Archive | January 2014

A Radical Idea

Now I’m not about to pontificate like some hippy guru coming down from her cabin in the Vermont mountains, but please, take a look at the picture. That’s our universe. It’s where we live. See how small we are?  See how absolutely miniscule our existence is in the grand scheme of things? We’re pretty much a drop in the bucket and that’s being generous.  I don’t mean to say this to be depressing. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s supposed to be a reminder that before we get livid over political differences, religious beliefs, or even just the people who cut in front of us in traffic, we should remember that we’re really sort of insignificant in this vast web of gases and atoms.  

Instead of getting enraged over something that doesn’t even really matter anyway, how about we just focus on being nice to each other? That’s it — just be nice. Pretty simple, right?  I just think that as we rotate around our gargantuan sun that in itself is part of an unimaginably vast galaxy within an inconceivable array of other galaxies (with the potential of other dimensions that could be just as large), let’s just try to make the ride a little more pleasant for each other.   And let’s not include just humans in that concept – include animals, too.  Be nice to other living creatures.  I mean, really, how hard is that?  When you sit down and think about it, it just seems like the most logical thing to do.  

However, I know it will never happen on a large scale because we’re human after all and something as simple as “being nice” would just never work for our species as a whole. It’s beyond us. But imagine what we could accomplish if we could pull off this amazing yet simplistic feat!  The issues that could be settled and the problems that could be resolved are boundless.  So maybe we start small.  Maybe smile at that neighbor who is always grumpy or hold the elevator for that person who is obviously late.  Perhaps throw some food to the stray you usually shoo away.  Or give some change to the homeless person you always try to ignore as you make your way to work.  Maybe realize that your kids can have a bad day too so you ignore the half-made bed that would normally spawn a lecture and instead pull out a family board game.  It should all be so easy really. 

And the craziest part of this hare-brained idea is that the world, which is already so overwhelmed with stress and worry, would actually become a better place allowing for less and less stuff to be stressed and worried about.  I know….ironic, right? 

 

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My Children are Trying to Kill Me

My kids are the love of my life.  Even with all they’ve put me through, I’m still their biggest fan and most ardent supporter.  And I don’t mean that they’re bad kids or have caused problems due to behavior of which I’m in denial.  Oh No.  They’re much more devious than that.  I have to give credit where credit is due.  You see, they’ve decided to kill me.  They apparently decided this a long time ago.  They’ve been working on it ever since.  And it won’t be an easy death either, oh no. It will be done ever so slowly. Their weapon of choice?  Pure emotional distress and worry.  You see my kids have a habit…a gift really…for getting seriously hurt in the oddest ways or somehow getting the strangest illnesses.  I know that I am blessed with my kids, but come on!   I really should’ve bought stock in Clairol years ago.

For starters, both of my lovely, lovely children wanted to come into the world early, really early — as if they were late to some party they thought I was having without them.  It was all I could do to hold them back.  Of course neither one minds being late to anything now.  Where was that consideration years ago!?

Did I mention that my son, my dear and thoughtful son, decided to stop breathing when he was 8 weeks old?   And for a brief moment after I found him, so did I.  That was just loads of fun, I can tell you. But no worries I’m extremely happy to say — Jake survived this and the rest of his childhood just fine and is now the Paul Bunyan (with a mohawk) impersonator we see today.  Although occasionally he does still like to test my stress level by coming up with a new injury or illness.  I guess he just wants to keep me on my toes.

Jake mohawk

sarah

Being the little hell raiser that my daughter is, not only did she make herself known prematurely through her in-utero antics, but she made the introduction about as dramatic as humanly possible.  Although we never really talk about it, she was one half of a dynamic duo, her possible twin brother or sister being lost early on. This was Thanksgiving weekend in 1998 and instead of worrying about which brand of cranberry sauce to serve or how fattening the mashed potatoes were, I was instead consumed by the terror that I had lost Sarah.  And this with a house full of company.  You see, we didn’t know about the possible twin so our thoughts were only directed at the idea that there was just one solitary troublemaker brewing in there.

Luckily, a thorough and savvy doctor convinced us to do one last ultrasound before going through with whatever terrible procedure has to be done to tidy up a miscarriage. Lo and behold, a heartbeat! She was still there. Had we not gone through with the ultrasound we truly would have lost her. I give thanks to that doctor on a damn near daily basis. He wasn’t our regular guy so there might be an element of divine intervention within his timely arrival.

Needless to say, that weekend saw me hitting the lowest lows I’ve ever experienced immediately followed by the highest highs. My emotional range went from the Mariana Trench to the peak of Mt. Everest over the course of a mere 48 hours.  It was exhausting.  And like with her brother (she’s such a copycat), it hasn’t stopped since.

An interesting and fun side-note:  since Sarah’s birth, the coincidences about her marvelous existence were plentiful.  For instance, her Zodiac sign is Gemini, the Twins.  Go figure, right!?

Not impressed?  How about this?

Ever since she was born, we’ve called her Bunny or more often Mrs. Bunny.  She has her father to thank for this.  There was absolutely no reason behind this name choice.  But Bunny just seemed to fit.  It sounded right.  That’s always been a good enough reason for me. To her utter dismay, I sometimes slip up and still call her Bunny – which normally just garners an eye roll, unless we’re around her friends, in which case I’m always surprised when I don’t fall on the floor dead. I catch my breath waiting for that moment, but luckily it never happens.  At least not yet.  Well, anyway, on to the coincidence part of this meandering digression — one day when she was a bit older, we were eating at a Chinese restaurant that had placemats with a diagram of all the Chinese zodiac symbols. I’ll give you one guess on the year Sarah was born in. That’s right, the year of the Rabbit. Sometimes truth truly is stranger than fiction. This story being the perfect case, at least in my mind.

I know without a doubt that my kids are supposed to be on this earth and while it took a little work getting them here I couldn’t be happier.  Although I could do without the hospital trips for weird symptoms that stump the ‘ask a nurse’ line or the inevitable “they did what to break their finger!?” that I know I’ll hear from strangers and family when they see the splint.    Yeah.  I could do without that bit.

How to Survive a Haunted House

Everybody already knows, and I am not ashamed to admit, that I love horror movies. Always have and always will.  The only other film genre that has a chance at being my #1 is this new (and much appreciated) wave of comic book inspired extravaganzas that have been inundating the screens for the past decade or so.  While I have a deep passion for horror movies it’s been quite a while since I’ve been truly creeped out by one. Outside of the original The Exorcist I honestly can’t recall a film that has sent that delicious chill up my spine, made my heart race, or gotten the hairs on my arms to stand on end.

Instead of true thrills and chills, it seems like the horror movies nowadays depend solely on what I call the “surprise factor” to scare their audiences.  As in, something suddenly jumps into or out of the scene or a door slams or a piece of furniture falls over with a loud bang. To me that’s a cheap scare. I much prefer the slow creepy build-up and truly “scary” maneuvers of the masters of horror.

I’m not complaining because I still do find the latest movies entertaining in their own right, just never truly hitting the mark as far as making me have to sleep with the lights on.  What does tend to happen though is that instead of getting goose bumps I end up shaking my head at the rampant stupidity that many of the main characters always seem to exhibit. Paranormal Activity is a perfect example of moronicness (yes, I’m aware that is not a real word) gone awry.

(Side note: I do understand that the creators of these movies have to put the characters in certain situations to make the action move forward and sometimes not acting like an idiot would be boring, but please allow me to remain on my soapbox a little bit longer.)

So, Paranormal Activity. Decent movie, I liked it, but I just don’t get the logic behind it. If you think ghosts are hunkered down in your spot, why the hell would you go around the house trying to piss them off? It makes no sense. I can barely get a mouse to leave my kitchen. What chance does someone have of driving away a spirit from another dimension? Most people are terrified at the idea of living in a haunted house (a big reason why these movies are so successful, it’s a universal feeling), but think about it; as long as you just did your normal stuff, make breakfast, tidy up, mow the lawn, you’d probably be alright. Think of the ghost as a roommate. You might not like him or her, but suck it up.

I fully understand the natural instinct to guard your space. If I moved into a new place and found out it was haunted, I probably wouldn’t just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that these things just sort of happen sometimes.  I’d freak out some.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d have a ball.  But in a freaked out sort of way.  It’s totally justifiable to have a meltdown upon learning the news you’ve been duped into a haunted abode…at least for a little while.  Sure, you could take the righteous indignation attitude, as you would with any intruder, and stomp around with a baseball bat, yelling insults at Mr. or Mrs. Ghost to get them to show themselves.  Although seriously….WHY would you want them to show themselves!? I mean think about it!  That never ends well.  So just know that if and when this happens, chances are the ghost is going to be slightly upset at such disrespect and retaliation is to be expected.  In fact, what other reaction would you really expect to achieve?

I don’t have much face-to-face experience with an angry ghost but I can only assume whatever it has in mind to do, it’s going to be something I’m clearly and gloriously unprepared to handle. Which is what I want the characters in these movies to consider when they’re throwing their “show yourself” tantrums. It might be better just to let the ghost win right off the bat.  Let them have the house.  But if you do decide to stick around and share the place with Casper or say….a demon from Hell, just don’t take any tips from the Paranormal Activity’s resident genius Micah. The rule is simple: Don’t piss off the ghost. If you do, well, have fun in in the afterlife.

Time for a Rant (Or, the Black Rhino Fiasco)

Tell me if this sounds like some backwards, contradictory, nonsensical craziness to you or if it’s just me that’s finding the following news story absurd.  The Namibian government, under intense pressure to save the ever dwindling and extremely endangered black rhino species, recently allowed the US-based Dallas Safari Club to launch an auction raising money for conservation efforts of the species.  Well, that sounds really nice, doesn’t it? Where can I donate? And what’s up for auction?

Oh, the prize…a hunting permit to kill a black rhino.  The critically endangered black rhino.

I rechecked what I wrote and there are no typos. The winner of the auction designed to save the black rhino from extinction gets a permit to kill a black rhino. Let’s just all take a minute to let that sink in. It’s like having a weight loss plan of doughnuts and bacon. Training for a marathon by smoking a pack of Marlboro Reds each day. Getting over a fear of clowns by watching IT. Nothing about this makes sense. If anyone actually thinks the money the government is receiving is purely for conservation efforts, they’ve got to be the most gullible suckers on the planet.

The safari group has said on record that the winner of the auction (a man who shelled out a whopping $350,000) doesn’t have to kill the rhino. He could just shoot it with a camera if he wants.  Of course we all know that’s not going to happen.  And the group is fine with the particular rhino they have in mind to kill because, according to them, it’s old and aggressive. My question is, aggressive to whom exactly? Is it roaming around a heavily populated metropolis goring people to death as they’re trying to get to work? No, it’s out in the grasslands of Africa away from people.  How is its aggression getting in the way of anything? I’m not sure anyone involved truly believes this rhino is a threat anyway.  Sounds more like a rationale to excuse horrific behavior perpetrated by a less than transparent government and a hunter who obviously has more money than he knows what to do with.

The winner himself said that he wants to be “intimate with a black rhino.” I don’t know what kind of childhood he had, but when I want to get “intimate” with something it rarely ever means—no, wait, it NEVER means—killing something. Is he really going to have deep, longing gazes into the rhino’s eyes late at night as he stares at its head mounted on the wall of his den? Is that going to stimulate some sort of spiritual connection that he’s been craving for all the years of his life? If so, he needs to be committed.

And to be honest, what kind of hunter is this guy? Rhinos happen to be one of the easiest things to kill. Their eyesight is crap so you can practically walk right up to them before they even know you’re there. Plus, it’s going to be a guided hunt which means he’s just going to be led to where the rhino is known to be and have it pointed out to him. Basically, this guy spent over a quarter of a million dollars to shoot a fish in a barrel.

The ironic part is that now Huffington Post is reporting that he’s been receiving death threats. Police officials and the FBI are working together to keep him safe. Does anyone see the irony here? I’m in no way hoping for ill things to befall this guy, but come on, how can he honestly still go through with this hunt after he himself is being hunted?  Shouldn’t there be some moment when the light bulb comes on above his head and he says, “Whoa, so wait. Killing something that doesn’t want to die is…not cool?”   Because the thing is, this “winner” could easily choose to be a part of the larger scope of life instead of its downfall.  He could recognize the farce the Namibian government and his precious hunt club are advocating for what it is, and try to save an animal. And there’s an amazingly easy way to accomplish that last part…simply don’t kill it!

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Click photo for info on the Black Rhino hunt

Seriously, Who Doesn’t Want Minions??

Have you ever seen the Despicable Me movies? If you haven’t they’re pretty much about a curmudgeonly villain (voiced by Steve Carrell) whose ice cold heart is slowly melted by the presence of kids that are put in his care. None of that is terribly important. Cartoon movies always have some sort of moral like that in them. They have to, because let’s face it; media is how we shape our youth when we don’t have the energy to do it ourselves.

Anyway, the great part of these Despicable movies is that the villain, Gru, has a huge lab where he plans all of his world dominating high jinx and to help him out are these tiny overall-wearing helpers called “minions.”  They look like oversized pain pills with arms and legs and they’re dumb as rocks.  Even so, they’re just as cute as can be.  Listening to them speak or sing never fails to make me smile.  And more importantly, they help with all the crap that Gru simply doesn’t have time to bother with.

How awesome would it be to have our own personal minions!? Just a little team of followers that carries your purse when it’s heavy or runs to the grocery store for a bag of flour or deposits those check you can’t get around to.  They’d also be your biggest fans (much like in the movie).  And who can’t use fans?? They’d give you a standing ovation every time you come home from work feeling haggard and underappreciated. They’d tell you you’re a genius when everyone else thinks your ideas stink. Minion #1 would hand you a steaming mug of hot chocolate right after Minion #2 has helped ease you onto the couch for your nightly foot massage by Minion #3.

Yes, of course that would be great. Who wouldn’t want their own personal assistants that make the load a little bit lighter? And hell, let’s not candy coat the reality…it’d be the greatest excuse to be downright lazy.

I like thinking of the next level, though. If I had a staff of minions I’d want them armed and dangerous. Not real-life dangerous; cartoon level dangerous. I’d love it if they came equipped with freeze rays and didn’t hesitate to whip it out when there’s an annoying driver in front of me.

After all, minions come decked out with all sorts of nifty gadgets like that – and they could use them to dispense swift justice to anyone I deem as a hazard to my laziness and impatience.  Lassos, extending boxing gloves a la the Acme Company, mini-catapults…those are just a few ideas for their utility belt.  Hmmm, now that I think about it, all that power might be a bit too tempting to keep in check.  I suppose I should worry about the possible corruption of my soul. Right, who am I kidding….just where the heck can I find me some of these minions!?

Minions

An Unrepentant Addiction

If you’ve ever been at home watching network TV in the late morning/early afternoon, during The Price is Right, Family Feud, or any old school soap opera you’ve no doubt seen those cheesy coffee commercials where a woman wrapped tight in a pastel shawl has her hands cupped around a steaming mug of French Roast. Without a care in the world she looks out the window of her breakfast nook just contemplating how wonderful of a morning it is. She’s in no rush at all to start the day and just basks in the comforts her caffeine and nook are providing her. How silly, right? Well…

I want that! Not exactly that, but close to it. The only thing I’d change about those commercials is that instead of standing around like a zombie I’d be curled up in a decked out bay window seat with a good book in my hands. It’d be a requirement.

Books, reading, literature…appreciation of the written word is the lifeblood of my house. I may not have the breakfast nook or the time to laze around in the mornings or a sprawling vista of oaks and elms rolling into the distance from my backyard, but I do have the book part down. They’re absolutely everywhere; stacked on nightstands, scattered around the bed, piled on stairs, and littering the kitchen counter. Hell, it’s not rare at all to find a book under my bed covers because I fell asleep reading (again). My daughter’s room is practically a library in and of itself.  Even the spare room isn’t safe and has more than its share of bookshelves.  We’re hopeless addicts (a nicer way to say this would be bibliophiles) to novels, tomes, epics, thrillers, horrors, mysteries, best sellers, unknowns, contemporaries, and classics. It’s all fair game.

This addiction doesn’t make for the tidiest house in the world but certainly an entertaining one seeing as how you can literally stumble across a good story at any given moment. While the rest of the Barnes and Nobles are going down quicker than the Titanic, I may be single-handedly keeping the one near my house in business. Every time I go in there with my daughter any cash I may be fortunate enough to have in my pockets is quickly transformed into a bag of books.   You can never have too many, right? At least that’s my understanding. It’s simply impossible for us to window-shop in a book store.

On top of the whole Barnes and Nobles temptation problem I have, there is another one closer to home.  The downtown area of my neighborhood is reminiscent of Mayberry (showing my age here).  And right smack in the center of the main drag next to the coffee shop is a used/rare book store. It’s large and dusty and unorganized and the guy who runs it looks like he hasn’t stepped out into the light in decades.  But it’s a treasure trove to me!  I could seriously spend hours in this place.  And have.  I enjoy everything this hole in the wall offers — the smells of the old books, the joyous wonder of searching through the shelves to find some rare book I’ve never seen before or perhaps one that I remember from my childhood or maybe a classic in its original print rather than the abridged edition.  They’re all fodder for my unrepentant book compulsion.  And did I mention it’s right next door to a coffee shop!?  Nirvana.

One day I may have a house that has that beautiful vintage inspired reading nook complete with a cushioned window seat and surrounding bookshelves in an oh-so-cute and artistic arrangement.  Until then, though, I’ll enjoy the hard and softbound jungle that is my cluttered home, which really, in itself has become the greatest reading nook of all.

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The Problem with Cats

I have a literal pet peeve that I just have to share, mainly because it confuses the hell out of me more than it annoys me. Actually, no, that’s not true. It annoys me a lot.

Obligatory disclaimer: I love my cats. They’re my furry children…okay…well not quite… but they ARE my fuzzy confidants, my purring comrades. I love, love, love them. That clear?

Now that that’s out of the way, I hate my cats.  Any cat lover will understand this paradox.  What I specifically hate is when I find them staring at nothing. I’ll be reading on my couch or thumbing through a magazine in bed and I peer over to see them sitting docilely facing what?  An empty corner, that’s what. Or they’re perched as stoically as a Buckingham Palace guardsman gazing intently….and I mean INTENTLY… at a blank patch of ceiling. The obvious thing to think is that maybe they’re looking at something really tiny. But I get up and check. Not once have I found the object of their rapture. I would expect a tiny bug stuck in a spider web or a piece of fluff dancing in the breeze. Nope. Just empty space.  And then there are those times when they’re happily playing with….nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  

So what could they be thinking about? What is drawing their undivided attention with such emphasis? And just who or what are they playing with!? It vexes me and then I get annoyed because I often get frustrated when I don’t understand something. Not to mention it’s just plain creepy.

What’s even worse (and something else I’m sure cat owners can attest to) is when I wake up in the morning — or worse yet in the middle of the night — to find their huge dilated eyes only inches from mine as their feline vision bores into me. I have no clue how long they have been there staring at me. And regardless of that, it bothers me to think about what could be going through their heads. Something tells me they’re not thinking, “Wow, I’m so glad Wendy takes care of me. She’s so, so good. She’s the best.” More than likely they’re hatching some fiendish plan to overthrow me as head of the household and becoming their own cat powered sovereign state. 

It’s said that many of our domesticated animals have a sixth sense; something that feels a presence that we humans can’t pick up on. Maybe when my cats are staring at “nothing,” they are actually being entertained by a ghost or some invisible demon or entity that I just can’t see. I’m not going to go down that path because it makes a cold chill shiver down my spine. All I can hope is that if they are seeing spirits maybe, just maybe, those invisible beings like me and will tell my cats not to stage a coup. But knowing my luck, they’d probably just team up to take me down.

Shaylee