A to Z and Back: After the Challenges

In April, I blogged my way from A to Z. By the 30th, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Then in May, some of the (crazier) April bloggers, headed by Marie Anne, thought it would be nice to keep up the momentum by blogging our way back from Z to A. Being certifiable myself, I of course thought that this was a great idea.

Some topics came easily, but others, not so much. I mean really, Q and X don’t actually conjure oodles of images. But I made it; 26 posts in April followed by—counting this one—26 posts in May. Well actually, May had a few more because in addition to the Z-A in May blogs, I’ve resurrected a blogging group that was born a number of years ago on MySpace. The original GBE has morphed into GBE 2 and now has its home on Facebook.

I’m thrilled to see many of the original GBE bloggers there, and the revamped group also includes some very talented new blood, which is terrific. It’s a just-for-fun weekly adventure in blogging, based on a very simple concept. Once a week (On Sunday evenings) I announce the week’s topic. The GBE 2 bloggers then write blogs that relate in some way to the week’s theme, post their blogs wherever they normally blog, and then leave a link to their post on one long weekly topic thread on the group’s page. Everyone has until the Saturday night after the week’s announcement to blog & post.

We’re only on week two and already, many really wonderful bloggers have been strutting their writing stuff. And they’ve done it incredibly well. :O)

I also post the weekly topic here on my blog, and bloggers can add their urls to a blog-hop linky thing (thanks, Marie Anne!), if they choose. The Facebook group is growing every day (132 active members of this writing!), so if you’d like to join in and are on Facebook, it’d be wise to join the group to get the most visibility for your blog.

I’d love to see even more bloggers join in on the fun. If you are interested, head over to GBE 2 Facebook page and request to be added to the group. This week’s topic is also posted here on the Word Nerd blog, for non-facebookers and others who’d simply prefer to blog the topic and connect using just the blog-hop.

So while the A to Z and Z to A fun might be done (for now, anyway), the blogging will definitely continue. Join us, won’t you?

Born Bad

I’ve owned a daycare for almost three decades and in that time, I’ve been blessed to encounter some truly wonderful families. Babies often start with us when their moms return to work after their maternity leaves and usually stay until they start preschool or kindergarten. Spend five days a week for four or five years with a child and I can guarantee that you will be madly in love. Honestly, I’m usually head-over-heels by the end of day one.

Kids are amazing little people, each unique and beautiful in their own right. It’s funny, but often, personality traits are pretty well-seated in even very young children, with their innate tendencies simply growing and expanding through the years. My job is to help them to become who they are meant to be, and I fully realize just what a remarkable privilege that is.

I’ve seen some incredibly artistic children, able to create works that would impress museum curators, listened happily as exceptional two-year-olds carefully sounded out the words in simple books, and applauded loudly for impromptu kiddie-concerts and theatrical productions. I’ve witnessed acts of kindness by three-year-olds that made my heart swell, and cheered as kids who lagged behind the crowd made small but remarkable advancements. I (almost always) love my job and sometimes can’t believe that I get paid to spend my days with such magnificent little people.

But then there are the others.

Not the kids, because I’ve yet to meet one who wasn’t able to charm me, but the parents. Most have been wonderful. Truly wonderful. I keep in touch with many of the families long after their kids leave for school. Some of the moms started out as clients and ended up dear, lifelong friends. Most are kind, caring, responsible guardians for the little lives entrusted to their hands.

A few are idiots.

I’ve cried at work, mostly happy tears. But occasionally, the tears have been born of sadness, frustration, and even anger. I have to remind myself that as much as I love them, these are not my children, and short of actual abuse or neglect, the choices their parents make are not my business. That’s not always easy.

A few years back there was a step-dad who refused to put his four-year-old step-daughter’s picture in his wallet because she was not his ‘real’ child. He carried photos of her step-brother and her half-sister, but none of her. She cried about this. I did, too.

There was a small boy who stayed with my family for seventeen straight days while his parents and grandparents fought about where he should be. He spent countless weekends with us. He spent Christmas with us. He even spent Mother’s Day with us. He didn’t cry about these things, but I did.

There was the baby boy, who at less than seven months old, had somehow convinced his mother that he’d been born bad. He had an older brother—his mama’s darling—but little man, according to his mom, was destined for prison. Not that it would have excused her idiocy, but this little guy wasn’t even a difficult baby. He was adorable, cheerful, ate well, slept well, and rarely ever cried. “Born bad,” she said, handing him over as she turned to leave.

There were more, but luckily, they are a very small minority. Most of what I see confirms what I like to believe: that life is good and although we all have our own struggles and worries and limitations, one generation nurtures the next, providing love and encouragement, and planting seeds that when properly tended, will bloom into something truly magnificent.

Work, Love, and their Tango to Success

I’ve never been one to define success in terms of money. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against money. I’d actually love to have a bundle of the stuff, but when I think of success, my mind doesn’t automatically make the jump to money.

Instead, it leaps to happiness, connectedness, courage, purpose, positivity, and calm. When I see people who are living in a way that seems genuinely satisfying to them, I see success. Sometimes, part of that equation involves upscale homes, good incomes, and plenty of stuff, but not always.

I have friends and family members who are enormously happy, bubbly, and full of life. I also have some who are utterly miserable. The really happy ones do have some things in common, but not all qualify as successful, in the traditional sense. The main things they share, from what I see, are a sense of purpose, a support system of loving connections, and a genuine acceptance of themselves.

A sense of purpose often comes from work, paid or unpaid. Although most of us dream a little about having endless free time to laze about, I think that in reality, too many aimless hours lead to discontent and unhappiness. That’s not to say that I’d like to keep working for a paycheck for the rest of my life because given the chance, I’d chuck the job right this minute. It doesn’t even mean that I wouldn’t like more time to simply be; it just means that, in my opinion, success requires action—action that makes a person’s heart happy, action that matters to them and fulfills something inside, action that feeds their souls. It makes no difference what that something is, it only matters that it matters to them.

Another thing that the successful folks share is love. That love isn’t always the romantic variety (though that sure is nice), but it is deep and true and constant. My definition of success involves giving and receiving love—being connected to someone, being genuinely involved in their life, and having someone to love you in return.

I have some friends who struggle to put food on the table and some who have a ridiculous amount of money. Happily, success exists at every point on that spectrum. The most successful of them recognize their own gifts and celebrate the contributions of others. They aren’t petty, they don’t snipe at people, and they don’t feel the need to put on one face in public while wearing a different, less attractive one behind the scenes.

These people attract all sorts of good things. People want to be around them, they want to learn from them, they sometimes even want to emulate them. There is a light that comes from people like this, an almost tangible goodness that stems from deep inside and branches out, welcoming others to soak it in.

That, to me, is genuine success.

GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #2 Topic: SUCCESS

As always, the guidelines are simple. Interpret the week’s topic any way you want and blog about it in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the url to your post into the linky tool below.

REMINDER: use the url to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (131 regular bloggers there--and growing every day!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (6-4-11) to post this week’s blog and leave your link…

This week’s topic is SUCCESS.

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!

Cosmetic Surgery Extremes: The Cat Lady, Barbie, Ken, and Queen Nefertiti

Baby Boomers flat out refuse to get old. As a group, we spend gazillions (yeah, I did zero research to get a real number, but c’mon, we spend like crazy) on stuff that we think will head off Father Time. Wrinkle creams, day creams, night creams, hair color, spot removers, age-defying make-up, age-defying moisturizers, teeth-whitening products, tattoos, Botox, Viagra, motorcycles, and little red convertibles.

None of that changes the fact that we Boomers aren’t kids anymore, but you have to give us credit for trying. We ain’t goin’ down without a fight. Middle-age? Bring it.

Those of us born between 1946 and 1961 (I made it in with just two days to spare) seem convinced that unlike every generation that came before us since, oh, I don’t know, cavefolks, we’ll be able to maintain a youthful appearance and possibly even our youthful vigor well into our Social Security years (yeah, like those of us born in 1961 will actually have Social Security years).

We zero out our 401Ks for liposuction, liposculpting, collagen injections, breast lifts, tummy tucks, microdermabrasion, and of course, good old-fashioned face lifts. We can have plumped up cheeks, pouty lips, and wrinkle-free foreheads if we choose to, and statistics show that many of us do. Even the guys.

A little nip & tuck is one thing, I guess, but some take it to an extreme. Like anything else, cosmetic surgeries can become an addiction, and a few cases have been pretty high-profile. Celebs find before and after shots of their mugs (and parts south) plastered all over both the supermarket rags as well as more ‘respectable’ publications, but most of them seem to choose pretty standard procedures and rarely go too nuts with it. A few notable exceptions—Joan Rivers and several members of the Jackson family come to mind—go overboard, but typically, celebrity surgeries result in smoother faces, flatter tummies, and bigger boobs.

Some cosmetic surgery fans become well-known not for their acting, singing, or interviewing skills, but because they've surgically transformed themselves so dramatically that their own mothers might not recognize them.

Jocelyn Wildenstein, sometimes called the Cat Lady, has undergone procedure after procedure through the years, until her typical (and already attractive) human features truly do resemble those of a feline.

Sarah Burge, a resident of the UK, holds the current record for money spent on cosmetic surgeries. In her effort to look like Barbie, she had spent upwards of £539,500 (that's heading toward a million bucks) as of last fall. You can see her and her family in the following YouTube video (let's just say they aren't the Cleavers...or even the Osbournes):

Here in the U.S., we have our own Barbie wannabe. Cindy Jackson (what is it about that last name?) has subjected herself to numerous procedures in order to resemble the Mattel icon, and even has her own website offering advice on all sorts of cosmetic surgical procedures. I have to admit, her pics look great, but I have to wonder if she might have been nipped, tucked, and Photoshopped.

After seeing Jackson on a talk show, Tim Whitfield-Lynn, a guy in his mid-thirties who described himself as “…stuck in front of my computer, bored out of my brains, looking old before my time because of my fast living,” did what any sensible person would do. He decided to become Ken. A line list of surgeries and one pair of bright blue contact lenses later, Tim legally changed his name and became Miles Kendall. "Miles, because I look miles better, and Kendall, for Ken-doll,” he says.

Um, okay.

Miles and Cindy currently represent the Plastic Surgery Referral Network.

Finally, we have Nileen Namita, who has underfone 51 cosmetic surgeries over the last twenty years in an effort to look like Queen Nefertiti. At an estimated $250,000 spent, I’d say that she was the victim of a royal rip-off.

So how about you? Would you choose cosmetic surgery to improve your looks, maintain the beauty of your youth, or transform yourself completely?


Top surgical photo courtesy of Apple's Eyes Studio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before and after photos of Cindy Jackson courtesy of CindyJackson.com.


Dude, Where’s My Cow?

As some of you know, my hubby and I are planning our escape from the city. We’ve lived near supposed civilization for too long and are ready to trade city conveniences for country comforts.

In our perfect, life-doesn’t-get-much-better-than-this ideal, we would like for our kids and grandkids to become country bumpkins with us, but we’re going to have to settle for a partial granting of that particular dream. Our daughter and son-in-law are happily dreaming with us of wide open spaces, porch swing evenings, and a simpler place to raise their two (brilliant and beautiful) little ones. They are absolutely on board.

Our son and daughter-in-law, though, have no desire to look out their back door and see a big red barn, so leaving would mean seeing them and their (brilliant and beautiful) son less often. That’s the hard part.

We’ve been spoiled; our kids and grandkids live within walking distance of our house, so we get to see them most every day. We pop in, they pop in. We sit in the stands and cheer for our grandson as he swings the bat at his tee-ball games, we hang with him when his parents go somewhere that isn’t kid-friendly, and we’ve been a part of his everyday life for all of his life.

The thought of not having that makes my heart ache.

But our daughter and her family want this country life as much as we do, and I think that at some point, they are destined to leave the city. So no matter what, our idyllic close-to-everybody existence would probably not last forever, even if we were to stay put.

We’ve repeated the mantra: Red barn. Black & white cow. Room to roam. And one of these days in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have all of that.

I can’t wait.

Equality and Absolution Cannot be Gained with Reparations

I’m not sure if the battle is still brewing nationwide, but in the Chicago area, politicians—especially those seeking, rather than already holding office—frequently address the idea of providing reparations for the decedents of slaves in an effort to make amends for the suffering of their ancestors. I am absolutely opposed to the idea.

First off, let me say that I do not have even the slightest bit of racial or other prejudice. I make no judgments on people based on their race, religion, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical limitations, age, weight, or ability to never have a bad hair day (well, okay, I might resent that last bunch just a wee little bit). Whether I like you, love you, connect with you, or am repulsed by you, rest assured that it has nothing at all to do with the color of your skin.

Okay, so if my opposition to providing financial reparations to the descendents of slaves does not stem from bigotry, what is the reason? Clearly, the fact that some of our citizens once held human beings as possessions is a deep and shameful scar on our country. It’s a wrong so repugnant that we need to never forget it; we should and will wear the scarlet S of slavery always, its existence a reminder that the life and the country we have today was built on both admirable and evil platforms.

When candidates start talking reparations, though, it gets my goat. First of all, handing someone a check would not repair anything. It couldn’t undo what has been done and it would restore dignity to neither the wrong nor the wronged. If anything, it is an insult to assume that a couple of bucks could compensate for such unspeakable abuse. Tossing money at a bad situation doesn’t clean up anything.

Additionally—and this is where people sometimes get their hackles up—I haven’t, nor have any people currently living, held a slave, so the debt isn’t ours to pay. Now hear me out on this one, please. I don’t believe that any of us have the right or the obligation to take either the credit or the blame for anyone else’s life. This applies even to those living right now, let alone those who are long gone. If my spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors are wonderful, kind, responsible people, the accolades are theirs, not mine. Equally, if they turn out to be complete jackasses, the blame lies with them. My sins are mine, but yours belong to you.

Finally, I believe that providing financial reparations to current citizens who are descended from slaves would open the floodgates for additional groups requesting similar payments, and to be quite frank, we simply couldn’t afford that. While I doubt that many would argue that any other single group has suffered as much at the hands of others as slaves, there is no question that oppression was not limited to only them. Immigrants from all around the world have been ostracized and oppressed. Members of various religious groups have and continue to suffer the wrongs of intolerance, and women in this country, while having come a long way baby, are still not on an equal footing with men.

I am descended from women, how about you? Does this mean that we should expect to get a payment in the mail as a form of apology for how our great-grandmothers were treated? And even if we did, would that check somehow restore her right to vote, to hold the same job as her husband, to speak her mind?

Of course not. The best that we can do to right some of the wrongs of the past is to learn from them. My guess is that if we were somehow able to sit down with a council of past slaves and ask them what we could do, as a people, to gain absolution, they wouldn’t ask for money. What they would want, I believe, is for their descendents to be treated fairly, equally, justly. For them to be afforded the same rights and responsibilities as their paler brothers and sisters. For simple human decency.

And that is exactly what we should be doing. What we should have been doing all along. We cannot change the past, but we are writing history right now, and it’s up to us how we do it.

Fake Food

While there are plenty of statistics to support the notion that we are getting fatter with each generation, most of us don’t need to look at a bar graph to know that the situation is epidemic. We need only to look around our neighborhoods, our schools, and even our own homes.

There are lots of reasons for this troublesome trend. Fast-paced, grab-n-go lifestyles certainly factor in, as do increased portion sizes, decreased activity, and easy access to unhealthy, but convenient (and let’s face it, yummy) foods.

I like junk food, especially cheeseburgers. If it weren’t for the fact that it would kill me (well, that and a wee bit of vanity), I would probably eat a steady diet of crap. Grease and sugar, sugar and grease. Cover it in chocolate, cheese, or barbeque sauce, and I probably like it. Add bacon and I will kiss you.

But eating that stuff every day would surely shorten my life, and worse, would diminish the quality of the years I do have. So I do what I think a lot of folks do—I try to make mostly healthy choices, but fall off the wagon frequently—and with a big thud. The result of those indiscretions is evident; my jeans are too snug and swimsuit shopping is a hellish experience.

There are a wide variety of ‘fixes,’ of course. Diet plans abound, but most have one thing in common—they focus on one supposed problem, rather than looking at the big (no pun intended) picture. They’ll tell you that carbs are the devil, fat is a fiend, and sugar? Well, sugar ain’t so sweet, that’s for sure.

A lot of popular plans encourage the consumption of meal substitutes—shakes and bars and creepy prepared entrees. The boxes might show a simple meal—chicken medallions, pasta, and veggies, perhaps—but interpreting the ingredient list requires an advanced chemistry degree. Ick.

In my gut (again, not trying to be punny), I don’t believe that carbs or fat or even, dare I say, sugar, are our enemies. I think that in reasonable quantities, and coupled with regular, vigorous activity, no real foods need to be completely off-limits.

The key, I think, is that we need to get back to eating real foods. Even if we do live on the shakes and bars and frozen diet meals for however long it takes for us to slide into our skinny jeans, then what? Sooner or later, we’ll need to sit down to a plate of food. At some point, we’ll want to chew something. And if we’ve traded our junk food addiction for a dependency on diet products, we’re still uneducated about what our bodies need and unaccustomed to feeding them properly.

So, no more fake food for me. No meal replacement bars. No weird, chalky shakes, no processed crap that promises skinny results, but fails to mention that skinny and healthy are not interchangeable words.

I will eat cheeseburgers—I know myself well enough not to pretend otherwise—but I won’t try to compensate for them with other stuff that is probably no healthier, and leaves me utterly unsatisfied. Enough.

I want food. Not fake food, but food.

Grounded? Yes, please.

When kids screw up and tick off their parents, they are likely to find themselves grounded. And then they complain about it. Boneheads.

I’d love to be grounded. Send me to my room. Take away my phone. Please. Take the computer. No wait, can I keep that? You can have everything else, though. I’m good.

A week? If I smart off, are you going to double it? If I give you the bird, can I get a month?

That’s it. That’s all I want. Just my big, comfy bed and my computer. Oh, just one more thing. I will need some exercise, so can I run out to the yard to swim? I promise not to enjoy it (too much).

Thank you. Thank you so much. Hold on, that’s wrong. What I mean to say is, “Oh, man! That’s so unfair!”

Okay, all better.

Expect Great Things

I’ve read quite a few of the “Expectations” posts already, and was surprised that so many people believe that the road to happiness is paved with low expectations. I understand the theory: don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed, and any bit of goodness that comes your way will be a delightful surprise. I get it, but I just don’t agree with it.

I do just the opposite. I fully expect great things. I assume that life will be good, happy, and rich with wondrous blessings. I expect to do well, I expect to live with love, and I expect that I will have all that I need…and more.

Now, that’s not to say that I have rigid, etched-in-stone expectations, because I do believe that sort of mindset is a recipe for disappointment. If I’d convinced myself that the only way I was going to be happy was to have a very specific job, marry a wealthy and dashingly handsome man, pop out exactly a certain number of (utterly perfect) children, bank a million bucks before I blew out forty candles on a cake, and never tip the scales any higher than 110 pounds, I’d be one sorry, sobbing, scowling sad-sack right about now.

But I’m not. I’m perfectly happy with my imperfect, but remarkably blessed life. The road from the cradle to the grave is rarely a straight one. Life changes every second—quite literally. That moment when you clicked on my link to read this post? It’s gone, never to return. So is the one when you read that last sentence. Life is in a constant state of recreating itself, so to expect happiness, to me, means to accept the natural ebb and flow, to adjust as needed, and to look for and embrace every happiness, because while everything is fleeting, blessings are always there if we choose to see them.

I expect to live a life that is simple and complicated and messy and beautiful. I expect to cry tears of both sorrow and joy, to laugh until my sides hurt and I can barely breathe, to hold up my loved ones and to have them scoop me up when I fall.

I expect great things. And by doing so, I find them.

Heather is a Very Kind and Patient Woman

Thank you Heather for the snazzy award (and sorry it took me forever to pay it forward!).

Here are the rules:
  1. Winners- Put the above image in your blog.
  2. Include a link back to the person who gave it to you.
  3. Tell 10 things about yourself.
  4. Award 15 other bloggers.
  5. Contact the bloggers you awarded and let them know they won.

10 things about me:
  1. Despite how long it took me to do this post, I’m not usually a procrastinator.
  2. I didn’t win the lottery last night.
  3. I think that nudists may get their start simply because they are tired of doing laundry.
  4. In case you were wondering, I did not put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp.
  5. I didn’t take the cookie from the cookie jar, either (well, okay, that might have been me).
  6. Camping sounds to me like a punishment for one’s sins.
  7. If there was such a thing as a cheeseburger-eating vegetarian, I’d sign right up and buy the tee-shirt.
  8. I’m wondering if the really cute wicker basket I bought for my bike will encourage me to actually ride the thing.
  9. I’m guessing that the answer to the above is no, because my really cute jogging shoes haven’t hit the treadmill any more often than my older, uglier ones did.
  10. I’m rethinking almost everything, but coming up with a lot of the same answers.

Fifteen Featured Bloggers: I’m choosing folks who are participating in the GBE 2, because with a new topic each week, GBE’ers are nothing if not versatile!
  1. A Pirate Looks Past Sixty
  2. Wine-n-Chat
  3. Intuitive Reasoning
  4. Lillyth ~ Fairly Rabid
  5. A Peek Inside Christine’s Psyche
  6. Dances with Vodka
  7. Blessings ‘n Hugs
  8. Tacos and Toast
  9. Jennibean’s Journey
  10. Cat Muses
  11. Enjoy the Small Stuff
  12. Peacegirl Place
  13. The Musings of Justin Kogneeto
  14. Just One Voice
  15. Peace Artist Lainey

Oh, man! Was that fifteen already?! But I’m not nearly done! Oh well, you guys each get to pass it along to fifteen more bloggers…

GBE 2: Blog On Week #1 Topic: EXPECTATIONS

Okay, it’s finally here! We’re ready for your first GBE 2 topic. I’m more excited than a kid on Christmas morning!

The guidelines are simple. Interpret the week’s topic any way you want and blog about it in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop a link to the linky tool on this post.

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

So, are you all set? Me too!

You have until Saturday (5-28-11) to post this week’s blog and leave your link…

This week’s topic is EXPECTATIONS.

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!

Independently Individual

We’ve all seen them. In all likelihood, we’ve all been them, at least to a degree. Often, they are teenagers, but not always. They tend to travel in packs, dressed similarly and carrying themselves in a manner that screams, “Screw you!”

They may have pink hair. Or black. Or none at all. They might sport tattoos, or nose rings, or pants that hang off their fannies.

They send a specific message, or so they think. It appears as if they are saying, “Hey, to hell with your narrow views, screw your old-fashioned thinking, and kiss my ass if you think for a minute that I am anything like you.”

But the funny thing is that they are me. They are you. And we are them.

Despite their obvious effort to be different, they manage to blend in with their peers, the sameness diluting the very message of independence and individuality that they seem so determined to send. I don’t blame or judge them. Who hasn’t wanted to take a different path?

From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty much a given that one generation will style themselves differently than the one before. Straight-laced parents bore a generation of hippies, and then the free thinking, free-loving, laid-back kids grew up to raise a crop of bankers and builders and corporate-ladder-climbers. Their grandparents must have smiled when little Sunshine and Freedom changed their names to Samantha and Frank, bought suits, and interviewed downtown.

I admire genuine individuality more than most traits. More than ambition, more than obedience. Far more than obedience.

Sometimes, walking between groups of uniformly attired people, I spot a standout. Someone who just doesn’t fit. A rebel. And when I do, it makes me happy.

Individuality expressed is a celebration of one’s core self, and what is more beautiful than that? The kid in the crazy mis-matched outfit, looking pleased and proud? I like that kid. The tomboy, the bookworm, the kid who asks for beakers for Christmas—those kids are the brave ones, the strong ones, the ones who will make their marks. They are already making them.

Good for them.

Sometimes, you can look at an adult and clearly see that person as a teenager. The cheerleader, the teacher’s pet, or the one who worried their parents half to death. Sometimes, though, these impressions are dead-wrong. Today’s church-going teetotaler might very well have been yesterday’s hell-raiser. The guy in the ratty blue jeans who sells organic produce at the farmer’s market may have an Ivy League education and a law degree, but woke up one day to realize that he was living someone else’s life, so he chucked it all and bought 50 acres and a John Deere.

Again, good for them.

Taking the time to look inward and then having the courage to act on what you find is a wonderful, admirable thing. It makes no difference if we are six or eighty-six—being who we really are without trying to explain or apologize is a wonderful way to live.

I hope I get there.

Juggling, Whistling, and the Rubik’s Cube

I’m good at plenty of things. I can get a baby on a napping schedule in no time at all, squelch a child’s fears with a few words and a kiss on the forehead, and convince even the most resistant toddlers to eat their veggies.

Tax law doesn’t confuse or intimidate me, I can draw well enough to help my partner make good guesses when we play Pictionary, and I’ll take on anyone when it comes to Wheel of Fortune.

But I can’t juggle. Or whistle. Or solve that damn Rubik’s Cube. Well, I can do the cube, but it takes me a little while, with 'little while’ being a figurative term to mean longer than the time that it takes to have a pizza delivered or dry a batch of towels. Longer than it takes the average eleven-year-old to get all of the sides to have one color only.

What’s up with that?

I make the best Black Forest Cake this side of the Mississippi, give home-haircuts that don’t leave my family members looking like transplants from Deliverance, and I can read a map to navigate both main thoroughfare and off-the-beaten-track weekend road trips.

I can’t, however, seem to give accurate directions to my house unless I am looking at a map, even though I’ve lived in the same general area for most of my life. When we were touring houses for sale, it wasn’t uncommon for me to get discombobulated inside of the ones with even slightly twisty floorplans. It’s safe to say that my real-world spatial intelligence quotient is far lower than my on-paper one.

I’m thoroughly impressed by even half-assed pianists because while I can do that tapping-your-head-while-rubbing-your-belly thing just fine, I can’t imagine being able to convince my hands to play two separate parts of a song on the keyboard simultaneously. I don’t think my brain would keep track of it all and anyway; I’m just not that coordinated.

Not that I don’t have some cool physical skills. I can effortlessly do that Spock finger thing on both hands and I can even scissor them while in Spock-mode. And taco tongue? No problem. I can see you asking yourself if my coolness ever ends, and the answer is no. It’s infinite. ;O)

I’ll bet you have some über-cool skills, too—stuff so incredible that it’ll make me raise just one eyebrow in disbelief. No wait. I can’t do that, either.

So spill it. What’cha got?

Killing for Peace

I’ve never been shy about the fact that I am anti-war. I honestly do not see how we can justify warring, especially considering that IT DOES NOT WORK. I’ve heard it said that we go to war to achieve peace. Okay, dandy. We’ve been involved in one war or another over and over and over again. Where is this peaceful result that we were seeking? When, in the history of mankind, has war resulted in peace? I’m no history buff, but I can’t think of a single example.

Can you?

My friends are a very eclectic bunch, diverse in their opinions about politics, religion, and pretty much every other topic I can think of. Some, like me, believe that we need to find a better solution to global disagreements, while others see my steadfast aversion to war as evidence of my naiveté. All believe that it is ugly, but some see it as a sad necessity.

I do not.

If you cannot get along with your brother, you have several options. You can talk to him in the hope of changing him to better suit your way of thinking, you can acquiesce, and be whatever/whomever it is he wants you to be, you can agree to disagree, and remind yourselves that your love for one another is stronger than whatever it is that is separating you, or you can decide that your relationship is irreparable, and you can part ways. Or, of course, you can kill him and eliminate the tension once and for all.

The thing is—beyond the obvious moral issue of killing your brother—is that once he’s dead, you are left with new broken relationships. Let’s just say that there are no police knocking at your door to ask about your brother; let’s assume for a minute that the law of the land allows for a stronger person to eliminate a weaker one, if no other solution could be settled upon between them.

The situation does have its perks. Not only is your jackass brother never going to bother or bully you again, but you sent a pretty strong message to anyone else who may have been giving thought to screwing with you. Nothing says "Back off, Jack!" like a corpse.

Of course, there might be some who feel strongly enough about your actions to take action themselves. Your sister-in-law and your nieces and nephews are probably gunning for you, as your own parents might be. If nothing else, those who knew both you and your brother are sure to have thoughts about the killing—some agreeing that you had no other option and others seeing you as a ruthless and reckless danger who must be ‘handled.’ Ultimately, someone will take charge of the situation and in no time, you will be laid to rest in the family plot, right next to your brother.

At your funeral luncheon, your favorite cousin will look across the room at your uncle, who, while saddened by your loss, believed that you had it coming and isn’t shy about saying so. When your cousin overhears the older man say, “It’s a terrible situation, but it had to be done,” something in him stirs, and he can’t ignore it.

He goes out to his car and gets the handgun he has tucked under his front seat and returns to the room, determined to make things right. All he wants is peace, and he knows but one way to get it.


You wouldn’t like it if someone stole your words, so please don’t steal the work of photographers and graphic artists to provide images for your blog.


Look-Alikes: Celebrity You

There are a bunch of sites that let you upload your pic and then they do a little magic (do you like how every time I don’t know exactly how something is done, I chalk it up to magic?) and come up with the celebrities that you most closely resemble. I normally don’t give a rat’s patootie about celebrities, but I have two very good reasons for giving these a try. First, I need an “L” post and second, I’m feeling tired and lazy, and this option is all but effortless.

Hmmmm, maybe I should rethink my full-disclosure, honesty policy.

Anyway, I uploaded my pic into two of these sites, and here’s what they came up with…

First, I tried facedouble.com and got Caroline Rhea.

Next, I went to myheritage.com, and it gave me this:

I noticed that my supposed best match on myheritage was only given a 66% match rating, so maybe I just don’t have a celebrity kind of face.

*remembering an old joke about having a great face for radio*

While browsing, I did find some funny--and surprisingly accurate--celebrity look-alike photos:

Okay folks, that's all I've got. Color "L" done. :O)

Middle of Everything

Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jane Average.

I’d like to tell you that I’m exceptional, but I’m really not, and I abide by a very strict honesty policy (please don’t ask me if those pants make your ass look big). It would be cool to be extraordinary, but I am quite ordinary. I am average.

I’m middle-class, which roughly translated (in non-economist, but real-people terms), means that I am able to pay all of my bills on time as long as I keep on working. I can fill up the car with gas, but freak out at the fact that it now costs fifty bucks to fill the tank of a Honda Civic. A freaking Civic!

Um, okay, I’m back and I’m all better now.

Yes, we have a Civic, a completely average car. Boring as hell and kind of ugly (and it’s charcoal gray, the official color of got-a-great-deal-on-it cars everywhere), but functional and reliable. You know, average.

I’m bigger than Jennifer Aniston, and smaller than Rosie O’Donnell. Taller than Rhea Perlman, shorter than Rebecca Romijn. Older than the internet, younger than dirt. I can tell you that stretch mark cream is a rip-off, but that good quality make-up is worth the few extra bucks.

At forty-nine, I’m considered middle-aged, but really, what are the chances that I’ll live to be ninety-eight? Still, middle-aged is the supposed label and the target demographic for investment brokers, wrinkle creams, and Viagra. I’m sure I’ll be getting my introductory packet from AARP soon. Just like every other um, mature, average middle-of-everything American.

I even live in the Midwest. Smack-dab in the middle of the heartland.

Politically, I’m kind of average in that I think both main parties are comprised largely of arrogant jackasses who care more about promoting themselves than they do about creating a brighter future for our citizenry and the world at large. I lean way left, but my feet are planted in the middle.

If you were to peek inside my head (it’s okay, just sweep the cobwebs aside), you’d find that I have a pretty ordinary amount of both useful and useless information occupying my gray matter. I’m brilliantly astute about some topics and completely ignorant on others, averaging out to, well, average. *sigh*

I doubt that many people expect that they’ll turn out to be average. As kids, we are future astronauts, professional athletes, rock stars, or hugely successful novelists. We are potentially rich and famous. We will be great scientific minds, trend-setters, and way cooler parents than our own parents were.

And then we grow up.

That's when we realize that our parents were no dorkier than we are. And while we might not have butlers, private jets, or groupies, we have plenty. And we are happy. And when our kids start garage bands and get all starry-eyed at the notion that they will live extraordinary lives, we smile, and we don’t say anything that could dampen their spirits. Because whether or not they ever hit one out of Yankee Stadium or argue a case before the Supreme Court, we know that they are right. They are extraordinary.

And so are we.

New Day Dawning

How was yesterday for you? Did you have fun? Meet up with old friends? Play in the sunshine? Finish your book? Relax in a bubble-bath? Have dinner with your family? Sing to your baby? See a great movie? Hug your grandfather?

Or did you get a flat tire? Get in a huge fight with someone? Lose your keys? Burn your dinner?

Not to be rude, but it hardly matters how your yesterday was. It’s over.

We tend to hang on tightly to yesterday. Often, to a whole lot of yesterdays. Why? They’re good and gone. Whether you had an idyllic childhood or were raised in a hellish den of abuse, it’s in the past. If some idiot smashed your heart to smithereens, you’ve been trash-talked into embarrassment, or you got fired from your job, it’s done. Over. Finished.

You’ve got right this second, but possibly not one more.

Are you still reading? Phew! Then you’ve been given another second. Good. ;O)

For better or worse, we all lurk a little in days gone by and dream a little about tomorrow. Perfectly normal, but neither matter as much as right now.

We’ve probably all seen a tee-shirt or blog badge that says, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” I think it’s a pretty icky quote but I can’t deny its truth.

There are far better quotes that convey the same message. I like these:

  • “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” ~Jan Glidewell
  • “No man is rich enough to buy back his past.” ~Oscar Wilde
  • “Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.” ~Cherokee Indian Proverb
  • “Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.” ~Euripides, Alexander
  • “The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.” ~L. Thomas Holdcroft
  • “I need neither future nor past, but to learn to take today not too fast.” ~Jeb Dickerson
  • “Nothing is worth more than this day.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

No matter how it’s said, though, the value of leaving the past where it belongs remains big. Huge. Life-changing. Sometimes, even life-saving.

We’ve been given this new day and it will pass soon enough. Tomorrow will replace it, and then the day after that.

If we're lucky.

Overachieving is Overrated

I want to be David Larrabee.

Have you ever seen the movie Sabrina? Both versions were very good, but I prefer the 1995 remake. It’s one of my all-time favorites; when those silly fb questionnaires make the rounds, Sabrina always makes my list, were I ever forced to choose only ten films to watch for the rest of my life.

Harrison Ford is Linus Larrabee—hard working, focused, and single-mindedly achieving. Julia Ormond stars as Sabrina, awkward girl grown into a lovely young woman and still schoolgirl-crushing on David Larrabee, Linus’s charming younger brother. David, played beautifully by Greg Kinnear, is a happy slacker. He’s afforded this luxury largely because of Linus and his workaholic ways.

Check out the trailer:

There was a time when I would have considered myself more of a Linus than a David. I am innately far more Linussy than Davidish. As a kid, I was old, serious, and studious. In high school, I joined and excelled, as if were some sort of race for the gold. Bah. Foolish girl, I think now, looking in the rear-view mirror.

I had a few weird years of wild in my late teens, but they are but a blip on my otherwise spotlessly clean (read: rather dull) radar. My wild phase happened shortly after my mom died, and I kind of deep-ended for a little bit. Not long.

Probably not long enough.

I quickly got back on track and did what I was supposed to. It felt right, me being a goody-two-shoes and all. But work is, well, work. It serves a purpose, but so does slacking off.

So I’m ready now. Never mind that I’m overemployed; let’s not talk about how I’m juggling two careers. That stuff is getting in the way of my goal to be David Larabee. Well, David with a book deal. Now that would be perfect.

David doesn’t know a Wednesday from a Sunday. He doesn’t need to. Lucky duck.

Peek-a-Boo! I See You! Writing Fictional Characters

Babies and little kids love to play peek-a-boo; they delight in the smiling glimpses sandwiched between momentary disappearances. But what about the rest of us?

Do we live in a perpetual state of peek-a-boo? And what if we had no privacy veil? No moments hidden from outside scrutiny. How would we look then?

I’m pretty sure that when we watch ‘reality TV,’ little of what we take from it is all that real. There’s pretty much always a villain, a goody-two-shoes, and a bunch of folks who kind of meld together to form the less-remarkable middle. The thing is, we make our judgments based solely on carefully chosen snippets that are presented to us by the producers—clearly not a total picture.

I think the same happens in real life. If I always see you being kind and cooperative, I’m likely to hold you in high regard. On the other hand, if I’m privy only to your least attractive moments, I may not care for you, not realizing that they represent but a small portion of the total picture.

What if there was a camera rolling at all times? How would we look then? I doubt that any of us would sign up to have our every moment available for public appraisal. People, even genuinely decent people, have villainous moments. We are sometimes crabby and impatient. We lash out, curl up in fear or sadness, speak without forethought, and act hastily. We don't always look out for the best interests of others, so focused are we on what we want and need. We are sometimes lazy and shirk our responsibilities. If we were to be watched continuously, it would become clear that we are sometimes downright disgraceful.

All of us. No exceptions.

Fiction writers—good ones—understand the importance of letting their characters’ humanness show. Bad guys need to have a soft side, a pitiable weakness, something. Without it, readers won't get fully vested in the story because it will feel off—they may night be able to identify exactly what’s missing, but they’ll inherently know that something is.

The same goes for the protagonist. We can only champion their cause when we have a spark of connection—we don’t need to feel that we’ve walked in their very shoes, just that we understand how and why they walk in them. And to get that, we need to recognize something of ourselves in those reasons. We need to see the frailty beneath their strength, their uncertainty, their flaws. Their inner bitch needs to shine, if only in quick peek-a-boo glimpses. The best fiction feels like it could be reality. That it is, in fact, a true story. And one of the keys to making it real is to write people who are like you and I—a blend of good and evil, happy and sad, strength and weakness.

Quelling our Emotions

I was born old. I was a serious kid who carried a lot of stuff, some of it genuine byproducts of my real life, but most just an innate sense that I was more a short adult than a child.

I remember looking at my niece, who was bubbly and excitable, as though she was rather ridiculous. She was all of one year younger than me.

I’m not sure why it is that some people are likely to spill their every emotion, while others internalize most things and emit little more than sanitized versions for public display. Nature? Nurture? A combo-platter would be my best guess.

I’ve eased up and am far more likely now to express childlike exuberance than I was as an actual kid. I’m still not one to pour it all out there, but that’s more of a politeness thing than a bottled-up one. Not everyone wants or needs to be subjected to someone else’s every mood or passing thought—unless they are on Facebook, where it seems normal to update friends on the tiniest realizations and most meager of accomplishments and/or irritations.

How about you? Do you suppress your emotions or let them run wild and free?

Right Here, Right Now

The following are facts:

  • I’m knocking on 50’s door.
  • The scale is a rotten bastard and we are no longer friends.
  • There are people who plain-old-fashioned don’t like me.
  • I’m a thousandaire, and barring some miraculous happening, that situation probably won’t get markedly better.
  • My roots are gray.
  • I sometimes wear Crocs. With socks.
  • I’m a word-nerd, but a science-dimwit. No matter how many times he’s explained the process to me, I go blank when my husband says, “…and that completes the circuit!” and I still say that what makes the light go on when I flip the switch is magic. Nothin’ but magic.
  • The other day while I was drying my hair, I noticed that my upper arms were doing a little flap-dance. That’s with an ‘f,’ and not to be confused with the much more appealing lap-dance.
  • I’m straddling two careers. I will say goodbye to one of them in three years and one month (not that I’m counting), but for right now, I work more hours than I want to or is good for me.
  • I’m tired.

A lot of the above doesn’t sound so great. Fortunately, there is more to the story. The following are also facts:

  • I’ll be 50 before 2012 begins, and I’ve never needed any medicine stronger than Tylenol.
  • I’ve been married to the same person for all of my adult life and though we’ve both changed a lot since the day we said our vows, we’ve grown together, not apart.
  • I have a son and a daughter who are truly amazing people and with whom I have wonderful, loving relationships.
  • I am adored by some of the most brilliant and beautiful little people in the world. They call me Grammy.
  • I have a pool in my backyard and a fireplace in my living room, making both summer and winter a little sweeter.
  • I can pay my mortgage every month and have enough left over to go out for ice cream.
  • I’m not afraid to fall on my face, and if I do, there are people who will pick me up and dust me off.
  • I like myself.
  • I’m good with God.
  • I’ve been lost and I’ve been hurt and I've been kicked in the ass, but I’m still here.

Life is good.

How about you? How is your right here, right now?

Survivor: Celebrity Island

Hi, my name is Beth and I’m a Survivoraholic.

I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but when I find a show that I like, I tend to get a little compulsive about it. Through the years, there haven’t been that many that made the cut, but the following did:

  • The Andy Griffith Show: You can’t possibly be surprised by this. I told you right from the start that I’m nerderrific.
  • General Hospital: Once upon a time, but not for ages. At the height of my obsession, I scheduled my college classes around GH. Later, I scheduled the kids’ naps around it.
  • Saturday Night Live: Sometimes. Sometimes not so much.
  • Sisters: I loved the ladies with boys’ names. Plus, a young George Clooney sweetened the deal.
  • Seinfeld: Yeah, me and everybody.
  • Will & Grace: I ♥ Karen and the clan.
  • Everwood: Really good. Really gone. :O(
  • Boston Legal: Smart, biting, socially relevant, incredibly inappropriate humor. Loved it and mourn it still.
  • Grey’s Anatomy: No big surprise here. Everyone’s addicted to this one.
  • Modern Family: Lovity-love, love, love this show.
  • Survivor: It’s brilliant, really. Same basic show every season, but because it’s essentially a huge social experiment with a new cast every go around, the unique mix of contestants keep it fresh and addictive.

When they are sorting through applicants’ videos, Survivor producers need to choose a great blend—the clashes, romances, connections and conflicts are what keep those ratings up. You’ve got to have some sweet young flesh of both genders, at least one really lazy player, one useful but abrasive type, a couple of really big egos, an underdog, a geezer, someone with a really big chip on their shoulder, a manipulator, a blind follower, a rube, and a nutjob. Voila! Magic. Pure television magic.

I’d like to see a season of all celebrity contestants and I’ve been giving some thought to potential players. Some possibilities:

  • Susan Lucci: She’s about to have a lot of time on her hands and it would be cool to see her go 39 days without make-up.
  • Pauley Perrette: I love her as Abby on NCIS and even more when she’s herself. Cool chickie.
  • Alicia Silverstone: Vegan, eco-conscious, charming, and not the least bit clueless.
  • Selena Gomez: Gorgeous and capable. Beware.
  • Star Jones: Creepy VonCreepy.
  • Jack Nicholson: Gotta love Mad Jack. And he only looks crazy.
  • Betty White: Just because I ♥ Betty.
  • Ellen Page: The dorkalicious ideal.
  • Natalie Portman: Perfection.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis: More than month without Activia. Uh-oh.
  • Bette Midler: Senior citizen, my ass. Always divine.
  • Katie Holmes: Let’s just call it a Tom Cruise intervention and deprogramming opportunity. She’s young; there’s still hope.
  • Charlie Sheen: C’mon, you know you want him there.
  • Will Smith: The anti-Charlie. He’ll class up the joint.
  • Jewel: Toughness wrapped in fragility. She’s secret weapon material.
  • Bernie Madoff: Stuff happens way out in the middle of nowhere. The cameras can’t be rolling all the time.
  • Pippa Middleton: Can you say record-breaking Neilson ratings?

Considered, but vetoed:

  • Mel Gibson: Yes, we need an obnoxious dirt-bag, but not one who deserves zero publicity.
  • Whitney Houston: She has an, um, previous commitment.
  • Sean Connery: At some point, he’d be shirtless and one peek at eighty-year-old man-boobs could kill all of my steamy illusions about him.
  • Justin Bieber: My granddaughter requested him, but I think you have to be old enough to vote/drive/shave to get on the big plane and camp out with the big boys.
  • Madonna: I’d love to see her there, but only if I could also send my friend Elaine. While I think Elaine is a superstar, she hasn’t yet reached full celebrity status (give it time).
  • Susan Sarandon: I dig her, but I think she’d win, hands down, and that wouldn’t be fair to the lesser contestants.

Okay, those are my choices. Who would you like to see on Survivor: Celebrity Island?

Teacher Appreciation Week

Last week (May 2nd-6th) was National Teacher Appreciation Week. I don’t know about you, but when I think back to the teachers I’ve had, I feel blessed. In all honesty, I can only remember one teacher who really should have chosen a different profession—the rest were quite wonderful. Of course, there were a few who really excelled and even all these years later, I smile when I think of those two.

When I found out that I had been assigned to Mr. Morris’ 6th grade class, I wasn’t happy. There were three 6th grade teachers that year, and both of the others were young, hip, and fun. Mr. Morris was short, extremely overweight, and wore the worst toupee I’d ever seen.

On the first day of class, Mr. Morris wrote the following questions across the top of the chalkboard:

  • Where are you going?
  • How will you get there?
  • How will you know you’ve arrived?

The questions remained there all throughout the year, and on occasion, he would call on someone in the class to answer them. There were some of the answers you’d expect from twelve-year-old kids. Smart-ass boys would say things like, “The bathroom. I’ll walk down the hall and turn right. I’ll see toilets.”

Mr. Morris never once told anyone that their answers were wrong, but he encouraged us to dig deep. Even at that age, he wanted us to live mindfully. I grew to admire him enormously.

On the last day of school, I stayed for a few minutes after all of the other kids had gone. I asked Mr. Morris how he would answer his own questions. He smiled and told me that he had been asking himself the questions all throughout his life and that his answers had changed many times. “Right now, Beth,” he said, “the answer to the last question would be that I would have a student who gave my questions genuine thought and who I’ve clearly reached. And you just provided me with that.”

I’m so glad I didn’t get one of the cute teachers.

I met my other favorite teacher in my freshman year of high school. I had pretty much always been a no-effort straight-A student, but the first essay I wrote in Mr. Moonier’s freshman English class came back to me with a big red "C" at the top of it. Sure that it was a mistake (or a joke), I approached the teacher, who assured me that it was the grade I'd earned.

He told me that he'd seen my transcript and knew that I'd just sort of been phoning it in. He said that the paper might have earned an A for another student, but since he knew full well that I hadn't really put much effort into it, he thought a C was perfectly fair. He added that if I wanted an A in his class, I'd have to earn it.

I was furious.

I worked harder in that class than I ever had before, and I learned a lot--both academically and more importantly, I realized that it wasn't okay to just slide. I earned that A--the first one that I'd ever felt really great about--and then over the next few years, I used many of my electives to take every single class that he taught.

Those men embodied all that teachers should be. Lucky me.


Check this out…definitely worth the few minutes it takes.


You wouldn’t like it if someone stole your words, so please don’t steal the work of photographers and graphic artists to provide images for your blog. Today’s image courtesy of Morgue File, which offers lots of wonderful, free images for public use.



You undoubtedly know one. An ultra-apologizer. They’re usually very sweet people—quiet, unassuming, and determined to please. They don’t start fights, they never talk crap about you, and if you round a corner at the same time as one and you bump into each another, they will apologize. Profusely. They’ll shoulder the blame even if it’s abundantly clear that you weren’t paying attention to where you were going and knocked them flat on their ass. They’ll lower their eyes and express regret for being in your way.

They drive me freaking nuts.

I’m all for owning up to screw ups and making amends. Anyone who knows me will tell you that it requires just three basic things to gain my respect: kindness, responsibility, and honesty. That basically boils down to a few simple standards.

  • Kindness: Don’t hurt anyone on purpose, and offer your gifts, whatever they may be, when you see need.
  • Responsibility: Take both the credit and the blame for your life, and accept that barring extreme circumstances, you are who, what, and where you are because of the choices you’ve made thus far, and you are the only one with the power to change your direction.
  • Honesty: Really, just don’t frickin’ lie. I might not call you out on it if you do, but it will change things. It may end us, but even if it doesn’t, I will never look at you the same way again. Lying is, to me, a really big deal.

Simple enough, right?

So why is it that ultra-apologizers get under my skin so badly? On the surface, they meet all of my basic standards for people I respect. The thing is, if you look closer, they actually don’t meet any of them.

Ultra-apologizers may not hurt anyone on purpose, but it seems to me that they don’t share their gifts, either. Instead, they bury themselves so deeply beneath coatings of matte unobtrusiveness that they all but disappear. Any fire in there? Passion? Anger? Anything?

Bueller? Bueller?

Kindness as a sloppy topcoat isn’t admirable. It’s just whitewash.

It might seem that ultra-apologizers are über-responsible. After all, they own up to everything. You knock ‘em down, they say sorry. You leave ‘em sitting at a restaurant table in silence for twenty minutes while you take two phone calls, they’ll feel bad for keeping you from your really important life. That’s not being responsible—that’s being a doormat, and that’s just creepy and a little bit sad. Responsibility would require them to stand up for themselves—not necessarily in some grand show of independence, but as a simple acknowledgement that they are people and deserve a bit of respect.

Well, at least ultra-apologizers aren’t liars, right? That’s something.


Ultra-apologizers do the most dangerous kind of lying. They lie to themselves. They convince themselves, through sheer repetition of anti-affirmations that they matter less than everyone else. That they don’t mind taking a back seat, taking blame, taking one for the team. Sounds like bullsh*t to me, and even if you sprinkle it with a lovely dusting of powdered sugar, it’s still bullsh*t.

So, do me a favor. If you screw up, say you’re sorry. But don’t take the blame for me. I’ll step up when I need to.

Vespers and Dungarees and All Liquored Up

I’ll bet there are a few words or phrases that you just love. Words that somehow light you up inside. When I was a kid, I got all sorts of giddy whenever I heard a word that had magic in its rhythm or tone. Dazzling right, that even as a child, I was this cool? ;O)

But c’mon, you are word-lovin’ folks. Some terms just tickle you, don’t they? They calm you with their ease, excite you with their undeniable deliciousness, transport you to another place and time—a specific moment, even—as surely as a hint of fragrance in the air can land you squarely in your past, a little disoriented and overwhelmed with unexpected emotion.

I like words, but I’m no snob about them. Clichés, slang, profanity—all are fine with me when used judiciously. Silly words, made-up words, itty-bitty words, and those so long you have to sound them out, no matter how literate you might be—they all please me, but let’s face it, we are sure to have our favorites.

I was raised in suburban Chicago, but the suburb of my youth was pretty rural, in reality. Backyards stretched wide and deep, homeowners’ trees far outnumbered their cars, and while city conveniences were readily available, my mom’s country roots weren’t the least bit out of place there. Even so, many of the words she used didn’t quite line up with those of our neighbors, though her bookish dorkaliciousness may have been more to blame for that than her Indiana farm background.

My friends went to the mall to buy jeans—the ones of the day were Levi’s, stiff and dark and requiring a few washings before their first wear or they’d dye your legs a sickly blue. My family wore the same pants, but we called them dungarees. And though at my house, we’d acclimated to the city enough to call the biggest piece of furniture in the living room a ‘couch’ or ‘sofa,’ when we visited my Aunt Dot who lived one state to the east, we were glad that our dungarees didn’t transfer any of their color onto her pretty davenport.

Even now, there are words that I use regularly that might be a bit off the norm. I love the term ‘vespers,’ and feel its solemnness as I bow my head in the evening. When I tend the kids in my daycare, I sympathize when somebody bumps their noggin, their bean, their adorable melon—and when one of the little ones smells less than sweet, I’d say that they are probably just in need of fresh britches.

My house lies squarely at the epicenter of the geographical ‘soda’ vs. ‘pop’ debate, and though we rarely drink fizzy beverages at my house, I do enjoy an occasional ‘soda-pop,’ especially if it’s root beer. My mom would have had a sarsaparilla, though we’d have poured our drinks from the very same bottle.

Speaking of drinks, though I’m hopelessly uneducated about fermented grapes and why some are considered superior to others, I do enjoy a little nip now and then. You’ll rarely find me all liquored up, but I have been known to get a little tipsy on occasion, and was feeling no pain at our son’s wedding reception. That was a cake walk compared to the festivities that ensued after our daughter’s nuptials, however; on that night, I was three sheets to the wind and by daybreak had sworn off the sauce as I prayed to the porcelain god.

My kids were fortunate. The weather cooperated on the days they spoke their vows, though folklore might say that rain on one’s wedding day brings good fortune or babies, or both. Really though, who wants to wear galoshes with their snazzy duds?

I like rhymes, limericks, and Seussish creations. Odgen Nash was a childhood hero, and though Hemingway may have the undying respect of professorial types, Shel Silverstein ranks far higher with me.

The other day, as my five-year-old granddaughter was leaving for her date with the dentist, I reminded her that she’d need to give the doc a good look at all of her chompers, even those located way in the back. She giggled when I told that the dentist would tell her to hop up in the chair and flap open her yap, and when I talked to her after, she reported that Dr. Gina had said no such thing. “She just said to ‘open wide,’” my little sweetheart recounted, a little let down.

I understood her disappointment.

Word Nerd…in Pieces

As if you don’t already have a zillion time-wasters vying for your attention online, I’d like to introduce to yet one more. Check this out!

Click the pic, please:
preview30 piece

Now how cool is that?!

If you’d like to make your own (or piece together one of the oodles of ready-made puzzles on the site), just visit Jigsaw Planet. I made this one a quickie (just 30 pieces) because I assumed that you wouldn't want to dedicate a bunch of your time to putting me back together, but you can create a jigsaw puzzle with anywhere from 4 to 200 pieces in just a few clicks. Upload a photo, choose how many pieces you’d like for it to be, name it, and poof! You can be in pieces, too.

Oh, one more thing. Though the only way I seemed to be able to embed the puzzle into the body of my post was to link it, I could (and will, just for kicks) put a code into the sidebar of my blog and have a playable puzzle right there. I wanted to have the playable version in this post itself, but either it's not possible or I'm not techno-savvy enough to figure out how to properly manipulate the code. Wanna guess which one applies? ;O)