Friday, November 24, 2017

Grateful and Gravely Humorous

Thought for the day:  Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. [William Arthur Ward]

In the United States, we celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. I suppose from an alien's point of view, some of the traditions associated with that holiday are a bit... strange. As an earthling, I think there's something a teensy bit strange about it, too. I mean, the idea of an annual holiday centered around the expression of gratitude sounds oh-so nice on the surface, but why isn't gratitude something we express every day? Isn't every day filled with blessings? Isn't every day a gift and a miracle? We don't need to shove bread up a turkey's butt  or stuff ourselves to the point of misery every day, but I think the world would be a better place, and we would be infinitely more content earthlings, if we made a conscious effort to express appreciation for the people and things in our lives and to give thanks for them... every day.

Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary. [Margaret Cousins]

That being said, I'm thankful for you guys. Really. You are all bright spots in my life, and I'm grateful we met through the wonders of the Internet. I'm thankful for humor, too, even if it's sometimes inappropriate. (My bad) I'm also grateful that you guys aren't all judge-y, because that means you won't be too terribly annoyed at me for a re-running the following post, which was originally published right before Thanksgiving, 2014, as Immortal Humor. Enjoy!


Thought for the day:  Running a cemetery is just like being President: you got a lot of people under you, and nobody's listening.  [Bill Clinton]

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA {Wikipedia]
It isn't my fault. Really. It isn't. I neeeeever would have thought about writing such a weird post as this one is gonna be if it hadn't been for that darned article in the newspaper. Then again, maybe I would have. It has been said that I do occasionally suffer from bouts of sick inappropriate humor.

Anyhow, the article. It was a little bitty filler piece about this year's Atlanta Regional Commission's Developments of Excellence Award, which for the last fifteen years has been presented annually to the location deemed tops in the metro area for livability and sustainability, and for serving as a regional model for future growth. Sounds nice, right? Well, would you believe in this, its sixteenth year, the award was presented to... a cemetery? (Oooh, dontcha know, that had to have ticked off some of those big shot fancy pants developers.)

Now, don't get me wrong. Oakland Cemetery is a very nice cemetery, as far as cemeteries go. Lots of historical figures and famous people buried there... like famed golfer Bobby Jones, and author Margaret Mitchell (Marsh). Lots of really neat statues and such, too. And it's OLD... It was founded in 1850, so there are some really interesting old markers.

But does any of that equate to livability??? I mean, it's not like people are exactly dying to move into the place.

Oh shut up. You know what I mean. (hehe)

early 1900 postcard [wikimedia commons]

It isn't like people send postcards from the cemetery and tell everyone, Miss you. Wish you were here... 

or Please stop by, and have a nice stiff drink with me. (Or maybe a tall cold one?)

Then again, maybe some people, some people with a sick inappropriate sense of humor would do something that over the top...

Somebody really really cool like Bob McCully, Pittsburgh's long-time wagster, satirical writer, producer, and top of the crop ad man. The Christmas cards he created every year always featured his unique brand of dark humor, but his family and friends never expected anything like the one they got from the 88-year-old in 2011. Because, you see, he was already dead. He died that August, and most dead men don't send greetings from the grave. But he wasn't like most men; he wanted to get one more laugh.

Thanks to a co-conspirator relative, four hundred people received one last memorable Christmas card from McCully that pictured him on the front, sitting in an office, talking on a telephone, along with the words, Hello, please don't call. I recently moved to a quiet neighborhood. And on the inside, it shows the gates to the Allegheny cemetery, his tombstone, and the words, My new place doesn't have a phone, and our gates close after dark. 

What a guy.

[Night of the Living Dead- wikipedia]
Okay, so maybe that doesn't tickle your funny bone. Personally, I'd love to pull off something like that, but I can understand how the idea of reaching out from the grave might not be everybody's idea of fun. On the other hand, a lot of people who might not appreciate this kinda humor are fascinated by zombies. Whew. Not me. All that brain-eating is too hard for me to swallow. Maybe if they sipped tea and ate cucumber sandwiches or something, I'd feel a little better about them. And I think they should pick up after themselves, too. All those body parts left lying around is totally unacceptable. I'll bet their mamas taught them better than that.

So, if not the walking dead, how about the sitting, standing, motorcycling, or kayaking dead?

Yep, that seems to be the new trend. Instead of being laid out in a coffin, some people are opting to be... posed, so they can make their grand exit doing something they love. A lady in New Orleans was staged sitting at a table with a can of Busch beer in one hand and a menthol cigarette in the other. A Puerto Rican boxer stood in a boxing stance... wearing his boxing gloves, trunks, and hooded robe. There are lots more examples; there are even quite a few images to be found online, if you're curious. I chose not to post any of those pictures. (See? I have some class.)

Kinda made me wonder how I might like to be posed. Reading a book? Sitting at the computer? Singing a song and dancing the fandango? Nah. How about taking a nap? In a coffin...

Actually, I don't want a coffin, either. Like many others have chosen, I'm going with cremation. We've prepaid, and cheap frugal person that I am, since I'm a universal donor, I'm kinda hoping Smarticus might even get a rebate.

But ya know what would reeeeally be cool? There's a company in Alabama called Holy Smoke, and you know what they do? Mix cremains with gunpowder and then use it to pack shotgun shells or rifle cartridges. Then, Smarticus could take me to the shooting range with him one last time. Talk about going out with a bang...


Okay, I'll stop now. I hope I haven't offended anyone. Like everyone else, I've lost many dear friends and family members over the years, and of course, I grieve for them. It's hard to let go of the people we love, and we miss them terribly. Being without them leaves an empty spot in our lives that nothing or no one else can fill.  But I don't think death should be a taboo subject or free from humor. Nor is it something I fear.

Nothing to fear. Rabindranath Tagore put it so very beautifully: Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. 

I plan on burning the lamp as long as possible, but always remember: there's joy in the morning. 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said, I've told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. To me, death is a graduation. 

Sounds good to me. As long as we don't have to wear one of those stupid tasseled mortarboards.

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, November 17, 2017

They Are Our Son-Shines

Thought for the day:  Here's what I've learned about raising boys— if you keep 'em busy, they're fine. You let 'em get bored, they'll dismantle your house board by board. [Kenny Rogers]

[image courtesy of Morguefile]
Have you ever noticed how puppies... and little boys... play? Lots of similarities there. The exuberance... the horseplay... the unending energy... the smell. For sure, our sons loved to horse around like a couple of over-sized puppies when they were growing up. Matter of fact, even when they were well into their twenties, if the two of them were visiting at the same time, it was a pretty sure bet that they'd eventually end up rough-housing, which usually involved some loud bumping into and bouncing off the walls. Then when they got older, they traded in the rough-housing for arm-wrestling and competitive weight lifting, which even drew Smarticus into the fray. Must be a guy thing. My daughter and I would never compete like that... unless you count board games.

We've come a long way since I took this picture of Smarticus and the kids back in about 1980 or so. Now the boys have kids of their own, who undoubtedly do their fair share of bouncing off the walls. Especially the boys.

Because, as anyone can tell you who has raised both boys and girls, boys and girls behave very differently. (As if they really are from two different planets at times.) All blessings in their own right, but let's just say that boys can also be rip-roaring odoriferous rambunctious challenges. (And I wouldn't have it any other way!)

[image courtesy of Morguefile]

At some point, one of our sons went from enjoying bath time to expending entirely too much energy trying to weasel out of it. Once, he even went to the trouble of filling the tub without actually bothering to put so much as a toe into the water. He just hung out in the bathroom for a while... reading a book. Then after what he deemed to be an appropriate amount of time, he let the water out and emerged in his clean pajamas. If he hadn't been so darned dirty, he might've gotten away with it.

Why is it with boys, when you tell them to wash their hands, you have to specify that they should use soap? Never mind. Silly question. Our son didn't even think he needed water...

Anyhow, raising children can teach parents all kinds of lessons. Not always things we want to know, mind you, but lessons nonetheless. I'm pleased to say we didn't personally experience all of the things on the following list of things parents learn by raising boys:
  • A king-sized waterbed holds enough water to create a 4-inch deep flood in a 2000 square foot home.
  • If you spray hairspray on dust bunnies and then run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.
  • A 3-year-old's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.
  • If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor isn't strong enough to rotate a 42-pound boy wearing batman underoos and a superman cape.
  • However, it  is strong enough, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20 x 20 room.
  • You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.
  • When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit.
  • A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
  • The glass in windows (even double-paned) doesn't stop a baseball that's been hit by a ceiling fan.
  • When you hear a toilet flush and "uh-oh", it's already too late.
  • Brake fluid mixed with Chlorox makes smoke. A LOT of smoke.
  • A 6-year-old boy can start a fire with a flint rock, even though a 36-year-old man says it can only be done in the movies.
  • Certain Legos will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year-old boy.
  • Play dough and microwave should never be used in the same sentence.
  • Super glue is forever.
  • No matter how much Jello you put into a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water.
  • Pool filters do not like Jello.
  • VCRs do not eject PB&J sandwiches, even though TV commercials show that they do.
  • Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.
  • Marbles in gas tanks make a lot of noise when driving.
  • You probably don't want to know what that smell is.
  • Always check the oven before turning it on; ovens do NOT like plastic toys.
  • The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.
  • It will, however, make cats dizzy.
  • Cats throw up twice their weight when dizzy.

[image courtesy of Morgefile]
                             Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, November 10, 2017

What Goes Around

Thought for the Day:  I saw that. [Karma]

We're all works in progress, which means even though we may strive to be kinder and more forgiving, there's a slim possibility we might also possibly smirk a teensy bit when we see the jackass who's been honking his horn and flipping off everyone as he weaves through traffic at a rate just under the speed of light sitting at the side of the road in front of the flashing blue lights of a police car. Not that we wish any real harm to the guy, mind you. But he DID have it coming...

While it isn't a good idea or very nice to exact revenge on other people, I think most of us derive a certain amount of satisfaction when the bad guys get caught, the cheaters get dumped, and the one who broke your heart gets his broken into pieces. (♪♫ and that's when you'll discover that revenge is sweet, when I sit there applauding from a front row seat...♫ ♪)

Today's post is loosely based on a story someone told me years ago...

After gal pals Martha and Mary spent hours on end shopping, they decided to go to a nearby cafeteria for a much-needed rest and a bite to eat.

In the parking lot outside the restaurant, they spotted a dead rat lying on the ground.

"Poor thing," Martha said. "We can't just leave him there. What should we do?"

"I know!" Mary said. She pulled one of her bags from the trunk and emptied its contents into another bag. Then she carefully wrapped the rat in tissue paper and lowered him gently into the empty bag. "I'll bury him when I get home."

It was a very hot day, and the ladies didn't want to stink up the car by putting the burial bag into the trunk, so they decided to let it air out on top of the car while they went into the restaurant.

From their window-side table, they watched a well-dressed woman stroll nonchalantly past the car while obviously checking out the bag. Then she doubled back, snatched the bag and kept on walking.

"Did you SEE that? What nerve!" Martha said, shaking her head.

Mary laughed. "Yeah, but just wait until she opens that bag!"

The ladies were still laughing (Wouldn't YOU?) when our self-satisfied thief ambled into the restaurant with the bag still firmly gripped in her hand. After she went through the line, she settled at a nearby table, put the bag on an empty chair and began to eat. She took a few bites of her food and then casually lifted the bag into her lap to check out her treasure. From a few tables away, Martha and Mary could barely contain themselves as she pulled out the tissue paper and happily peered into the bag with a look of great anticipation on her face.

Her eyebrows raised, her eyes opened wide, and she made a sound somewhere between a blood-curdling scream and a fish-out-of-water gasp. The bag slid from her lap and she sank to the floor, wheezing and clutching her chest. A cafeteria worker sent the busboy to call 911, while she helpfully administered an unneeded, but highly energetic, Heimlich maneuver on the horrified woman.

The ambulance arrived, and despite her protests, the hapless rat burglar was strapped to a gurney and rolled out the door.... with the bag, which one of the EMTs so kindly picked up when he gathered her belongings, perched on her stomach.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Setting the Pace

Thought for the dayA yawn is an honest opinion openly expressed. [unknown]

Yawns are a natural (and contagious) part of life, and they're fine... as long as they aren't happening when someone is supposed to be reading my book. [me]

Yep. It's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Before tackling this month's question, how about a little change of pace? The pace in our writing, that is...

Ever hear of a gearhead? That's what my husband Smarticus is. Simply put, that means he has a passion (and talent) for building cars. At one of the car meets we attended, he pointed at one of the cars and told me, All go and no whoa.  (Yeah, he has a way with words.) Anyway, a couple weeks after that, I found out he wasn't just being funny.

Stan, one of our amateur radio buddies, has a '56 Chevy. She's a beauty, and has been lovingly and meticulously restored, inside and out. One weekend, when we were attending a hamfest in his part of the state, he offered to take us for a spin in his baby. Oh yeah!

So he got behind the wheel, we climbed in, and off we went. It was glorious!

Until it wasn't.

We were barreling down a hill at a pretty hefty pace, and rapidly approaching the bottom, where the road abruptly ended in a T... and a stop sign. Stan pressed his foot on the brake, but that old Chevy barely even slowed down. We kept on a-rolling, right through the stop sign and around the corner. All go, no whoa.

Maybe we should be more aware of the potential all go and no whoa pitfalls in our writing, too.

I'm not suggesting the action in our books should move at a snail's pace. That may be "safe", but it's boring. If we were only creeping along at 5 MPH, the ride in that Chevy would've been much safer, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. Who wants to creep down the road, or watch grass grow, or read a book where nothing ever happens? And if you're barely moving, who notices or worries about a stop?

                         On the other hand, we can't be flying at 100 MPH all the time, either.

Adrenaline-pumping, high speed action is thrilling, but it can also be exhausting for a reader, and the longer it goes on, the less effective it becomes. If you give your readers nothing but superlatives, they quickly lose their meaning and punch.

Like so many other things in life, what we need in our writing is balance. Lull the reader with the slow parts, and then smack the crap out of him with a surprising burst of speed.

Sound familiar?

                                                     Oh, yeah. Like a roller coaster ride.

As an ideal, I think a book should vary its pace and carry its readers through a lot of ups, downs, and surprising turns. I'm not a huge fan of roller coasters, but I do love to be surprised when I'm reading, don't you?.

That's the ideal. Does my first novel measure up to that? Honestly, no. Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade is more like a pleasant Sunday drive with a few hairpin turns and dips in the road. (But my brakes eventually work!)

How about you? How would you describe the pace in the books you most enjoy? How about in the books you write? Is it the same, or different?

Oh, and by the way, if you're restoring an old car, please update the brakes. Safety trumps authenticity when you're barreling down the street.

And now (ta DA!) the Question of the Month: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Okay, how can I put this? I'm afraid when it comes to NaNo, my reaction has been strictly... NoNo. Not because I don't think it's a totally cool concept, and I have a lot of respect for the people who are disciplined enough to essentially write an entire book in a single month, but when it comes to writing, I'm content to crawl along in the slow lane. I mean, compared to those writers, I'm like a turtle waddling down the runway with airplanes taking off all around me. So a book in a month isn't likely to ever happen for me. To all you guys who are giving it a go this month, good luck to you! I'll stay in the right hand lane so y'all can fly on past.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.