Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Peel Me a Grape...Happy Cesar Chavez Day...the bounty that is his life's work...

March 31, 2010

Peel Me a Grape

Happy César Chávez Day!

Many folks view this day as a negotiated holiday that provides rest in the middle of the week and that’s cool; however, I have a little bit of a different take on it. Being from an agrarian community, I have long been proud of the food we grow and the immigrants who perform much of the labor, working tirelessly in the fields, earning California its rich reputation as a provider of the bounty that finds its way onto our tables.

The town where I grew up boasts the most fertile of farm land, a great deal of which, sadly, is now encased in concrete, over which mall structures have been erected. My memories are filled with visions of rice fields, the smell of just-turned soil and a tableau of hardworking laborers toiling next to the highway, as I took it all in, rolling along parallel to these scenes in my Camaro as I did on Highway 99.

Grapes were amongst the abundance of crops and, in fact, one of our high school “rivals” competed under the banner of the Tokay Tigers, Tokay being a grape varietal. These grapes were efficiently and devotedly tended by Mexican laborers who often gave better than they got. Where I grew up we cared deeply about these families, sharing our tables, schools, and lives with the children of immigrants who only dreamed of health insurance, let alone an opportunity to work for a fair wage. In fact, I grew up speaking Spanish which is probably responsible for my fast cadence of my speech, in addition to my empathetic relationship with people whose culture I admire greatly.

This holiday means something to me and I know it means so much more to those who count “farm worker” as part of their family history or their community culture. When César Chávez arrived on the scene farm workers had no rights. Though he was never schooled beyond about junior high, he was a self-educated man who was on a mission to give voice to those who couldn’t – or wouldn’t be heard.

As a civil rights advocate and labor leader he participated in voter registration drives, non-violent demonstrations and was the most successful agricultural labor union organizer in history. Spearheading a massively successful boycott of table grapes, his concerns for farm workers extended beyond a specific crop, beyond a specific issue, but rather all under the heading of advocating for a life of equality.

Inspired by the teachings of Gandhi, which included non-violent resistance, Chávez kept a cool head, even amidst chaos, attacks and attempts to discredit him as he established the United Farmworkers’ Union. In order to protest the treatment of workers he participated in fasts a number of times which, sadly, led to a general weakening of his physical state and he died in 1993 at the age of 56; far, far too soon.

Though a human being such as César Chávez can never be reduced to mere quotes and disembodied facts, there is a rather succinct tidbit that I gleaned from a website that stated, “From 1964 to 1980, wages of California migrant workers had increased 70 percent, workers received health care benefits, and a formal policy for handling worker grievances (complaints) was established.”

He improved the lives of countless citizens and citizens-to-be, allowing them to take a step toward equality. His influence, courage, and love will long live on in the legions of people he affected which include all of us who eat food. Whether it’s a special day of remembrance, or not, this San Joaquin County girl appreciates everything César Chávez did to enrich my community and I will never forget this peaceful man’s contributions.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Something You Don't Have to Guard Against...Repaint the Canvas...

March 30, 2010

Something You Don't Have to Guard Against

As someone who has educated youth for over 20 years I have had the pleasure of celebrating many of their great joys and successes. Alternatively, I have shared the pain of their tragic losses and equally tragic missteps. It is a tragic misstep that has me blogging today, entering into a type of rant about my personal philosophy that we should not give up on youth, even when they lose our trust.

My students have, more often than not, become my children. I care about them, they matter and I have never ever adopted the “just a number” approach, despite what the media may tell you or make you think about teachers. There are less of that “just a number” type and more of my type than the uninformed would have you think.

When my “little darlings,” as I call them, have made mistakes sometimes this has manifested in the form of incarceration, which then lands me at some sort of correctional facility where I visit them or attempt to support them in some way.

In our community we have a correctional facility that houses youth and I have long volunteered as many resources as I can over the years in connection with this institution. This has been in the form of book donations, money put on account for inmates, visitations and letter writing. This particular facility I am going to talk about today houses males. It is our young males that I am most concerned about, particularly in view of a recent interaction I had with one of the guards, let’s call her, for lack of a better term. She may be a correctional officer who never guards anyone, but she certainly was guarded, guarding against taking a chance in believing in rehabilitation.

So, I arrived clean, polite, and wearing untattered clothing with a look of inquiry upon my face. While I have donated materials before, I needed to leave off a book I had purchased specifically for a young man who is currently incarcerated. This was a hardback book or as I now call it, “Exhibit A – Potential Lethal Weapon.”

As I inquired of the female guard about leaving the book for my friend we entered into a circuitous conversation that eventually led to this answer, “No, you may not leave off that book for him and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a hardback book or not.” Okay, so I could work with that, although I have to admit, I think it’s a mighty stupid rule.

After we ran that race the next event found me saying that I wished to put money on the young man’s account. It was at that point that either I made a mistake or she did. As she snippily informed me that she would now have to provide me with a receipt I told her that my husband and I try to mentor young people to which she replied in the snottiest, most callous, disbelieving tone, “Good Luck!” Keeping my cool, with my hardback book death-gripped into my hand, I informed her that we had, in fact, had quite a bit of luck and then I wished her a nice day, taking my receipt, angry retort and hardback book with me.

Here’s my open letter to her and to anyone who has given up on a young person or who has been (maybe) given up on. I wrote it in my head as I was leaving the building:

Dear Guarded,

I am a mom, teacher and woman who has been disappointed many a time, both in myself and others, so I understand the pain associated with disillusionment. We’ll leave this as the simplest of statements as to why I am qualified to empathize with your experience.

As I visited my young friend today I had a vision of him when you and I were interacting. The image was of this beautiful little boy when he was about four years old, sitting in his mom’s lap. His soulful brown eyes would have been looking up at her lovingly and he would have been holding onto her for dear life because he’s affectionate and loving. When he was with his mama, as a toddler, I am absolutely sure he never looked up at her and said, “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be an addict.” You see, that is never anyone’s dream, but the pain of life, the intractability of genetics, and the space of circumstance sometimes lands us there, never as our Plan A.

When you treat everyone as scum they will never disappoint you because this summation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will find scum everywhere you float on the human pond of life because we often embrace the expected, not the unexpected and, let’s face it, the unexpected is what allows hope to grow in that seemingly unsustainable pond.

I’m asking you not to give up on all of them. Oh, I know, so many are foul-mouthed, rude and they lie like a Persian rug. I don’t necessarily want to spend my time listening to them or their tragic stories about how the law “has it in for them.” But let’s not paint them all with the same brush, but rather allow for a canvas that may begin with a certain picture, but which may end with a completely different visualization, perhaps in part because of our ability to see that canvas differently.

The next time anyone approaches your glass-protected wall, please don’t judge that young woman with the baby on her hip, that middle-aged woman with her ponytail askew, that older guy with his fading tattoos as damaged goods that are not worthy of your respect. Instead, please look at them, really, really look at them, and notice the character of their faces, the love that brought them here to visit, the determination in their demeanor, all of which add up to not giving up on those they love. They deserve your respect and they have mine.

Sincerely yours,

A Member of the Sisterhood of Caring

Monday, March 29, 2010

Humorous List of Made-Up Inventions That Were Never Meant to Be...jesting about product recall...

March 29, 2010

Product Recall – the Back Story…all in jest

There’s no doubt about it, there are plenty of products that have never made it beyond test marketing,into the mainstream and for good reason. While many of these products are probably items we’re really missing out on, I’m guessing most ended up just where they needed to end up – in the copyright office vault, under lock, key, -ground.

I decided to come up with my own list of products that never made it onto any shelf, showroom, or stockpile. These, of course, are all in jest, erupting from my brain as one of my little “What if,” scenarios that I seem to come up with as often as I do ways to make things harder for myself.

The funny thing about making this kind of list is that it started out amusingly and then something odd happened on my way to the computer; the products began to make perfect sense and looked as though I should secure a patent for a few.

Fortunately, I pinched myself – hard – which was a sufficiently painful reminder that brought me to my senses. Once again, I was making more work for myself and I really have no desire to be an inventor, of any kind, unless I invent more excuses as to why I’m blogging instead of doing the mile-piled laundry.

Humorous List of Inventions That Were Never Meant to Be...
These are ALL made up by "yours truly" and are my brainchildren.

1. Chair for single living.
: As a sole practitioner of life this is a chair that talks to you, offering up different settings for your differing communication needs. Whether you need a motivational cheerleader, empathetic counselor, compassionate friend, or drill sergeant, this chair will give you what you need, at the press of a button, with your changing emotional whims in mind.
Problem: If this chair had made it out into the open market, there would be no need to invent people anymore.

2. Salsa-flavored milk.
Explanation: The theory behind this product was to counteract the effects of accumulated heat while preserving the requisite desired kick of the salsa.
Problem: The lab tried countless fillers, coloring agents, and bulking ingredients to get this product to just plain look better, less gloppy and regurgitated, to no avail.

3. Liver-infused donuts.
Explanation: Market research showed that each end of the age continuum, young to old, enjoy the tasty treat that is the magnificent donut. Couple that with the fact that both ends of the spectrum are iron-deficient, never getting enough veggies due to poor diet, forgetfulness, lack of desire, and this seemed to be a winner.
Problem: They’re liver-infused donuts. Without lying, that is a tough sell and while lying was discussed, the underlying taste of liver could not be fried out of those donuts, no matter how much canola oil was plumbed from the depths of the Canola Sea.

4. Cheese-flavored Rolaids.
Explanation: Not everyone is a fruit person and few people over the age of 5 are chalk eaters, so it seemed logical to pick-up on the passion that is cheese eating by consumers and flavor an old favorite with the product.
Problem: As it turns out, most people only like cheese in, on, or around their food, not their antacids, gum, or other helpful, training-to-be-medication products.

5. Luggage with a built-in chair.
Explanation: This proved to be a popular item in test groups and the product was ready to launch when a terrible sitting accident occurred. It seems that one of the elderly members of the very last focus group decided to perch on the luggage in a “hands free” manner, misunderstanding that it was a chair, not a Johnny chair, if ya know what I mean. (See yesterday's blog, "Do you know what I mean?")
Problem: Patents and lawsuits are still pending.

6. Disposable running shorts.
Explanation: Of course runners are very active people who go through running shorts about as often as they go through running shoes. NASA was involved in the manufacturing of material that would be strong, disposable, yet comfortable. Or as one scientist said, “Yeah, right!”
Problem: Alas, many runners sweat profusely and this wreaked havoc with the replication of test results when finetuning the miracle fabric design. Additionally, not all runners are created equally, therefore, a host of problems ensued when runners were polled as to styles that would be offered or as one runner so succinctly put it, “Our shorts can have style?”

7. No-Luv.
Explanation: No-Luv is a medication which renders a broken romance, not just a distant memory, but a "no memory," acting as a reverse Sodium Pentothal drug.
Problem: I personally don’t see any problems whatsoever, but those crabby ACLU people did, as well as some humanitarian groups and non-profits like L.O.V.E.L.O.R.N. were all up in arms, if not in someone else’s arms.

8. Estrogen-laced chocolate.
Explanation: It was thought that this food of choice for many women could really pack a punch if it was infused with those crazy female hormones that are intrinsic in our XX make-up, making us women to be reckoned with...or else.
Problem: Silly men. This is a repetitive product! Women have long known about the medicinal properties of chocolate. There is no need to enhance an already perfect supplement.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Do You Know What I Mean?..(humor) the conversational empathy gambit...

March 28, 2010

Do You Know What I Mean?

I don’t know if people were saying “Do you know what I mean?” much before Lee Michaels made the song by the same name so famous back in the seventies, but I’m sure noticing the outbreak of that phrase in conversational exchanges these days.

The song, “Do you know what I mean?” talks about a guy who’s trying to get over his girlfriend, who is now stepping out with his best friend Bobby. The wronged gentleman is trying to understand the situation, even as he asks for understanding, rather plaintively inquiring, “Do you know what I mean?” in an effort to establish a connection over a shared experience.

That connection business is the intent of the phrase’s usage today, sort of a verbal, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” It has me thinking about the “chicken or the egg” that is pop culture. Do we start saying these phrases first, and then they weave themselves into our language lexicon, or might it be the other way around?

The expression, “Do you know what I mean?” is the equivalent of signal drop-out because it’s rhetorical, holding space, but no meaning. It’s like, “so,” “huh,” “how about that?” or any number of transitional phrases that are none too specific. The conversational gambit that is, “Do you know what I mean?” punctuates more and more folks’ discussions, sometimes seeming to be a rhetorical question packed with intent.

When, “Do you know what I mean?” comes my way I bob and weave like a seasoned verbiage fighter, trying to dodge its ability to put me on the spot. The question makes me feel as though I need to nod my head in understanding, complicit in knowing what “it” means. The truth is I often have no idea what I ever mean, let alone the person who is asking me, “Do you know what I mean?”

I have a friend whose “Do you know what I mean” is as much a part of her cute persona as her blonde hair and perky personality. Fortunately her “Do you know what I mean?” is purely rhetorical, lacking intent or need for confirmation, so she doesn’t wait for me to nod acquiescence that I’m getting it. I appreciate that about her and so much more.

Along about a few months ago I found myself getting on my own nerves, I was using, “Do you know what I mean” so much. Let’s face it. When you’re having a conversation with someone and you hear yourself say, up to and including, three times, “Do you know what I mean?” they don’t, so it’s time to hand off the conversational baton to someone else. I noted in a few situations I was aggressively pursuing empathy and any time you attempt to marry aggressiveness with empathy you know you’ve tra-la-la-ed off the right path.

The most interesting bit of information I discovered when I looked up the lyrics for the song, “Do you know what I mean?” was that I’ve been massacring the words for years and if I would have been bravely belting this tune out in front of live audiences for a living, then that might be a problem. As it is, it’s one of the few times I’ve embarrassed myself and no one has noticed. Do you know what I mean?

Lyrics to the Song...for fun...
Do You Know What I Mean?
By Lee Michaels
Been forty days
since I don't know when
I just saw her
with my best friend
Do you know what I mean?
Do you know, know what I mean?

I just saw her yesterday
I just saw her,
asked her to stay
Do you know what I mean?
Lord, Do you know what I mean?

Her and Bobby
were steppin out
Her and Bobby
didn't know I found out
Do you know what I mean?
Do you know, know what I mean?

So I asked her if she still cared
She didn't hear me,
she just stared
Do you know what I mean?
Lord, Do you know what I mean?

And then she said
Lee you haven't loved me
in nearly four years
You haven't noticed
that I held back my tears
And now you have,
but it's really too late
Better find yourself another girl
Better find another girl
Better find uh,
another place

She just left me yesterday
She just left me,
had nothing to say
Do you know what I mean?
Oh, do you know what I mean?
She's a dandy,
yes indeed
She's a dandy,
but now she's free
Do you know what I mean?
Lord, do you know what I mean?

Been forty days
since I don't know
when I just saw her
with my best friend
Do you know what I mean?
Lord, do you know what I mean?

I just saw her yesterday
I just saw her,
learn how to stay
Do you know what I mean?
Lord, Do you know what I mean?

Yeah, here comes it now..
help.. me

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Worst Foods to Mall Crawl Toward...Food Humor...

March 26, 2010

Worst Foods to Mall Crawl Toward

Being quite the little researcher, reader and fact-mongerer I’ve been noting fast facts about the worst mall food and, in fact, periodically there are lists about this kind of thing.

Now in this economy, heck in ANY of my personal economies, I’ve never been much for hanging around the mall, primarily for financial reasons and, other than a cookie and large-ish iced tea, I’m not much of a mall food eater. Having said that, lest I appear overly virtuous, I have consumed plenty of mall food over the course of my time on this planet. One of my “pick your poison” snacks of choice has been Sbarro which offers up a yummy, carb-dreamy, menu.

Waxing philosophical for a moment, I fell in the love with my first Sbarro in New York, years ago, at which time I became as enamored of the calzone as I was of their neon sign. (Ergo, one can see why I am deliriously happy when I am in Las Vegas.) Actually, the picture that appears along with this blog is the EXACT Sbarro I first laid eyes upon, oh, glorious day that was.

As it turns out, you’re in okay shape, literally, if you stick to one piece of regular pizza, but it’s the stuffed pepperoni pizza that will have you huffing and puffing toward daily work-outs in increments of threes.

Giving a whole new meaning to the word “stuffed,” one piece of Sbarro stuffed Pepperoni pizza is 890 calories (what does it have on it, a scoop of ice cream on top?) and that this is the equivalent of:

3 Snickers bars
20 Chicken McNuggets
15 Kentucky Fried Chicken Hot Wings

I would certainly pick the Snickers bars over any of the above, but that may be the hormones talking. Alternatively, one slice of New York Style Thin Crust Cheese is about half that, weighing in at about 460 calories. This means you could plan on more than water and the requisite salad for dinner, if the pizza was your lunch. Heck! Live it up! Throw a crouton on top of those greens!

Perhaps inside tracks should be installed in our malls, so that we can imbibe these high-caloric foods and then hit the track on our way out the door in order to get a jump start on processing those luscious carbs. Or…we could not eat this kind of stuff. Huh, there’s that.

My plan is to refrain from making too many mall visitations, keep my friend, the Snickers bar in my life, but at a respectful distance, and work-out as often as I change my undergarments, give or take.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Mother of a Future...parenting humor...

March 25, 2010

A Mother of a Future

Thoughts You Don’t Think When You Have a Baby, But Which May Be Worth Keeping in Mind

As I traverse the bumpy landscape that is parenting young adults I find that there are thoughts I never entertained when I had my babies, but which may have been thought-provoking, if not helpful. These reflections occurred this morning as I gazed upon the beauteous visage of my youngest child, realizing that she is almost all growed up. Where did the time go? I blinked and she blossomed.

I wasn’t chock full of amusing thoughts when I lovingly doted upon my sweet, innocent, milky-smelling wonders of perfection…my children. Rather I was serene and madonna-like in demeanor, reveling in the wondrous journey that is the maternal experience. This lasted until the first time my eldest child threw a mother of a tantrum in Target, flip flops flying, setting some sort of world distance record for airborne rubber objects, in the process.

Blessedly, my thought processes were quite simple when my kids were small, dependent bundles for which I was responsible. If I go back in time I can remember thinking things like: Is she breathing? Will this much crying damage her health? Why does her crying make me cry? Can moms be fired? Why do none of these baby books address the reality of this momhood thing? You know, normal stuff.

Nowadays, my humorous mind kicks in, no doubt as a coping mechanism to allay imminent sadness, as I ponder the passage of time that is my parenting personal history. These would have been unusual deliberations to have when my little guys spent 80% of their time being held by their mom or dad. Now, they are poignant and even sometimes funny.

1. This baby will be driving me around in a car some day, often in the fast lane.
2. This is my roommate for the next 18 years…or more. (Fingers crossed!)
3. I will comb this child’s hair every day until she makes me pull mine out.
4. I will witness a boy kissing this sweet thing and manage not to commit any crime related to assault.
5. Some day I will wave good-bye to this precious innocent, watching her drive away in a car we bought for her, as she establishes her own household, perhaps never to return as my roommate.
6. This child will initiate at least 700 conversations with me about body parts she wants tattooed, pierced or otherwise altered.
7. This is the future mother of my grandchildren.
8. This fascinating creature will “borrow” everything I own, claiming to have “found” each item in her room, so what’s the big deal?
9. I will be yelled at by this amazing specimen, told I’ve made plenty of parenting mistakes and barred from her room, but my love will never waiver and I will always, always be there, assuring her that, “Nothing will make me leave you.”
10. This is a person who has the power to make the rain fall in my life or forecast the promise of a beautiful dawning day, just by virtue of the state of her happiness.

"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living
my baby you'll be."


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Fall Down Laughing...Don'ts for Husbands--Don'ts for Wives--1913-Style...marriage humor...

March 24, 2010

Don't Fall Down Laughing

Recently I bought a gift for my husband that has provided hours of laughter for both of us. Nope, it’s not a mirror. It’s a book that was published in 1913 called, Don’ts for Husbands and Don’ts for Wives. You have to note the year to get a feel for what’s coming and also to get a feel for the kind of hilarity that can ensue when you realize that this book was taken seriously back in its day.

First, let’s just take a look at how the chapters are broken up, according to the perceived concerns of a wife and the burning issues for the husband. The “topics” of the day for the husband were:

I. General Habits
II. Personal Relations
III. Jealousy
IV. Hints on Finance
V. Household Matters
VI. Recreation and Holidays
VII. Health
VIII. Dress
IX. Hobbies
X. Food
XI. Children

Women were going to concern themselves with:

I. Personalities
II. How to Avoid Discord
III. Habits
IV. Financial Matters
V. Evenings at Home
VI. Jealousy
VII. Recreation
VIII. Food
IX. Dress
X. Entertaining
XI. Household Management
XII. Children

Please note that the overlap seems to be along the lines of food, children, dress and, well, that’s about it. There is the word “household” in two areas and I guess under “children” it would be safe to say that they might not want to deny that it took two parents to make them, so they must be dealt with. It seems that it was important to keep up appearances during that time period, as well, so there is lots of talk of shirtsleeves not being rolled up and women making some sort of effort, lest her man think she doesn't care about her appearance.

Without further ado, I would like to excerpt a few choice passages from the best humor book I’ve read in YEARS!

“General Habits.” For Men.
DON’T drop cigarette ash all over the drawing-room carpet. Some people will tell you that it improves the colours, but your wife won’t care to try that recipe.
(I’m not sure which part of this amuses me the most; a drawing-room in which to smoke, the visual of a landed gentleman casually launching ashes willy-nilly, someone actually offering up a “this will improve the drawing-room” argument or a wife not liking the “recipe.” That last term just slays me.)

“Personal Relations." For Men.
DON’T keep her in cotton-wool. She isn’t wax—she’s a woman.
(Damn straight, Sparky, and it's a good thing too because, frequently, I get so heated up, I’d be rendered into a puddle of waxy goo in no time.)

“Jealousy.” For Men.
imagine your wife never wants to see any other man than you. However nice she thinks you, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.”
(Is it just me or does that look a lot like advocating for dating within the marriage?)

“Habits.” For Women
DON’T be everlastingly trying to change your husband’s habits, unless they are very bad ones. Take him as you find him, and leave him at peace.
(Okay, I’m liking the wiggle room provided with, “unless they are very bad ones.")

“Financial Matters.” For Women
hesitate to plan out large expenditures with your husband. Usually a woman is very good at small economics, but often a man has a better grip of essentials in spending large amounts.”
(You hear that girls? Guys can go large and we can go small. Boy, it seems that stereotypes might have changed a bit in this regard. My husband and I had quite a bit of fun spouting this one at each other whenever anything came up about money. It did tend to provide us with the most financial fun we’ve had since we discovered that if you just make the minimum payment on a credit card bankruptcy looms.)

“Evenings at Home.” For Women.
DON’T let him have to search the house for you. Listen for his latch-key and meet him on the threshold.
(I think it would be much more interesting AND amusing if we – just one time – changed the lock and waited just inside the threshold, listening for the aforementioned latch-key, knowing it's not going to work. Of course, that would make for short-lived amusement and a tense evening at home, I suppose. How does a latch-key differ from a key, anyway?)

I bought this little beauty at Barnes and Noble, and it was written by Blanche Ebbutt, whose name even sounds as though it’s from a different time. It was published in London, so you’ll notice the requisite spellings with a “u” and what-not. It’s the best $6.98 I’ve ever spent – hands down! For Men and Women: DON'T miss it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Look Beautiful AND Younger (humor)...on a budget, no less...

March 23, 2010

How to Get Beauty on the Cheap Without Becoming a Beast

This is classic. I don’t know how I get onto these things. Okay, yes, on this one I do. I was minding my own business, heading off to my yahoo email account when I saw the “Look Younger on a Budget” article title on the yahoo listing and I could not NOT take a look at this list. I will provide you with what this very serious person came up with, followed by my very own version of how to look younger on a budget. If you’re in the mood for a not-so-serious take on beauty on a budget, then you may want to skip ahead to my version, but first Prevention magazine’s version:

10 Ways to Look Younger on a Budget
Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief, PREVENTION, on Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:15am PST

1. Pump Up Hair's Volume
Switch to mousse.

2. Restore Your Locks' Luster
Give yourself a weekly hot-oil treatment.

3. Reduce Redness
Soak a clean washcloth in cold milk and place it over your face for 10 minutes.

4. Banish Brown Spots
Dab concealer that's one or two shades lighter than your foundation onto the spot.

5. Get a Healthy Glow
Replace your makeup wisely. "Switching from powder formulas to creamier ones gives your skin a soft reflective sheen," says Kimara Ahnert, a makeup artist in New York City.

6. Plump Thin Lips
Think pink. Choose a lipstick that mimics the color of your lips when you were younger.

7. Brighten Your Smile
Brushing with a paste made of baking soda and water a few times a month removes superficial staining and whitens teeth by a shade or two.

8. Minimize Undereye Circles
Caffeinate your eyes. Tea bags can perk up tired-looking eyes. Soak tea bags in hot water for a minute before plunging them into ice water for a few seconds. Lie down and apply them directly to your eyes for 15 minutes.

9. Smooth Imperfections
Keep makeup outside the lines. To be sure there's no excess makeup to settle into—and emphasize—the fine lines around your eyes and mouth.

10. Give Eyes a Lift
Curl lashes correctly. When lashes are clean and dry (wet ones won't hold a curl), position the curler at the root of lashes and give three firm, gentle pumps. Release and repeat.

Diane’s 10 Ways to Enjoy Beauty on a Non-Beastly Budget

1. Lighting, lighting, lighting
Make sure there is little to no lighting wherever you are and you will find you are able to subtract a good decade or two just by virtue of lack of wattage.

2. Hang out with people who are much older than you are and not so well-preserved.
This serves as a nice comparison tool that can offer the added bonus of unofficially electing you as honorary “spring chicken” which people are always saying you're not anymore. You can now beg to differ.

3. Borrow a friend’s toddler and run errands.
I find that when we are keeping company with the “wee ones” (and, no, I’m not talking about leprechauns) people might figure it’s our very own example of the 1% differential often listed in birth control effectiveness and we have ourselves a mid-life baby. Now, granted, this can really backfire as people may say, “Oh, how cute, you’re spending time with your GRANDbaby, but, again, go to number one, and for god’s sake, stay out of the sunlight, hanging out in low-lit stores.

4. While you’re cooking and utilizing that olive oil that’s supposed to be so great for your health, literally spread the wealth.
Why not use that extra half a dollop on your face, killing the proverbial two birds with one stone? I just want to caution you that a byproduct of this as that you may look as though your kitchen ministrations have created "Profusive Sweat Disorder," but we’re talking budgetary constraints here, so it's well worth being socially ostracized.

5. Throw away your magnifying mirror.
Let’s be honest. Who needs that kind of perfection? You’ll add valuable time to your morning schedule, just by virtue of subtracting out the close “plucking” work that comes with owning one of these instruments of the devil. Additionally, you’ll feel younger because our self-image memories are stuck somewhere around the time that Robin Williams was more well-known for being “Mork” and a talented stand-up comedienne, than for his multiple rehab stays.

6. Have a blender day where you throw in everything organic you can think of in order to come up with concoctions for your hair, eyes, knees and face.
The standard fare would, of course, include cucumbers, avocados and strawberries, but those fruit acids are great at burning off what ails you, so be creative! A word of caution though. Be careful that you don’t grab the fish bowl. Move it out of the proximity…just in case. Frenzied blending leads to more kitchen accidents than are reported.

7. DON’T cut your hair, even though the damned hairdresser keeps saying you should because you’re “older.”
Just because your beautician cut her hair short years ago and, as is her occupational hazard, can’t seem to let it grow more than three weeks running, doesn’t mean she needs to make you miserable with such a limiting viewpoint. Grow it long baby and shout out the lyrics to that fine, clothing-free musical “Hair,” while you’re at it. “Gimme a head with hair. Long beautiful hair…”

8. Use ice for your cocktails and your face.
Press an ice cube on your face for as long as you can stand it because it provides a temporary Botox effect, in addition to providing you with a gateway into your personal cryogenic program.

9. Brush your teeth with baking soda for its natural whitening abilities.
While you're at it with the pearly whites, why not mix some up for internal consumption and suck it down in order to take care of the indigestion that comes with thinking about ageing?

10. Eat less.
There’s nothing like a lean and mean person to provide the illusion of a youthful edge like we possessed back when we were raging the machine and feeling as though we couldn’t trust anyone YOUNGER than thirty

Monday, March 22, 2010

KILL-TV...humorous mystery receives promo from Readers and "Ritas...

March 22, 2010
How cute is it when a website or organization provides you with a plug "just because?" Well, that's exactly what happened when a fabulous-looking site called, "Readers and 'Ritas," listed my books. I thank them from the bottom of my wallet (which is what I'm always seeing...that empty-ish, bottom part) to the top of my heart (which is fuller than the aforementioned wallet.)
I love their tag line: ...celebrate passionate literary obsessions. I'll raise a glass to that!

...a humorous mystery that takes deadly aim at your funny bone...
Hope Springs Eternal Press
April 2008
Featuring: Leslie Lloyd; J.J." Juliana Jacobs; Jared Stanford
224 pages
ISBN: 0981482902
Paperback $10.00

It's April Fifteenth. Tax Day. And while this is not, traditionally, a source of merriment for any citizen, K-I-L- L TV adds a new twist to Ben Franklin's axiom about "death and taxes" by telling the humorously suspenseful tale of news director, Leslie Lloyd. Fateful timing finds Leslie foraging around for a tape in the television station control room when she notices something is off besides the lights; station manager Lincoln Delaware Bradley III is dead. Unfortunately, our alliterative heroine was known to disagree with the head honcho publicly, loudly and frequently. The fact that Leslie and Lincoln had one humdinger of an argument a mere day's worth of hours before Lincoln's death doesn't escape anyone's attention, least of all the police. As if that isn't enough, Leslie's husband, that rat-bastard Bob, is leaving her, her income taxes haven't been filed, and she's in desperate need of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or ten. An unexpected diversion in the form of a love connection with policeman, Jared Stanford, provides a welcome breather, even as a veritable Lombard Street of plot twists threaten to send her careening into a metaphorical wall representing her future. The song title chapter headings set the tone for the intrigue as we get a closer look at Leslie's life, friends and struggle to stay on top in the uncompromising world of broadcast journalism, as her story plays non-stop on every station, including K-I-L-L TV.

Also by Diane Dean-Epps:
Last Call, March 2003
Maternal Meanderings, November 2002

Link to Site:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Just Married...Times 25...facebook humor...

March 21, 2010

Just Married…Times 25

Evidently, I just got married. At least that’s facebook’s take on the whole thing which only goes to show you, once again, that things are not always as they seem.

I haven’t had anyone take such an interest in my marital status since decades ago when I was out clubbing with my friends and a guy followed me around all night shouting “Hey, rainbow, come ‘ere! Are you with anyone?” every seven seconds. (The name, rainbow, because I made the fateful decision to throw on a rainbow shirt that night.)

Not coincidentally, that may also be the last time I wore anything with a rainbow on it although, these days, I could be wearing a matching necklace with a real pot of gold attached and it would be unlikely to merit that kind of attention.

When a high school friend contacted me via the public profile option, I decided to embrace the technology that is facebook, but it may have bearhugged me back. Facebook is nothing, if not helpful, so where initially it simply suggested that my gal pal send me a message, the catch was that I had to become a member in order to retrieve the aforementioned message.

Having lost touch with her, my curiosity was more than a little piqued and I wanted to read that message. After creating a log-in, password, and half-day window for getting myself semi-savvy as to basic facebook, I was in! Message and membership in hand, I began my social networking journey.

Though I launched into my own version of a tutorial program, I had no real idea how any of the functions worked. That didn’t stop me from soldiering on, deploying every function I could click near, to the point where I resembled a particularly energetic and adventurous lab monkey, pressing buttons, hitting “okay,” posting, friending, commenting my way all over the place.

Then came that fateful night when, after noting a facebook prompt which asked me to add information about myself, I decided maybe it was time for some disclosure. Thus far, I’d only posted my email address and a profile picture which didn’t seem very social on my part.

If I was going to participate in this deal, the least I could do was make some sort of effort. I decided that, since my husband frowns upon me dating, perhaps, I should declare my marriedness proudly and publicly, thus I altered my status to “married.” Providing this personal detail possessed no real ramifications as far as I could tell and it took mere seconds to render me a member of the “everything that’s yours is mine” club. No one would probably notice or care anyway.

Boy, was I wrong because that’s when the real hilarity ensued and I immediately began receiving congratulatory emails and postings, not having even the slightest idea why. After amassing several more, “hip, hip, hoorays,” I logged back onto facebook to see what in the heck I had done because it was patently clear that I’d gone wrong somewhere. I knew what I thought I had done, but sometimes that twain doesn’t meet. What I saw was,

Diane is now married.

It had that cute little heart next to the announcement, along with “now” which, consequently, set everything into motion when it landed on my new friends’ pages. Afterwards, though I wrote a disclaimer along the lines of, “I just updated to married, but I have been for years, at least that’s what we told our kids,” I felt as though I’d registered for the “Make a Wish,” foundation without being sick.

By now, I think I’ve notified everyone I could get face(book) time with that I am just married – times 25 – but if I haven’t gotten to you yet: Please send the wedding gifts to me in care of The Union.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Apostrophe Landfill...grammar THERE'S a hoot?!...

March 20, 2010
Apostrophe Landfill

I’m convinced that there must be a landfill out there somewhere, chock full of our finest grammatical marks, the apostrophe, in particular.

I’m not sure if it exactly started with the runaway British bestseller, Eats, Leaves and Shoots, but I’m sure it was exacerbated by that little tome and our love of all things British.

You see, as you may already know from reading a good number of British-authored texts, visiting the fine country that is England or sharing a family tree with some of the Queen’s citizens, that punctuation and spelling are done quite differently in the land up and over, (as well as other lands like Australia and the like).

I can still see my teenaged self standing at the blackboard – yes, I know, a blackboard, not even a chalkboard – diagramming sentences for all to see. This was particularly challenging as miniskirts were quite popular during my parsing paragraph days, so I spent as much time dragging down my skirt as I did those adjectives and adverbs.

Lately when I attempt to explain soon-to-be-outdated linguistic elements, such as the apostrophe, I hear myself using the dreaded; “Because I said so,” in absolute exasperation when folks want to know why we even need these marks. There’s a stalwart, brave and lonely English teacher in our community (and, no, it is not me) who gives her students extra credit for noting local businesses that have incorrectly punctuated their business signs, leaving out bushels of apostrophes. Unfortunately, this has raised the ire, if not the consciousness of the Parent Teacher Association who own those same businesses.

What happened to "Conjunction Function" and "Schoolhouse Rock," which grammatically indoctrinated our youth from the earliest of ages to accept the fact that they would need to master grammar otherwise they would never get an education, job or relationship? Now that was the way to go, instilling hard, cold fear in place of reason or reasoning in order to bring about the grammatically UNchallenged.

If you think I’m enamored of all things linguistic, writer and Francophile Gertrude Stein was positively in love with grammar, specifically the apostrophe, waxing philosophical when she said, "for some the possessive case apostrophe has a gentle tender insinuation that makes it very difficult to definitely decide to do without it."

It would be a whole different ballgame if we called apostrophes insinuations, wouldn’t it? We could make comments like, “Bob, you seem to have left out the insinuation when you were speaking possessively.” Gertrude was my kind of gal on the linguistic front because she said, “I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences,” without a hint of sarcasm. What a hoot she must have been at parties, utilizing piles of napkins as she diagrammed sentences that the revelers would, no doubt, simply shout out at her, randomly.

Now I am a bit ashamed to say that I’m waaayyy out of practice in the parsing of sentences and because I edit my own work on my blog AND because I’m going for a conversational tone, my writing doesn’t always hold up when subjected to the grammar integrity strength test. Having said that, I still miss those grammatical rituals and attendant masteries of my youth and I fear we have not passed this baton on to subsequent generations.

We are now at such a level of apostrophe-deficit in America that we have to rely upon the “old ones,” our babyboomer elders, for information about the proper placement of them, should the mood strike our ancestors of the future to sprinkle these apostrophes back into the marvelous meal that is language.

I don’t know. When you think about it the re-enforcement of apostrophizing is mainly provided by persnickety English teachers and grammatized parents. Maybe apostrophe placement is just a dish best served as cold payback for having had to spend our formative years diagramming sentences. Bon Appétit!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Signing Off...humor column about astrology and the world of prediction...

March 19, 2010
I’ve been on a short little five-day hiatus or so, but I’m back baby! My goal is to write (and post) on my blog daily, but there are exceptions to my self-imposed rule. As it turns out, I am open to asking myself for some days off and granting that request, so I’m the dream boss I’ve always wanted. Today’s topic is astrology and some of the fun ways to use it to your advantage.

Signing Off

Astrology comforts me, gives me hope, sometimes makes me feel special and fits in nicely with the fact that I am suggestible. No doubt about it, I’m an advertiser’s dream and the ultimate in suggestibility comes in the form of believing my horoscope which brings up a thought-provoking question: How does one know which horoscope is “the” one?

Well, anyway, let’s face it. We’re all somewhat suggestible because if anyone or anything, including our horoscope, tells us we’re going to have a good day, week, year or millennium we’re much more likely to have one of those. If we receive a prediction that says, find a cave, hunker down, learn to hibernate and emerge next year when the going is better for our sun sign, then we’re likely to be a wee bit scared and blame every negative thing on the fates, which horoscopes seem to represent.

Once upon a time astronomy and astrology were one and the same, but that crazy Renaissance period found them diverging and, evidently, astronomy had the better agent because it took the lead as the more scientific one of the two, relegating astrology to the status of “hocus pocus” to the uninitiated.

Did you know that “Astrology is a group of systems, traditions, and beliefs which hold that the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details can provide information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters.” Me neither, but that’s what Wikipedia says.

You’ve got to love a system that utilizes suns, moons, your birthday, the calendar and other elements over which you have absolutely no control. It really takes the guess work out of living life, in addition to the need for self-flagellation over things that don’t go so hot.
I’ve read about other cultures that consider babies to be born on lucky or unlucky days and I can only imagine how stressful that is for the parents. I had my proverbial hands full enough just birthing my kids, let alone trying to hold one in until that “lucky” day. To me any day my baby was born proved lucky because I was that much closer to wearing cute shoes again and having easy access to counting the appropriate number of fingers and toes.

I’m not sure how much I actually believe in all of the astrology stuff, but I’m not so sure that I don’t believe in it either. I definitely find it intriguing and I try to keep an open mind until it shuts down.

It’s usually when things aren’t going so swell that we look for a sign in signs, don’t we? I have certainly been guilty of experiencing a rather less-than-superior day, at the end of which I am seeking some sort of solace along the lines of: “Why me?” or “Why should I go on?” At that point, I’ll tap into some sort of horoscope service and read up on all of the glowing possibilities that exist from here on in and that seems to fuel me for my next round with life.

Horoscopes come in handy when we’re trying to forge some kind of connection also, but that can go ugly on ya, when you offer up your sun sign to someone who’s had a bad experience with your ilk. Because my sign is a particularly forceful one I’ve actually had folks react by practically crossing themselves as they simultaneously back away in search of holy water, no doubt.

Another somewhat negative trend with astrology was along about a few decades ago when the equivalent of, “Want to come up to my apartment and see my etchings?” morphed into, “What’s your sign?” This created a pick-up line and resultant bad press for which the astrology community is still doing damage control.

I’d like to chat more in depth on this topic, but I hear the kettle whistling and those tea leaves aren’t going to steep and read themselves, so I’ll leave you with my horoscope for today:

“You will be full of energy and the circumstances will work in your favor. You will have good chances to succeed in all your undertakings.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Take My Word For It...Humorous Take on a Big Word...

March 12, 2010

Take My Word For It...humorous take on a word

And now for another edition of “Take My Word For It,” which is an opportunity for me to offer up a not-often-used-or-known-word for skewering, contemplation or integration. Finally, today’s word offers me a term for how I feel when I’ve had one of “those” days and I’m “fit to be tied,” “at the end of my rope,” feeling like it’s “the last straw,” or that I’m going to commit an act of…



noun: A compulsion to pull out one's hair.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Closet to You...household humor about the Smithsonian that is fashion...

March 11, 2010

Closet to You

My husband is the only person I know who runs his side of the closet like a high-powered corporate executive. He routinely hires, fires, promotes and transfers clothes with gusto.

It’s bad enough that I have to witness the executive approach to clothing management in his one-sixteenth side of the closet, but periodically he has the audacity to attempt a hostile takeover of my fifteen-sixteenths of this same closet. Thus, the garment gauntlet is thrown down and our territorial war commences—coming into the closet, if you will.

My hubby has a system, a business plan, really, truth be known. His closet “company,” begins with the purchase of an item. Dependent upon washability, ironability and sweatability the article may earn front line status, being washed and worn frequently. Sometimes new apparel is immediately demoted to an inferior standing, followed quickly by inactive shelf status. This is usually the case if it’s garb I have purchased for him, whereupon I have commented, “You’re going to love this new style. Everybody has one.”

The only time the shelved pieces are able to regain their previous front line status is when some sort of household project comes along. These are general duties for which I possess absolutely no aptitude and, interestingly enough, no wardrobe. Sadly, this temporary situation still leads to permanent retirement of the garment upon completion of the task at hand.

Hope springs eternal, so my counterpart decides to broach the topic of closet maintenance with me, again, which could result in more room for him. His unfortunate timing occurs as I spent yet another morning as an unofficial zipper tester for the “YKK” company, stretching the limits of the manufacturer’s suggested specifications. This is never a good time to have a conversation with me, regardless of the topic; clothing clean-out, the relationship, nuclear war, location of the shampoo.

My good-intentioned mate enters the room, quite literally, treading lightly. “Honey, why don’t you just get rid of some of that stuff?” he queries helpfully. “You should go by the ‘one year’ rule. You know—if you haven’t worn something in a year, then toss it.”

As I look over at my closet, filled with memories, I am appalled at the mere thought of parting with any member of my clothing family which I regard fondly. The striped Def Leppard shirt I was wearing when I met my husband, the black vintage evening dress I purchased, post-partum, just because it fit, the outfit I wore when I performed my first stand-up routine, and the disco dress with shoulder pads to be reckoned with. These aren’t clothes—they’re an historical timeline representing my own personal Smithsonian, sans red velvet ropes around the entire lot.

I contemplate karate chopping him with a hanger, but realize that to be a vicious thought and, besides, we have those innocuous plastic ones, so it wouldn’t really hurt enough. I know he just wants to help me, so I relent by saying, “Maybe I should get rid of some things.”

My husband perks up and looks as though I’ve given him permission to accompany a supermodel on an all-expenses paid Caribbean getaway trip. As he trots off to gather up the bags that will eventually hold only the two items I will manage to part with, I wonder if this kind, well-intentioned man ever feels as though he’s Charlie Brown and I’m Lucy holding the football for him—again. Or maybe he’s just left holding the bag?

Excerpted from Maternal Meanderings

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

10 Writing Tips from the Masters...great folks to listen to and to be inspired by...

March 10, 2010

I came across this great advice and I thought I'd share it with y'all. It's pretty "spot on" as advice for writers and it always holds much more weight when you hear it from other writers. What better "other writers" than the masters?!

10 Writing Tips from the Masters
September 6th, 2007 by Editor, Pick the Brain

As the world becomes increasingly digital, writing becomes more important. This is especially true for non-writers. If you work in an office, the majority of your communications are made with text by email or IM. Whether you like it or not, your ability to exchange ideas, collaborate with others, and ultimately succeed, hinges on the ability to write effectively. Earlier this week, K. Stone laid out a process to help you write faster, better, and easier. To follow up, here are 10 timeless tips to help you improve style and substance, straight from the pens of humanity’s finest authors.

Writing Tips

1. Cut the boring parts
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
Unless you’re writing for personal reasons alone, you need to consider the attention of your readers. There’s no point is publishing content that isn’t useful, interesting, or both.

2. Eliminate unnecessary words
Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

I used to feel that using words like “really,” “actually,” or “extremely” made writing more forceful. It doesn’t. They only get in the way. Cut them and never look back.

3. Write with passion
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
It’s not hard to realize that unless you’re excited about your writing no one else will be.

4. Paint a picture
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

Simply stating something is fine, but when you need to capture attention, using similes, metaphors, and vivid imagery to paint a picture creates a powerful emotional response.

5. Keep it simple
Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

Maybe it was all those late nights, struggling to fill out mandatory 10 page papers, but many people seem to think that worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. It’s more difficult (and effective) to express yourself in the simplest possible manner.

6. Do it for love
Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~Mark Twain

When you’re just starting out it’s hard to decide where to begin. So don’t. Just start writing. A blog is a good place to start. The most valuable benefit is the feedback.

7. Learn to thrive on criticism
You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury

Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of anonymous hecklers and shameless sycophants. Learn to make the most of the insults and distrust the praise.

8. Write all the time
Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.
~Ray Bradbury

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything. ~John Irving

9. Write what you know … or what you want to know
If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton

Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don’t have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.

10. Be unique and unpredictable
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~G.K. Chesterton
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~Oscar Wilde
Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury
Following what works will only get you so far. Experiment with new styles, even if it means taking criticism. Without moving forward, you’ll be left behind.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The "NOT NOT"'s not that it's not a good idea to say the following when people are sick...

March 9, 2010

And here’s another installment of one of my “NOT NOT” lists that, purposely, is supposed to sound like “knock knock,” therefore providing that creative twist that seems to amuse only me.

There are so many topics to cover and as we, hopefully, crab walk our way out of March and, thus, exit the Season of Perpetual Flu, I thought I’d go ahead and deal with this whole issue of things that may not be all that helpful to say when someone is sick. My last “NOT NOT” list about hair was longish, so let’s see if I can keep this one shortish…the list, not my hair.

It’s NOT that it’s NOT helpful to make the following comments when someone tells you they’re sick:

1. I had that.
2. Have you taken anything for it?
3. Oh, man, I sure hope it’s not H1-N1 because you know people die from that, right?
4. You’re sick? Boy, get away from me. I don’t want it.
5. Why didn’t you stay home?
6. I hope you feel better than you look.
7. Well, I bet you look better than you feel.
8. Have you seen a doctor?
9. Have you had a flu shot?
10. How’d you get it?
11. Weren’t you just sick?
12. You really need to take care of yourself.
13. I hope you feel better.
14. I hope you don’t get worse.
15. Man, everybody has it, don’t they?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blah, Blah, Blah…oh, no!...chatter patter…humor about communication

March 8, 2010

Blah, Blah, Blah…oh, no!

I love reading, I love research, I love learning new things and I love spending time alone which is just about right because that’s what happens – the spending time alone part – when your short list of preferred activities that excite you consist of these three elements. Nonetheless, while I’m pursuing my entertainment triad I often learn things that create, “Aha!” moments or, in this case, “Blah, blah, blah” moments.

Witness yesterday when I was reading one of my favorite magazines, Psychology Today. While the “What Your Sexual Fantasies Reveal” title emblazoned on the front of this very fine periodical, certainly grabbed my attention, it’s the article about how to know if you’re boring that had me transfixed. (Please don’t try to figure out why, it’ll only hurt both of us.)
Evidently, there is a woman who has a blog called, The Happiness Project and you’re not going to be able to stop me before I say, “Boy, no truer words were said than that: happiness IS a project!” At least that’s out of the way now.

She has actually devised a list of seven red flags to watch for lest you’ve rendered yourself deadly dull and you care enough to assess such a state. Now, you would think yawning and leaving would be included in this list, but those are “no brainers” in that you’re familiar with those types of unwanted responses, so here are some “fresh” ways to assess your conversational acumen and note whether you need to kick it up a notch with your chatter patter.
You want to note the following:

1. Repeated, perfunctory responses. If a person keeps saying, “Oh, really?” or “Wow” or “Huh. I did not know that,” they are not particularly engaged.

Can I hear an “Uh-oh!” out there? Anyone else out there guilty of these types of comments, receiving or giving? My personal non-favorite to receive? “Good for you!” Yuck!

2. No interruptions. We often think it’s rude to be interrupted, but who knew that this is actually a sign that you’re so doggoned interesting the person is “bursting to respond.”

Now this one confused me a mite, inasmuch as how do you tell the difference between someone who is excited by what you’re saying and someone who is just so “over” your conversation that they are commandeering it before they submit to temptation and poke you with something sharp because you’re so dull? I guess it’s a personal call.

3. Simple questions. People who are interested ask more complicated questions that show curiosity, not mere politeness.

I would think this means that if someone asks you, “Is this story about over?” that would not constitute a complicated question.

4. Body position. People with a good connection generally turn to face each other. A person who is partially turned away isn’t fully embracing the conversation.

It gives a whole new meaning to the comment, “I’ve got to run,” doesn’t it?

5. No requests for clarification. A person who is sincerely interested will ask you to elaborate or explain.

Darn it! So all those times when I asked my students if there were any questions and there were none, it wasn’t because I had covered the material soooo well?!

6. Abrupt changes in topic. If you’re talking to someone about, say, global warming and all of a sudden they bring up a totally different topic like psoriasis, then you’ve lost them. (I just wanted to show all of you that I know how to spell psoriasis. Huh. But you wouldn’t know whether I had spellchecked it. Darn it! Another opportunity to impress gone by the wayside.)

7. Squirming. An audience that’s still and upright is interested, while an audience that’s slouching and squirming would rather be doing something else.

I’m going to have to add an “unless” to this one…UNLESS said audience was offered a two for one special on sodas during the intermission, in which case they simply succumbed to a cost-savings opportunity, leading to the poor timing that is having to use the facilities before the end of the performance. In this case, they are squirming and slouching so as not to have a Depends moment.

[Most of text contained within the seven signs is excerpted directly from the article. Psychology Today, March/April 2010, Page 26.]

Sunday, March 7, 2010

KILL-TV...a humorous mystery that takes deadly aim at your funny bone...

March 7, 2010

KILL-TV..the humorous mystery that takes deadly aim at your funny bone...

For anyone who is mildly interested, I've got a new book "out there," called KILL-TV and I'm doggoned excited about it and the fact that I've been asked to be the speaker for the Sierra Writers Group this week, Wednesday, March 10, 2010, at 6:30 p.m., at the Madelyn Helling Library, 980 Helling Way, Nevada City. The book is available at this event and through my website, as well as through, but it's free -- the event silly, not the book, so if you're bored, come hang out with me on Wednesday. We can take a picture together!

Folks have asked me about this new book, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about how this puppy came into being. KILL-TV is one of my "what if," stream-of-consciousness moments parlayed into a plot. As a mere lass in my twenties I spent several years working in the radio and television industry where lessons abounded daily, minute-by-minute deadlines were de rigueur, and my video-to-script writing cost me all use and feeling in my verbs.

"Back in the day," when I discovered the magic wrought by shoulder pads and their seemingly mysterious ability to make my waist appear smaller than it actually was, I came up with another mysterious point to ponder: What if I wrote a comical and suspenseful story that was based upon a combination of irritating characters I’d worked with in broadcasting and, lest there be any residual hostility on my part necessitating expensive counseling, I just plain killed ‘em off?” You know…cheap therapy.

This began my year-long journey into the development of my most ambitious novel to date, KILL-TV, just by virtue of continuity, scene changes, and plotting gyrations.While some kind folks, to whom I am not related, have commented that I am mildly amusing, humor does tend to always find its way into anything I write. Having said that, maintaining a humorous tone, snappy dialogue, and a fast pace can be a daunting task, but it lent itself well to the setting of the broadcast journalism world, a world that looks pretty danged different from the inside out.

I’m often asked why I left the “glamorous” world of broadcasting for my full-time gig as a teacher of Generation Y-ME?! to which I reply cleverly, "Because." Truth be told, as I neared thirty, I was subjected to the tandem aural experience of hearing my biological and sociological clocks ticking; I wanted to contribute to society and use what little experience I had gained to serve people other than myself. Go figure how that kind of thinking can be achieved and channeled through a girl who refused to shop anywhere, but at a store rhyming with, "Lacy’s," until she was…well…thirty.

It may be said that humor is in the mind of the humorist – okay, you got me – I said it and I’m not so sure it makes sense, but just keep in mind, this is my wrap-up and I’m trying to sound all smart, profound, and what-not. With a book that is touted as "humorous," the trickiest part is creating a connection with the reader by accessing the commonality of the absurd and the things that make us all laugh.

Being funny is extremely subjective and when I’m fortunate enough to be in front of someone, whether I’m doing stand-up, or just performing one of my "bits" gratis, I at least have the dual advantages of vocal and facial inflection. Writing does not offer this and no amount of exclamation points, italicized words, or clever dialogue can make someone laugh if the tone hasn’t been set first.

In writing, one way I establish tone is to rely upon situations that have happened, but then exaggerate the heck out of them. This is how I created the scene between Leslie and the recently deceased, Lincoln, where she gets her cute little knit top stuck on his tie clasp. As she attempts to set herself free by rocking back and forth in his lap, she creates the illusion that she is in an unseemly coupling with the boss, and this is in full view of anyone walking by in the outer hallway area, which is just on the other side of the control room glass partition. Combining the horror that a character would feel over discovering her dead boss with a slapstick type of physical interaction that is misinterpreted by a key character is no mean feat, but I hope I’ve succeeded.

It is my fervent hope, desire, and wish that I have created a tale in KILL-TV that amuses the masses who will graciously welcome these characters into their lives, even briefly, and perhaps beyond if the alliterative protagonist, Leslie Lloyd, agrees to a future foray into my next book.

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