about time you connected with one. So you get into your sacred mode.  You breathe slow and deep.  You close your eyes, rest your mind, and say a prayer.  The atmosphere is perfect for communicating with whatever is the source of your power.  You feel the tingle of something larger than life not too far away. And suddenly, there it is.  That nagging thought.  That idle chatter.  That empty gossip.  And the more you try to tune it out, the louder it becomes.

            Monks in monasteries found salvation kneeling on stone floors.  Buddhist priests found nirvana contemplating a blade of grass.  Priestesses found the secrets of gods and goddesses tending fires.  So surely you could find what you’re looking for right in your own back yard.  After all, you have a whole ten minutes!  But your mind won’t cease its aimless prattle.  Your thoughts wander from your need to buy a shirt to match your navy pants that are just a bit too tight to the price of gas to trying to remember the name of the movie star that played that crazy professor in the movie you watched last night.  You snap back to the center.

             Block those thoughts!

            You close your eyes, trying to drown out the stray thoughts with the repetition of a prayer or a mantra or the alphabet — anything to bring structure back to your concentration. 

            Wham!  You forgot to mail the check for the phone bill! 

            Stop it! 

            Bang!  Did I unplug the curling iron?

            Pay attention!

            What should I make for dinner?

            SHUT UP!!

            You continue with a dogged perseverance.  You pray harder.  Louder.  You try to summon the angel, the sorcerer, the alien.  This being is a member of your guidance team, a pointer towards self awareness and universal peace.  A very important part. Yet your mind won’t stop trying to chat with you.  You think about your boyfriend, your job. You wonder about what the dog is doing now that you’ve tossed him in the back yard without supervision. You think about things you should have said, things you shouldn’t have said. And you suddenly become conscious of your outer-self nagging your inner-self to be quiet.

            Why can’t your mind just sit still for a while?  What is Archangel Michael going to think if you let everyday distractions get between you and him?  How can you have a direct cosmic connection with Cleopatra when all this blah blah is tainting your aura? You were so serious about this connection when you planned this escape!  You are a good person, a pious person.  You’re the sort of person that stops for squirrels crossing the road and kisses your kids ten times a day (even if they’re 27) and takes only ten items to the ten-items-only checkout aisle.  You are kind to old people.  Or you are an old person who is kind to young people.  So why is it so hard to quiet your mind long enough to connect to the spiritual?

            Maybe it’s because you’re already interacting with the spiritual.  It’s all around you.  Connecting with angels and prophets and faeries and ghosts of the past happens all the time.  We just don’t slow down enough to experience it.  The innocence of children, the memories of parents and grandparents, the words of sacred texts and of simple poetry all connect us with the ethereal.  We just have to learn how to recognize it.  The wild world of faeries can be found in the unbounded energy of a puppy; the music of the angels can be heard in the morning chatter of the birds.  God speaks clearly to us through our own conscience. We just fail to heed the advice we’re given. 

            What has this got to do with all this mindless chatter that drives you crazy?  The thousand thoughts that run through your head are nothing more than your own spirit cleaning house, sifting through all the garbage so that it can get to the heart of the matter.  In the peace and quiet of the sandbox or your front porch you can safely sift through your thoughts and emotions, finding clarity in reasoning and understanding in reflection.  Your mind finally gets tired of rambling and lets the purity of your intentions come through loud and clear.  You figure out where you are going, what you want to say, what you should do.  And that’s what you came there for in the first place, isn’t it?

            So don’t worry the next time you look for a cosmic connection and find static on the line.  It’s just the faerie queen telling you that you left the check for the phone bill on bathroom counter next to the unplugged curling iron.

Dinner With the Queen

In the mundane throng of your very predictable life, don’t you now and then want to just break out of the box and do something different? Now that you have the experience of all those years behind you, don’t you want to make that experience mean something? Don’t you ever want to be bigger than life? Just for a day?

Oh, you say, I am happy being just who I am. Of course you are. We all try and walk that fence between selfish and selfless; between modesty and bravado. But admit it. There are many times in our very predictable life that we’d like to do something unpredictable. Of course, unpredictable varies from person to person. Bungee jumping is one way, as is impulse buying a Hummer. More low key, there are times when we want to guffaw aloud instead of snickering quietly. We want to dance naked in the living room and wear chuggy boots with a sundress. But most times we settle for eating Thai as a means of excitement. While that sounds fairly adventurous, I assure you, the dreams of the experienced are filled with possibilities never imagined by the inexperienced. In other words, the older we get, the looser the parameters of our dreams become.

There was a time in my life that I worried about what others thought of me and my opinions. A time when I tried to fit in, vaporously reflecting their ideas on religion, child rearing, and employment. It was important that I pulled my own weight, never rocked the boat, nor raise the hackles on someone’s neck. I was (and still am) respectful of others.

But eventually I got to a point in life where I wanted the river to flow where I wanted it to flow. I wanted my own boat, my own crew, and my own destination. I found that the further I wander down the road, the less I’m concerned about what I have done and more about what I can do. The thought of being no more than a passing blush in the cosmos makes my selfishness bubble to the surface. So I find myself wanting to be bigger than life: a heroine to all, someone who makes a mark and leaves it for others to decipher. That doesn’t mean I want to be an assassin or a movie star or a nuclear physicist. But a motivational speaker, a middle-aged trend setter, a famous author — what’s wrong with that?

Maybe that’s not really “out of the box,” but for me, it’s peeking out from under the lid. I’ve been a loving mother, a great wife, a dedicated friend, and all-around good person. I have dotted all of my i’s, crossed my t’s, and given to the United Way.

But now and then I feel this little quiver in my reality that makes me wonder what it would be like to leave the cookie baking and office typing to someone else and find something different to do with my time. How cool it would be to become a fashion maven or a world traveler. To stand before a crowd and sing like an angel. To be the next Food Network Star. To be asked to be on the next “Tour of Homes” because my house and garden are so incredibly fantastic that the world ― or at least the citizens of Whitewater ― have to experience them. To nosh with Stephen King at lunch and have dinner with Queen Elizabeth. To design a line of clothes that would knock the socks off Calvin Klein or raise enough donations to build a new wing on the local hospital.

All right — maybe not the “Queen Elizabeth” part or the “wing on the hospital” part ― but to create something new, something eye-catching, something memorable, would be a trip I would never forget.

We love and appreciate the little things in our life. Our friends, our family, all are a part of who we are. We work hard and, if we are lucky, play hard. Being famous would take us away from all that we worked so hard to create. And, after all, celebrity does have its price, privacy and anonymity being the first two privileges to go.

But while those platitudes make perfect sense, every now and then my daydreams take a cosmic swing to worlds just past my fingertips. Writing a best seller that becomes a movie lover’s dream, people paying $200 a ticket just to have lunch with me, opening a boutique that splashed between the covers of famous magazines ― what a thrill that would be! Who wouldn’t like to be a travel reporter visiting small European towns or American homesteads and talk about their cuisines and cultures? Who wouldn’t want to have their art on display at at the Art Institute or the Milwaukee Art Museum? Who wouldn’t want to be the one person the President could come to for advice?

Aspirations breed inspiration. Not being afraid to follow the muse within your heart brings freedom to your soul. Feeling positive about who you are enables the world to mold itself around you. Most ― if not all of us ― will never get a chance to live out those kinds of dreams. Not on that grand of a scale. But that doesn’t mean our inspirations can’t be grand. That our forward movement can’t be grand. Understand that grand is all in one’s point of view. Don’t worry what any other point of view is but yours. Dress up for any or all occasions. Paint a mural on a wall. Start blogging your most outrageous ― and delicious ― recipes. Grow an exotic garden, take pictures of it and enter them into photography contests. Design jewelry. Show horses or dogs. Enter your prized whatevers at the State Fair.

Don’t be afraid to break out now and then and have a good time. What others think of you is not nearly as important as what you think about yourself.

Besides ― I’m sure the queen made other dinner plans anyway.