Wednesday, February 29, 2012
In honor of this auspicious day, here are some other awesome things that we know are out there in the ether, but only get to experience every once in awhile.
The Summer Olympics- Coming up this summer and I’m already pumped. For someone without any athletic skill (or interest) to speak of, I get strangely excited about these events. Of course, it may just be that it offers me a reason to fondly recall the year I got my Amanda Borden haircut. Good times.
The Winter Olympics- These aren’t quite as exciting to me as the summer games, but you hear more people chanting “Quack, Quack, Quack!” due to the presence of hockey. And that’s really more than enough to get me interested.
Total Solar Eclipse- You shouldn’t look directly at these, but they’re pretty cool. Much like this video.
Tori Scott- She was there and then she wasn't. And then she was there again. And then she wasn't. She may not have graduated with Bayside's class of '93 (or ever met Kelly and Jessie), but I know she's out there somewhere. Just waiting for the right moment for her return.
Miss Zarves class on the nineteenth floor- ‘Cause I know it’s there. Even if it is non-existent. I just know it.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Of all of their books the two that always come to my mind first are The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food and The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room.
I think Too Much Junk Food sticks out in my mind because I always wanted more candy than I was allowed. I still remember looking at the illustrations and thinking, Man, that candy looks good. Not the message I was supposed to take away, I know.
The Messy Room, however, was one that I related to greatly. Much like the cubs, my sister and I shared a room and were not always the neatest. We too had bunk beds and a big storage closet that you opened at your own risk. We also, like the cubs, needed to learn to work together. Cleaning the room was one of the few things that could consistently make lil' sis and I argue. It wasn’t so much about one of us wanting to get out of the cleaning, but rather than I wanted to be the Grand Room Cleaning Poobah. In such an exalted position, I, naturally, expected my sister to follow all my Poobah commands. We would clean in the manner that I saw fit and that was that. Shockingly, my sister wasn’t a fan of my tyrannical tidying. Who’d have guessed?
It took us awhile, but we finally figured out a way that we could clean together without killing each other. We created a story. It wasn’t our room we were cleaning anymore, but instead the mall (yes, the entire mall) where we worked. And it wasn’t our mess, either. Two boys, named Jimmy and Johnny, had come in after hours and thrashed the place. So, there we were, the much put upon store employees, called in on their days off to deal with this mess. And because it was our job, we would clean – all the while complaining about what colossal jerks Jimmy and Johnny were. In between our railing against them, we’d talk about the other people in the mall and how we couldn’t believe none of them had come in to help us out. We’d discuss what we were going to do when we got off work (you know, like going to a fancy ball or taking the train to Manhattan to eat at Jekyll and Hyde’s or something equally adult-like) and slowly the stuff littering the floor would disappear.
I honestly can’t remember which one of us to credit with this little bit of brilliance, but it worked. The room would get clean and we’d still be friends at the end of it. After that, whenever the room reached threat level midnight, one of us would say, “Can you believe Jimmy and Johnny got in here again?” And, shaking our heads, we’d roll up the sleeves of our Flinstones tees and get down to business.
So, now when I see kids reading the Berenstain Bears stories, it makes me think of those cleaning afternoons with my sister and the magic of conflict resolution through storytelling.
Many thanks to Mrs. Berenstain for all the stories she and her husband brought into our lives. She will be missed.
Monday, February 27, 2012
My favorite thus far has been one gentleman’s “We’re running out of time.” Now, I suppose it’s possible that this had something to do with a work assignment that he was feeling particularly overwhelmed by. However, given the hushed tone in which it was delivered and the fact that there was no one in the hallway to whom he was addressing the comment, I don’t think it’s outside of the realm of possibility that perhaps he was sporting some kind of earpiece and chatting with a mysterious third party. Perhaps a pilot with a drinking problem. Or maybe he escaped a mysterious island and he and the other survivors are trying to decide how to best protect the people he left behind. It’s also possible that he might be part of a team using paranormal slime and national landmarks to fight tyrants coming out of paintings. You just never know. It could just be that he’s worried about the impending squirrel attack. And rightly so.
Whatever the reasoning behind his muted exclamation, I appreciated it. Really raised the stakes on my day – possibly more so than a dramatic pause would have, though that’s debatable. All I know is that later, when Roomie asked me what I wanted to do for lunch, I was inspired to stand up and face dramatically away from her as I emotionally discussed our options. And it felt right.
So, many thanks to the numerous whispering individuals in my office for assisting me in my goal to make my life more melodramatic. My door is always open. Please feel free to continue your Gollum-like utterances in the surrounding area.
Friday, February 24, 2012
As I have mentioned it previously, I will use my love of Star Wars as a case study here.
Things I’ve heard:
Here’s a thought, how about we shift those bookcases around so everyone doesn’t immediately see the Star Wars books from the living room?
Oh, you still have that t-shirt. Have you ever thought about donating it? Or, you know, just throwing it out.
What do you say we put those action figures in a box and maybe put that box in the hands of a child?
Ewoks are the big guys right? Like the one that flew with Harrison Ford? (This is from Roomie. And, for the record, she knows they’re not.)
Now, for a detailing of the Star Wars related tokens I’ve received from the same people in recent years:
- Zip-up Hoodie
- Emails regarding Star Wars: In Concert (which we went to and it was phenomenal. Anthony Daniels hosted in a gold vest.)
- Bobble heads
- Books (naturally)
- Death Star Cookie Jar (can easily fit a floppityjillion cookies)
- Pancake molds
- Cookie cutters
- Cupcake decorating kit
- Snow globe (Boba Fett holding a candy cane in front of Han Solo in carbonite wrapped in a ribbon with the tag, “For Jabba.” Awesome.)
- Themed alphabet print
- Fillable Easter eggs
The majority of these were not bought for a traditional gift-giving occasion. And each and every one of them is greatly appreciated. Because, you know, they’re freaking awesome. Still, they are all forcing me to quote from my Samantha: An American Girl Embroidery Sampler (circa 1995): Actions speak louder than words.
So, I finally figured it out. It doesn’t drive these guys crazy that I’m a big Star Wars nerd. They’re not embarrassed by it. They love it. They get to roll their eyes about how silly all these things are, while reveling in the excitement that can only be brought by finding a mug in the shape of an Ewok’s head.
I am nerdy, so they don’t have to be.
To all of you (you know who you are), I would just like to say….You’re welcome.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
I know everyone has experienced this. You’re having a bad dream and you finally manage to claw your way out of it. There’s that momentary wash of relief and then your body says, Ha, ha….got you!, and sends you spiraling back into an unconscious state. Once there, of course, you find that the monsters were just on a smoke break and are more than ready for your return.
Of course, if you’re having a good dream – for instance, you’re just about to cut Mr. Dewey’s class to go to The Max with the gang – and the alarm goes off, not only does it pull you from the dream, but you’ve never been that awake in your life. You try to fool yourself, pretend you’re still sleeping (See, mind? I’m still asleep. It’s okay. You can send me back to the dream. Send me back! Please?). But no matter what you do, there is no way you’re getting your geometrically decorated cropped shirt and scrunchie back.
Then there’s the recurring nightmare. Not only does no amount of waking up actually help you escape it, but you know what’s going to happen before it does and you still can’t convince yourself it isn’t real. As a child, mine was always the Wicked Witch of the West. Not surprising, since I knew she was sending her guards after me. Anyway, the dream would go like this:
I awaken in my darkened room, knowing something is amiss. I scan the perimeter from the safety of my top bunk. No one is there. I start to release a sigh of relief when I see her. Standing in the far corner of the room, the moonlight glints dimly off her malevolent eyes. I would know that green face anywhere. The Witch!
I don’t bother using the ladder. Time is of the essence. I jump from the bunk bed, propelling myself to the door. I must warn the others!
I make it downstairs to my parents’ bedroom. For reasons that I don’t have time to figure out, my entire family is there. I yell at them to run. She’s coming! There’s no time for explanations. Just get out of the house! They heed my warning. I wait until the last one has left and go to follow.
A green hand shoots out from under the bed, grabbing my ankle. I scream and fall to the ground. Looking up I see that, it’s too late. The Witch stands over me. Her black robes flowing in the sudden wind gusts that are spinning around the bedroom. She cackles. Her hands reach towards me –
And then I’d wake up. Like clockwork. It never failed. I had that dream over and over and over again. No variations.
My sister had a strikingly similar dream, only her villain was a giant gorilla, which is very strange as she always really liked gorillas. Another small difference was that when she would yell at the family to run, I would laugh at her. Circling back to the whole me being a dream jerk issue.
Eventually, we both got past these dreams and went on to be (arguably) normal, well-adjusted adults. I realized that the Wicked Witch wasn’t really all that bad. I’d probably be ticked off too if someone stole the shoes off of my dead relative. I also came to understand that Glinda wasn’t all that good. Not only did she facilitate the pre-grave robbing, but the whole “You wouldn’t have believed me” thing? You could have at least made the attempt, lady. Saved everyone a whole lot of trouble. But no, you and the wizard were too busy conspiring to make Dorothy into a pre-pubescent hit man. Not cool, Glinda. Not cool.
Not that any of this is the point I’m trying to make here. My point is, I got over the nightmare….or so I thought.
Last night, for the first time in over fifteen years, the Witch came for me again. And it was exactly the same. Same bunk beds, same yellow paneling on the wall, same hand reaching out from under my parents’ bed.
Twice I woke up and twice I was sucked back in to where it was apparently playing on loop. And let me tell you, adult me is no more calm, cool and collected, than kid me was.
As a side note, though, pretty sure I was wearing footie pajamas, proving that there really is a silver lining to every cloud.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
On Monday, amid the sea of knickknacks, my eyes fell on the Santa figurine. I pictured leaning in to read his list and seeing only my and my friends’ names. Then, of course, all the other visitors to the mansion would suddenly disappear and every secret doorway we found would lead us further into the labyrinth. At some point we’d be separated from each other and find ourselves in different rooms filled with objects from our individual pasts. It would be a creepy story, that ultimately ended happily after a lot of fear and struggle (I’m a big believer in the happy ending).
I studied for a semester in Ireland back in 2007. If you are ever looking for a location that lends itself to stories, that is it. My dorm overlooked the River Shannon, which I had to cross to get to campus. There was a big bridge, with a couple lanes of car traffic in addition to pedestrians. Several yards further up the river was another bridge. This one was much smaller and certainly older. A little rusted, it led to a hiking path that I often found cows or sheep lounging to the side of. This bridge always struck me as the perfect dwelling place for a ghost.
In my mind, the ghost was a young woman, probably in her mid-twenties when she died. The young woman, originally from America, came to Ireland to escape the tragedies of her family’s deaths in the 1891 tenement fire in New Jersey. One night, while walking along the Shannon, she slipped and drowned. I was taking a folklore class at the time and the professor discussed how in Irish folklore it was believed that if a person was not mourned, they were doomed to walk the earth for eternity. With her family gone, no one missed this woman. She found herself forever tied to the water where she died and the bridge that was built over it.
The image of her on that bridge is still very strong in my head. Someday, I'll finish writing down her tale. In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying the new stories my imagination presents to me.
What about you? Do you ever see things that make you think up new people or picture yourself on a crazy adventure?
In other news, Squirrel Menace Update: We may need to recruit this gentleman.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Let's start with the equation: Secret Passages + Creepy Dolls = A Lifetime of Happiness.
And now I'll break it down for you:
My friends and I visited the Mansion on O Street for Presidents' Day (hope all of yours were wonderful, by the way). Technically, it’s five row houses that were bought by the same woman that were then connected. The owner then went on to create themed rooms and connect some of them by secret doorways that guests must find. In addition to this, every surface is covered in random knickknacks and books and artwork. Most of this has been donated to the mansion and everything is for sale. It’s sort of like you wandered into a Victorian episode of Hoarders. And it’s awesome.
First things first, this trip has cemented my plan to one day live in a house with secret passageways. Not only do I want secret doorways to other rooms, I want regular looking doorways that open up to brick walls. I want hallways no one else knows about. I want to pull the secret lever and reveal the trapdoor under the chaise lounge that has a slide that deposits me into the chair behind my desk in the second floor library. Naturally, I’ll have to have different contractors handle different passageways to ensure that no one but me ever knows about all of them. Or maybe I’ll just learn to build them myself.
I remember reading Patrice Kindl’s The Woman in the Wall when I was a kid. The main character, Anna, is so shy that she’s virtually invisible. Scared of going to school, she retreats into the walls of her family’s house, building secret tunnels and rooms where she lives from ages 7 to 14 until a new friendship finally draws her back out into the world. I was never really into the whole disappearing from the world thing, but, man, did I want my own set of secret wall tunnels. A desire, which apparently, has not lessened. So, if Anna could build all these things at the age of seven, I should really be able to figure it out. Right? Right.
In addition to making plans for the totally bitchin’ house that I will one day lord over, I also realized that my mind works in creepier ways than my friends'. In one of the rooms, amid the sea of stuff, was a figurine of Santa Claus. He was sitting in a chair holding a rolling piece of parchment. Checking his list, clearly, whether it was for the first or second time I can’t be sure of. Anyway, there were a number of names on the list in gently sloping cursive. I leaned over to read them and said the first thing that came to mind, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if his list just had all of our names on it?” When I turned back around, I was met with horrified expressions and a chorus of “No.” “What’s wrong with you?” and “That sounds like the beginning of a Goosebumps book.” Despite these negative comments (except for the Goosebumps one, ‘cause that’s just a compliment), I still think it would have been pretty cool. Creepy definitely, but cool.
The conversation reminded me that I need to amp up my doll collecting so that when I have my awesome house I can put them in each room. I plan on having some in plain sight and hiding others so that it takes you a little while before you realize they’re watching you. And then there are the portraits with the cut out eye holes for the hallways. But, that's just a given.
Once I have this all set up, I plan on inviting the friends (providing I haven't scared them away yet) over for a rousing game of Clue.
During which I may or may not hide various family members in the walls to make ghost noises.
Cue maniacal laugh here.
Friday, February 17, 2012
1. Little Town – Beauty and the Beast – The opening scene of the 1991 Disney movie is a classic from my youth (if my memory serves correctly, the soundtrack to this movie was my first cassette tape). Also this is the introduction to Belle, the cartoon soul mate of all little bookworms.
2. That’s How You Know - Enchanted – Having grown up on the Disney cartoons, I definitely enjoyed seeing one come to life. All the leads are a lot of fun to watch, but what really sells this number for me are the little old men dancing with their flowers.
3. Agony Reprise – Into the Woods – Here we find two less-than-charming (but pretty funny) princes with wandering eyes. The recently wed husbands of Cinderella and Rapunzel confess to each other their respective interest in two other women, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. I didn’t know anything about this play until high school. I remember getting to this song and thinking, Hey! I’m not the only one wondering about the prince’s devotion.
4. Happily Ever After – Once Upon A Mattress – Our heroine, Winifred, is preparing for the test that the Queen has prepared to assess whether she is a true princess. Fred laments the help other princesses have gotten (some have fairy godmothers, others seven men dedicated to their happiness, and others just have really strong hair follicles). Fun fact: On any given night, this song is likely to be sung (with volume) in my apartment. It’s what I like to call roomie bonding time and often culminates in the classic living room dance party. Sometimes even the turtles join in.
5. Fairytale - Sara Bareilles – Pulling in a number of the classics, this song is about fairy tales that are just not all they’re cracked up to be.
Along with the music, there’s also a little bit of this mixed in for good measure. So, to end our fairy tale week (and possibly stop my obsessing about when I’m going to finally get my pet gryphon), I now present you with the conclusion to Meki’s story.
Meki glared at the glitter of the King’s icy sword. "You don't deserve warmth." The King advanced towards her, but she continued speaking. "You wish to steal it from others. Never once does it occur to you that it is something that could be shared. Had you just approached us with your request, things could have been easier."
"Shared?" The King asked. "That's impossible."
"Why?" Meki asked angrily, "Because you didn't think of it? It is certainly possible. And if my Queen ever knew of the suffering of these people she would have ensured they be given relief."
"Now, you have abducted us and threatened death if we do not comply with your every demand. Mercy will not be high on her list for you."
The King was indeed an angry and bitter man, but, despite this, always cared for his subjects. Realizing that he made their situation worse, he humbled himself.
He asked, "And if I were to leave? If I were to go, would you share the warmth with my people?"
"You would give up your throne to ensure their happiness?" Meki wondered.
The King nodded. "They can not be allowed to suffer further for my missteps."
Meki shook her head. "While warmth will come to you for certain cycles of the year, you will also have to deal with cycles of cold. Your people can cross the borders as they will, but you must confine yourself to the North."
The King agreed quickly. "Even one cycle of warmth would be more than enough for me. I will stay in the North."
"And I will stay as far South as I can to get from this place." Meki heard Lucius mutter under his breath.
Softly, Meki began chanting another incantation she learned from the wise sorceress. The world around her began to shake, but she continued her spell. Suddenly, sun light pierced through the oppressive clouds and bathed the town. People began screaming and dancing through the streets.
The King looked around him in awe. "You have my humblest apologies, my lady. And my deepest gratitude."
"I am not yet ready to accept your apology." Meki said. "But your people are welcome to the warmth."
The King immediately ordered his sorcerer to see Meki and the young prince to their homes.
From that day forward, the kingdoms were melded. Though they maintained some boundaries, no longer did they wield absolute power over any type of weather. Parts of the year were warm, parts cool. The King of what had once been Winter stayed in the North and the weather there remained cooler throughout the cycles. Lucius had spoken truth when he said he would live as far from the King as possible. He made his home in the South and kept a little extra of the warmth. The former kingdoms of Autumn and Spring happily lived between the other two, enjoying the change in the cycles.
And that is how we got the seasons.
As for Meki, she spent the remainder of her days exploring all of the world. She slept in snow, trekked through deserts, sailed through waters and met scores of fascinating people. In short, she lived happily ever after.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
1. Are there only fairy godmothers or are there also some fairy godfathers out there? If so, is it a godmothers deal with the girls, godfathers deal with the boys sort of deal?
2. How many fairy godparents are there? Is it one person to each fairy or do they have a heavier workload?
3. How do fairy godparents get assigned to their specific human godchild? Is it all magic? The day the child is born do the godparents feel a warm glow and think, Ah…my human godchild has arrived. Better start preparing for when their life goes to hell.? Or is it more structured, with some fairy managerial staff that doles out assignments (a la “Hey Mabel, I know I just gave you that whole mermaid/human fiasco, but I’m going to need you to take this case over in Zylagria, too. I just got a call that some kids have been nibbling on Doris’ cottage again and she is reacting….poorly. Don’t know what she expected, building the damn thing out of candy. I’d give it to Merryweather, but I just had to send her over to help Flora and Fauna. They’re having a hell of a time with some spindle situation. Don’t even ask. It's just one of those days.”)
These are the questions that plagued my little kid head (and continue to haunt my big kid one). If any of you have answers to them, I would appreciate it greatly.
I will also accept speculation.
Now, to continue with our story.....
"This is wrong." Meki said.
"Yes," Lucius agreed. "But we can't do anything about it."
"What if we could?"
"You want to help them? Their king kidnapped us!"
"We can't punish them for his actions." Meki continued to scan the frozen road. "Lucius, they're freezing."
"I won't take the warmth from my people."
"No, of course not." Meki agreed. "But what if it could be shared?"
"I have an idea."
Before she could tell Lucius what it was, an explosion of ice flecks erupted in front of them. The Winter King stood before them. Just behind him was the old man who had brought Meki to this place.
"Did you really think I would let you escape?" The King boomed.
"You shouldn't have taken us." Meki told him.
"My people are suffering."
"I can see that. A sad fact, to be sure, but not one that excuses your actions."
"You will give us the warmth." The King demanded.
"Never." Lucius replied.
"Then you will die by my sword." Upon making this threat, the King pulled a sword made entirely of ice from his scabbard.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
First and foremost, I never liked Prince Charming. A lot of this stemmed from the fact that I was convinced that the prince in Cinderella and the prince in Snow White were the same guy, making him a pretty big jerk. Plus, that name? Not only did he not live up to it, but does it really get more pompous than that? I always assumed he was the son of King Too Awesome For My Own Good and Queen I’m Prettier Than You.
And then, on top of all of this, he was boring. Of course, there were problems on the other end of the spectrum, too. The Beast, with his borderline psychotic anger management issues comes to mind. Certainly not boring, but not exactly an easy guy to hang out with.
The fellas were certainly not alone in their personality defects. The ladies were often right there with them (Snow White, people have tried to kill you and you’re still naïve enough to accept food from strangers??)
Again, I’m not saying I didn’t love these movies or that I don’t still pull out the VHS’s from time to time (rockin’ it old school). As long as I can remember, though, I’ve been thinking, How would I do this differently?
Meki crept along the damp walls of the narrow hallway. The sound of the man's yelling grew closer. Through a hole in the stone Meki saw a handsome young man get struck by a guard. He stumbled backward, but did not fall.
He spit out blood. "You will get nothing from me."
"You will give us the secret to the warmth." The guard smiled cruelly. "Or you will never again feel the sun upon your face." Hitting the young man once more, the guard left.
Meki began to chant softly under her breath. The hole in the stone wall widened into a doorway. The man swung around to face the new attack and stared at her, clearly confused.
"Come on!" Meki urged. "Before he comes back."
The man joined her in the hallway and she closed the wall.
"How did you do that?" He asked.
"A sorceress showed me."
Meki shrugged. "I like to see the inside of rocks."
He paused for a second, pondering that. "That's very strange."
"I just saved your life." Meki gave him a shove. "I'm not sure criticizing my hobbies is the best way to show your appreciation."
He gave a small bow. "Of course. My apologies. I am grateful the help. Who are you?"
"Meki, Countess of Spring. And you?"
"My name is Lucius. I'm the Prince of Summer. Were you captured as well?"
"You ask a lot of questions. But, yes, I was. And now I'm going to find a way home." Not waiting for his next query, she set off down the hallway. She heard him following behind her. Eventually they reached a dead end, and using the spell once more, moved back out into the cold.
Immediately, she began to violently shiver.
"We are not dressed for this." Lucius pointed out.
"No, but we haven't many other choices. Come on, we need to move."
They had come out of the castle on the opposite side from where Meki entered. She saw a small town just past the gates. As they made there way to it, Meki noticed the small spirals of smoke coming from each of the chimneys. The tiny tendrils barely made a dent in the cold wind.
Not everyone found shelter in the small houses. People huddled together on the streets in an effort to escape from the bitter cold.
Meki's stomach dropped as she looked around at the tortured citizens......
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
It’s hard to pick, but I’m pretty sure my favorite fairy tale is The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine. It has all the staples: sorcerers, dragons, fairies and ogres, as well as invisibility cloaks, magical ailments and epic poetry. There is a love story involved because any fairy tale worth its salt needs one. What I love about this book, though, is that the driving force is not the romance, but the love of two sisters. The male characters are not decorative, the absolutely add to the story. But what ultimately keeps the narrative moving is the bond between these two girls.
My sister and I read it together the summer before I went into eighth grade and it became our book. I have lost count of the number of time I’ve re-read it and I still tear up at the end (not surprising, given my earlier confessions). It was this shared love of fairy tales that prompted me to spend the week she was in Idaho, filling my sister’s inbox with Meki’s story. And now I shall share the next part of the tale with you.
Meki found herself standing alone in the frigid cold. The old man was gone.
She looked around and began to feel fear, as well as ice, sneak through her veins. There was no green. None at all. It was white as far as her eyes could see. White flurries drifted around her head. Snow. She recognized it. Not because it ever happened in Eternal Spring. No. But she heard stories of snow as a child and wanted so badly to see it. As the apprentice to an elderly sorceress, she had first learned a spell to make snow dance around in a glass ball. It was magical. This wasn't. This was terrifying. Where was the sun?
Meki began to shake uncontrollably. The old man had taken his layers with him, leaving her with only the short sleeved gown she pulled on earlier that day. Her gut told her to start moving, but she didn't know which way to go. It all looked the same.
Deciding that not moving was worse than going the wrong direction, Meki started to walk. After what felt like an eternity she saw a castle in the distance. Unable to move faster, as she could no longer feel her feet, she trudged forward at a slow pace. Eventually she made it to the bridge leading to the great stone expanse.
Meki saw some guards and ducked into the shadows. She did not know who she could trust. Or who might be in league with the man who brought her to this place. She was in great pain from the cold, every breath felt like a knife through her lungs. Still, she crouched towards the ground so as not to be seen. Sneaking past the guards was easier than expected. The two men were apparently not worried about intruders in this frosty isolation and were taking an afternoon nap.
Meki broke a window in the basement of the tower as quietly as she could. Once inside, she collapsed on herself, shaking with the cold. It took awhile, but eventually the icy burn subsided and she was able to take stock of her surrounding. A typical castle. Dark stones, drafty breezes. Then she heard the yelling. It sounded like a man and appeared to be coming from above her.
She moved towards the stairs, but her feet were still not fully healed from the walk. Pitching forward, Meki fell. She threw her arms out to brace herself and hit the small sphere at the base of the banister. It gave way.
There was a low groan and the wall behind her revealed a secret doorway. Meki did not hesitate before moving towards it.
Thanks for reading and Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
Monday, February 13, 2012
So, not surprisingly, I'm a pretty avid watched of Once Upon A Time. After last night's episode, my sister and I were talking about how much we like the character of Rumplestiltskin. He's a not-totally-unreedemable bad guy, which is always fun. Plus, in the fairy tale world, he hops around energetically and has one of the creepiest laughs I've ever heard. What's not to love? I suppose it's good I feel this way, as last night my sister told me that he reminds her of me (mannerisms, she assured me, not looks). Now, she has a habit of seeing me in a lot of different people and I generally I think she's nuts. This time I can actually kind of see it. Not sure what that says about me.
All of our talk of fairy tales got me thinking about one that I wrote for her last year, when she was out snowshoeing in Idaho (what a weirdo, right?). I sent it to her in five different segments and have decided to present it the same way here. So, this week will be all about the fairy tales. I hope you enjoy the story of Countess Meki!
A long time ago, a year did not have four seasons. Instead each season existed continually in its own realm; Never-Ending Winter, Eternal Spring, Perpetual Summer and Everlasting Autumn. Each realm had its own royalty. For the most part, they lived in harmony. The people of the different kingdoms kept to themselves. And this suited them just fine. Except for one.
The King of Never-Ending Winter was a bitter man. His family had ruled over the frozen tundra for years. Never once in his life had he felt warmth, nor however was he used to the cold. He woke every morning with a stinging in his bones. A reminder of his lot in life. When he could no longer stand it, he began to hatch a plan.
Far away in the land of Eternal Spring, lived a young countess. On the day she was born the Royal Namer took one look at her scrunched up face and declared her to be Vermekia, meaning "natural." The name always seemed too formal to her, so she went by Meki.
Meki loved all things in nature. She often chose to sleep outside under the stars, instead of in the stuffy castle. In her spare time she climbed rocks and trees, looking for new worlds. While other children would scream for the Bug Squashers whenever they saw an insect, Meki would befriend the creature and ensure its safe passage.
One day, while she was taking her daily jaunt through the woods Meki noticed something strange. The gentle warm breeze that ran through the trees changed. For the first time in her life, she was chilly. She breathed out heavily and saw a small puff of air in front of her face. Laughing, she did it again, watching the small cloud waft away. She had to show her friends.
She turned toward the castle and quickly took a step backwards when she saw the old man standing behind her. Meki knew everyone in Eternal Spring, but this man was a stranger. He wore many, many coats. His long beard was wrapped around his neck as a scarf and his hair stood straight up. The top layer of his clothing was encrusted in shimmering ice. He looked at her for a moment through narrowed eyes.
Finally, he shrugged, "You'll do."
He grabbed her arm, his icy grip burning her skin. Before she could shout for help, they were gone.
Friday, February 10, 2012
If there is one thing I would like to incorporate into my life with more frequency, it's the dramatic pause. You know, that moment before the commercial break when our hero says, “I know who the killer is.” But then, rather than just sharing the information, he looks around at the group with a tortured expression. And the group does not respond with “Then tell us, you jerk!” No, they stand there, looking equally tortured, but also curious. Cut to black.
I want more of that in my life. I just don’t feel like the conversations I’m having with people are dramatic enough. Take, for instance, this conversation with the Friends the other day (I’ve taken some liberties and cut it down considerably. The actual conversation lasted about 20 minutes, which I was guessing you wouldn’t want to read. Below is the main gist.):
Me: Why is it called a pair of pants when it’s only one object?
Roomie: You’re asking this again?
Friend 1: Because you have a pair of legs.
Me: It’s also called a pair of underpants and I only have one butt.
Roomie: I don’t like the word underpants.
Friend 2 (who pulled her iPhone out the second I asked the question): They were originally called a pantaloon with each leg being referred to as a pant. Hence, two pant legs.
Me: Then that’s what we should call them.
Friend 1: Pant legs?
Me: Exactly, it’s more accurate. Next time I go shopping I’m going to ask them to point me in the direction of their pant legs.
Roomie: I’m not going shopping with you anymore.
I greatly appreciated Friend 2’s research and response (particularly since Roomie no longer pays attention to these questions). However, wouldn’t it have brought the drama to 10, if she’d just said, “I know why it’s a pair of pants!” and then left us waiting breathlessly for five minutes of messages from our commercial sponsors?
Now, I know people who integrate the dramatic pause into their conversational style rather seamlessly. Everyone, I would guess, has at some point had the coworker or friend who would use it with reckless abandon.
Example the first:
Coworker: “I know why it smells like smoke in here.”
You: “Oh, I hadn’t really noticed. Is everything all right?”
Coworker: “Not exactly… (dramatic pause lasting upwards of fifteen seconds) …someone left a hot pocket in the break room toaster oven.”
Example the second:
Friend: “Sorry I’m late.”
You: “Yeah, I heard there was an accident. Big traffic back-up.”
Friend: “No, that wasn’t it…..(you could go grab a soda during the break)…… I didn't leave until later than I planned.”
Every time someone utilizes the dramatic pause, the stakes immediately rise. As the seconds go by, you find yourself leaning in, breathing more quietly, shushing everyone else in the room. Because if someone’s going to wait this long to finish a sentence, they’re not going to want to speak it above the tone of a reverent whisper. And when they finally do, you feel like you’ve been let in on a special secret. One that only you, and the other twenty people in the room, know. You feel your wait has been vindicated and you stride into the day with greater purpose and drive, only later – when the euphoria wears off – wondering why in all of hell you were so fascinated by such meaningless news.
And don’t we all want more of this in our lives? That sweet feeling of jubilation melting into befuddlement? I know I do.
It’s something I plan on working towards and I encourage you all to join me. In the mean time, I don’t plan on talking to you again…….
(Do you see what I did there?? Paused, in a dramatic type fashion. It has begun!)
Thursday, February 9, 2012
When I was a little kid, waiting at the bus stop with my sister, it was not uncommon for her to refuse to speak to me. Now, for the most part, we always got along really well. But I lost count of the mornings where we would stand there, waiting to go to school and she would shoot me angry looks. The reason was always, invariably, the same. I had done something really, really mean to her…..in her dream.
I’m not sure why Dream Me was always such a constant jerk (maybe because Real Me was at times an inadvertent one), but I do know that ended up apologizing for her shenanigans more than once. After it was all sorted out, I would remind my sister than it hadn’t really been me who did all the mean things and she would respond that she knew. But her cute little, scrunched face would still have the lingering traces of suspicion.
I would like to say that over the years, Dream Me became a more well adjusted, kinder dream personality (I mean, she can fly if she wants to. Change her clothes with only a thought. What’s she got to be all angry about?). Sadly, this is not the case. She’s still out there, wreaking havoc in the subconscious of others. And not just my sister anymore.
I was told that just the other day Dream Me and Dream Dad ganged up against my mother. In an attempt to stop our meanness, my mom apparently told us that when my sister got there, she would be on my mom’s side. Dream Me responded, “We’ll see about that,” which, let’s face it, just sounds ominous. Mom woke up before she could find out what Dream Me had planned. Probably a good thing.
I know there are more people out there who have problems with their Dream Thems, but Dream Me has just gotten out of control. So, at this point I would like to offer a blanket apology to anyone who has been the victim of Dream Me. I don’t know how many of you there are. What I do know is that she is a loose cannon. I will try to talk to her, get her to behave more appropriately, but my efforts have been for naught in the past. My best advice to you is that if you see Dream Me taking a walk through your sleepy reverie, run. Run as quickly as your little dream feet will take you. However, if it turns out to be one of those nightmares where you try to run and instead find that your feet have turned into blocks of cement and you can only move in slow motion…well…just try not to listen to her.
Quick message to Dream Me, if you’re reading this – Stop getting Real Me in trouble or I'm going to come looking for you.
**Squirrel Menace Update: This may be where their animosity for humans began.**
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
When I get new music, I will listen to the songs over and over again until they’re burned in my mind. And these songs get associated in my memory with whatever else is going on in my life at that time. This is particularly true for books and movies and has led to some pretty interesting (read: weird) pairings.
Before we go any further, though, I must sound the nerd alert. (Wheee-oooo. Wheee-oooo.) If you do not feel that you are up to processing some fairly severe nerdom, I would turn back now. No one will judge you. Or if they do, it will probably be favorably. I do not expect the same result from the following disclosures.
But, without any further procrastination, here are a few of the stranger pairings rolling around in my head:
Star Wars + Celine Dion + Clueless
- After I saw the movies, I (naturally) had to read every Star Wars book I could get my hands on, while at the same time, putting together some fairly intense Star Wars jig-saw puzzles. This experience would not have been complete without some over-sized t-shirts and me bopping along to the “Falling Into You” tape in my Walkman. Of course, I did need the occasional break to keep my hands from cramping. This time was almost always spent watching Clueless with my sister. Obvi.
- Specific book/song correlation: Heir to the Empire (Timothy Zahn) + “Declaration of Love” (I really don’t know why.)
X-Files + Shania Twain + Brink!
- I was just getting into the X-Files books when my family flew to Washington for my cousin’s high school graduation. While we were there, my cousins taught my sister and I how to line dance to Shania Twain. When we got back home, my sister got a Shania Twain CD so she could line dance in a school talent show, which she practiced as we watch the Disney Channel Original Movie, Brink!. So, I blame her for the fact that I hum “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” when the X-Files theme plays. Also, side note, Brink! is a classic. Thank you, Erik von Detten.
- Specific book/song correlation: Ruins (Kevin J. Anderson) + “Rock This Country!” (Stop judging me. I was kid. And anyway, who doesn't hear "Every brown-eyed boy, every blue-eyed girl, gotta really go psycho, give it a whirl," and think of Mulder and Scully?)
Sleeping Murder + Christina Aguilera + The Mummy
- My mother needed surgery, so my sister and I were staying at my godmother’s house down the street from the hospital. While there, I decided to catch up on my Agatha Christie. My brother stopped by for a while and brought my sister Christina Aguilera and me, The Mummy. So, now when I read Miss Marple’s last mystery, I think of sand storms with faces and whistle “What a Girl Wants.” I wonder if that’s what Dame Christie had in mind….
Well, I think that’s certainly enough horrifying information about me (for now). Don’t want to totally scare you away. Anyone out there have any of their own strange mental pairings they’d like to share?
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Okay, I have a question: How do you think? Is it a conversation with yourself? Do you see pictures? Is it a mix?
A while ago, I was talking to Roomie and somehow we got on the topic of thoughts. She mentioned that all her thinking is auditory, rather than visual. Just mental conversations. No pictures unless she really focuses on it.
My thought process is very auditory, but there are always visuals involved. I can't separate the two. It’s like I have a constantly running movie screen in my head and I’m providing the audio commentary. I see what I’m thinking about and then I have a dialogue about it. (I say dialogue, rather than monologue, ‘cause I don’t always agree with myself. So, there’s the inevitable arguing. And the sulking and gloating of the losing and winning sides. It’s a mess.)
This is the way I’ve always thought. I’ve mentioned my affection for Homeward Bound before. When I was a kid I went through a period where I would watch it over and over again, back to back. At bedtime, I would shut my eyes super tightly and will myself to rewind the movie in my head so I could watch it again as I slept. I can’t tell you whether or not this endeavor was successful, but I definitely remember the effort that was put into it. And as I sit here writing this, I see scenes from that movie. So, something definitely stuck.
I never really gave a lot of thought to the different ways people might think, but now I’m all sorts of interested. I asked some more of my friends. One said she was, much like Roomie, a primarily auditory thinker, but could bring up pictures if she put in the effort. Another said that when she’s just thinking, it’s all audio and only one voice (weird). However if she’s trying to remember something or figure out a problem, then it’s visual – so much so, that she needs to write it all down before she can make sense of it. And the last said, and I quote, “Visualized text/photos with hyperlinked video clips. Apparently I think like a web page or digital edition magazine.” Now I don’t know if that’s actually true, but how awesome would it be if it were?
And how about all of you? What’s on your mind grapes?
Monday, February 6, 2012
First things first, I need to admit something: There have been rumors that I might be part vampire. Not due to any bloodlust or anything. (I fainted once, lying down, when I was giving blood at a work blood drive.) My vampiric tendencies lean more towards sun avoidance. You see, I don’t tan. If the sun touches my skin, it does one of two things:
1) Bounces off the SPF – 2 million I have slathered on and blinds innocent passers-by or
2) Turns me a festive fuchsia and draws attention to that fact with weltiness.
Actually, I should say that it does one of three things because sometimes you can get a fun mix of 1 and 2. Once while applying my SPF – 2 million, I apparently tired of the process. I put my hand on the back of my leg, but did not come even close to spreading the suntan lotion evenly. It was hours later that I noticed the welting on my leg, all focused around a very white handprint. For weeks, it looked as though I had been slapped from the inside. Which would be an acceptable punishment for being eighteen and unable to apply suntan lotion proficiently.
Taking this into account, I avoid the beach. Tanning has never worked out and there is the extra side effect of the sun making me sleepy. So, I fall asleep under the rays thinking, How lovely to be bathed in this warmth, and wake up thinking, When was I immersed in hell and how did I miss the process? At this point, I generally find that my mother noticed my shiny white skin glistening in the vicious sunlight, got nervous about my fate and cocooned me – head and all – in every towel we brought with us. Or in the case of one afternoon, my friends completely buried my body in the sand and placed a bandanna over my face because “we didn’t want you to get sunburned.” Their concern was touching.
Despite my eternal struggle with the fiery ball above, I do have a perfect beach memory. It, not surprisingly, involves a book. The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks, to be exact. My mom and I read almost all of Banks’ books together. So, The Fairy Rebel and the promise of an umbrella was enough to get me down to the beach. It was just the two of us. We sat there in the shade all day. While others threw nerf footballs, built and destroyed sandcastles, and splashed in the water, we whiled away the hours with Jan, Tiki and Bindi. We took only one short break to get our feet wet and walk up to the boardwalk (where I got one of those tiny gelatinous sharks that get 10x bigger when you put it in water – Score!).
We read the whole book on that beach. I would read a few pages every now and then, but mostly I just listened to my mom telling me the story.
Even now, when I hear the ocean, I picture Tiki in her little jeans. When I smell suntan lotion or treat myself to one of those gelatinous expand-o sharks (still cool), I think about that most perfect day at the beach and the little rebellious fairy.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Let me just first add the following disclaimer: While I am referring to these movies as “bad,” I love every one of them. The title of this should really be “Movies That Never Got the Critical Acclaim They So Rightfully Deserved/Good Party Themes.” But that’s really long.
This little combo first appeared my freshman year of college. It was a friend’s birthday and she really wanted to watch Killer Klownz From Outer Space (after all, who wouldn’t??). We were all happy to oblige, but the party still didn’t seem fancy enough. So, we thought on this for a while and finally figured out the only thing that could make those killer klownz fancier would be some togas.
On that historic evening, we all donned our best sheets over our sweatpants. The birthday girl needed to stand out, so in addition to her toga, she also got clown make-up and a tiara – making her the first Ancient Roman Clown Princess. A heavy burden, but she bore it well. It was a magical event, ending in toga dances and shadow puppets on the quad. We laughed, we cried – from laughing – and I haven’t been able to look at cotton candy the same way since.
Crackerjack dialogue to look forward to:
“Well I’ll be greased and fried!”
“What are you gonna do with those pies, boys?”
“Nobody’s gonna put me a balloon again!”
Tag line: "In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream!"
For a Killer Klownz Toga Party of your very own, here's what you need:
- Killer Klownz From Outer Space (1988)
- Variety of bed sheets – preferably lots of clashing patterns
- Face paint and crown – if you are honoring someone with this event. Or if you’re just feeling fancy.
- Snacks: popcorn, whipped cream pies, cotton candy, seltzer water you can shoot out of a giant bottle, etc.
- Group of clown and/or alien invasion and/or Roman history enthusiasts.
*UPDATE* The reigning Ancient Roman Clown Princess has graciously allowed her picture to be included in this post.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Yesterday, I posted the information I received from the Good Doctor from Boston regarding the separate branches of the squirrel military. Today, I come to you with my response, in the hopes that it will allay your fears that nothing is being done to oppose the rodent menace.
I greatly fear that your comments are true. For a long while, I have been suspicious of the activities of the CSOF and FDNS.
At first, I tried to convince myself that it was in my head. The horrors unfolding before me could not possibly be real. It was too terrible a thought to bear. With the passing of time, however, I find myself weighed down by the facts of the matter.
The squirrels have come to dominate and will not rest until they have succeeded in their mission. I began this line of questioning to see who would stand with me in this fight. Words can not express my relief that you view this onslaught with the same fervor that I possess.
Therefore, I propose the creation of the American Coalition in Opposition to Rallying Ninja Squirrels. It is my hope that the acronym A.C.O.R.N.S. will lull the squirrels into a false sense of security. Let the vermin believe we are here to provide them aid. Let them think they have us fooled!
And when it seems that the light has been extinguished and the struggle has become to much to bear, remember this:
We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We're going to live on!
We're going to survive!
Soon, we celebrate our Independence Day!
But until that day, dear friend, I caution you to be wary of whom you share the information of our planned uprising. The squirrels, as you so deftly implied, are crafty buggers. Their spies are everywhere, and though it is a disgrace to our species I know that some humans have joined their rancid ranks.
Now is the time to be our most careful.
We must create our army with only those who can be trusted implicitly; held above all doubt. I applaud your manipulation of the F.P.F. (Fat Pigeon Forces). We are certain to need the air support.
A long road lies ahead of us. But we shall claim victory.
Until the day when our paths once again cross, I bid you farewell.”
I trust those reading this will stand with us.
I leave you with one final piece of advice: Be Prepared. (But not…you know…in the villainous way.) And in the interest of preparedness, please look for “Squirrel Menace Updates” in future posts.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
There is the chance that you are not all aware of this, and while I don’t wish to be the bringer of bad tidings, I feel that you deserve to know --- the squirrels are mounting an attack. And unless we stand together, humans do not have a chance.
I first suspected the devious actions of these vermin years ago. Roomie was walking across campus, when one of them sprung from the shadows, running up her legs and jumping to her chest before leaping back into the darkness from which it came. Thus, the Ninja Squirrels began their more brazen operations. And they have escalated.
A very short time ago, my sister went to the front door because she heard a noise. She opened it and there was a squirrel gnawing a hole through the screen door. She tried to scare him into running away, but he just kept working on his chosen destruction. Some have tried to convince me the squirrel was just trying to get to the cinnamon bread a neighbor had hung on the inside door, but I know better. He knows that I’m working in resistance to his brethren and was trying to get to me and mine.
And, last night as I was driving home, a squirrel was sitting on the street corner, calmly eating a nut and watching the cars drive by. I’m pretty sure he winked at me.
It is only a matter of time before they mount a full scale invasion.
It is for this reason that I will now defer to my friend, the Good Doctor from Boston (identity redacted to thwart any squirrel moles who might be reading), who explained the evolution of squirrel guerilla tactics months ago when I started further down this rabbit hole:
“It has long been documented that ninja squirrels are just the first line of the squirrel invasion. Our future squirrel overlords realized that they needed to start small or else we'd think something was up.
First they sent in the cute squirrels. Cute squirrels appealed to our natural "awwww" tendencies especially when their cheeks were full of nuts or they had a piece of french fry in their cute, itty-bitty little hands-- oh you're such a cuty wooty squirrely with your little fren --sorry. The point is, the Cute Squirrel Ops Force had the sole mission of the getting humans to think squirrels were cute building the squirrel-human trust. Then came the First Division Neurotic Squirrels.
These are the spastic ones. The ones that run around the trunk, leap from tree to tree. Any sane person would walk away from such a squirrel. BUT this is no longer possible by the CSOF already did it's job. We are amused by the FDNS. They only add to the cuteness. Once humans were comfortable with strange squirrel behavior, the Ninja Squirrels could move in and begin the slow, silent attack on hominids.
Ninja Squirrels strike in the dead of night or when you're distracted by a CSOF or FDNS. They lurk in the shadows, awaiting the stray biped victim. But they are not the last round. Before you know it, the Samurai Squirrels will be launched.
They will work a bit more openly, though still shadowy manned. But all of this will still be a ruse. The main squirrel force will soon be in our midst, waiting for the moment they can spring their main attack and enslave us all. We will be forced to gather nuts and run irrationally around trees purely for their enjoyment.
If we are to prevent the inevitable we have but one course of action: raise up an army of squirrel-blood thirsty pigeons. Pigeons are getting fatter. They need something to do. And let's be honest, a pigeon will do anything for a bread crumb.
The squirrel conquest will be slow so we have time to effectively train a whole army of pigeons. I for one look forward to the day the epic squirrel-pigeon struggle begins, call it Squir-Pige-aggedon. God willing, we will be victorious.
We will prevail.”
Please return tomorrow for my response to this harrowing recounting. Until then, watch out for yourselves.