Life in Bits

Janiel Miller - Mom. Writer. Distractifier.

Have a Little Spam and Cheese

Well, it must be autumn. There’s been an uptick in the emails hitting my junk folder lately. As if, now that summer is over and I’m no longer on vacation, I’ll settle down and take the world more seriously. Pay attention to a few concerns. I mean, there are people out there who need my help. People like Dennis of Nigeria, who believes that I have shown the promise of brilliant management skills in the company I seem to own (you know, “Momma Miller’s Speedy Weed n’ Feed) and wants me to invest in his. Which, if I understood the Google-translated English correctly, deals in oil. I’ll receive a one-dollar commission if I help out. WOW! I’m assuming that’s a dollar per barrel of oil sold, not just a dollar. The man says he needs people like me who can increase his sales. And he’ll reward me. Plus he assures me that it’s a legitimate business. In all-caps.

Or Chun Wei, whose concern for me is so urgent that she didn’t even have time to write more than one sentence demanding that I click on the link and get in touch with her immediately. Oh Em Gee! Whatever is it? Could my two million dollar grant for studying tsetse fly biorhythms have come through? And all I have to do is click on that link and leave a credit card number so they’ll have a place to transfer all the free money from that one really rich village in China? Dudes! This makes total sense!

And then there’s Neal Trotter, bless his heart. A philanthropist from the UK who chose ME out of all the people in America, to be a recipient of two million five hundred thousand GPB – part of the seven million he won in the lottery – just because his son Joe died, and Neal wants to make the world a better place. So he figured he’d start with me because I’m so awesome. And famous. You know how I’m so utterly famous that Neal from the UK knows who I am? And how very much I could use two million five hundred thousand GPB – which, by the way, I don’t know what that stands for. I mean, I looked it up, and Wikipedia says “GPB” Stands for “British Pound Sterling.” Um. Gosh, I hate to be a rude little famous person, but I noticed that “British Pound Sterling” starts with BPS, not GPB. Soooo. Maybe this is . . . a joke? Or something? Unless GPB is pronounced “Gritish Pound Berling” and I just never knew it.

Wow. I guess maybe I don’t know very much after all. I am sort of ignorant. Maybe all of these good people aren’t spammers at all. Maybe they really are concerned for my well-being. I mean, Neal is trying to give me some of his hard-won Gritish Berling, after all. And Chun, CHUN! Look at her! She trusts me so much she doesn’t even tell me what she wants to get in touch with me for! She just asks me to click and knows I will. That’s amazing. Especially in this world! Wow. And then there’s Dennis, bless him. Dennis who knows, just from the way I use my Crisco, that I am the perfect person to invest in his Nigerian Oil company. Sight unseen. Credibility unchecked. Existence completely Non.

My friends, I am on it. The world is about to become a better place.

Gosh, I love autumn.

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School Starts Again! Huzzah! I Think . . .

Remember when you were a kid, and summer break lasted approximately 2.9 million years, and the whole thing was a giant sun-drenched swath of swimming, sleeping in, doing no homework, and eating popsicles?

And remember how, now that you’re an adult and have kids, or work with kids, or are related to kids, or occasionally see a kid on the street, summer break still lasts approximately 2.9 million years? And since you are peri-menopausal, that giant sun-drenched, face-melting, kid-filled swath of 100-degree heat drives you at a mad gallop toward the crisp air, falling leaves, gingerbread, and school-uniform-plaid of Autumn?

Fall is the season when finally, finally I can throw away all those bags of grape popsicles in my freezer — the victims of grape popsicle prejudice, poor little things.  (Popsicle companies totally know kids love the more expensive root beer and cherry flavored treats best, so they put three of them into a bag of one hundred grapesicles, thereby forcing delirious, face-melted moms all over America to  buy more bags in order to quell their children’s root beer/cherry-lust. It’s a coup, I tell you.)

Fall, quite frankly,  is the season when mothers the world-over secretly dance in the streets because the popsicles are gone, the house is emptying, and their kids are going back to school.

Look, I love my kids. You love my kids. I mean your kids. They came out of our bodies (a good portion of us), gave us stretch marks, influenced us to give up careers — or at least alter them — and made us forage through parts of our brain that would never have seen the light of day otherwise. They challenge us, bend us, shock us, amaze us, warm us, enliven us, and weird us out. What in the world would we do without them?

Just ask any mom who has sent her kid back to school after a long, hot summer. She’ll tell you what in the world we do without them.

We run errands in the quiet of our own company. Maybe listen to a little Christmas music in September if we feel like it. Or some ABBA. We get the whole house cleaned in one afternoon without having to access our Nag-i-fier even once. We think in complete sentences, actually getting to the ends of them! We take a moment at lunch to read a book, get a degree, go to work without worrying about who has tied whom to what and lit what on fire at home, grabbed lunch with some gal-pals we haven’t seen in ages, run to the gym, plan our meals for the entire month, and finish writing the novel we’ve been working on. We might even write a letter to someone.  A real one! On paper and everything!

And then. We who no longer have our kids charging around us at the end of summer, well, we . . . we . . .

Die of boredom.

How long does it take for a hundred and eighty days to go by?

 

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Horses, Me, and my Kid. Not So Much.

Ya got plans for the summer? I’ve been making them for my kids. And it seems like there is almost no summer at all to work with. Like, I think Daylight Savings has removed so much daylight from each year that summer is now about a week long. I’m pretty sure that while I’m sitting here in June, yesterday was September and I was just sending my peeps off to school in their squeaky new shoes and trendy little skinny jeans.

One of my mini-me’s is going to be taking a horseback riding course with his cousin in the next few weeks. And I have to say that I honestly didn’t see that coming from this snowboarding-karate-nerf-dude-man. But I guess it’s in his blood. I mean I totally rode horses when I was younger. Well, a horse. When I was first married. Practically the same thing. And speaking as a pro, I’m a bit nervous for my rather adrenalin-laden boy to hop up on some bronco and actually stay there without getting launched headfirst into the bushes. It’s challenging. I would know.

My husband grew up on a farm in I-dee-hoe (that’s how they say it up there. No really.) He spent long summers — much longer than the ones we have now — driving tractors, thinning beets, milking cows, bailing hay, and yes, riding his father’s stallions. His dad loved stallions. There are pictures of that man sitting astride his steeds, gazing off into the Idaho Sunset, obviously dreaming of winning a triple crown. Or maybe even a quadruple. His were good horses.

So naturally, once I married into the family I was expected to at least try to get up in the saddle at some point and stay aboard the thing for a respectable amount of time. But I was terrified. Have you seen horses? They’re forty feet off the ground, can crush a human being’s entire skeletal structure with the tap of one hoof, and have nostrils the size of my head. But my first summer as a Miller I figured if I wanted to fit in with my huz’s crowd, I’d better establish myself as a country girl instead of a woman who  grew up around air bases and wouldn’t know a pommel from a P-39.

One day my lovely bro-in-law decided it was time for me to learn to ride. But I was going to learn to ride real. Like without a saddle. The boy was nice, though. Said he’d get up right behind me to make sure I didn’t fall off. Filled me with confidence.

Well, we went out to the driveway, and there stood the flame-eyed, foam-flecked beast I was to take a trot around the pasture on. I knew that if I didn’t ooze confidence I was toast. And the way that animal threw disinterested contempt at me from it’s blood-red eyes, I knew I was going to have to ooze it hard. So I leveled a gaze at him that said, “Please don’t throw me, horsey. I’ll do anything you want!” And when he snorted and looked away, I knew I had him.

Bro-in-law sort of wrangled me up onto our ride, despite nearly losing a nose to my flailing knees. Then, once I was situated on the fat sweaty thing (it makes me feel better to call the horse fat and sweaty. It wasn’t. It was sleek and completely justified in looking down its equine nose at me), the boy leapt up behind me. Then he began giving me instructions. Lots of them. Designed to keep us safely astride and dignified. But this is what I heard:

“Grab the buzzzzzzz bzzzzz hold on with your knees bzzzzzz bzzzzz won’t fall bzzzzzzz bzzzzz long way down bzzzz bzzzzzz with your knees bzzzzzzzzzzz…”

Then we were off. Horseface took a step. And another. Pretty soon it got enthusiastic and began trotting. I started bouncing. Like, all over the place. WHOA! NOBODY SAID THIS THING WAS GOING TO BOUNCE! HOW THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO NOT FALL OFF?! I gazed down at the gravel forty feet beneath us and terror gripped me. I tried pulling on the reigns to slow the creature down, to no avail. BIL was yelling something but I think he was speaking New Jersey (which is where he served his LDS mission, and I’m pretty sure was fluent in the language), because I totally didn’t understand him. All I knew was that I was going to die if this horse didn’t stop rattling my brain against my teeth, and I hadn’t had any children yet. It wasn’t my time. I was not going down. So I did the one thing I remembered my instructor saying: I held the heck on with my knees.

Yeah. Did you know horses have a bucking button? They do. And if you forget where your knees are and hold on with your heels instead, you’ll totally press it. Up and down up and down! Neck snapping, arms flapping, bro-in-law trying to grab me around the waist and save my life, and suddenly . . . air! A brief flash of sunshine and . . .  Bam! My husband’s brother’s knee in my kidney and my skull cracking on the driveway. So. Far. Down.

Pain.

Horse made some sort of snotty comment, then walked away to find lunch. I rolled off BIL’s knee with a groan to look for my kidney and the back of my little white shirt, which had shredded off in the gravel. Someone stopped their car to ask if we were okay, and I stumbled into the house, glaring my husband’s amused look right off of his face.

And that was the last time I rode a horse.

Hmmm. Summer is incredibly short this year. I’m pretty sure my kid doesn’t have time to learn horseback riding. Think I’ll sign him up for speed-walking instead. At least then when he falls it will only be a few feet. And the ground? Ain’t got no bucking button.

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The Only Pain Management Technique You’ll Ever Need As You Age!

You know, aging is a thing. And don’t you stop reading this article just because you think you’re all young and stuff. Yesterday you were younger than you are today. And tomorrow you will be older. Dare I even say, you’ll be more creaky and shrivelly than you are right at this moment. You, too, shall suffer the ravages of years upon your person. So listen up. This is important.

Age. Happens. The first time you stand up after having sat on the ground with your legs crossed, and you cannot do it without making some sort of involuntary vocal noise, you will know you are heading down the path to Old-Fart-hood (and I could write an entire post on that phenomenon.) Would you like to take a moment to find out if that’s you?

Sit down. Now just hang out for a bit. Maybe hit up “Once Upon a Time” or “Psyche” on Netflix. Make a sandwich. Drink some Mylanta. There. You done? Good. Now stand.

Hah! See? I heard that! You “ooofed.” 

Did too.

Neener. Now you’re like the rest of us.

The thing is, the reason we “oof” like that when we move, and as the years progress actually experience temporary paralysis — you know, where you get up from your funky cross-legged, hunched-over, lean-to-the-left position on the couch and have to spend the rest of the day with your knee up near your armpit — is because our bodies realize that life is really a lot more relaxed than we used to think it was. Nothing matters as much or is as critical as our young fearful brains used to tell us. So why put out all that extra effort to stay loose and limber and ready to spring into action when truly, there ain’t gonna be no action into which to spring? (You will notice that as I’ve aged I’ve also learned better grammar with which to speak with.)

So really, as you gradually move into your faded twilight years, all you have to worry about is getting up slowly. That’s it. And also the pain. But hey! I have  a technique to deal with that too! When you are in pain — the deep annoying inexplicable type of pain that sort of randomly happens as you go about your wrinkly day — just take a moment and focus on a pain-free part of your body. Something far from the discomfort. Express gratitude for it. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the lightness and peace in that part of you. Let that No-Pain-Ness fill your body. Fill your soul. Then pick up a hammer and slam the shortcake out of that pain-free body part.

I guarantee you, what used to hurt will seem like nothing now.

You’re welcome.

Don’t get up.

 

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How to Be an April Fool

Janiel's Elegant Clothing Cropped

Do you remember your first time on the Internet? How sweet and innocent it was? Well, times have changed, and what was once a nice friendly lark in the park of knowledge and socialization has become a furtive scurry through dark marketing alleys and creepy “news” graveyards. So I installed Adblocker on my computer in order to blast all that annoying sludge from before my eyeballs. And it worked. Huzzah! But guess what? Now that stuff has started ripping through my Facebook feed, into my Pinterest stream and across my search results. It’s like those scenes in horror movies where the victim has managed to get away from the killer tomatoes and has herself locked in a very solid looking room, and we’re given a chance to relax and think the worst is over — when all of a sudden . . . dun! dun! duunnnn! Pasta sauce begins oozing beneath the door . . . .

Sigh. What’s a sentient being to do? I mean, do they think we don’t see what they did there? Do they think we are all April-fools?! (See how cleverly I worked my title in to my text? Shazayum! I should write ad copy) WAIT! THAT’S IT! That is how I shall fight the travesty that is Internet advertising! Rewrite the copy for all the silly ads that insist on plastering themselves to my screen. Like this (and these are from real ads on my real feeds): 

How to prevent — and Even Erase! — Stretch Marks!

  1. Sandpaper
  2. Janiel’s Home Airbrushing Kit! Yours for 3 easy payments of $99.99! Plus shipping and handling! (Note: Janiel’s Home Airbrushing Kit may cause blindness, depression, insomnia, or halitosis. See a specialist before attempting to airbrush yourself.)
  3. Don’t eat or get pregnant. Or move. Yeah. Don’t even move. That’ll prevent everything.

 How To Keep Mascara From Running!

  1. Don’t give it any campaign funding.
  2. Hahahahahahaha! *sniff*
  3. Okay, okay. Don’t chase it. HAAAAHAHAHA!

How to Lose Weight and Still Eat What You Want! (I Mean LOOK at This Picture of Oprah’s Head Photoshopped Onto Beyoncé’s Body! If THAT Doesn’t Convince You, NOTHING Will!)

  1. Sugar is bad. Fat is bad. Fun is bad. Ergo, cut out all carbs and sugar from your diet! That’s right! Just remove the fruits, milk, butter — anything that comes out of a cow or chicken, really — juice, soda, candy, cereal — because GRAINS ARE FROM SATAN! — meats, farmed fish (because there are no Omega 3’s in those), fresh fish (because there is mercury in those), popcorn, ketchup and water. Do that, and baby, you will LOSE, LOSE, LOSE!
  2. AND! Here’s the best part! We don’t want you to deprive yourself! Deprivation is bad! You can still have the snacks you love! Every! Single! One! As long as you time it with the lunar calendar and make sure your snacks are made with wheat that grew at a 45 degree angle from a northern sun in the eastern hemisphere.
  3. All right.  Make it easy on yourself. Buy Janiel’s Awesome-y Pre-Packaged Happy-Time Weight Loss Meals! We make it easy for you! Just give us your credit card number and we’ll drop food on your doorstep every day for the rest of your life.  And hey! You can call us to cancel if you don’t like it. Just don’t call Mondays through Fridays. Or on weekends.

How To Look Younger in 26 Steps!

  1. Honey, if it takes that many steps, it’s too late.

How To Manage Facial Hair

  1. Again, if you have to hire an FHM (Facial Hair Manager), then, it’s too late.
  2. On the other hand, you can always cornrow it.

How a 45-Year-Old Mother of 3 Sets of Triplets Lost 175 Pounds, Had Massive Liposuction and Skin Removal Procedures, Received Silicon Ab Implants, a Butt Lift, and Full-bodied Skin Resurfacing with a Top-Coat of Putty, And Now Looks Like the 18-Year-Old in This Picture! Ripped Like a Pair of Destroyed Jeans, Baby! — All Using Products You Have in Your Home!

  1. I just told you how. Up there ↑. Can’t you read? Jeesh. Fine. Buy Janiel’s Home Plastic Surgery Kit, for 3 Easy Payments of $999.99.

 

So. Shout-out to one of my smart friends: Someone please, please, write an app that blocks ALL marketing from showing up on our home computers.

Except ads for my blogpostsWhich You Can Read From the Comfort of Your Cubicle! For the Eensy Fee of $99.99. Come on. Everybody’s doing it. Whatsamatter, are ya chicken? It’ll change my your life!

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Back Pain? It Might Be Your MASSEUSE.

Dear People Who Have Lower Backs:

Are you tired of back pain? Of being unable to pick up a piece of lint without throwing your back out the window? Of having to make up stories about how you got your injury while rescuing an endangered Rocky Mountain South China Sea Manatee because you’re too embarrassed to say it was all about the lint? Are you dead sick of having your hips fall down around your ankles every time a song from the ’80s comes on the radio and you sort of lose yourself in an MC Hammer moment?

WELL. I have a solution for you: Deep Tissue Massage. Also known as The Wrecking Ball, The Elbow of Death, or Let-Me-Just-Take-A-Jack-Hammer-To-That-Skinny-Little-Glute-Muscle-of-Yours.

Yeah. I hurt my  back last week. I’ve hurt my back last week for the past twelve years. But this time it’s hit critical mass. Turns out I have boatloads of scar tissue all through my buttal region from years of dancing and running on a wonky hip and uneven legs, and then throwing my back out during pregnancy. And now all that mess has thrown its hands up in disgust and is just sitting there, forming knots around itself and preventing my sacrum from remaining in the upright and locked position.

I’ve been to doctors, sports therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors — and they’ve all helped. I’ve got some new medical consultants who are keeping me mobile. However, it is time my friends for something new. Something alarming. Something butt-aclysmic.

Deep. Tissue. Massage.

That’s what I said.

In fact, it is time for this thing yesterday. Which is when I went and had it done. To my very person. Oh. Em. Gosh. Have you had deep tissue massage? I have. And what I had before wasn’t this, baby. What I had before was to this massage as a sneeze is to an atomic blast. Not. The Same.

I knew I was in trouble when I hobbled in and was greeted by someone much smaller than I. Smaller vertically. Horizontally, this woman had curves where I have only ever had corners. She was more womanly than I’ve  been in my entire life, including pregnancies. And the curves, I would come to quickly find out, were the curves of straight-up muscle mass. Straight. Up. Deltoids the size of hams, traps like steel bands, and biceps the size of my head.

I was going to die.

But hey. If I was going to die, I should get on with it. So I did. I voluntarily (and quickly, and with tremendous self-consciousness, as my body carries the carnage of four childbirths along with nearly fifty years) disrobed and scuttled myself between the two little sheets on the massage table. Then I lay there, face in the towel-wrapped-face-holder-thingie, listening to a funky celtic playlist that did not make me feel any less naked and ready to be body-slammed by a female Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson mini-me.

After a few minutes, during which I began to relax and tell myself that it probably wasn’t going to be that bad, my macerator — I MEAN MASSEUSE — walked in, asked if I was ready, slathered her hands with lotion, and attacked. Oh, she started out benignly enough, just rubbing my back, lulling me into a false security. Predatory creatures do that, you know. And right when I was about to slip into a sort of fluffy-unicorn-and-skittles state of bliss,

BAYum!

Whoa! What was that?

“Oh, just a little knot on your ribcage. I’m going to have to work it out. This might hurt a little.”

ZING!

OWWW-FREAKITY-OWWW!

“Yep. You’ve got a lot of scar tissue down here on your glutes too, where the psoas comes across. I’ll just dig in a bit. There may be some agony . . . “

Jeesh! Swearword! SWeArwOrd! SwEaRwoRd! (As I have established, I don’t swear. At least not out loud. Most of the time. So this was in my head.  And it was probably just “crap!” No, for reals.)

But I couldn’t let on that it hurt so much. I mean, what was the norm? Did people usually scream during deep tissue massage? Was I just a wimp? Was wrenching the towel-wrapped-face-holder-thingie from its post and using it to knock the knees from beneath this woman an appropriate response? Who knew?

So instead I raised a finger and said, “Um, excuse me. Is this (OW) level of discomfort (AARGG) normal? (YEEOWCHIEWOOWOO)”

“Oh. Is this too much? I could drill in a little less if you want me to.”

“Um. Yes. Maybe that would be good.”

“Right.”

Annnnnd . . . . *cricket* Was she drilling in less? I couldn’t tell. In fact, I was pretty sure that if she didn’t hurry up and drill less she was going to strike oil.

That’s when I began to sing: “OWWWWW WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORRRRNIIIINGGGG! OWWWW WHAT THE CRAP ARE YOU DOOINNNGG BACK THERRRRRRE?” You know, from Oklahoma?

Well. That was embarrassing. But she was nice about it. As she carefully pried my gluteus minimus from from the bone and made an origami crane out of it, she explained that most people who come in for deep tissue massage make noise. In fact, often there is so much noise that when she walks out of the chamber to give her clients a chance to recover and see if their clothes still fit, the entire office is staring at her, round-eyed over what that had sounded like. But I was fine. I was hardly making any noise at all.

As little furry animals do when they know they are near death. They just . . . submit . . .

Finally when we got to the end, and I was this close to repeatedly slamming my hand down on the table and crying like a WWF fighter, she said, “Well, we’re almost done. Next time maybe we’ll use a scraper. That’ll really clear all this scar tissue out of there.”

Next time? Scraper? NEXT TIME?!

Right. If it involves something called a “scraper,” which I don’t even want to know what that is, I ain’t showing up. Me and my scar tissue? We are going to make friends. We are going to start going to movies together and getting drunk on Advil Liquigels and not letting anything remotely resembling a “scraper” anywhere near us. The only “deep-tissue” anybody is going to access around me is the kind that comes in a box and has a drop of lotion added to it. And even that is questionable. A drop of lotion is how my little Rock-woman started the whole thing.

In fairness, I will say that I am walking better since that twisted experience. And I am in a lot less pain. But my face has looked like this ever since, and I can’t get it to stop:

 

100_0636

 

So I’m thinking . . . no “next time.” I’ll keep you posted, though. Especially about changes in my face. 

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What Makes You Happy?

Planetary Lizz 2

Do you know what it takes to make my littlest dude happy? French fries. Something he never gets except during the winter Solstice because I don't believe in deep fried things. Unless they are sweet potatoes. I heart me some gooood sweet potato fries. But my LD doesn't. He only likes the French kind. So, sadly, he is deprived. (To be fair, I only eat sweet potato fries on the summer Solstice. I parent by example. Also by my love of saying the word "Solstice.")

Do you know what it takes to make my Middle Girl happy? Puppies. Plus cute little old people and adorable children. The other day I told her the story of my older brother finding out what the word "Infinity" meant. He was four years old. Someone had said the word "Infinity" in my bro's presence and he ran and asked my mom about it. She explained "going on forever and ever" to him as best she could. He nodded, then wandered off to think about it. He thought. And he thought. At the end of the day he came up to my mom with tears on his cheeks and said, "I hate 'finity!"

Awwww. Seriously. My Middle Girl died of "awww-ness" for the rest of the day.

My older two kids have happy-inducing favorite things that are about as simple as the younger two. My husband . . . well now. We've pretty much established that there's something wrong with that boy. Dude runs hundred-mile races and has installed the Jolly Green Giant's clothesline up above my house. Calls it a "HAM" radio antenna. Right. Like pigs talk on radios. (Oooh, so many jokes that I'm going to let go.) My huz doesn't count in this survey.

But me? I count. And I will tell you that I'm figuring out something by watching my little family-people. (Except my husband, who, as I mentioned, is slightly whacked. I say that with love.) Happiness can be very simple. It doesn't need to be complex. It doesn't need to be something elusive that I'm constantly searching for. It doesn't need to be something epically exciting, or even something new. Happiness is. It simply is. It's all around us, in every part of our lives. We have it, we just have to notice it.

Except that you can't notice anything if you are ripping along at 90 miles per hour. Have you ever tried that? Watched passing traffic and tried to pick out small details as the cars blow past? I tried that once. Went to the Indy 500 timed trials. Those cars were screaming by at 200+ miles per hour. If I tried to follow them I got eyestrain. If I just sat there and let them pass in front of me, they were reduced to race car colored smears. If I wanted to actually see any detail on those vehicles, they were going to have to slow the heck down. 

Same with life. If we want to see the happy, we've got to slow down enough to get it in focus. There's a reason people say you've gotta "stop, and smell the roses." How you gonna wave your nostrils around above those buds if you ripped past them 10 minutes ago? You're not. And as long as you're not, you'll fail to notice the nuance in their color too.

Notice the good stuff. The little stuff: the weather, the timing of things, the people around you, your health, parts of your body that still work, the ways in which you've been able to use your talents to bless yourself and others–even if you have never been famous. Notice the moments of peace and grab onto them so you can really wade in and enjoy them. Lock onto the good in life. It will grow.

And then, you'll wonder why you ever thought you were unhappy. Believe me, this is the best way to deal with life's distresses. I spent a LOT of years not doing this. Doing this works better. 

Lecture over. And just so you know, I'm saying all of this because I needed to hear it today.

Thanks! As you were.

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Valentine’s Pain Management

Cherub delicate

My husband once had this professor who was a genius at pain control. Like, you could stick a needle the size of a straw into the nerve center of his arm and he’d just sit there. With fire shooting out of his fingertips that he couldn’t feel. Said it had to do with discipline of the mind. You know, staying calm and asking yourself, “What is pain, really? It’s just a sensation. It could be coldness. Or hotness. Or just a little pinch.” (Yeah. Like when doctors say, “This will pinch a little”? That kind of pinch?)

So, okay. I tried this the other day when I completely slammed my pinkie toe against the bottom corner of the bench my mother-in-law painted that sits in my kitchen. Swear.Word. No, that’s what I actually said because I don’t swear “Oh Swearword!” Then, with my pinkie toe throbbing, filling up with blood, and slowly turning purple, I remembered my husband’s professor, and I said to myself, “This doesn’t hurt. What is pain, really? Is it just coldness? Or hotness? Or freaking body ripping misery like my whole entire leg is going to fall off and I’d rather give birth on Pitocin with no epidural than slam my pinkie toe on that swearwordy bench again! My mother-in-law is trying to kill me! How stupid is my husband for giving me that mother-in-law so she could give me that bench?!”

Yeah. It didn’t work.

But I thought, in honor of Valentine’s Day, that I’d give it another shot. Relationships are hard. I mean, yeah. They’re full of joy and fulfillment and blah blah. But also, they’re hard. You have to give things up for the other person, like: leaving your hair in the shower when you’re done. You can’t do that. Or growing your winter-leg-coat instead of shaving once the temperature drops. You totally can’t do that either.

When you’re in a relationship, disciplining your emotions is paramount to success. And maybe the best way to be able to do that for your significant other is by using these pain-management techniques taught by Professor NerveLessNess. i.e.:

“Hi. What’s that I smell? Is that dinner? Smells weird. Is it liver?”

(Okay. A little irritating. My meatloaf does not smell like liver. But . . .  what is irritation? Just a sensation. Like a tiny flame on the end of a stick. No big deal.)

“And by the way, I didn’t have time to stop by the store for the cream cheese you needed. So when I was at the gas station I picked up some cheese whiz. Want a sip of my slushie?”

(Juuuust a tiny flame. Oops, now it’s caught the other twig on fire. That’s okay. I can blow it out. Blow. Blow. Blowhard.)

“And hey, I actually don’t have time to stay for dinner because I have a club meeting I forgot to tell you about. So, see you! Kiss the kids goodnight for me.”

UTAH   A kitchen mysteriously burned to the ground this evening around dinner time. No one was hurt, since one of the two residents was being chased down the street in his Honda Civic by the other, who was on foot. And quite frankly, was keeping up.

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Happy 2014 Dears! Don’t Put Yourselves Out.

Well my friends, it's 2014. A brand spanking new year, sitting there like a blank sheet of paper waiting for us to fill it all up. New ideas, new plots, new plans. But above all, new goals. 

Yeah.

Who the heck's idea was it for us to set a rack of guilt-inducing goals every blessed new year? I'd like to speak with that bright young thing. You know it had to be a bright young thing, because us slightly smudged old things don't think that way. We've been through the goal posts a few times and have learned to skulk around the edges of life trying not to be noticed. I mean, we're not stupid. As a religious person, I no longer pray to gain fine new attributes in life. I've lived what happens when you do that. Nope. I pray to learn from other peoples'​  lives. And trials. And "goals." It's so much easier that way.

Besides, if I just hang back and don't set any goals for the new year, then I already have a fresh unused set for the next year, and don't need to bother with it at all. I can just drink my alcohol-free eggless eggnog and watch the Times Square ball drop in peace. My psyche feels so much better that way.

And if it doesn't, if I start to feel the pressure of all the gleaming lives being lived around me, I have another technique: portable New Year's goal sheets. I carry a fat stack of them loosely in my purse so they can be dropped at opportune moments in front of people whose lives seem more on track than mine. Then I can titter and say, "Oops! I've dropped my New Year's resolutions again! I just can't seem to keep track of them all. I guess I'll need to get a trailer hitch for my purse so I can keep them with me at all times. Whoopsie! There goes my cultural refinement folder containing my recipe for Squid Ink Soufflé, along with instructions for how to milk a Caspian Sea Squid. Wouldn't want to lose that! The President would be so disappointed!"

Yeah. I totally got this. Happy Old Year, my friends! And if you just can't live without goals, call me. I've got a few extras hanging off the back of my cross-shoulder bag in their own little Airstream. You're welcome to a few.

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Book Review: Sara B. Larson’s “Defy”

I oughta write a book. 

Have you ever thought that? I have thought it so often that a few years ago I enrolled in a writing class offered by our local Arts Council. I met many incredibly talented people in that class, all of whom should write a book.

Well, it turns out that not only have most of them written books, a few of them have even gotten publishing deals. One of them a quite spectacular deal with Scholastic. Sara B. Larson, of My-Writing-Class-That-Sara-Came-To-And-We-Totally-Bonded fame, has got a rather amazing first book coming out on January 7th, 2014. The book: Defy. The genre: Young Adult High Fantasy. The enjoyment factor:  SUTLRBIHTKWHN* (*Stayed Up Too Late Reading Because I Had To Know What Happened Next). Grade for effort: about a billion. Because anyone who lives through the incredibly hard process of writing a book, not to mention pitching and selling it, deserves that many points. Plus free Ben and Jerry’s for life.

Sara’s book was a joy for me to read. And while I’m sure I’ve lost some objectivity to my fondness of its author, I think you’d like the book too and should run out and buy a few copies for stocking stuffers. (Late stuffers, since Defy releases in January.) All providing you enjoy Young Adult fiction with booty-kicking female protags pulling a Mulan and fighting with the boys in the King’s army–which, yeah!. Is the book perfect?. Well, not many are. But there is a lot to like about Defy, so I’m cool with that.

First the story. To quote the book-blurb: “Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.” 

See? Cool. There is a love-triangle. And yeah, that’s sort of become the characteristic du jour of YA books. But what I admire here is that the romance — which is sweet and a big part of the book — doesn’t completely hijack it like most books in this genre with this plot device. There’s still plenty of plot to go around, what with war, evil sorcerers, personal secrets, desperate people, and narsty evil kings. If triangles aren’t your thing, or YA romance ain’t, there’s plenty of other stuff going on to keep you turning the pages. Including some difficult details that keep the book just gritty enough that you don’t get comfy in your glittery YA cloud. That works for me.

And then there’s the writing: you don’t notice it. No, no, this is a compliment. When writing reaches out and slaps my frontal lobe, I am taken out of the story. I don’t love that. But when writing is seamless enough that I don’t think about the words I’m cruising through, that’s like a can of root beer you stick in the freezer just long enough to go slushy on a very hot day: ahhhh.

As I said, Defy isn’t perfect. The romance does get a bit palpitate-y at times, but this is YA. Also, when there are little details the author doesn’t address — like no one noticing that Alex never shaves, or that “he” doesn’t, erm, relieve himself the way the other guards do– I get a bit OCD about it and want it fixed. But I can live with all of this. Sara has written an intriguing first book that I kept picking back up, despite my total Christmas-prep-hysteria. I hope all the characters grow even more fully into the shoes their author has started sewing for them. And I look forward to the next book. Hope you do too!

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