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

The Diamond Goddess Award

Equal to my desire to become a famous writer (move over, JK),  is my desire for others to enjoy my work. While my first desire is right up there with winning the lottery and swimming in the Mediterranean, the second actually seems possible.

 The other day I stopped into the Goddess Hood and found I had been nominated for the Sunshine Award on WordPress. I don’t know exactly what that is or where you go to find out about it, but just knowing that someone actually READ my blog and thought enough about it to submit my name really made my sun shine.

 I was nominated by  seventhvoice.wordpress.com, who is, among other talents,  a very good, sensitive poet. I thank her – and you – for letting me know my posts make a difference in your lives. I think I’m supposed to nominate other blogs for other awards, but there are so many floating around out there I don’t know where to start. The Inspiring Blog Award, the Beautiful Blogger Award, The Very Inspiring Blogger Award, the Sunshine Award ―  all are accolades that reward the determined writer with a bit of recognition…and appreciation.

 I feel bad because I don’t have as much time to follow blogs and enter contests and write stories like I used to. It seems the older I get the busier I get. How did that happen? I subscribe to a handful of blogs and really want to subscribe to a few more.  But even today I opened my mailbox and found 523 emails waiting for me. Where have I been?

 I realized that asking you to read my blog or get my email blog puts you in the same situation that I’m in. We all are trying to put 10 pounds of sugar in a 5 pound bag.  And I thought ― how can I pick out one or five blogs that catch my soul so much that I nominate them for all the awards floating around out there? What makes a blog about spirituality any more enjoyable than one about divorce? How do I know if your blog is an Inspiring Blog Award or a Beautiful Blogger Award?

 So what I have done is nutty and escapist…something those of you who know me have no problem believing.  I’m creating my own award:

  • The Diamond Goddess Award

Who is to receive this precious honor? 

 All of you.

 All of you who take time to listen to my babble, all of you who send your thoughts and comments my way, all of you who strive to be more than you are today.  It is for those of you who peek in once a month or wait impatiently for my next ditty. It’s for those of you who like me but never have time to read anything. And it’s for those who don’t care for my style but put up with me anyway.

 And you know the best thing about this award?  YOU can pass it on!  Pass it on to anyone who makes you smile, anyone who makes you feel.  Take my dancing diamond and send it to your best friend and the chick you barely know. Let them know you’re thinking about them and that you think they sparkle  like a diamond.

 You’ll feel better for it. I know I do.

 

 

 

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.

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…

Dancing in a Too-Tight Tutu

I was sitting around the other day with my gal friends, sharing tales about the weekend. We all seemed to have gone through the same delightful experience, albeit in different ways. We all were relaxed, having a good time, and probably drank a little too much, for we all said, “I’m too old for this.”  One sat with friends and sipped with friends all day, one went to an outdoor concert, and I party hopped.  I’m sure the situations were on the same astral plane as many others “my age.”  Time flows, excitement and comfort wraps around us, the atmosphere make us feel good, and before you know it we are waking up the next morning with a headache, saying, “I’m too old for this.”

This psychic phenomenon is not limited to girls sharing drinking stories. This magical phrase echoes around us all the time.  My husband and I spent one glorious day working outside. The air was cool, the dogs well-behaved, and we planted flowers in pots and mowed the lawn and fixed broken things and worked in the yard a little. Maybe more than just a little, for the next morning we both woke up, joints stiff, hands scratched, and twinges in the small of our back, saying, “I’m too old for this.”

Just think of how many times you have said this. In fun and in fear.  A mother with a house full of 10-year-old girls staying overnight, giggling and talking till wee hours of the morning; college kids downstairs, friends over, drinking beer and playing cards, getting louder and rowdier with each hand; babysitting more than one of anything younger than five. You’re trying to be nice. You’re trying to be patient. But hours into the melee you think, “I’m too old for this.”

As I always like to point out, age is in your point of view.  When the ladies shared their drinking stories, I wanted to stand and cheer.  There were late 30s mingling with mid 40s mingling with late 50s. One has a 10-year-old, one has two in high school, I have one in college and one married.  Yet all three of us unconsciously slipped back into our early 20s, losing track of time and responsibilities and all the trimmings that go with it, at least for an hour or two. Were we trying to recapture our youth? Were we silly old goats   trying to dance the dance of the sprite in a tutu that was too tight? Or were we just human beings who never forgot how to have fun?

By now we all know that life is what you make of it. Jobs and kids and finances and health problems plague us all. Some can pick up and make a clean slate of everything; others have to muddle through the chaos and hope they squeeze out the other side sane. So when they say laughter is the best medicine, it really is. Sharing stories, playing games, dancing and prancing and acting silly all are ways to exorcise the demons we create for ourselves. I’m too fat. I’m too dumb. I’m tired of my job. I’m tired of my mother. I’m tired of being a mother. All tinny squeaks in our ear that cause us to over-analyze, over-react, and over emote. All of which get us nowhere in the end.

So what’s wrong with not acting our age? What is our age, anyway? If judged by our bodies, it might be ancient. If judged by our responsibilities it might be grown up. If judged by our dreams, it might be juvenile. Somehow there has to be a way to unite all sides of ourselves into one happy camper. So why not let go of those inhibitions once in a while? Why not drop the fear of embarrassing yourself (or others) and laugh with others? It’s not like you haven’t been embarrassed before, or never will be again. But you would be amazed the different feeling you get when you are a part of the joke, not a victim of it.

The great thing about taking chances like these, and saying “I’m too old for this” is that you find you are really not too old for anything. Alright – maybe bungee jumping or running in a marathon when you’re not a runner are contenders for never again. But even those occurrences show that you were not too old to at least try them.  The obvious choices are usually general ones: take a class about something you always wanted to know about; start walking around the block at night so you can walk in the annual Relay for Life; buy yourself a journal (or a laptop) and start recording those thoughts you thought you’d never get out of your system. Volunteer at a shelter or sanctuary and make friends with the animals.

Not up to all that work? How about wearing a color you’ve never worn before? Are you a meat and potatoes kinda dresser? Add a piece of bling to your wardrobe. Take a chance on bringing extra attention to yourself. You will be amazed at how many people notice ― and how many like the “new you.” Go to a concert and sing the lyrics at the top of your lungs. Dance like a crazy person in front of the speakers to your favorite music.

Oh sure, you say. You go dance in front of the speakers…you wear the bling. You wear the tutu that’s too tight.  I hate to admit it, but I already do. And I can’t tell you how scary and liberating it is.  And, even if I pull a muscle dancing the “hoochi coo”, it’s a great feeling to know that no one will ever forget the sight of me “hoochi cooing” in a too-tight tutu.

Especially with a glass of wine in my hand.

©2012 Claudia Anderson

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!

Middle Magic

Surfing the television the other night, I came across a quite entertaining program — one of those behind-the-scenes pieces on the making of a current hit movie. I snuggled in my oversized chair and listened as cast and crew glowed about the setting, the camaraderie, and the overwhelming feeling of family that pervaded the movie set for those two years. Envy tinted with wanderlust began to fill my mind. After it was over, I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t that be great? Escape the drudgery of my everyday, boring  office job and go off with wildly artistic people to exotic locations and be a part of something big and exciting and creative — like making a movie.” Flashes of famous people danced in my head: cast parties, flights to locations I’ve never seen, working in thunderstorms and desert heat side by side with fellow creative spirits…

I was eventually knocked back into reality through a number of obnoxious commercials, and came to the realization that my exotic movie set was right there before me. Middle Magic. Middle Age.

Middle Age. A word that is still hard to identify with. A word that gives most of us the willies. What does it mean?  It used to mean one’s half-life — half way between the cradle and the grave. Near the turn of the century middle age was 30; decades earlier it was as young as 20. My parents’ generation viewed middle age somewhere in their 40s; my own personal interpretation pushes it to at least somewhere in the mid-60s. But magic? At this point in my life, how could my life cycle resonate with the energy of  Merlin or Dumbledore?

As I dreamt about life as an actress or a jet-setting hotel heiress, it became obvious to me that we are all a result of our choices. I could have chosen a different path. If I had truly wanted to be a part of the acting community I could have gone the way of high school plays, summer theater, or politics. But my choices took me along a different path: family, children, a place to call home. I came to understand that we all hear the call of destiny, but it’s up to us what we do with that calling. Middle Magic goes beyond those initial choices. This sort of magic is a whirlwind of the past and the present, the switching of life’s gears, so to speak. It is a tugging of our soul, asking to finally be set free to wander and explore the world in its own way. You know ― living the “stepping out of the box” cliché way of life. This sort of magic is an empowerment that breaks us from the monotony of routine and propels us into the world of extraordinary. Middle Magic is experience tinted with awe, reality mingled with fantasy. It is part who knows, part who cares. After all, isn’t that what we’ve spent all this time wanting?

Middle age is merely a threshold ― let’s not be afraid to cross it. We’ve got nothing to lose except our inhibitions.  Who needs those, anyway?  The wonderful thing is that we have this power in every thought we have, every moment we live. It starts with an acknowledgement of where we are, and opens doors to a future we only now can  reach.  It is through this energy that we finally connect with our self. Only at this point do the gates of the palace open before us.

Perhaps Middle Magic is nothing more than coming to grips with our own mortality. The Reaper has no discretion with its scythe; it strikes down the young and old, dashing dreams and breaking hearts without discretion. But it is precisely because of the Reaper’s indiscretion that we understand how important it is to live life to its fullest day to day. How important it is to open doors to new worlds, encouraging others to do so as well.  To continue to learn, to continue to share what we’ve learned, to know that our ability to learn is as vast as the stars above.

As I turned off the television, there was still a part of me that wished I had been a part of making that movie: the friendship, the excitement, the stress and the secrets. But I realized I have all the above with me every day — friendship, stress, and secrets   With a flick of the pen I can live in 1880 or 2050, on a space station near Jupiter or in an apartment in Manhattan. Pick up a book and I can walk with hobbits or Sioux Indians or Japanese Shoguns. I have music and movies and my own imagination to take me wherever I want to go. And when I run low on imagination, I have my friends’ imaginations to fuel me.

True magic is the magic of the moment; the feeling that you are making a difference, a riff, in the routine of reality. Magic is realizing that you can be a creator and a dreamer along with doing dishes or being a catalog coordinator or taking care of kids or grandkids. Everywhere there is a story to be told, and every story has a bit of a smile in it. All you have to do is stop and share it. That is what Middle Magic is about. Chuckling at the absurdity of the world around us, taking what we have learned through the years with a grain of salt and a cup of schmaltz and sharing it with everyone.

We can only go one way on this road of life; we should make a point to share a smile or two or a thousand with as many souls as we can. Don’t you know? We are all magicians. We are all whimsical, swirling motes of dust in the sunshine of life. Powerful, crazy, magical motes.

Gandalf would be proud.

 

Real Lists vs Fantasy Lists

            Everybody makes to-do lists now and then.  As we get older, our nows seem further back in history, and our thens become obsolete.  So to keep track of the void between the two we need a list to keep things straight. But what kind of list do you make?

            My husband is very fond of making lists.  When he gets ready to go fishing or hunting, his list fills up two pages of college-lined paper.  There are things to bring, things to pack, things to sort, things to find.  I must admit that part of the length of his list includes things to bring/pack/sort/find for everyone else, too. But that is another story.  His real “to-do” list reads more like an instruction manual, all bullet points being checked off before he takes off to the wild blue yonder.

            I make my share of “to-do” lists as well.  Mine usually consist of mundane things to remember:  take ground beef out of the freezer for dinner, call Teresa tonight, write a check for my son’s lunch fund.  Practical, important things that I need to remember to do so that my day — and life — runs smoother.  My real list also extends to calling work or home and leaving voice reminders to myself in case I misplace my physical list.  I can’t help it if my list barely fits on the back of a sticky note; my real list is limited by energy and time and the phases of the moon and how many sticky notes I have.

            But what exactly is a fantasy list?  How is it different from a reality list?

            A real to-do list has tangible edges.  They have beginning bullets and ending periods.  Real lists can be scratched off one line at a time.  Progress can be made and seen through ledgers and spreadsheets and check marks on college-ruled paper.  Real “to-do” lists create deadlines and goals, culminating in that “feel good” sensation when you cross off a task that has been completed.

            A fantasy list, on the other hand, is as wild as clover in the field.  Each task reproduces itself every time you turn your back, manifesting into a half dozen more fuzzy bullet points on your list.  Fantasy lists are things you dream about, things that may or may not come to fruition.  Fantasy lists may have a foot in reality, but often it’s a child’s size 2 shoe, something that, for all practical purposes, couldn’t hold you in a mud hole if you tried. If you are able to check off one line on your dream list you are doing good.

            Fantasy lists can include a wide diversity of ideas and ideals.  Lose weight often tops a lot of lists.  Variations of this task are:  lose five pounds in three weeks so that you fit into your jeans, or lose 25 pounds by next summer so that you can fit into a bathing suit.  Pull weeds is often another chart topper.  It doesn’t matter if you have mums in a pot or a vegetable garden on the hill; weed pulling is often an arduous task that takes forever and seems to produce no long-lasting results.  Fix the squeak in the (fill in the blank) is a good one, too.  How long has that lid or chair or washing machine door made that high-pitched, irritating noise?  How much longer can you endure it before you finally take care of it?

            There are other bullet points on a fantasy list that are full of good intentions but most times get lost on the sidelines:  sew the falling hem on your pair of brown pants; give the dog a bath; call your sister.  Sometimes the list is full of ideas triggered by others:  find a recipe for a spaghetti squash, something like Emeril’s but with not as much garlic; look up how many Academy Awards Tom Hanks has won; call Jill to see if she wants to go to the café for coffee or to the pub for a burger, and if she wants to do it next Thursday instead of tonight because your son has baseball practice at five and the café doesn’t serve alcohol and a beer would really go great with that cheeseburger.  These are innocuous-looking thoughts that have the intention of being done, but somehow never get checked off the list.  This is most likely because a few points from the “real” list sneak onto the list, taking precedence over the more drawn-out ones, and we never seem to get back to the ones that were triggered by our wandering mind.

            Once we step up to the next level of a fantasy list, the bullet points look more like a doodle than a black dot.  The list gets more complicated in an ethereal sort of way: find out how much a flight to Cancun would be in February versus July; check out the price of cottages in the North Woods, say Eagle River or Sturgeon Bay; research the difference between inter-galactic space flight by nuclear fusion and nebula-to-nebula propelled travel for that science fiction story you are writing.

            The edges of the “to-do” list may get a little fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean that these ideas aren’t earnest.  These tasks are just as important as calling for a dentist appointment or making sure we pack aspirin for the trip.  They are just a little harder to maneuver; they are not weighed as heavily as the ones on the “real” list, and are scoffed at by those whose bullet points are five words or less.

            I just don’t get it.  Fantasy lists are just as important as real lists.  And I’m sure that if my husband sat down and made a fantasy list with me, he would be able to move that hunting trip to Alaska right up there to the top of the list.

My Muse is an Irish Wench

            Everyone has a Muse in their life — a spirit guide, an angel, who nudges them forward; an invisible energy who inspires us to be something more than a slug on the couch watching TV or a potato chip-eating machine.  I have one friend who insists his guardian angel travels with him wherever he goes; I have another who contacts one spirit guide for meditation and a different one for balancing her checkbook.  I know one woman who never leaves home without St. Christopher, and a fellow writer who swears he consults Shakespeare’s ghost every time he gets stuck writing his novel.

            St. Christopher and Shakespeare are fine and dandy, but what do you do if your creative muse is an Irish Wench?  The stories of leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day are bad enough, with their drunken rowdiness and stealing of gold for their pot at the end of the rainbow and all that.  But what if your Muse turned out to be a woman with a heart as green as the Emerald Isle who hangs around with those drunken leprechauns?

            A Muse is supposed to be your inspiration, your guide, through whatever creative endeavor you undertake.  Venus inspired Michelangelo; Cleopatra inspired Marc Anthony, Athena inspired Odysseus. The original Muses were daughters of Zeus, who presided over the arts and sciences. It just so happens that my inspiration is a fiery Irish barmaid who comes complete with cleavage and clover.  She pops up at the most inopportune times, standing and dancing on my shoulder or steering wheel or computer, rattling off in thick Gaelic who knows what, hoping to jumpstart my creativity.  Dressed in her flowing gauze dress with the girdle that pushes up her breasts in the most obnoxious manner, my little sprite demands attention right then and there.  And I’d better stop and acknowledge her, or she will turn everything upside down.

            For instance, one of my favorite short stories popped into my head while I was at work.  The push to get this written came across loud and clear – write me now.  Couldn’t my Muse have at least waited until lunchtime to rattle off her idea?  I tried to stall my creativity until noon, but it only got worse.  I’m sure some of my creative metaphors got mixed up in whatever I was typing.  Or how about the time that one of my book’s most romantic interludes hit me right in the middle of my son’s soccer game? It was pretty hard to make mental notes when I was screaming encouragements to his high school team.   And what about the poem that hit me driving down the highway at 65 miles per hour?  Or the full-blown idea of a murder mystery that hit me while  I was mowing the lawn?

            I am all for inspiration.  Sunsets are wonderful inducements to creative arts, as are walks through the woods or lying on a sunny beach.  Classical music or mellow jazz or even mind-numbing hair band rock can fine-tune one’s creative edge as they sew, paint, crochet or design.  How can you sit still and concentrate when her Celtic jigs blast through every thread of your body, forcing you to bob your head along with the tempo or sing along with the oh-so-familiar lyrics at the top of your lungs?

            Don’t get me wrong – my little wench has brought me much pleasure through the years.  She has encouraged me to write some really intense interactions and deeply emotional poetry. Her Wild Irish Rose attitude inspires me to write out of the box, to reach deep inside for feelings and fears that normally don’t see the light of day, and to let those feelings influence my writing.

            But I have to admit her timing needs a little work.  Driving a car or typing numbers in a computer is not the most opportune time to become inspired.  I can’t be pulling over to the side of the road every other block or flipping the light on in the middle of the night just because she throws an idea towards me that I cannot resist. 

          I do appreciate her help ― I really do.  But I have to teach her to work on her impulsiveness.  There is a time and place for everything ― even inspiration.  Great ideas often have to ferment in one’s psyche before they become full blown masterpieces.  And there’s no doubt that you have your own muse dying to catch your attention.  All you need to do is listen.

            Now, if she could serve me one of those Irish brews as often as she jumped on my bandwagon…on second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea.  If she served me beer as often as she demands attention, I’d be drunk before I started.