Flower power and ball juggling

Life is funny and sometimes full of delightful surprises and so are people.

Case in point, the ever-effervescent blonde in the sunglasses, she who is not just the life of the party but, in fact,  IS the party, the Ginger to my Mary Ann (if Ginger were a brilliant writer. . . and Mary Ann were a hack — ok, forget that analogy), the martini to my lemonade, the *grin* that  keeps me on the bright side, etc., the one and only BlogDramedy has bestowed upon me the honor of becoming one of her Blogs Of Other Bloggers, a name that, unlike Students Against the Treacherous Use of Fur, makes a good acronym.

Classic BlogDramedy.

Classic BlogDramedy.

I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment. Mine are smaller than hers (more Titleist Pro V1s than Adidas Brazuca), not that size matters. And I’m not wearing knee-high socks, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have more thoughts about this major award than I have time to write them. “Delightful surprise” and “honor” are just a start.

I had this “Flower Power” seedling of a post sitting in my drafts box, probably headed to “Trash,” but her very kind post featured one of my new header images, so I thought I’d post it while I get back to ball juggling.

Thank you, BD.

If you’ve come by way of BlogDramedy’s blog, welcome and thank you for visiting.

And if, for some reason that I can’t even begin to imagine, you haven’t already been to BD’s place, go check her out. But remember, her eyes are up here, buddy. Yeesh.


Still playing around with summer flowers and header images, I turned these three images . . .

 

 

…into these new header images:

The diamante final exam: a lesson worth remembering

I taught middle school early in my career, at the beginning of the movement to “mainstream” students receiving special education services, moving them from a self-contained classroom environment into the general classroom population.

Jeff was a sixth grader in one of the classes I team-taught with the Special Ed department chair.  Try as we might, we couldn’t get Jeff to participate in class assignments.  We couldn’t get him to pick up a pencil, much less the curriculum-required blue or black ink pen.

We couldn’t get him to dictate a story or a response to a question.  We tried modification after modification, parent conferences, team conferences.

We worked hard to get a computer so that he could use a word processor. Even bribery (yes, it’s in the teacher bag-o’-tricks).  Nothing.

He wasn’t a bad student, or a bad kid. He just didn’t want to do anything – seemingly because we wanted him to.  We sensed he was probably fairly bright, but we were locked into a “Do it. / I Won’t” cycle that had probably been a pattern for him for years. (Apparently there had been a BIG power struggle – not just for Jeff but also for many of his peers  — with their fifth grade teacher over writing in cursive. )

We could tell by watching him that he was taking things in and had some thoughts about it all.  He just was not going to share and we couldn’t find a way to make it worth his while to do so.

I  experienced many moments of feeling like an abject failure, and if it hadn’t been for the highly skilled, seasoned professional with whom I worked, I might have arrived at that conclusion early on and given up on both Jeff and  on myself.

Although she felt the same frustration, my co-teacher had been through many similar challenges, so we didn’t give up on him. We did come to accept that we weren’t going to get much, if anything from him, but still we tried, hoping that some day something would click, even if we weren’t there when it happened.

Traditional diamante template from www.readwritethink.org

The final unit of the year included figurative writing and formulaic poetry forms.  There had also been a year-long cross-curricular initiative in learning the eight basic parts of speech.

I combined these in one “take home” element of the final exam:  students were to prepare a self-descriptive “diamante,”  a form poem so named for its diamond shape.

For assessment purposes, the final exam diamante differed from the traditional form in that it had to include a metaphor, a simile, three verbs, and a summarizing statement of fact, all describing the writer.  To achieve the diamond shape, the diamante began with the writer’s first name on line one and ended with the writer’s last name on the final line.

Exam day came, and Jeff showed up without a pen or pencil, much less a diamante.  He sat through the entire session with the Scantron (“the bubble sheet”) in front of him.  I don’t recall whether he even bothered to write his name.

He turned in a sheet with a few random bubbles filled in, left the room, and that was the end of our time together.  There wasn’t much for my co-teacher and me to do or say about it. That was that.

Then, at the end of the day, I found a crumpled up piece of paper tossed on my desk at the back of the room.  I opened it to find this diamante, which I have kept ever since in a little frame on whatever desk where I find myself.

Although I’ve altered the names for privacy’s sake, it is written in ink and was signed…in cursive. . . by someone who taught me a lesson worth remembering:

You never really know what’s going on with a person and people will surprise you in the nicest ways.

diamante-final-exam

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Diamante links:

Read. Write. Think. (An interactive diamante generator).

University of Oregon

Wikipedia

A traditional diamante begins and ends with nouns that are opposites.  The poem can be used in two ways, either comparing and contrasting two different subjects, or naming synonyms and antonyms for another subject.

The subject is named in one word in the first line. The second line consists of two adjectives describing the subject, and the third line contains three verbs ending in the suffix -ing which are related to the subject. A fourth line then has four nouns, again related to the subject, but only the first two words are related the first subject. The other two words describe the opposite subject the lines then are put in reverse, leading to and relating to either a second subject or a synonym for the first.

                              Noun
                       Adjective-Adjective
                         Verb-Verb-Verb
                      Noun-Noun/Noun-Noun
                         Verb-Verb-Verb
                       Adjective-Adjective
                              Noun

The sinkhole detour: peace.friendship.sesame chicken.

As with most things that I can’t change in life, I have come to appreciate the positive things about commuting through Washington DC five or six days a week.  To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast, but traffic doesn’t, so you might as well look around while you’re sitting in it. There’s a lot going on out there.

The most interesting things happen when I’ve forgotten to put my camera on the passenger’s seat or when it’s not safe to use it, either because of traffic safety or because the subject of my fascination might be inclined to take retributory action.

I wouldn’t blame them.  A person should be free to do whatever they want in full public view, if only to entertain the commuter population.

The sinkhole that shifted my consciousness.

Several months ago I took a different route home because of a sinkhole that had closed off several streets on my usual route.  What a gift from the universe that sinkhole was for me. It hadn’t occurred to me to drive through DC’s Chinatown neighborhood on my way out of the city.

Or maybe it had and at that point I wasn’t ready yet to deal with the tourist element.  Tourists, jaywalkers, taxi drivers willing to U-turn from the far right lane to pick up a mini-skirt wearing fare, and Metro bus drivers with felony records are a driver’s worst nightmare.  But the sinkhole detour shifted my consciousness on that view.

The Chinatown neighborhood, which is teeming with tourists and all those other traffic hazards, is my favorite place to be stuck in gridlock.  There’s so much going on there. Plus, it smells like sesame chicken. You gotta love that.

So many people from all over the world meander the streets there, many of them stopping traffic to have their picture taken in front of the Friendship Arch.  I don’t mind stopping for this because some of them, usually after an extra long happy hour, strike some interesting poses.  Every once in a while I want to ask if I can look them up on Facebook.  But I don’t because I don’t need to find myself mentioned on Facebook as “. . .some crazy lady who tried to chat me up in DC.”

A couple of weeks ago, just for fun, those of you kind enough to subject yourself to these musings and to take action voted for my theme song, which turned out to be Cat Stevens’ Peace Train.

The sit-out, like a sit-in with a view.

The very next day was the beginning of the sit-out I’ve been staging. My sit-out is the opposite of a sit-in; instead of staying in place and refusing to leave,  to get my point across I tried for a few days to leave during daylight hours, refusing to stay chained to my desk.

On my commute home, feeling free as a hippie who’d only logged 7.5 hours that day, I found myself sitting in traffic near the Friendship Arch, basking in the aroma of sesame chicken, people-watching to my heart’s content, and enjoying life in the moment, when my theme song came on the radio.

As luck, or the universe, would have it,  I had remembered to have my camera riding shotgun. I took a picture to prove to you that it really happened, although I’m not sure why you wouldn’t believe me.  I admit to a certain amount of hyperbole, but I don’t make most of this stuff up.

I forgot about that until one night this past week when the universe treated me to a traffic jam in that same spot and when I looked to my left, I saw a group admiring this way groovy car.  This is now my favorite intersection, the intersection of peace and friendship and sesame chicken.

I wish you could smell what I smelled. Mmmm...sesame chicken.

I wish you could smell what I smelled. Mmmm…sesame chicken.

I am not making this up!

I am not making this up!

~

All I can say is groovy.

All I can say is groovy.

Your spirit of adventure leads you to read this.

Maybe you have one of these where you live, too:  a modest house situated on the cusp of the town’s business and residential districts, the place where Madame Flora or Mrs. Miller and her relatives run the family fortune-telling empire.  In my town it’s a cute little pink cottage near a  busy intersection, cheerfully  lit by the welcoming glow of white Christmas lights at varying times of the day or night.

This pleasant beckoning might tempt even the staunchest skeptic to stop in, if only out of curiosity.

At some time in the past couple of years, while I wasn’t particularly paying attention, a new Madame Flora moved in or Mrs. Johnson took over for Mrs. Miller or something happened at the fortune-teller cottage and business is now booming.  I think whoever’s in charge might be the real deal.

The place used to have the appearance of a business past its prime, with a weather-worn clapboard exterior and overgrown shrubbery, and most telling of all, a

Shouldn't they know I'm coming?

Shouldn’t they know I’m coming?

prominently displayed notice that services were BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

All that’s changed now.  The sign is gone. The cottage exterior is fresh and appealing, the landscaping is tasteful and inviting, and most interesting of all, the hours seem irregular.

Some nights I’ll drive by near midnight and business is brisk.  Some Saturday afternoons, nothing.  They truly do know when you’re coming and they’re there for you.

I’m not normally the type to visit a fortune teller/crystal-palm-tarot card reader.  I’m pretty sure that one sleepover in tenth grade, when we disobeyed house rules and snuck in a Ouija board, is the root of all misadventures that have befallen me since. Was it really worth a lifetime of bad luck to know if Jeff thought Cindy was cute?

No.

It was not.

Particularly since Ouija’s answer was something like E-Y-N-R-S-Q and Jeff never so much as offered to carry Cindy’s books to class.  Stupid Ouija board.

I do keep a decorative dish near my door full of the little slips that come in my occasional weekly Chinese take-out, but those are strictly for entertainment purposes.

Whenever I wonder what the next hour to day-and-a-half will hold, I’ll pull out a slip, as if I’m calling bingo numbers or something, and decide whether or not I care for that fortune.  If I don’t think it suits me or my particular desires in that moment, I put it back and try again.

I prefer to choose my own destiny.

One of my friends mocks this little ritual. That doesn’t stop him from casually sneaking a slip out and taking a peek when he doesn’t know I’m watching.

I’m considering replacing all the slips with new slips, all of which say, “Your thinning hair will soon be gone,” or “You enjoy home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps too much, Pudgy.”

The problem with fortune cookies lately, as some of you well know, is that they don’t so much predict the future as make some over generalized statement, such as one I get  frequently:

“Culture and customs of China attract you.”

Ya think?

Ya think?

This revitalized fortune-teller cottage is the only positive indicator I’ve noticed in an otherwise dismal psychic industry lately.

Along with the Ouija’s sensitivity to wishful thinking and heavy hands, and the increasing mediocrity in fortune cookie slips, I’ve given up on an astrology website that used to be a fun end-of-the-month check-in.  Used to be it was interestingly accurate to read at the end of the month and compare to what had actually gone on.

Then I started to notice it wasn’t so accurate, right around the time I started to notice the astrologer started telling personal stories illustrating examples from her own life.

When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, you are prone to broken bones,” she would write. And then she’d go on, “For example, in 1997, when the moon was in my seventh house, I fell down the stairs and ended in a full body cast.”

Once, maybe twice, I could see this happening. Eventually I came to feel sorry for this poor woman’s tragic life. And then it occurred to me: she’s an astrologer. How are all these things that she’s cautioning readers about happening to her . . . repeatedly? When Jupiter aligns with Mars, shouldn’t she know to stay home in bed?

And then THIS happened.

A woman in my office has an online fortune-telling business, along with a jewelry business she’s pitching to QVC, a real estate empire that requires frequent trips to landlord court, and a recently incorporated travel agency.  With all this going on, she barely has time left to deal with all the accident claims and traffic citations she seems to rack up. But somehow she manages.

It’s the fortune-telling business that’s germane here.

Because.

A few weeks ago, I made the usual, casual workday greeting, “How are you today?”

To which she replied with a story that amused and fascinated me beyond levels I could have imagined upon mumbling the initial greeting.

She was happy this day to have finally finished traffic class. And it had been easier than she thought.

I was happy for her, noting that I hadn’t been aware of her traffic class, to which she responded that she didn’t belong there. It was the psychic’s fault.

“What psychic?” I inquired, suddenly more than casually fascinated. I thought the scandal that was about to break would reveal the true source of her fortune-telling prowess. Was I about to learn she’s been outsourcing to China, just as she had with her jewelry designs?

So much better:

Her latest traffic violation carried a potential fine of $125.  In an attempt to avoid paying the fine, she visited a psychic to ask for advice.  The psychic asked what she wanted the outcome to be. She told him.

So, for a modest $50, the psychic promised her that the ticketing officer would not appear in court for her traffic hearing. She paid her $50 and went to court, assuming the officer would be out with a toothache or groin injury or mild apoplectic seizure. Whatever honorable psychics are able to accomplish for a mere $50.

I’m willing to bet that you, dear reader, regardless of your psychic abilities, are able to predict what happened in traffic court that day.

My favorite part of her story was the cliffhanger: she was so angry  that the ticketing officer appeared in court, sound of body and mind, that  she was planning to make a return visit to the psychic and demand her money back.

I haven’t asked how that turned out yet.  I predict that one will bring a good chuckle.

Be The Boss Of Me Poll: The Results Are In.

In what I consider to be a stunning and pleasant — not to mention convenient — upset, the winner of the Be The Boss of Me Theme Song Poll, and my new(ish) theme song, to be played before I enter a room . . . . or whenever I’m doing whatever I do that makes me me . . . or during my Life Moment, whenever that will be and whatever that will be, that theme song  is . . .

Peace Train

Peace Train was on my list of also-rans because I’ve written about it twice before so it seemed like I should at least give it a nod.  The first time I wrote about it was a spontaneous moment one morning a few years ago when I was looking for something else online and stumbled upon a YouTube video of Cat Stevens performing the song in the 1970s.

Peace is joyful.

I was charmed by his youthful exuberance and the feeling of joy I experienced from watching it.  It reminded me of the notion  that music can bring such joy and, to my way of thinking, you cannot be simultaneously joyful and without peace.  Sure, joy can and often should be noisy, but it’s good noise, joyful noise if you will.

Peace is sublime.

In the side frame that morning, YouTube suggested another version of the song, performed by Yusuf Islam, Cat Stevens’ latter day name.  That version is quietly peaceful. You might say prayerful.

The juxtaposition of the two was poignant for me, so I published an impromptu post featuring both.

Peace is versatile.

Last year on the morning of September 11, I decided it was as good a day as any to send out an intention of peace and I published a similar post.  While searching for the videos, I found a third one, where Yusuf Islam is playing on a couch, which looks just like mine and is positioned just where mine is except when you look out my door you see the masts of sailboats in a marina,  so it felt almost as if he were playing in my living room.  In that video, after a lovely acoustic version, he plays a blues version (it starts at about the 2:20 mark).

I love the notion  that peace manifests itself with such versatility.

To borrow from the candy bar commercial, also from the 70s, sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don’t. But I always feel like peace is the word.

When I updated the Be The Boss of Me poll to include your write-in suggestions, just as I was finishing, I felt a sense that Peace Train belonged on the ballot, so I tossed it on as an after-thought. And 33% of you voted for it.

Peace should not be an after-thought.

This is convenient in that it nudges me to follow up on something I started months ago.  I don’t recall how, but I stumbled (I stumble a lot) upon Everyday Guru’s Bloggers for Peace and signed up, committing myself to the goal of writing one post a month focused on the idea of peace.  This month (or maybe last — I’m behind on reading)  there’s a theme to the Bloggers for Peace posts: peace through music.

Two of my favorite things.  Man, you throw a Hershey bar  and a margarita into that mix and I personally will have achieved something close to nirvana.

I’ve been working on a more serious peace/music post, because this is truly where I should get on the Bloggers for Peace train.  For now, though, this technically fulfills my commitment to my monthly peace post. You, the Bosses of Me (BoMs), have chosen Peace Train as my theme song. And I thank you for that.

I like it because it sets a good intention before walking into any room and the version I play can be adjusted to fit the room. I like it because it fits my sometimes silly, sometimes serious, sometimes curled up barefoot on the couch moods.  I hope that whatever my Life Moment turns out to be, it will be a celebration of joy and peace.

Hmm. Turns out maybe I might be a little more hippie than I’ve been letting on. Kumbaya, all y’all.

Here’s how the rest of the voting played out.

  • Second place:  Get Ready, with 17% of the vote.
  • Tied for third: Teacher, Teacher and Powerful Stuff, each with 13% of the vote.
  • Fifth place:  Dandelion.
  • Devil With the Blue Dress, Feelin’ Groovy, Galway Girl, and You Can’t Resist It were tied with an equal vote.
  • And, no one voted for Cynical Girl. I like to think there’s a broader message in that and I kinda dig it

Thanks for playing. I so enjoyed your comments and suggestions.  You are the BoMs!

Simple pleasure.

I bought sunflowers because . . .

. . . it was my first chance this summer to visit my favorite produce stand.

. . . the dentist said “No cavities.”

. . . I ran into an old friend and got caught up on good news.

. . . sunflowers have fewer calories than chocolate. I hope.

. . . it was Friday.sunflowers

. . . they made an elegant centerpiece for a summer dinner party.

. . . a sunflower friend has been on my mind.

. . . life isn’t always sunny, but sunflowers usually are.

. . . they were less expensive than the city street vendor’s and guaranteed local grown.

. . . they make me smile.

Is there something you treat yourself to as a simple pleasure?  What makes you smile?

**************************************************************

The Be The Boss Of Me poll is open until midnight Sunday.  Click here to vote (or to vote again).

Everyone should have a theme song.

If you caught this week’s Major League Baseball All-Star game, you may have seen the touching moment when Mariano (“Mo”) Rivera was brought in to pitch during the 8th inning in his final appearance in an All-Star game.

This is what Mo does, usually a little later in the game: he comes in to save the day, sort of like Superman or a home-improvement reality show star who manages to pull off the impossible surprise renovation just in the nick of time.

When he does it in his team’s home baseball stadium, Metallica’s song “Enter Sandman” blasts through the stadium. To honor his final appearance and his career accomplishments,  the other players (except his catcher) stayed off the field as the song played and Rivera took to  the pitcher’s mound for his warm-up pitches.

It was poignantly awesome, even if you’re not a fan of the New York Yankees. Or baseball. Or Metallica.

I rather think everyone should have a moment like that in their lives even if just for a minute or two, to be recognized for something, whatever that thing is, while their theme song plays to a standing ovation.

I like to be prepared, so  I’m working on picking my theme song.

You never know.

I’m not really sure what my moment will be, although I’m fairly certain it won’t be a stroll in from the bullpen to the pitching mound.

About the only thing I do regularly to some degree of personal success is make my way  through Washington DC traffic twice a day.

Until a recent rear-end collision at the corner of 16th and K, I had an accident-free record that might one day have led  to my moment being a solo ride down Pennsylvania Avenue, with no other cars, taxis, or buses and the sidewalks teeming with pedestrians and bicyclists giving me a standing ovation for my lifetime achievement in traffic navigation.

(Note to self: Add  Traffic Jam to the theme song short list.)

 I’ve been trying to decide on a theme song for months now.  Turns out, it isn’t as easy as I’d thought.

I started shopping theme songs several months back when a friend posted a simple Facebook question:

What song would you like to have played every time you walk into a room?

Oh, did I love that question! Thinking of my answer entertained me for weeks.

It just happened that when my friend posed the question, I was preparing to give a presentation to a few dozen serious-minded people in a sophisticated,  state-of-the-art conference center. I instantly envisioned my entrance to be something like this, cape and all:

Of course, that idea was just a cape-adorned  flight of fancy. I needed to choose my own song and since you never know when your moment is going to arrive, I needed to get to work.

Some things to consider when choosing your theme song.

1. There’s only one Elvis.

 One thing about a good personal anthem is that it becomes distinctly  associated with one person so that no one else can use it. I’m willing to bet that if the supermarket music system played Also sprach Zarathustra / See See (aka C.C.) Rider, everyone in the store would expect to see Elvis. Several probably would.

For that same reason I ruled out Hail to the Chief and God Save the Queen, not that I’d expect the President or the Queen to show up at the Winn-Dixie, mind you. Be honest — if you were in line at the deli counter and one of those tunes started playing, you’d wonder if Her Majesty was going to jump the line for some liverwurst and swiss, wouldn’t you?

2. Go with your brand.

My friend’s question also came a time when I was brushing up on all things Oprah via her satellite radio station.  That day’s life class had included the reminder to set your intention before entering any room.

I like to think that I enter every room with the intention of bringing peace and love and maybe a little hyperbole. In a perfect world, my theme song would be Cat Stevens’ Peace Train, which I could have played up big and joyful for certain rooms . . . or played down quiet and meditative for other rooms.

The truth of the matter is that it isn’t a perfect world and there are some rooms I enter where people can smell that sort of intention coming and they will eat you alive.

My intention when entering such rooms is, well, not to be eaten alive.  Which brings us to  . . .

3. Go big even if — or especially if —  you’re not.

Elvis, the President of the United States, and Queen Elizabeth walk into a bar. What do their theme songs have in common? Majesty. Grandeur. Brass. Do these people know how to set intentions or what?

Professional sports teams know this as well.  Imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers entering the stadium to the booming backbeat of Muskrat Love.  Actually, even as I type this, I’m enjoying that image quite a bit. And now that I think about it, it might be an effective way to throw their opponents off their game.  But I digress.

A good theme song — especially for those hoping not to be eaten alive —  is loud and proud.  A nice marching band or symphony commands respect as does a good AC/DC or Van Halen blowout. Heavy metal or arena rock anthems are particularly popular for professional sports teams and they can work for you, too.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my short list of potential theme songs includes some Good Charlotte and Three Doors Down. You got a problem with that?

I’m still working on my list, searching from something between Nirvana and The Carpenters, something that says, “I come in peace. But you don’t wanna mess with me.”  I only hope I find it before my moment arrives.  Speaking of which, I need to get to work.

What about you? Do you have a theme song or a vision of your own moment?

I’m not really an advertising genius.

The other day  I was listening to Bloomberg radio when an advertisement recaptured my attention, which had drifted off to plans of s’mores and fireworks and a long-overdue period of lolly-gagging and dilly-dallying.

What caught my ear was the language of the ad. Roughly translated, the message was that this is a company you can trust because, “Hey, you might not have a clue who we are, but at least we’re not in a heap of financial trouble like our competitors. So,  there’s that.”

I found this approach somewhat refreshing and honest. I wish I could recall the company name, which is less a reflection of the ad’s effectiveness than it is  further evidence of the cognitive decline that has accompanied my own aging process.

Whatever the company’s name, the commercial concluded with the company slogan, or “tag line”: Acme Corporation: Solvent.

This reminded me of another refreshingly honest and not-understated slogan that I see all the time.

There are worse places you could live.

My commute crosses through Prince George’s County, Maryland into the District of Columbia and back again each day.  The welcome sign in either direction reads something like, “Welcome to Prince George’s County: A Livable Community.” 

Whenever I notice the signs, I read the message as “Meh.::shoulder shrug:: It’s livable.”

It makes me laugh.

As with Acme Corporation’s soft-sell on the virtue of solvency, Prince George’s County’s self-promotion seems to be a matter-of-fact acknowledgement that many drivers passing through are aware that the district has suffered some difficult times  since the departure of one of its most notable citizens.

Meh. It's livable. (Photo: collegepark.patch.com).

Meh. It’s livable. (Photo: collegepark.patch.com).

Some might be inclined to read “A Livable Community” with the subtext of “Sure, our last county executive is in prison for corruption, but that’s only because his wife was found stuffing the cash in her bra when the officers arrived. It was simply a matter of poor timing — she hadn’t had a chance to convert it to saline in the time-honored tradition of other political wives.

On the bright side, we’re not Detroit.”

A new trend.

Maybe  this is a new, pre-apocalyptic trend: a shift away from superlatives such as best, biggest, ultimate, ultra-, possibly influenced by the cynical irony and ennui of a hipster generation consumer. A return to a simpler, less pretentious branding.

Prince George’s County is, in fact, livable.

It has essentially the same  access to oxygen and other life-sustaining elements as surrounding counties and Washington DC. No further promises implied, no promises broken. Simple, effective, and most of all, true.  It doesn’t need to pretend to be the best place to live, just, well . . . livable.

I think I’m on board with this new trend of choosing one truth about your product or service, all the better if it’s something less true about your competitors, however miniscule, and making that your brand.

I’d like to pitch a few ideas I’ve been tossing around. Feel free to add your own . . .

Spirit Airlines: It’s a plane.

Whitman’s Sampler: Chocolate.

Shell Oil: Environmental catastrophe-free. So far. Recently. (Revised – thanks Linda.)

Sony: We used to be great.

Fiat: It’s Italian.

Hoover’s: We suck.

Oops.

Oops.

FedEx: Shorter lines than the post office.

Crossroads Diner: No confirmed reports of botchelism.

House of Pain Tattoo Parlor: We own a dictionary.

Joe’s Pizza: Two out of five Yelp reviewers didn’t hate it.

Boone’s Farm:  Gets the job done.

Real warrior princesses don’t cry.

Dear ESPN,

How about giving a girl a heads up when you’re going to be showing videos that interfere with the morning training regimen of former warrior princesses?

Yeah, ESPN, I’m talkin’ to you.

You see, ESPN, a few months back, it occurred to me that what had once been described as my resemblance to Xena, Warrior Princess had somehow transformed into more of a resemblance of the secret love

You and me, babe. How 'bout it?

You and me, babe. How ’bout it?

child of Xena and the Michelin Man.

Not good.

Not from any angle.

So, ESPN, I’ve been trying to change  that sad reality. As fate and the Universe would have it, I was recently and unexpectedly on the receiving end of some free and extremely helpful advice from a fitness expert, which I was following this morning, leading me to a different area of the gym, where the three major televisions were showing various morning programs, one of which was your morning show, ESPN.

Perhaps I should explain, ESPN, that it isn’t all that easy to transform Michelin Man back to Warrior Princess.

It’s a matter of mind over matter. Lots of unwanted, unsightly matter, depressing Michelin Man-matter,  ESPN.  Each morning for the past month and a half, my inner warrior princess has put on her game face, or her game loin-cloth, or whatever, and kicked some proverbial matter.

Gone from the playlist are the happy showtunes from Smash, replaced by  some serious, fast-paced grunge-rock. Yes, I can count Maroon 5 and Matchbox Twenty as grunge-rock if I wanna.  Because I am Xena, Warrior Princess.

See?  That’s what happens when I get all psyched for my morning sessions, ESPN.  And then you go and do this.

You show that video montage of American troops coming home and surprising their families.

You know what, ESPN?  It isn’t easy being a tough girl when you’re a blubbering pile of . . .well,  blubber and that’s exactly what I turned into while I watched the video. My inner warrior princess fought the good fight. She kept trying to tell me to look away, but I couldn’t. It reminded me of how much I miss my own Maverick, who is in a relatively safe place but way too far away to hug.

So you know what I’m going to do, ESPN?

I’m going to re-post that video right here, as a reminder that this week, as we celebrate American freedom and independence, we should keep in our hearts those who work to preserve and protect that freedom and their families who support them in that valiant effort.

Thank you, ESPN, for the touching reminder.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Vegas and Me: A Love Story.

I first laid eyes on Vegas the night before Thanksgiving, 2011.

He was shy then or maybe playing the male version of the coquette.  That night it was just a fleeting glance, but our relationship has since blossomed.  I see him just about every day now, sometimes several times a day.

That first night my instincts told me Vegas was not the man for me.  He had a dangerous air about him, bearing a striking resemblance to  James Brolin in The Amityville

Horror.

No, definitely not the man for me. That movie scared the bejeebers out of me.

Still there was something intriguing about his rugged handsomeness and the clean-shaven charm of  his wing man,  whose name escapes me now. I’ve only seen Wing Man a few times, but Vegas remains a steadfast suitor.

Update: Wing Man reappeared today. His name is Trevor7878.

Update: Wing Man’s “real” name is Trevor.

On that night that I first spied his come-hither glance, I’d just arrived home after a long day at work and logged on to check personal email. While I sorted through the latest batch of possibly virus-laden video jokes from a friend in Myrtle Beach and the dozens of emails from Restoration Hardware, Talbot’s  and Pottery Barn, I noticed in the side-frame that a popular online dating service was thoughtfully reaching out to me, there in my pre-holiday moment of solitude.

Maybe  they’d caught a whiff of the Progresso soup heating up in the microwave at a time when everyone else’s kitchen smelled of pumpkin pie and turkey trimmings.

Whatever it was, this Cyber Yenta wanted me to know that there were men in my hometown online — at this very moment! – just waiting to meet me (!), so, you know, maybe I should’ve picked a soup without onions and garlic and would it kill me to run a brush through my hair and put on some lipstick? Oy vey.

I admit to feeling a little sorry for Vegas and Wing Man. I mean, what kind of losers hang out online at a time when everyone else is traveling to Grandma’s or getting ready for Black Friday.  Did these men have no families, no need to strategically plan  for midnight procurement of a 60″ plasma tv at a ridiculous bargain price? Were they drinking Cup-A-Soup at this very moment? Where were my lipstick and hairbrush?

This isn’t a terribly small town, but it isn’t a terribly big one, either.  Surely such hunka-hunka bachelors would’ve shown up in the society pages by now. I couldn’t place ever having seen them.

 I would not date this man. (James Brolin as George Lutz in The Amityville Horror, 1999, 20th Century Fox).


Online Dating Tip #1: Probably best to skip the guy whose profile pic includes an ax, regardless of how brooding and thoughtful his expression might be.  (James Brolin as George Lutz in The Amityville Horror, 1979, 20th Century Fox).

Along with the Dad-from-Amityville image, all of these nagging questions led me to believe that  Vegas was a heartbreak waiting to happen, but I clicked the link anyway. Why not? The soup still had about a minute and a half to go. What could it hurt?

And with that, Vegas and Wing Man vanished and  Cyber Yenta, who just moments before had been so concerned and sympathetic about my being alone on a holiday eve, now wanted to know my life story before allowing me to see anyone’s pictures.

Suddenly, I was in love with Vegas and I could not accept this cruel obstacle to our destiny. I needed to find him, to connect, to know if his house were finally free of poltergeists and if he had tried Progresso’s new international line, like the chicken tortilla. I was sure he wasn’t a smoker because Fate couldn’t be so cruel as to have matched me with a smoker. Or a joker. Or a midnight toker. Nothing like that.

No, Vegas was a good man. A kind and thoughtful man, intelligent and funny, warm and gentle toward old people, children, and animals.  A poet and self-made millionaire who loved working in his woodshop and who’d once rescued a group of stranded hikers while climbing Mount Everest, giving them his provisions and calling for his personal helicopter to pick them up, then going on to finish mounting the summit alone. And barefoot.  Thrifty, clean, reverent, and brave. Oh, how I longed to find him again.

I told Cyber Yenta everything s/he wanted to know, filling out each screen as quickly as possible, before Vegas slipped away, possibly falling into the clutches of that tart who lives over by the docks. She wasn’t good for Vegas. Sure, she owned a hairbrush and was always slathered up with lip gloss, but Vegas and I were meant to be together.

Yes,  I am a dog person.

No, I don’t smoke.

Look, Cyber Yenta,  I am perfectly capable of telling Vegas these things myself. Please bring him back. My soup is getting cold.

Vegas and I weren’t meant to meet on that Thanksgiving Eve. I finally gave up, closed the laptop, ate my soup, went to bed, and put the whole thing out of my mind. I forgot all about Vegas because the memories were just too painful.

I moved on.

To the following Monday, when upon opening my email, I received dozens of notifications that eligible bachelors  were interested in meeting me (!) — none of whom appeared to be possessed of Vegas’s rugged looks or daring bravery or generosity of spirit or moving sensitivity, although I will concede it is hard to judge these things through profile pictures alone.

The pain of having loved and lost Vegas was too fresh, too raw, too third-and-equally-incongruent adjective.   I told Cyber Yenta to call off the search. If I couldn’t have Vegas, I didn’t want anyone.  Besides, I knew it would hurt him, too, to know I’d moved on so quickly and so callously.

A few months ago, through the miracle of the Internet, Vegas reappeared.  Barely a day goes by that I don’t log on to find his warm smile beaming at

Reunited at last.

Vegas, my soup-mate. Reunited at last.

me, lovingly reminding me that one out of five relationships start online.

I try not to think about the fact that most of those online relationships probably start with Vegas, whose given name is Vegas90403.  I used to think 90403 was a zip code, but I suspect it’s the number of online relationships he had to go through before he found me.

All that matters is that he found me and that we can share our evening soup together, he with his ever-present grin, me searching for my hairbrush and lipstick.