Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Hype--Stop the Madness!!

Egads. I just realized there are only seven more days until Thanksgiving and I don’t even have a tree yet!

Where did the time go? It seems as if we just finished Fourth of July and it’s already Turkey Day. And when did Thanksgiving become such a huge, commercial holiday?

I have a feeling the stores are nearly out of everything turkey related. I should have started my shopping right after Valentine’s Day, when there was still a bunch of good stuff to select from. Now I’ll be lucky to find a decent Thanksgiving Tree that I can decorate with the dried leaves, turkey feathers, and strings of pumpkin seeds that I save every year.

I like to set a festive Thanksgiving table, so I need to make a bunch of those traditional turkey-shaped placemats out of construction paper.  Then I’ll hit one of those specialty “Thanksgiving Stores” that spring up in abandoned furniture stores and pray there are still some decorations left. Last year all they had were broken cornucopias, naked scarecrows, and torn pilgrim costumes. Luckily my husband was able to grab one of those giant inflatable turkeys that’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt and holding a pina colada. It’s already set up in the front yard, waiting to greet the relatives and cheer the neighbors.

Every year I ask my guests to come dressed in costume for the occasion, so we can remember why we’re thankful, and then act out scenes from that movie, “It’s a Wonderful Thanksgiving.” Just in case they forget, I’m setting up a craft table so we can all make our own Pilgrim hats and bonnets out of crepe paper, sequins, and pipe cleaners.

I’m keeping the food traditional, as long as the stores aren’t already sold out of “ready-to-eat” turkey dinners. All the do-it-yourself turkeys were scooped up months ago (my neighbor bought hers in June!), so we may end up going to that wings place to order a couple hundred.

As for Thanksgiving gifts, most of the stores are sold out of those Talking Tom Turkeys and “Call of Thanksgiving” video games. I’ll just have to give everyone food gifts, like jars of Cranberry Jell-O and bags of Pumpkin Seed Trail Mix. After all, this is a food holiday.

When the family arrives, I plan to offer a warm glass of cranberry-apple-guava-cantaloupe juice, then we’ll gather at the table and share something we’re thankful for, such as good health, a supportive family, and the iPhone 4S. Once we’ve gobbled down the turkey and trimmings, we’ll open the gifts that have been waiting for us under the Thanksgiving Tree.

Finally we’ll sing songs appropriate to the holiday, such as “Eat It” by Weird Al, “Mashed Potatoes” (Dee Dee Sharp), and selected songs from the Broadway hit, “Sweeny Todd.” Of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without doing “The Turkey Dance” (AKA “The Chicken Dance”) to work off all those calories.
When it’s all over, we’ll collapse on the couch and watch some Thanksgiving specials, like “Lady Gaga’s Thanksgiving Freak Show,” “Thanksgiving IV: Pumpkinhead Returns,” and the last eight hours of the “Macy’s Day Parade.”

Oh, and just a reminder, so you aren’t caught by surprise like I was. There are only eight more days until Black Friday. Better hurry. Most of the Black Friday Trees and decorations are already gone!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Childhood books that influenced my writing

Looking back on my reading life, I find it interesting to recall the books that influenced me as I grew into a writer. It’s an eclectic collection, seemingly random, but the stories share one thing in common—"What’s going to happen next?" While reading Nancy Drew mysteries goes without saying, I’ve listed some of the other books that offered valuable tips on writing. Here are just a few...

Eloise by Kay Thompson was one of the few books that featured girls as the protagonists. Girls who get into trouble, do mischief, and solve their own problems. That led me to write about girls as  lead characters who solve their own mysteries.
Freddy the Detective by Walter Brooks. Freddy was the book that got me excited about solving mysteries at a very young age. I figured if a pig could be sleuth, maybe anyone could solve a mystery. . . even moi?
Mulberry street
To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss, not only taught me that playing with words was just plain fun, it also taught me spelling was important. I had to memorize how to spell Seuss (instead of Suess) in order to find his books at the library.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson showed me how much imagination played a part in creating a story. With my own purple crayon, I could “draw” a story about anything.
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White reminded me how important relationships are in developing a story with depth. The friendship between the two main characters made the story real, even though it was heartbreaking!
Robinson crusoe
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, had a huge influence on my love of vicarious adventure. What would I do if I were stranded on an island for years and years? Would I be as resourceful and perseverant as Friday’s boss? Defoe made that island come alive for me.
Dr no
James Bond by Ian Fleming taught me that a protagonist could survive all kinds of dangers and still live to have another martini.
Anne frank
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank showed me how personal, revealing, and tender a story could be, even when written by such a young writer.
Catcher in rye
Finally, Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger taught me to search for my own voice, write a realistic, not cardboard, character, and to be subversive.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Next year I'll go as "Stranger with Candy"

My 4-year-old grandson Luke asked me what I plan to be for Halloween. Actually, I hadn't planned to be anything but "Grandma," but since he was dressing up as a knight (or a dragon or Ironman, a Ghostbuster or maybe even a princess--he hadn't completely committed), he thought I should wear a costume for Halloween too.

I figured the Naughty Nurse costume I used to wear was out of the question. I miss those days when I could fit into mesh nurses' tights and a cleavage-altering uniform. But no more sexy French maid or roller-skating carhop or Sandy-after-her transformation-in-"Grease" costumes for me.

After I had kids, I was more likely to dress as Pregnant Housewife, wearing orange-juice-can rollers, green facial masks, stained housecoats, and bunny slippers, all borrowed from my personal collection.

So when had life itself become Halloween, and the clothes I owned become costumes? It was about that time I gave up on "Halloween" costumes all together, and just focused on handing out candy to cute little gremlins, ghosts, and goblins.

But this year the pressure was back on. When my grandson asked what I was wearing for Halloween, I knew I had to find a costume so as not to disappoint him.

I headed to one of those temporary Halloween stores that pull into town every year like circus trucks, and checked out the latest alter-ego fashions. Going as Lady Gaga was tempting, but too scary for the grandkids, which left me Angry Birds (a colorful round ball that hid all the extra Halloween candy I'd already eaten this year), Princess Katherine (wear my old bride dress from my kids' dress-up box), or a cartoon zombie (did I really want to look like the living dead at my age?)

In desperation, I searched the Internet for "Hip Grandmother Costumes," but all they had were accessories like gray-haired buns, knitted shawls, and wire-rimmed glasses. I'd been fighting that stereotype since I turned middle-aged and wasn't about to go there now.

My other choice was "Biker Grandma in Leather with Tattoos." Way too scary for my grandkids -- and my husband.

I thought about wearing normal clothes and go as a Nudist on Strike. Or attach a big S to the front of my shirt, put on a black mask, a green ring, and a blue cape, and come as a Confused Super Hero. Or maybe I could just wear a towel and come as Caught in the Shower. But my grandkids don't do puns well.

I continued to look for something more appropriate for my age and my dignity, something that would delight the grandkids without humiliating me, something that was cheap, quick, comfortable, creative, and fun to wear for hours on Halloween night.

After helping myself to another handful of "fun-size" candy bars and washing them down with a glass of Halloween punch (wine), I had an epiphany and knew jus which costume would meet all the criteria for my grandkids and myself.

I bought myself an extra-large red sweat suit from Target, put on a red knitted cap, held some cotton candy in front of my face, and voila: I was Santa Claus, another of my alter egos.

And after eating all that Halloween candy, it's the only outfit that still fits.