Thursday, July 24, 2014

She wore a great big, skirted, yellow polka dot tankini

I don’t know how “well-deserved” it is, but I am preparing for a “well-anticipated” vacation to the beach. Of the many images that come to my mind, I smell the sand and the ocean, I hear the squawk of gulls flying overhead, and I smell sunscreen. Because I’m a child of the 80s, back when golden, sun-kissed skin was celebrated instead of chastised, I must admit I miss the coconutty smell of SPF 4 potions. Zinc Oxide just doesn’t seem to have that same island vibe. I digress.

Another image that comes to mind is myself in a bathing suit. Like 98.5% of other women in the world, I am less-than-thrilled to don a swim suit and parade about in front of family, friends, and strangers. Although I’m completing my self-imposed pre-beach workout and diet regime, I still have areas I wish weren’t there. At least, I wish they looked markedly different.

But something magical happens when your foot first sinks in that sand. With each passing, salty breeze, anxiety and self-consciousness seem to float away. Yes, at first, one might use a beach towel to cover up areas until they acclimate. Maybe you leave your t-shirt or your cover-up on for a while. It doesn’t take very long before you see two sights:  someone who looks (a lot) better than you and someone who looks (a lot) worse that you. The beauty (on the beach as in life)? That although you may be someone’s “worse than me,” chances are you’re going to be someone’s “better than me,” just as often.

So, I’ll forget about carbs and burpees and Spanx for the next little bit. Oh, they’ll be waiting for me when I return. No, for now, I’m just soaking it all up in a peaceful tranquility. “Oh, waiter?”

Sicily had bikinis 1,500 years ago: A Sicilian mosaic shows ancient
Roman athletes exercising in an early version of the bikini.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Im a Good Writter

I’m a fan of irony. I think it’s funny. And if you make me laugh, you’ve got a friend for life.

There was an article today about a tree in L.A., which was planted in memory of Beatle George Harrison following his passing. Sadly, the tree, like the person for whom it was planted, has died. The reason:  beetles.  Bark beetles ate away at the tree so much, it caused it to wither and die. (Editor’s note:  George Harrison died from lung cancer, not bark beetles.) Now that’s irony.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In an Autumn State of Mind

It’s not like we’ve had a brutally oppressive summer here. Actually, it’s been quite mild. But I must admit, about this time of year, my thoughts turn to football, bowls of chili, crisp mornings, and fall decorations.

You hear people talk about springtime and its new beginnings. The smell of freshly-mowed grass. The chirp of baby birds. A renewal. I like Spring. But there’s just something about Fall that I love.  

In Spring, I feel like you’re trapped between two extreme climates. You’ve survived Winter, but it’s still a vivid memory. And you know, at least here in middle Tennessee, that Spring lasts about as long as an ice cream cone in August. Blink and it’s 95 degrees outside with the same percentage of humidity.

When Fall rolls around, though, your skin is still kissed by the sun, there will be sand in all kinds of places for a while still, and you’re eagerly awaiting fun holidays ahead, just around the corner.  Fall feels like the best of both worlds. Fall lets you have your cake and eat it around a fire pit, too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Keep on knockin', but you can't come in

You know the phrase “dropped in my lap?” As in something unexpected happening? More often than not, when used, I find we hope that the something is good. Something positive. But often, in reality, it’s not.  Here are a couple of examples:

“Mike is on vacation this week and I just had all of his work dropped in my lap.”

“The substitute teacher just dropped a ton of homework in our lap.”

When feeling hopeful, even if it’s a cynical hope, one might say, “well, it’s not like _______ is going to drop in my lap.”

But sometimes in life, often when you least expect it, something good does waft down. It probably happens more than we know. You know another saying?

When opportunity knocks, answer the door. 

Sounds simple, right? But aren’t we just as likely, as humans, to turn off the lights and hide until the knocking goes away?

So my challenge for you today, this week, and for myself, as well, is to open that door. Embrace it. You might just be glad you did.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Talking 'Bout My Generation

This morning, I was thinking about our current society, the world as it is, and wondering if this generation is more violent than previous ones. Turn on the news and you’ll hear about a shooting, a bank or gas station robbery, some nut who kills their children or an entire family, or a drug deal gone wrong. And that’s just local news. Across the country, we’re dealing with escalating gang violence, problems arising from our influx of illegal aliens, and domestic terrorism. Around the world, Africa, North Korea, and the entire Middle East region are festering.

So I started thinking. 9/11 shook this generation’s boots. Literally. That, to date, was our defining moment for anyone born in the early 90s or earlier. That is this generation’s version of “where were you when Kennedy was shot?” Anyone 23 years old or older today will likely remember that pretty, fall Tuesday when our world changed. Our security blanket, well-worn yet still intact, was eaten by the washing machine of evil. Our lives changed. Our innocence was lost. We had known of terrorism, but it was something across two oceans and stored safely halfway around the world. Not before nor since Pearl Harbor had the enemy dared walk into our yard.

There were immediate and long-lasting developments that impacted the way we live and travel. No longer does your family send you off and greet you at the boarding gate. Now you cattle call your way through security checkpoints, showing your paperwork to anyone in a uniform, and watching a wide swath of society – young, old, male, female, foreign, domestic, Hasidic Jew and weird punk rock dude with a mohawk – in various stages of dress and undress. We have scanners now that provide security personnel a most intimate look inside you to see if you’re hiding a weapon (or thinking about passing gas). And, less notably, almost all friendliness has been replaced with scrutiny and suspicion. Now airport, airline, and security personnel are constantly scanning the crowd. Fellow passengers size one another up while waiting, performing their own version of profiling. That idyllic image of a 1950s stewardess, charming and witty like a 30,000-ft geisha, has been replaced by a more uncharismatic, androgenous version…one who will throw a flat Coke at you only to come by 20 seconds later with a trash bag and is constantly sending the vibe “act up, and I’ll tase your [bottom].”

Then I think about my parents’ generation and how unsettled they must have felt at times. They are old enough to have heard first hand accounts from WWII around the Thanksgiving table. And they lived through the Cold War, Korea, Kennedy assassinations, Vietnam, and the oil and energy crises.

And my grandparents? Well, they endured Prohibition, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and WWII.

So I suppose every generation has its conflicts and its unrest. What makes us great – as individuals and surely as Americans – is our resolve. Our dedication to a better life. Isn’t that what got us started in the first place. A commitment to do what’s right, always. To put others first. To enjoy freedoms but to know that one’s rights end where another’s begin.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Go Get 'Em (But Not Too Hard)

When people are looking for two things in particular – love and a job – you often hear the same warning:  don’t appear desperate.  Now, I agree there is a fine line between persistence and having a restraining order. Somewhere in there, you cross the line from being tenacious to just being pushy. But I have to ask:  what’s the harm in showing your determination?

In my mind, if you feel passionate about someone or something, you should shout it from the roof tops until…unless….they’ve turned you down. “No” definitely means “no” in most cases (unless you’re in sales). But until you hear the phrase “no, thank you,” I say press on. We have enough namby-pamby in this world. I say grab the bull by the horns, carpe diem, seize the day (and that bull), at least until the bull cries “uncle.”

Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

You know, all this talk about bulls makes me think of my favorite Veggie Tales song. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Solid Work Ethic

Have you watched the show “Dirty Jobs” where the guy goes on location and tries his hand helping people who are bat cave scavengers and hot tar roofers for a living. The host’s name is Mike Rowe.  Mike recently shared a list of 12 life rules he wrote entitled “The S.W.E.A.T Pledge.” This list contains his version of words by which to live and work.

(Skill & Work Ethic Aren't Taboo)

1. I believe that I have won the greatest lottery of all time. I am alive. I walk the Earth. I live in America. Above all things, I am grateful.

2. I believe that I am entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nothing more. I also understand that "happiness" and the "pursuit of happiness" are not the same thing.

3. I believe there is no such thing as a "bad job." I believe that all jobs are opportunities, and it's up to me to make the best of them.

4. I do not "follow my passion." I bring it with me. I believe that any job can be done with passion and enthusiasm.

5. I deplore debt, and do all I can to avoid it. I would rather live in a tent and eat beans than borrow money to pay for a lifestyle I can't afford.

6. I believe that my safety is my responsibility. I understand that being in "compliance" does not necessarily mean I'm out of danger.

7. I believe the best way to distinguish myself at work is to show up early, stay late, and cheerfully volunteer for every crappy task there is.

8. I believe the most annoying sounds in the world are whining and complaining. I will never make them. If I am unhappy in my work, I will either find a new job, or find a way to be happy.

9. I believe that my education is my responsibility, and absolutely critical to my success. I am resolved to learn as much as I can from whatever source is available to me. I will never stop learning, and understand that library cards are free.

10. I believe that I am a product of my choices – not my circumstances. I will never blame anyone for my shortcomings or the challenges I face. And I will never accept the credit for something I didn't do.

11. I understand the world is not fair, and I'm OK with that. I do not resent the success of others.

12. I believe that all people are created equal. I also believe that all people make choices. Some choose to be lazy. Some choose to sleep in. I choose to work my butt off.

I recall working with a chronic whiner in an early job. She was one of those people who could win the lottery and still find something to moan and groan about. “Well, Uncle Sam will take half of it…” She was my first Eeyore.  One day, she was verbally expressing her desire to be anywhere but at work when another co-worker walked by. He was a classic baby boomer, raised on elbow grease, determination, and second-hand tales of WWII and the Depression. 

His response to her statement, “I need some motivation to be here today…?”  “Unemployment.”  Pure and simple.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Disney on Skies

Last night, a monorail at Disney World suffered an electrical outage, causing the train to stop 30 feet in the air on its track. Its passengers were trapped for 90 minutes, sans air conditioning, while they awaited rescue. A happy ending ensued – firefighters, using a lift, got everyone down and, for their trouble, everyone received vouchers from the Mouse.

I have so many fond memories of the monorail at Disney. In a weird way, it was probably my favorite ride there. In the morning, the excitement and anticipation was palpable. Kids squealed and laughed with delight as Cinderella’s Castle came into view and parents checked that they had tickets and sunscreen and ponchos.

In the late evening, it was a cool respite from a long, hot day. The windows were always frosted up, caught between the chill of the train’s A/C and the humidity of a Floridian night. Even as a child, it was nice to sit and relax after a long day and, if you looked over your shoulder, you could catch one, last glimpse of Space Mountain and immediately begin recounting wonderful memories whose ink was still wet.

Just writing and thinking about it makes me want to go. I never tire of it. It’s truly a magical place and always will be for me. I tip my hat and offer my thanks to my parents for sharing their sense of wonder and adventure with me over the years at DisneyWorld and EPCOT. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

I'm Not Spike Lee

But I do think you should do the right thing.

I’m a rule follower. I follow rules. And, because of this, I expect others to, as well, and get aggravated when they don’t. Rarely am I more aggravated than when fellow drivers don’t abide by the rules, both of the road and of popular social convention.

Yesterday, I was waiting to turn onto the interstate ramp. The line was backed up through one traffic light and moving towards a second. Because the ramp was backed up, and the interstate ahead, only 1-2 cars were getting out with each cycle of the red light. I watched as a couple of rule breakers zipped up to the front of the line, turned their turn signal on, and by the grace of their fellow drivers, were let in. Doh! I guess it’s true what they say:  good guys finish last.

I don’t honestly believe this. I like to think of it more as “good guys may not win the battle, but they’ve got the war.” So, go on. Break the rules. I may be a big person and let you in. I’ll probably make a point of touching the person in front of my car’s bumper with my fender so as to send a clear message of “not on my watch, buddy.” And I will definitely, secretly hope the sheriff is up ahead, waiting to give you and your black horse a ticket for speeding.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Funny Fish

Saw this commercial for Captain D's this morning and it made me laugh. Out loud. I LOL'd.

Preparing for an upcoming beach trip, I've been exercising more and really watching what I eat. But let me just tell you, I could put the hurt on a boat of Captain D's crunchies right now. Ooh, and some hot, fresh hushpuppies. And a giant glass of sweet tea.

Excuse me while I eat this grapefruit. :(

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hat Day

A Haiku from a curly-haired girl fighting this blasted humidity.

Hair woes. How to fix?
A hat or razor just might do.
This is one such day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It's My Job

One of my favorite (and possibly my all-time favorite) songs performed by Jimmy Buffett is "It's My Job." Written by Mac McAnally, Jimmy's friend, co-conspirator, and songwriter for many decades, the song follows a couple of characters through their professions, explaining their work ethic as it goes.

Here's a video from 1981. You can ignore the frizzy hair and the crazy mustaches and listen to it while you scan the lyrics below.


It's My Job

In the middle of late last night I was sittin' on a curb
I didn't know what about but I was feeling quite disturbed
A street sweeper came whistling by
He was bouncin' every step
It seemed strange how good he felt
So I asked him while he swept

He said "it's my job to be cleaning up this mess
And that's enough reason to go for me
It's my job to be better than the rest
And that makes the day for me."

Got an uncle who owns a bank he's a self made millionaire
He never had anyone to love never had no one to care
He always seemed kind of sad to me
So I asked him why that was
And he told me it's because in my contract there's a clause

That says "it's my job to be worried half to death
And that's the thing people respect in me
It's a job but without it I'd be less
Than what I expect from me."

I've been lazy most all of my life
writing songs and sleeping late
Any manual labor I've done purely by mistake
If street sweepers can smile then 
I've got no right to feel upset
But sometimes I still forget

Till the lights go on and the stage is set
And the song hits home and you feel that sweat

It's my job to be different than the rest
And that's enough reason to go for me
It's my job to be better than the best
And that's a tough break for me
It's my job to be cleaning up this mess
And that's enough reason to go for me
It's my job to be better than the best
And that makes the day for me

"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses...behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights."

Muhammad Ali

"In our adversity, God shouts to us."

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

"...If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."
2 Thessalonians 3:10

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.."

Colossians 3:23

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hatfilelds and McCoys

If you click on this link, it will take you to a quick assessment tool on's website. You type in your last name and it will kick back some interesting data such as country of origin, where in the U.S. there is the largest concentration of people with your surname, and even average life expectancy of your kinfolk.

One interesting piece of data I noted when I plugged in my maiden and married names is this:  it's probable, more than possible, that my husband and I had relatives on opposing sides during the Civil War. Huh. Think about that for a moment.

My imagination takes me back to a dusty landscape with canons firing in the distance, the sound of hoofbeats on a dirt road, and my husband and me sneaking through brush and bushes for a clandestine rendezvous. "Oh, when will this God forsaken war end?" I ask in my best Southern drawl. "Soon, my love. Soon." is his reply. I hand him some bread and an apple wrapped in a cloth napkin and he slips out of sight.

It's possible.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Y'all Want a Coke?

Cray-on or cran?

Highway or freeway? 

Loy-yer or Law-yer?

I’ll tell you this much. I don’t call it a “highway” or a “freeway.” It’s an “interstate.”

And if I order a “Coke,” you may clarify “which kind?” but don’t you ask me if “Pepsi is OK,” because it is most certainly not.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The low, low price of...discernment?

It was the summer of 1985. I had just turned 11 and was busy riding my bike, reading, hitting a tennis ball against the side of the house (and sometimes a window) with a tennis racquet, and soaking up the summer sun. Inside, and as a true child of the 80s, the TV was my babysitter. And it wasn’t even a great TV. We didn’t know what was in store for us in the decades ahead. We had a sweet console which housed a decent sized cathode ray tube set. It had a “clicker” which would take you through the six (yes, kids, six) channels, but it was easier to just sit with your nose touching the glass and you could reach over and turn the dial as needed. On this magical box, I watched The A-Team, Who’s the Boss, The Disney Sunday Movie, Punky Brewster, and Silver Spoons.  In addition to the current line-up, I enjoyed reruns of Leave it to Beaver, Scooby Doo, Alice, Gilligan’s Island, The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, and The Brady Bunch.

In between the regular programming were commercials. During the daytime, most commercials were aimed at the stay-at-home-Mom demographic, plugging laundry detergent, time-saving cleaning products, and Dexatrim. But manufacturers and marketers got smart about this time and realized there might be a more direct route to one of their largest consumer groups – kids. Instead of showing a gadget or toy to a Mom, busy cleaning her house and dieting, why not show it directly to the kid? Run spots during their shows, they see the product, want the product, and then go beg for the product. Genius.

This was also just prior to the concept of infomercials. Still living in an idyllic, cocoon that was once the good, ‘ol USA, one could order something by calling an 800 number or sending a post card or letter (!) and then had the payment options of paying by credit card immediately (unheard of), mailing a check, or COD – cash on delivery. You ordered, they delivered, you paid in the driveway. How odd does that seem now in our Amazon and cloud-based world? Prior to free and flat-rate shipping, there were “S&H” (shipping and handling) charges applied to all phone orders.

As an unwitting, captive audience, I fell victim to one such product and learned the hard way the sinister implication of the “as seen on tv” label. The name has escaped me, but here’s the gist:  a hard, plastic ring (think a smaller, thicker hula hoop), maybe 14” in diameter, with a small, rubber ball which ran around an inside track of the ring. You propelled the ball by placing it on the track, then gently lifting and lowering the ring in your hand in a quick up-and-down motion, creating centripetal force. That’s it. That’s all it did. No batteries. No cord. No lights. You moved your arm and the ball spun around inside this ring.

For whatever reason, this toy appealed to me.  I saw that commercial and, much to the manufacturer’s and marketing agency’s pleasure, made the commitment:  I must own this toy. It was something ridiculous like $19.99 + $4.95 S&H. I saved my money. I begged and borrowed from parents and grandparents. And then I ordered it. And waited. And waited. The commercial promised delivery in 8-12 weeks which, in kid time, is a couple of years. It’s entirely possible, by the time one of these orders arrived, the recipient more than likely had outgrown it or just plain forgotten about it.

Then one day in late summer, the mailman announced his arrival with a long squeak of his brakes as he stopped in front of my house. I exchanged an envelope containing paper and coin currency for the box he held which looked as though it had been kicked from the warehouse rather than driven. My heart leapt. I couldn’t wait to enjoy the same fun the kids in the commercial had shown me would be mine once I owned this toy. I took it out and immediately began to play with it (no assembly required). But then, just like that, it dawned on me. Hey, wait, this isn’t fun. This is lame. This is super lame. As I watched the mailman make his way down the street, I immediately regretted parting with my money.

Summer came and went, much like the fun of owning that toy. I lost the ball, leaving me with an entirely useless plastic hoop. It sat in the corner of my room, then my closet, then the attic, mocking me each time I saw it. Years later, I realized it wasn’t the toy I bought for the $25 but a life lesson. Things aren’t always what they seem.

I remembered this childhood memory the other day when I saw a commercial for this:

Hold onto your allowances, kids. Trust me.