The Importance of Excellent Spelling Skills

The Eternal Sophomore Tackles Spelling
SHCOOL is painted along the newly paved road leading to Southern Guilford High School on Drake Road Monday, August 9, 2010, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/News & Record, Joseph Rodriguez)

Oscar Wilde in the 1895 play “The Importance of Being Earnest” once said, “To lose one parent, […] may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both seems like carelessness.”

While Wilde uses that quote to illustrate the sometimes ludicrous nature of “high” society, it has a more powerful message when you look at it through the eyes of a writer.

In today’s instant gratification, instant information culture, the amount of time we have to create copy/content has become extremely limited. Writing on deadline is not only a journalistic ideal, but a mandatory part of SEO writing as well. The unrelenting demand for content has come with a terrible side effect, the loss of accurate spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.

Every morning I start my day with a look through multiple digital media outlets. I start with The Wall Street Journal and New York Times; make my way down the coast to Atlanta and CNN; then to the West for The LA Times; across the pond to BBC News from London; then round out my digital globetrotting with the Associated Press and Reuters’ websites to read the breaking news. After that, it’s checking my local news on all three broadcast networks and finally sitting down with a print copy of the local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal or “RJ.” Yeah, I consume a lot of news before I have finished breakfast.

The one thing that I have repeatedly noticed? Typos everywhere.

In our mad rush to sate audiences with fresh content, we’ve either forgotten to proofread or we have become far too reliant on spell-check. I catch typos with frightening regularity in large publications like The New York Times and USA Today. Every time I spot a typo or a fumbled sentence, I sit back and ask two questions:

Doesn’t the writer realize that typos damage the credibility of their story? Don’t they realize that they are damaging the reputation of their publication each time they don’t thoroughly check their work?

I’d hate to think that most news stories are entered through a smartphone, but odds are that’s closer to the truth than I even realize – because I have caught some errors that could only be attributed to auto-correct.

The argument can be made by those who think the typo is “okay” that people are lazy and don’t read past the headline. To that I ask, what about those who do read past the headline? Should the people actually reading the entire article be forced to put up with atrocious spelling and expect their work to be called “credible”?

My answer? Each time I see a typo, I can’t help but think that writers are dropping the ball and not doing their jobs right.

One of my favorite sayings is:

“Spell well, write well, communicate unforgettably.”

It’s pretty simple, right? It just says that when you spell well, your writing has a fighting chance to reach and impact an audience. But then again, I may be asking too much. After all, as a wise friend of mine once said, “Not everyone speaks Sheri,” meaning that I communicate differently than most everyone else.

I wrote script and cursive and read aloud from National Geographic by the time I was four and then wrote my first lines of computer code by the time I was eight. But it all boiled down to one thing, I have always known the importance of spelling. The reason that I began reading so early is because I was taught to sound out my words, using phonics to make sure I was pronouncing words correctly. When it came time to write, I used the inverse, sounding out the words to ensure their proper spelling on the page. Over my lifetime spelling has become my stock in trade, so when I see a typo or witness the desecration of the English language on social media, I cringe. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we all be cringing when we see a typo? I would think so, but maybe that’s just me.

When you write, you have to make sure that your word usage and spelling are accurate. I’m often told that I own “The Vocabulary of Awesome” because I use words that other people usually don’t. The truth is that really I don’t own “The Vocabulary of Awesome,” I just make sure that when I write that I use the perfect words to convey my thoughts or emotions. I have no fear of saying “I don’t know”, so going to a dictionary to look up a word’s proper spelling or definition doesn’t bother me one bit. At least I know that when I write, I can at least reach the bar of good spelling skills, which in the end, gives me outstanding credibility. (It makes me fun to read, too.)

Right now, in schools all over the world, they are taking handwriting out of the curriculum. To me, that is tantamount carelessly wiping an endangered species off the map. When we take handwriting away, we take away a sensory mechanism for teaching proper spelling. Besides, in our instant information/instant gratification culture, a handwritten letter sent by snail mail has become a treasured artifact.

So, for me, the next time you go on social media, write an article or attempt to communicate with the world, make sure what you write is spelled properly. It will do your credibility a world of good. Think of it this way, when you spell well, people take you seriously and your “street cred” (“cred” being short for the word “CREDIBILITY”) will skyrocket. If that fails to convince you, think of Oscar Wilde:

“One typo may be regarded as a misfortune. Two or more seems like carelessness.”

The Starbucks Fail

We have a new tradition at work: One hour every day spent writing. Some of it will go on the company site, some of it will be kept on side, but regardless, it’s going to be posted here so that my blog at LEAST gets a minor shot in the arm every day.

It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a bad week. Yesterday began with $500 in car repairs, followed by one of the members of my far-reaching virtual family dying of complications due to breast cancer. I go into work the following day and, as is quickly becoming the norm, my office Internet goes out. It’s then that one of my office cohorts decides that it would be a grand idea to go to the local Starbucks to use the Internet and get some work done.

When we reconvened at the nearby Starbucks, I was already shaken, an emotional mess from the day previous, so I went outside to collect myself, carrying my full Venti Mocha Frappucino and hoping in vain that I could collect myself enough to get some work done. After a few minutes, finally in a mindset to get to work, I walk back in the door of the Starbucks and promptly get stuck, dropping the huge cup of chilled chocolate goodness I was carrying onto the floor. Upon impact, the contents of the cup splatters onto the floor and all over the handsome new graphic artist that just started work with us, promptly making a mess unlike the gods have ever seen.

I sigh heavily as I look down at the mess, realizing that it’s already not been an overwhelmingly great week, and come to find out, it’s only Tuesday.

The fellow writer from my office springs from his seat, the gentle giant of a man quickly cleaning up the sticky mess that is decorating the floor, my shoes and the hem of my comfy jeans. The remnants of my expensive coffee drink quickly become a huge chocolate smear on the floor, getting larger with every napkin taken from the dispenser to clean it up. He sends mischievous quips my way as I am covered in chocolate and embarrassment, trying desperately to hold up the back of my pants and some semblance of my dignity as I bend down to clean up the mess I have clumsily made.

And yeah, it’s only Tuesday.

I sit down and begin to write, looking at the door which caused the mess and now covered in coffee streaks, thinking to myself, “Please God, don’t let anyone slip on that…” Someone slipping on it would have only made my day that much more unbearable to take, knowing that not only is my car on the fritz, my friend is dead and my world seems to be falling apart, it would only make sense that my internal tragedy turns itself into someone else’s injury. After writing about slips, trips and falls for work, it only seems fitting that I would eventually take someone out.

Like I always accurately say about myself, “If I could step in it, trip over it, bump into it or burn myself with it, I usually do.” God gave me a double helping of brains and skipped grace altogether. Over the past 43 years, I have come to learn that having a high IQ does not necessarily translate into physical grace; instead, my intellect manifests itself in a series of awkward, often embarrassing, side-splitting comedic trips, stumbles and inevitable wipeouts. Never in my life have I seen someone clumsier than myself, and that’s saying something. If there is a curb, I can fall off of it and land flat on my face in under two seconds. Trust me, I’ve done it and have witnesses that will say, “Yep, she’s THAT clumsy.”

And yeah, it’s only Tuesday which means that I’ve still got three days left this week to maybe break my neck and write 10 more articles on slips, trips and falls as atonement for hosing the new guy down with a dropped Mocha Frappucino.

I guess that’s why I became a writer. It’s safe. After all, you can’t spill a cup of words onto people, that is, unless you are carrying a steaming hot cup of Alphabet Soup. Okay, bad example, but it’s safe to say that you’re immune from me spilling anything on you. Regardless, being a writer allows me to sit in one place, have liquids strategically placed so they don’t end up on my keyboard, computer screen, (or my office cohorts) and be able to tell stories that are compelling, often funny, and most of all, informative.

Outside of keeping the world-at-large safe from my clumsiness, I became a writer through a very organic process. I grew up surrounded by the oral tradition via the family stories told around my grandmother’s bedside in East Texas where she battled painful rheumatoid arthritis. Even though she was in pain, she always found a way to laugh and the laughter that came out of that room was unforgettable to me. It illustrated to the 4-year-old me that stories could help bridge gaps, they could raise spirits and that they could be used to teach. Even today, I help keep the family stories alive by digitally chronicling them so that they may be passed down to future generations. From the stories of practical jokes being played in the Southern Baptist church they attended to the tales of the hijinks they played on each other in the family’s cotton fields that they worked from pre-dawn until dusk every day of the early 1900’s, it sometimes seems like the stories my family contains are endless. There are even tales of family members coping with having to sit on an inordinately large ice block, barely covered by the thin seats of an old model T to keep cool on the long, hot drive from El Paso to Bryan, Texas.

But, it was in that old, white house at the end of a long gravel road that I learned the value of storytelling. You see, it is through stories that we chronicle the evolution of the human condition: its joys, its sorrows, its triumphs and the lessons to be learned through failures. As a little girl sitting on my father’s lap inside that very humble, worn farmhouse is where I first heard the tales of the invention of the telephone, tragic tales and first-hand accounts of the Great Depression, stories of farming technologies long past and given the gift of an almost first-hand view of a bygone age that is now only the stuff of memory quickly being lost to history.

So, as a writer, I can really only tell you what my sensory experience and vast amounts of research tell me so that I can internalize it, rationalize it, and bring it in written form to you, who has stopped to watch me epically fail at a Starbucks, but spin the experience to show you how and why I chose to construct my world of words.

And it’s only Tuesday. Who knows what the rest of the week may bring?

 

 

 

 

Better Late Than Never

sheri_rednoseday

 

My weeks have begun to get so hectic, writing is a challenge and well, so is making time to support charities that take a stand on behalf of children.

As everyone knows, I am huge on the fight against child neglect. So, better late than never, let’s see if I can get the Gates Foundation to chip in a little more for me and my Therian Avatar’s Red Nose.

And for heaven’s sake: #LearnToPlay.

The Janet Initiative

A few weeks ago, I got a note from a reader named Justin in regards to a piece I wrote called “Cavern.” In his beautifully worded letter, he asked me to describe my friend Janet’s motorized wheelchair in order to create a memorial for her.

If you recall, Janet (a.k.a. ‘Pepsi’ or ‘Pehpsee’) has been a fixture here on the Eternal Sophomore because she is, bar none, one of the most important positive influences on my life. She was one of the very first people to adopt me inside the Myst Universe. She helped me win the Myst Movie writing contest with “A Trip Through the Linking Book“, a piece about how she, the Cavern and the entirety of the Myst Universe has impacted my life in a very real, very positive way.

Justin’s note shined light on something I have never really written about:  the day Janet died. On the evening of December 28, 2004, I went to my computer after dinner to check in with my friends around the world. Upon checking my e-mail, I received a note that changed my world forever. It was from Katie Postma, gently telling me that Janet was gone. I sat staring at the words on the screen in disbelief. My mind just would NOT accept it. I knew Janet was down because of the surgery on her ankle, but I thought she was doing better! Next thing I knew, I literally crumbled into my ex-husband’s arms wailing, “No! NO! She can’t be gone! No!” and he held me while I wept uncontrollably and inconsolably for hours that turned into days. Someone might as well have set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of my chest because, as far as I was concerned, the world had ended. The very first person who I felt truly accepted me for who I was, was gone. My lamp in the darkness, my best pal, my sister, my teacher, my collaborator, my favorite peacemaker, would never light my screen up again with a “What’cha doin’?” It’s ten years later, and I can still feel the incredible loss.

Justin wanted to know some very granular details about Janet’s chair, its’ color, make, model, if there were any decals or stickers on it; a bevy of details that I sadly don’t have because she never shared that information with me. You have to understand that in all the time I spent with Janet in Cavern, through all of the projects we collaborated on – from how to publicize Cone Kicking and Eddie Soccer matches to mapping the D’ni Games Marathon Course – we never talked about what she couldn’t do. We always talked about what she could do or what we had plans to do together or projects we wanted to undertake to benefit our global Cavern family. To be honest, in the majority of time I spent with her, I never knew about her condition and how juvenile arthritis had taken its’ painful toll on her life until the very end. But if you knew Janet, that’s not a revelation that would surprise you. If you had spent even five minutes with the woman, you knew that she wasn’t about pain, she wasn’t about complaining, she was about solving problems and keeping everyone else’s spirits up when the hard times inevitably came.

Janet wasn’t about “I can’t.” Janet said, “I CAN.”

To put it succinctly, she never focused on herself, she focused on what the community needed. If I have ever been likened to the sticky stuff that holds things together, I’m convinced I learned those skills from Janet. She was a problem solver, not a drama maker, and I am convinced that she wouldn’t want to be remembered for her wheelchair, but for how she lived: a life spent humbly serving her community to the best of her abilities.

Janet taught me to always give more than I take.

Janet taught me to always greet everyone I meet with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

Janet taught me that even though life may deal you a pretty dismal hand, you have to do the best you can with what you have and don’t complain a word about it; just be grateful for what you have and get on with life.

Janet embodied one of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations which says:

Take on life’s tasks like a soldier storming the breach. So what if you are lame and cannot scale the wall alone? Does your lameness prevent you from asking for help?

But, contrary to what you might think, Janet wasn’t the one who needed to ask for help. Instead, she was the hand reaching down from the top of the wall, stretching with all her might to reach out and help pull you up. She had this uncanny way of always finding the bright side of just about anything, no matter how bad things truly got.

But on that dark day when I thought all was lost and Janet “Linked to the Perfect Age”, I made my pal a promise: I would never let her legacy die, that as long as I remembered her and carried her words forward, she would live forever.

As her husband would later tell us, “Every morning she got up without fail and went to the computer to do ‘her work’.” Janet’s “work” was comprised of moderating several forums, doing full-time greeter shifts in Cavern helping out new Explorers, working as a part of the D’ni League of Activities (D’LA) to make the term “Explorer-Based Initiatives” a part of every community member’s vocabulary. She referee’d cone kicking matches…heck, you can name it and Janet was probably right in the middle of it. She ate, breathed and slept Cavern even more than I do! And that’s a lot! Her whole goal was to take on any task that had to do with maintaining high community morale. She was committed to “the cause” that was Uru; whether it was because she felt like it had given her her legs back so that she could run, jump and climb again, I’ll never know, but if it was for the good of the community, she was neck deep in it. She wanted Uru to succeed that badly.

But, there were two things you would never find her doing…being negative or hurting another living soul on purpose. I honestly believe there was not a single malicious bone in her body. Okay, she could be a pistol at times, yes, but truly malicious? No way.

So, with all of this in mind, I sent a note back to Justin that read:

Unfortunately, I have ZERO clue about what kind of wheelchair she used. She never shared that with me. In fact, every time that topic would come up, she would dodge it, go around it; it was one subject she didn’t really like to talk about because she LOVED the fact that she was accepted as a run-of-the-mill explorer: running, jumping and climbing just like everyone else. The reason why she loved Cavern so much is that no one ever treated her any different because of her condition. She wasn’t treated like she was in a wheelchair or judged because of her disability, she was just “Pepsi.”

and everyone loved her for it.

I continued:

Stereotypes and disabilities go by the wayside real fast inside of a virtual world, that’s why she and I used to giggle, “You never know who is on the other side of the screen.”

That is why she loved the fact that Uru was also known as You are YOU, because it didn’t matter if you were sitting in a wheelchair or stood seven feet tall, you were loved for who you are, not how you sat, where you lived, or what color your skin was; all that mattered was that you put aside all the negatives and were genuinely who you were in your heart. (Believe me, Janet could spot a fake a mile off. She didn’t much take to folks that weren’t genuine, I can tell you that!)

Finally, I told Justin about how I remember Janet every day:

I think of an empty workstation with a can of “Pehpsee” clearly visible on the desk; computer and monitor on, notes strewn all around the desk (puzzle clues, maps, phone numbers), post-it’s stuck on the edge of the monitor with written reminders; all of it just waiting for her to come back, as if she’s just taking a break for a moment. Of course, you could simply add tire tracks on the floor to infer the nature of her chair, but that’s just me of course.

Janet would never want to be remembered for being “the lady in the wheelchair.” She would want to be remembered for the work she DID, and that’s the most important part.

The one thing she told me that will stick with me forever was the time where I expressed a lack of faith in my own talents. I could tell she was about ready to lose her cool with me when she said,

Don’t be afraid! Get involved, share your gifts, and you’ll find your niche!

The next day, I was an amateur sports reporter for the D’LA. Now, ten years later, I’m a journalist.

So, now here is where YOU come in. Yes you, sitting there reading the rantings of one of the many, beyond count, friends she left behind. I guess we’re still here to carry on Janet’s legacy, an initiative if you will, that reminds you, and everyone you interact with, to give more than you take, to greet everyone you meet with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Life is far too short to spend it complaining about other people and not being honestly grateful for what you have, from your health to the smile on your child’s face when you make the time to play a simple game with them.

Every day I look out into the world and see people complaining, being greedy and malicious pains-in-the-backside. I see people neglecting the needs of their fellow man, completely unaware of how much damage they are doing to everyone around them with their craptastic attitudes. This just will not do! Not according to Janet, not according to me, and not according to her legion of friends who carry her legacy forward every single day of their lives because they saw with their own two eyes what it means to live a life of humble service and never take for granted that they can run, jump, climb and be a positive influence on all those around them.

This is The Janet Initiative. It is following in the footsteps, yes, footsteps of a truly great woman who understood that sometimes we have to exercise patience when faced with adversity, that when life deals us not-so-favorable cards, it’s time to be grateful for what we DO have and make the very best of what we’ve got. And doing it ALL, no matter how badly it hurts, with a smile on our face and love in our heart.

If Janet could do that without flinching and not even whimper about her own pain while doing her part for her community, you can stand up and join her, can’t you?

Can you make a positive difference in someone else’s life without asking for anything in return? Can you be kind when you have no reason to? When your patience is tested, can you hold your wrath in check? Can you live without pride? Can you be generous instead of greedy?  Can you be selfless in a way that sets a standard for others to follow?

I have a feeling you can. Like Janet said, “Just share your gifts and talents with the world, you’ll find your niche.”

Since it’s the New Year, it might be time to try something new. I suggest taking some initiative and help us carry Janet “Pehpsee” Burress’ legacy forward. Heaven knows, the world needs something much different than the negativity we’ve sadly become accustomed to, don’t you think?

Like a wise man once taught me, “It’s not about the say, it’s about the DO.”

Shift into positive gear. Do it for Janet.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

 

 

 

Wordy…

I got a note the other day from a mysterious man…

Apparently I’m so wordy, Tolstoy wants to be my boyfriend.

Okay, admit it. I made you laugh.

So while I’m waiting for Tolstoy to call me long distance from the grave, I am watching Julie & Julia for the countless time.

It’s the holidays and I am cooking in eight very short hours. I figured the film would help me refocus on the chopping, cutting and general sous-cheffery I will be doing.

It also occurred to me that I am on a new tack in my writing, namely cooking, so I figure I will have my phone next to me to take snappies of all the good things I’ll be making, then pass the recipes on to you. (Just in case something I make appeals to you.)

Anyhow, I think I may ask Santa for a copy of Rosetta Stone in Russian, that way if Tolstoy calls I’ll be ready. Because yeah, I’m wordy.

Hammer Salad

One of my best friends has asked me to write anecdotal recipes, so here ya go, the tale of a girl and her combined love of tools and cooking.

In my time on the planet, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of people. From growing up on construction sites helping my father do plan (blueprint) take-offs for window bids to the man who taught me how to SCUBA dive 25 years ago and loves to woodwork or restore vintage American Muscle (cars and motorcycles) while he’s not adding to the abundance of salt that clings effortlessly to his persona, I’ve met some truly groovy folks I don’t ever want to forget.

I have to admit, for a girl whose tech savvy is almost second to none, I have always gravitated to getting dirty because, let’s face it, it’s a novelty for me. Technology, for the most part, is a sterile environment. Being a mouse jockey means that I can create all kinds of things without getting the slightest bit dirty, not even a speck of dust under my fingernails.

Speaking of fingernails, one of the biggest influences in my life (who taught me more about the joys of getting dirty while exercising creative skills) was a man, who on top of being a motor-head with what seemed like a permanent automotive grease manicure, selflessly shared with me all he knew about tools, shop maintenance and work space organization. The best part? After a hard day of creating beautiful, useful things in his shop, oh, that man could COOK!

Back in the day, I grew up in a world of spoiled men. Women dominated the kitchen environment in a way that is seldom seen today. Back then, if you told a woman that a man could not only cook, but that he LOVED to cook, you know what happened? You got a woman passed out cold on the floor – or – with a look of shock on their face like they just saw a ghost. Guys can cook, I’m not saying they can’t, but old school chicks like me rub their eyes and do double takes when we find them. In my 20’s, if you got one that loved to cook and could clean on top of all that, you could have called Guinness because it was a friggin’ miracle. Now, not so much. Boys are coming into their own in the kitchen and I love it.

But in 43 years on this planet, I’ve only met two men who effortlessly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the kitchen having a blast collaborating with me to create a great meal. One taught me how to change my spark plugs, SCUBA dive and make Baked Ziti, the other taught me how to organize a shop, maintenance tools, woodwork with a vintage planer, fix an engine block then promptly went into the kitchen and did knife work so beautiful and elegant that it would make you swoon on the spot; all the while growing his own heirloom tomatoes so huge and delicious you could make a meal out of just one.

I count myself very lucky that I have encountered individuals that are so diametrically opposed to my own nature but are kind enough to share their knowledge with me. Where I was once a “geek-in-distress”, I am now a “geek with two of her own toolboxes.” One for the shop and one for the kitchen.

But! My friends have given me the ultimate gift. They turned me into a damsel-in-a-dress that doesn’t fear tools. I don’t fear getting dirty and I definitely don’t fear rolling up my sleeves and putting hammer to object to get the job done on my own, whether it’s in the shop or in the kitchen.

I’m just thrilled because my motor head buddies helped me with one thing they never realized they were: Teaching me how to be safe in spite of my clumsy nature. As we’ve seen time and time again over the last five years, I’m not perfect by a long-shot because if I can step on it, step in it, trip over it or burn myself with it, I usually do. I’m so human it hurts (usually pretty bad). Trust me, I can attest to the fact that sometimes stupid hurts so bad it leaves permanent scarring.

Now since being safe is one of my highest priorities, one of the most important things one of my friends taught me about tools was:

The first criteria of a great tool is that it does the job it was designed to do.

Followed by the words of an intellectual (but not-so-handy) buddy of mine who said:

When the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

What all that means is, simply, you have to have the right tool for the job. While my native tools are things like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, I once sat through an hour-long lecture about hammers from one of my friends that listed at least 13 different hammer types, from rawhide and lead-shot mallets to ball, framing, masonry and finishing hammers. The man was a friggin’ hammer almanac. If you gave him half the chance he’d probably tell you the right one to use in inclement weather conditions. But that’s cool…you know why? I can do the exact same thing when it comes to almost any piece of modern technology from the smartphone to advanced video game engines. Hey, everyone has a different skill set and I just love to learn. And if someone is willing to share their knowledge, I’m paying attention and taking notes.

But speaking of the combination of hammers and kitchens…

My mom is a HUGE fan of the Property Brothers on HGTV. She’s a “STOP EVERYTHING, NEW EPISODE TONIGHT” kind of fan because she’s constantly looking at her home and trying to figure out how it can be very efficient while extremely stylish. I like watching the renovations. It’s tech and getting dirty simultaneously. Plus I like looking at the 3D models they use in their “ideas” segment since one of my hobbies is skinning 3D models in Photoshop for use in video games.

So, while Mom was watching “Property Brothers at Home” which happens to take place right here in Vegas, I got out a head of red cabbage, a large Rubbermaid bowl and a tenderizing mallet and hammered together a fine salad, thinking “Yeah, Jonathan can put hammer to nail and build a house, but can he literally hammer together a salad? I know I can.”

Betcha you want to know how I did it, don’t ya?

Like any well-trained shop rat, let’s start with the tool list for this project. Remember, I pride myself on minimal cleanup, my current record for least amount of tools used on a dish is four:  The Crab and Hearts of Palm Salad tool list comprised only of a pairing knife, a cutting board, a bowl and a fork.

Hammer Salad takes my minimalist tool approach but I still haven’t broken the 4-tool record (not yet at least).

Here’s what tools you’ll need:

  • A cutting board.
  • A chef’s knife.
  • A food processor. (Optional if you don’t want to julienne manually.)
  • A kitchen tenderizing mallet.
  • A large PLASTIC Rubbermaid bowl.
    • Why plastic? Because my sweethearts, a hammer in a glass bowl with my clumsy nature just screams “disaster”, so stick with the high-sided plastic ones, that way you can relieve stress by beating the fool out of what we’re putting in the bowl. And you’re going to need to, this is hearty material we’re working with.

HS_1

Those two are the most important tools you’ll need.

Now for the ingredients:

  • A fresh head of red cabbage
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar

I’m telling y’all, this is the easiest salad to make in the world. You’ll be hammering it out in no time flat.

Here’s how you do it:

Depending on the number of people you’re feeding, you can make the whole cabbage or just half, that’s completely up to you. Also, all of the ingredients are TO TASTE, meaning that you add more or less as your taste buds dictate.

Ready? Here we go!

First, you’ll need to wash the cabbage under cool water and remove one or two outer leaves until you get a good-looking undamaged head of cabbage.

Next, place the cabbage on your cutting board and slice it in half.

Remove the big white core from the cabbage so all you have left is purple goodness without the core.

Now here comes the hardest part, julienne the cabbage.  It will look something like this:

You can either put the cabbage in the food processor or cut it up by hand. It’s up to you. As I’m clumsy, I prefer the food processor, but I can julienne-by-hand if needs be thanks to my pal who taught me some of his beautiful knife techniques.

Next, after you’ve julienned the cabbage, throw the cut-up cabbage into your bowl and if you’re just doing half of the cabbage, add three fingers of salt to it.  If you’re making the whole head for a dinner party, throw in three fingers of salt twice.

(At this point you’re finished with the knife and cutting board so put it aside…because it’s HAMMER TIME!)

After you add the salt, I want you to pick up your hammer and just beat the holy terror out of that cabbage. Imagine that you are Thor holding Mjolnir and beating the cabbage like it’s Loki trying to hurt your fellow Avengers. I usually grab the hammer by the handle and then come down on the cabbage with the top of the mallet, not even using the spiky or flat sides, just using the top of it to really go to town on it, then rotating it to the spiky side (if needs be) to really get the salt pounded into the cabbage.

Don’t get too crazy or anything with hammering your cabbage, I don’t want to hear how the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons came in and turned you and your kitchen purple. Keep it in the bowl, not on the floor, not on your other half, brothers, sisters, children or the cat. Just focus all that Thor-like angst on the cabbage IN the bowl.

We are NOT looking for this:

So don’t be gettin’ all crazy on the cabbage. Giant Green Rage Monster is my job, not yours.

Cabbage is hearty stuff and you really have to let it know who’s boss if you want to get it to cooperate. But you have to admit, this is kind of fun, isn’t it?

Now, after the cabbage has been well-tenderized with the salt, you’re going to notice that it’s weeping a little, meaning that it’s getting juicy.

When you see the juice starting to form, add three fingers of sugar. (Twice if you’re making the whole head of cabbage.) You want to make sure that you’re sugar and salt are in equal proportions to make a nice taste balance.

Grab your hammer and stir the sugar in, then start hammering again, giving it a stir every so often. Two whacks, stir, two whacks, stir…that kind of action until you’ve got all the sugar pounded in to the cabbage.

BE CAREFUL, once you see the juice starting to form, if you get too nuts with the hammer, you’re going to be wearing it. (That’s why we like the high-sided bowl…containment!)

After you get the sugar and salt hammered in, take a taste! Your taste buds should be getting a balance of sugar and salt in each bite. If you taste one more than the other, balance it out by adding the opposite (too salty = add sugar, too sweet = add salt) until you get it just right.

Once your salt/sugar balance is right, it’s time for the vinegar. You’re going to add a splash (NOT TOO MUCH!), just enough to be able to coat the cabbage without overly adding too much liquid. (I stir everything together with the hammer…saves dirtying up a spoon for no reason. But, you do what you want, I am just sharing the recipe.)

After you put in the vinegar, you’ll notice that the cabbage will turn from a deep purple and white to a beautiful magenta color. Now take another taste. If all of the flavors balance, you’ve done it right.

Congratulations. You just made Red Cabbage Salad, a.k.a. Hammer Salad. One of the oldest family recipes in my arsenal.

HS_2

 

 

For song of the day, let’s hear something that has the perfect tempo for hammering cabbage and cheers for the self-confidence that came from someone selflessly sharing their love and respect of hammers along with their excellent knife techniques with me.  You know who you are. Thank you.

Alesso featuring Tove Lo: “Heroes.”

Being Single During the Holidays.

Matt Dillon’s character in the film Singles noted, “For some people, being alone is a nasty hang.” Okay Matt, try being single during the holidays, for some folks it takes the phrase “nasty hang” to a whole new level.

Unfortunately, I am but one in a sea of people who view being single during this time of year as almost excruciating. Stick with me though, I figure if we add a dash of humor laced with a sprinkle of light-hearted sarcasm to the situation, we’ll be okay.

Oh, who am I kidding? Nobody who is single during the holidays likes watching a giggling couple pass them, arm-in-arm, seemingly overwhelmingly happy to be cuddling during the cold, dark months of winter, smooching under mistletoe and wondering what their other half has specially planned just for them. I don’t know about you, but when I see something like that, I think of the words of Bill Bryson in The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, where he wrote, “The thunder-vision focused on their stomachs and melted them into a little puddle on the spot.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but as you can tell, I’m in the same camp with those folks who aren’t overwhelmingly thrilled about being single during the most cuddle-prone time of the year.

I began kvetching to my close friends on this subject about a month ago. I complained to KP that I was feeling lonely, to which (in true KP fashion) he promptly slapped my head back onto my neck and reminded me that the reason I was feeling lonely was because I’m not giving myself ample credit for being enough on my own; simply that what I am searching for has been inside of me all along, all I had to do was remember how special I am and that it would chase away the loneliness in no time flat. As usual, KP is right. He always is.

However, my daily goal of keeping a positive mental attitude gets derailed when I become inundated by sugar shock inducing schmaltz being broadcast en masse through every media channel possible during the holidays. Right after Halloween, WHAM! For a single person they might as well just put up a banner that reads, “Welcome to Holiday Hell, Satan’s Hot Tub is the first door on the right.”

Since Halloween, every time I turn around, my mother has been watching The Hallmark Channel which has been featuring (NON-STOP, mind you) every permutation of “Lonely boy/girl meets fellow lonely, heartbroken boy/girl, they fall in “like” surrounded by Christmas lights, there is some sort of confusion then boy and girl find love on Christmas Eve, complete with a kiss under mistletoe or next to a festively decorated Christmas Tree (complete with Hallmark collector’s ornaments no less).

Okay, after almost two solid months of Hallmark-induced Christmas trauma, I am CONVINCED beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Hallmark Channel is responsible for more suicides and shot out televisions during the holidays than anything else. I mean, really. Do they think that those of us single folks during the holidays need to have a loud bullhorn directly pointed at the sides of our heads to be reminded that we’re single? What genius shoved their head up their backsides and forgot that somewhere along the way us single folks have incurred emotional damage or loss that has resulted in our current singleness? Worse yet is that we’re enduring this situation during the one time of the year where our single status really shouldn’t be amplified above more than a subtle “okay, that’s gotta hurt” and help us get through the two most emotionally trying months of the calendar year. Jeez! And Hallmark is supposed to be the “we get you” company that has greeting cards for every friggin’ occasion on the planet except for “we screwed up by pouring lemon juice into the gaping wound in the middle of your chest.”

Yeah, it tends to sting a bit when single during the holidays. No matter if we’re between relationships, missing family members or close friends or similar surroundings, I think The Hallmark Channel needs to think before they broadcast a hurtful reminder of a single relationship status. That’s just being unaware of complete audience composition, not to mention that there are those of us who aren’t at liberty to change the channel and watch a slasher flick or a good sci-fi jaunt into outer space rather than be reminded of our situations! Idea thieves love to come into the pages of my blog and steal ideas, so steal this: Create a comedy about being single during the holidays, that’s something I would watch! If I have to endure one more hour of really bad romance novel plots, I’m seriously going to lose my eggnog all over someone’s shoes.

But y’all know me, I’m one that definitely doesn’t put the “B” in subtle.

On the topic of subtle, tonight I was inspired to write because of a VERY loud party the neighbors are having next door. You know you’ve been to your share of “Ugly Sweater” Parties in your day. Me? Not so much, but I have enough imagination to know that my lack of subtlety would not go unnoticed when I would look at an innocent fashion victim and ask how in the hell that train wreck found its’ way into their closets, much less onto their bodies. I try not to own ugly sweaters, I live in the land of the Moo-Moo already so I’m already tortured enough. Please don’t send me an ugly sweater to prove the point of the laughter-inducing nature of them. By some miracle of my literal nature, this is the one time I don’t have to wear one to get the joke.

Here’s where it gets funny and where my fellow single folk and I really get to breathe a sigh of relief and be genuinely happy about our situations:

Tonight, to discover the origin of the window-rattling sub-woofer that was pumping bass not only through the walls of the house but directly through my nerves, I went outside to stretch my legs and enjoy the crisp winter air. It was then that I saw a woman nearby wearing her ugly sweater, complete with battery-powered Christmas lights. I find out through a brief Q and A that it’s an ugly sweater party and that it’s a bunch of friends getting together – complete with drunken voices, loud talking, screaming, sounds of a manslaughter in progress – you know the ones I mean, a good old-fashioned, obnoxiously loud party that shows no respect whatsoever to their neighbors.

The next thing I know, another woman emerges from the party house, complete with leopard print micro-mini skirt, a flimsy leather jacket and shoes that didn’t even look remotely comfortable (I’m not really sure if that leopard thing was her ugly sweater or not, jury’s still out on that one, better yet, you decide…) attempting to walk home, her home being equal in distance to roughly 10 miles, complaining how cold she was because she yelled across the quiet neighborhood that her husband was being an… okay, let’s keep this G-rated…a seven letter word that starts with “A” and ends with “E”. Okay, note to self, never get drunk then get into fight with anyone, because along with her fashion statement and clear lack of positive mental attitude, I would not have labeled it as a “pretty moment.” Not in the least.

Now, don’t get me wrong. People are people, and I do get that as well, but I must cop to the fact that with my 131 I’m not the world’s greatest when it comes to common sense. Upon witnessing the debacle unfolding in front of me, I became increasingly and increasingly grateful I was single! In a moment of sheer amazement, I realized that I didn’t have to worry about becoming that woman, yelling at the top of her lungs that she was stranded far from home with no way to leave an uncomfortable situation, then pulling the Darwin Award Winning maneuver of trying to walk home ten miles in shoes that were clearly NOT meant for long-distance endurance sports. On top of all that I watched in sheer horror as she began asking her clearly intoxicated female friends to take her home because she didn’t want to fight with her partner in front of all of their friends, then having no issue telling the innocent bystander next door that her partner was a “starts with ‘A’ and ends with ‘E’.”

Standing there in my flannel p.j. pants, thermal top, North Face fleece jacket, fuzzy socks (same color as Grover from Sesame Street) and Sorel slippers, all warm and toasty, I became overwhelmingly grateful that being single during the holidays means that I don’t have to put up with that kind of nonsense! I was already at home, in comfy clothes and more importantly, comfortable in my own skin, grateful that it’s me and Teddy curled up together under a heating blanket with no one loudly snoring in either of our ears. It occurred to me that I have been to enough Christmas parties in my day to choke a horse, and to me, I’ve got more common sense than to wear impossible-to-walk-in shoes, combined with non-weather friendly clothing then try a 10-miler to get home, no matter how angry I was at anyone.

But that’s the bonus of being single for the holidays…if someone is or becomes a ‘starts with an ‘A’ and ends with an ‘E”…you can just say “Happy Holidays”, put your butt into your own car and drive yourself home, plug in a great sci-fi flick or log in to your favorite virtual world. I mean, what better gift to give yourself than peace of mind and a stress-free evening filled with what YOU want to do?

Finally, let’s wrap up with a bit of hope, good cheer and generosity of holiday spirit:

Yesterday, my pal JJ came into town and specifically asked me to watch over a childhood friend of his that moved from New York City to Las Vegas a few months ago. So, this year I’m doing an “Adopt-a-friend” program where JJ’s pal gets to tour the city with me to see all of the lights, colors and unique parts of celebrating Christmas in the Desert. (Yes, they wrap the cacti with twinkle lights, just don’t ask me how they do it.) It just goes to show that you can be single during the holidays, but you never have to spend them alone if you don’t want to. The best gift in the world is remembering to be grateful for what you have and sharing your positive mental attitude with everyone you meet.

Love, hope, recovery and a sense of humor starts in only one place…INSIDE YOU!

Happy Holidays!

Song of the day comes from the band that brought us my blog’s theme song, “Marching On.”

OneRepublic and “I Lived.”

 

Black Widow

As we know, I’m quite the sleuth.  We also know that I’m a movie fanatic. Today’s tale originates where those two worlds collide. The first tale I related about research yielded an actual haunted house, this time it takes us to a place that I personally view as even more sinister.

Thanks to digital public records and the Freedom of Information Act, diggers and amateur sleuths like myself can find almost anything. Give me a name, general location and an idea of what to find, and odds are I’ll find more than even I bargained for.  Case in point, if you haven’t sampled my sleuthing skills, try looking back at “What ‘Lives’ In Houses.” The “Houses” piece was a fine piece of digging (if I do say so myself) because it saved a whole lot of money, trouble and unnecessary “nightmares.” (No kidding, right? That piece still gives me chills.)

Before we get into the particulars of this round of sleuthing, I need to put a few qualifiers on what I’m going to be relating. While I was working on my minor at UNLV, I was given the opportunity to learn about something called “Strengths-Based Leadership.” The Strengths-based theory basically says that when you identify a strength you personally possess, if you work on it, you become even better at it by leaps and bounds. When it comes to weaknesses, the same doesn’t apply. A weakness you can practice at, but you’re only going to get marginal results in contrast to working on your strengths. So strengths-based theory says it’s best to hone your strengths and surround yourself with people who have strengths that compliment your own, minimizing weaknesses for all involved.

So, with the strengths-based theory in tow, when I decide to dig into a research topic, I view it as taking my brain to the gym, a workout for my input strength. For those interested, my top five strengths in order are:

  1. Strategic
  2. Ideation
  3. Connectedness
  4. Input
  5. Restorative

 

(All links open in a new tab.  Don’t worry, I’ll still be here after you get done looking at those. If you want to find your own strengths, I suggest the Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, it’s what we used at UNLV.)

Research is one of my passions because I view it as a personal challenge. I challenge myself to find things that no one else would put together; to find some sort of usable insight that I can file away for use later; or to help out on a project a friend might be working on. Mostly it’s the thrill of the hunt, to see what or how much I can find.

Today’s research project started as a lark, just to keep my digging skills sharp. For even more of a challenge, I chose an unorthodox research topic. What I ended up finding was eerily similar to the experience surrounding “What ‘Lives’ In Houses.” The difference is that this subject, that after I dug into it, I wish that I hadn’t because what I found was truly chilling, even more so than the details surrounding that haunted house.

Before I go further into today’s tale, let’s briefly visit a 1987 film starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell, “Black Widow”:

With that film in mind, today’s research project is one where I guess you could say I took on Debra Winger’s role (gratefully without the green windows). As to the topic, my interest was piqued by the story of a woman who seemed to change husbands and names more often than she changed her underwear; in doing so, leaving a wake of destruction the likes of which I have heard stories of, but (thank heavens) never directly encountered.

On initial search, I found that the woman had at least five different aliases. Big deal right? Humdrum stuff, but then I discovered through public records that she has been winding her way through small midwestern towns targeting wealthy men since 1994. Out of the 20 years she has been victimizing men, she has had (count ’em!) FIVE husbands. (As a point of trivia, she’s two away from Liz Taylor’s record of seven.)

Here’s where it gets chilling. On looking at each of her five husbands, I found that just a short time before she married each one, each of the five divorced their existing wives to marry her sometimes a few short weeks to a month or so later. In each case, the public court documents show that she immediately has a baby with each new husband, then proceeds to divorce each one always less than two years later. The court records show that she always wins child support in an amount in excess of more than most folks can afford in a month and that she goes back repeatedly to court every opportunity she can seize to fleece more money from her victim, leaving them with massive debt, in excess of tens of thousands of dollars, forcing three of the five men directly into bankruptcy.

What’s worse is that along with the string of husbands I found, I also discovered that after each husband is discarded, she begins to run into legal and financial trouble with credit card companies, even the IRS. Then, by what seems like magic, her financial woes go away and the cases close at the same time as the arrival of a newly divorced new husband.

She’s up to five victims husbands already. I feel real sorry for number six because they won’t even see her coming.

Well, at least I have to give the woman props, she doesn’t go as far as Theresa Russell’s character in the film by murdering and burying each husband, thank goodness. What really bothers me are the five families she has basically destroyed for the sake of her insecurities and vanity.

I guess she looks at families and husbands the way I look at research, a challenge to keep her skills sharp. Between you and me, I’d rather be a digital sleuth, at least that’s just harmless curiosity that doesn’t hurt a fly.

It chills me to the bone to think that there are women out there who do things like this all the time and get away with it. And just think, I found that information all within a few hours just by searching through public records. What takes it from chilling to sinister is that she seems to precisely orchestrate her exit down to the month and day, carefully executing her plan in order to exact the maximum amount of financial gain and maximum emotional damage, leaving those poor men to pick up her extravagant tab. I’m serious, every two years she goes through another one.

I think this one hits me as even more sinister than the haunted house because of one simple fact: The house is stationary, we know where it is. With the Black Widow I dug up, she could be anywhere, and I think that’s what truly scares the willies out of me the worst.

Where’s a shoe or a huge bottle of bug spray when you need it?

Please, for me, be careful out there. Don’t let someone like that happen to you.

1,825

In any job interview, there is always one question that sticks out: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

When that question has come up for me in the past, I never really had an answer. Do any of us? We’re all so busy trying to survive, I don’t think a lot of us have the foresight to look that far down the road and think “THAT is where I want to be in five years.” It’s usually, “Am I going to be able to make rent next month?” or “I’m more worried about the next six months than I am the next five years. Who knows where I’ll be?”

1,825 days ago, a life-changing event happened to me that threatened to take me down for the count: I discovered my then-husband in bed with someone else.

I don’t care who you are, when you find the person you promised to love “until death do you part” inserting his Tab “A” into someone else’s Slot “B”, your mind will reel.  When it happened to me, I was decimated. My world as I had known it had crumbled and I was powerless to stop it or do anything about it.

When I asked him if he ever considered my feelings when I found out about his affair, all I received as an answer was a very icy, “No.” He could have cared less about how badly he had hurt me. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t want me anymore. He had found someone new and he was moving on, end of story. It became quite clear he had no ethical objections to abandoning me as he quickly left town to move across the country with his new whatever-she-is, only to impose on me to pay for storing his stuff until he was ready to come pick it up. He even left his car behind which I had to start once a week, a constant reminder of how little I meant to him, forced to care for someone’s things who could have cared less about me.

While the pain of the betrayal really rocked my world for the first couple of years after being left with almost nothing, I have given up on being bitter because it’s just a waste of time. Now, I just hope my ex-husband has found contentment with the choices he has made and now has to live with on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, every time I see a Basset Hound I quietly chuckle to myself along with Chihuahuas remaining  in my mind as footballs-on-feet just waiting to be punted through the uprights. I think of it this way: if I can embrace one of the darkest and most sinister betrayals I have ever encountered with that much of a sense of humor, I’m doing pretty good; it’s all that’s really left of the anger I have for my ex-husband. Oh, but that thing he ran off with? The only thing I have to say about that is that I’m really sorry no one ever told her that she came with a shelf life. Judging by his first two wives’ clocks, she’s only got a little bit of time left until she’s discarded for a newer model. I’m sorry if that disappoints anyone but just on principle there are some things I just haven’t had the ability to let go because no matter how hard anyone may try, there’s just no way to shove the manure back into the horse on that one. She asked for it, she got it.

In the aftermath, I immediately reached out to my friends for support. The very first person I reached out to was my close friend KP because he had gone through something eerily similar and I knew I could trust and rely on his wisdom.  As my voice trembled through relaying the events that had just transpired, KP did what he has always done for me, he ‘kept it real’. He told me that there was no time for a pity party, no time for blame, hatred or revenge, but that I had only one pressing task ahead of me: “to build a bridge and get over it.”

While KP and I spoke daily to help me get my bridge components together, my massive support structure, consisting of my virtual family from around the globe, immediately built a fortress of protection around me.  Their words of comfort  and encouragement became my strength as I endured the trauma that immediately occurs when you are forced to go through the process of marital demise, something I like to call “The Six Week Epic Suck”.

After that first six weeks and multiple discussions with family and friends, I realized that I was being faced with a character-defining moment: how I would handle the situation would define me and eventually tell me what kind of person I really was.  I had a choice to make: I could either ride the shame spiral forever and let what happened defeat me, or I could defiantly pick myself up by my bootstraps, keep on walking and build myself a new life while I worked with KP on the emotional blueprints of the bridge that would help me get over a marriage gone belly-up.

So, I broke out the metaphorical hammer and nails, requesting old transcripts and ACT scores. Then I did something completely nuts: deciding to build the remainder of my bridge out of education: I went back to school, gaining admission on appeal to UNLV.

With his long history in academia, I decided to speak with my ex-husband about what major I should choose. I relayed to him that I was at a crossroads between my two life long loves: advertising –  which was housed in the journalism school – or go with what I do effortlessly and naturally: teaching. He immediately suggested that I major in education, because it wouldn’t require the self-promotion that I would have to do to be successful in a career in advertising (that I had dreamed of since I was a little girl). At seeing first-hand how many times his decisions had landed him on the rocks by losing him more than a few jobs in the time I had known him, combined with his arrogant, condescending tone which had gained him more than a few political enemies and an evisceration by the local press, I thought it best not to follow his advice. I immediately majored in Journalism and Media Studies.

1,825 days later, I am surrounded by the souvenirs of a journey of self-discovery. I look on my shelves and see a collection of academic works that I have used to start my own home library; a pile of notebooks filled with hand-written class notes chronicling more credit hours than I can count; a drawer full of university t-shirts and baseball caps, and a collection of photos filled with memories. The most important thing that marks the closing of this cycle in my life is my new  academic degree, a Bachelor of Arts, in get this:

Journalism and Media Studies with a focus in Integrated Marketing Communications with a minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement.”

Could that degree title get any longer? It’s definitely a mouthful.

Allow me to translate: Journalism and Media Studies means that I’m a student of the mass media, that I’m also a critic of that same media and that simply, I can write news stories, feature stories and things you would find through any news outlet.

A focus in Integrated Marketing Communications means that simply, I know how to use social media effectively for marketing purposes. The fun part is that my AA in Graphic Design for the Web ties in nicely here. This also means I can help you choose the right social media channels and a pile of additional fancy stuff that if I kept writing about it, we’d be here all day.

A minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement means that I have learned the leadership techniques, methods and awareness that you would find in the skill-set of a really great CEO.

You know, I would have never guessed in a million years that when my ex-husband left that he would inspire an epic comeback. That five years later I’d be sitting here helping everyone figure out that even though I’ve got some fancy-schmantzy degree title, I’m still just me, only with a new skill-set in some cases, and an existing skill-set that I’ve just made even better. Not to sound prideful, but the things I was good at before have evolved into something more akin to a juggernaut.

I know lots of folks that have let the disintegration of their marriage destroy their lives. One of my friends drinks a lot and you can tell the experience left a hole where my vibrant, funny friend used to be. Another one of my friends nearly had a nervous breakdown because of their extremely messy divorce, only to have their finalized divorce papers act as Carte Blanche to immediately find a new spouse, then wondering why that marriage went down in flames too. Yet another friend is constantly terrorized by their ex, making them even afraid to leave the house or post on Facebook for fear of another round of cruel eviscerations on social media.

I see the aftermath of marital demise all around me every day. I’m no saint by a long shot because I’ve even been through a fiasco or two since my marriage fell from bliss and landed with a resounding THUD.  But what remains is one simple fact: When my ex hit the door, I went to work on myself. Kinda like the Six Million Dollar Man…”We can rebuild her…” because no one was going to do it for me, the only person that could do that rebuilding was myself – and I’m still not done.

Towards the end, there were moments where I thought I wouldn’t see graduation. There were days where people told me they seriously doubted I would succeed because of the massive setbacks I had endured on my journey. The most mortifying question came from someone extremely close who asked,

“Well, you are going to finish, aren’t you?”

When I heard that question come from the mouth of someone who is naturally expected to be supportive, I never came so close to decking someone I love in all my life. To me, that’s an insult because you can tell they really don’t know jack beans about me.

Case in point:

When I was a kid, a friend of mine found me crying after a really hard day of being viciously bullied. I had tried to hide somewhere where I thought no one would find me but he did. He looked down at me and said, “Sheri, are you okay?” He said that my response changed his life. He said my 15-year-old face just looked up at him, sniffled and said, “I’m not okay right now, but I’m going to be.”

That same friend used to watch helplessly as a pack of ignorant bullies made it their daily mission to viciously attack me, every chance they got, day in and day out for YEARS. I guess you could say they had refined their ignorance into a science, calling me all sorts of names, terrorizing my every breath, much less move, and overall making sure that they exploited every opportunity to make my life into a living hell. If you ever saw Pretty In Pink, think of the dynamic between Molly Ringwald’s character and James Spader’s, that’s basically it.

What astounded my friend the most is that those bullies, no matter how cruel they got, no matter how horrific their attempts, they never broke my spirit. Of course, the more those bullies failed in their attempts to break my spirit, the more vicious they would become; leaving my friend to remark that he had never in his life seen anyone take such vicious mental beatings over such a prolonged period and survive it.

Here’s the secret: the one thing I knew, which no one else seemed to catch on to, was the fact  that I had hope. I knew things in the future had a chance at becoming better, however unlikely it seemed at the time.  I knew, even then, that change is the one constant in the universe that descends on all of us, whether we like it or not. Like Doc Cat says: “Change isn’t always possible, it’s probable.”

Admittedly, the bullying I was forced to endure during my childhood was there for a reason. All of the pain, hurt and tragedy I have endured is all connected to this one beautiful moment. Without them I wouldn’t have the fortitude and heart that has inevitably carried me when I thought I couldn’t take another step.  When I set my mind to do something, I will never waiver, I will never quit, I will never fail.  God help the person who decides to pull the Darwin Award Winning move of telling me that they doubt my competence by stating I can’t do something, I’ll do it anyway just to prove I can.

If you push me down. I’ll get back up.

If you tear me apart, I’ll  put myself back together.

If you set me on fire and try to destroy me, I’ll just rise from the ashes.

1,825 days filled with love, hope and recovery – all mixed with a healthy dose of humor.

From Day 1, all the way to Graduation.

It’s me and Teddy, in the middle of the Mojave, dreaming of better days ahead.

I’m Sheri. I’m a wise fool. I’ve been through hell and back again, but I have persevered.

 

I’m back: The 2014 Oscars

I have to open with some humble apologies because it’s been two years since my last Oscars post.  During that time I was unfortunately with someone who doesn’t like movies. Oh, who am I kidding? That was said so gently it doesn’t really give the proper gravitas to the situation. No, I must speak the truth: I was with someone who HATES movies. 

Dear Lord, I think my friend Squee just shot her soda pop all over her screen as she went,

“WHAT!”

Sorry Squee!

But yes, that is the unfortunate truth. When you are around someone who hates movies, merely watching the Oscars, God forbid tweeting or even thinking about writing a word about them becomes impossible. Say the word “actor” around that person and all that hisses from their lips is “thesssssssspian,” like a poisonous viper, spewing and filling the atmosphere around them with their venom, purposely ruining the magic of the movies for the entire theater-going and movie-loving crowd for at least 10 miles around them.  Yeech!

Yes, I was dating Lord Voldemort…with Nagini in tow…

And while you’re laughing…

 

Cue music!

 While the music is playing…keep reading!!!

 

I can love movies all I want again!  Hooray!

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it’s one of my favorite nights of the year, the one where I’m grateful I’m not an actor but ultimately grateful for all of the hardworking men and women that create the magic of the movies I love watching so much. Everyone but everyone who knows me knows how much I love movies.

From buttery popcorn to the concession stand napkins used to dry my eyes, movies inspire, fuel and ignite my imagination in a way nothing else in the universe can.

Think about it, without the magic of the movies, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for a living. If it weren’t for pioneers in special effects, I would have never known what it was like to be inside the digital world of Tron. So I guess you could say that I owe a lot to Hollywood and it’s that time of year to show my gratitude to everyone that participates in the film industry, from film students to riggers to high-paid directors.

But let’s get the details covered:

Preparing for the Broadcast

This morning when I woke up, I could feel the buzz in the air as I realized it was Oscar Sunday. As I went outside for my morning ritual of news and fresh air, I realized that I was LONG overdue for an Oscar-fueled extravaganza. After all, this is the very first Oscars post on the new site, so why not bring the thunder with one heck of an adventure!?!?

After that, it was to the showers because I realized that there are a few things I have always done for Oscar Night: have incredible food, comfy surroundings and with phone in hand, report it all to my Twitter feed.

The behind-the-scenes was the fun part this year. Between whole wheat angel hair pasta in meat sauce accompanied by fresh french bread and a salad drizzled with my mother’s homemade balsamic dressing (OMG, better than any dressing you can buy at the store), we watched the majority of the Red Carpet coverage from the dinner table.  As the Red Carpet wound down, I was done baking my world-famous Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (which I have aptly nicknamed “C4’s”) that explode with gooey chocolaty goodness over the tastebuds and are just as decadent as the fashions walking across the screen.

From this:

Ingredients all laid out
Ingredients all laid out

To this:

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Onto the sheet

To these:

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies ready to be eaten!
Cookies ready to eat!

Like I said on my Facebook feed earlier in the day:

Chocolate and Gold just goes.

With one bite into a C4, my mom went “Oh, these are rich.” Well, they’re supposed to be! It’s only Hollywood’s most glamorous night, so you better believe I’m going to have something that’s at least rich-tasting! (And if Hollywood got one taste of my C4’s, oh man, I’d be up to my armpits in orders for next year’s show! They are THAT good! The cookie dough smells like a Hershey bar before they’re baked. Even the most ravenous of chocoholics are sated with a single bite. No kidding.)

After the C4’s were carefully placed on the cooling racks, I was already onto Phase 2 of my Oscar-fueled nom-fest: The Brie plates. Filled with apples, red seedless grapes, crackers and small tub of spreadable brie, I brought the richness of the evening up another level. Like I said, I might not have all the money in the world, but my experiences are always worth more than a dime.

So, for your drooling pleasure, I present The Brie Plate:

Tell me your stomach isn't rumbling...

LOL! I just felt like Jerry Orbach’s “Lumiere” in Beauty and the Beast.

Now, let’s get on to the reason we’re all here:

The Broadcast

This morning, as I read the news, I happened upon an article in The Telegraph about how much pressure Ellen was under to deliver as host of the Oscars. The article even relived that eye-bleach needing, ‘please-don’t-make-me-watch-it’ feeling, “Styrofoam Man” debacle of James Franco’s, who with Anne Hathaway made a shambles of the Oscar telecast with their “young and edgy” thing. That banana peel of a broadcast made room for Billy Crystal to come back and host for a record ninth time (which I must admit…however much I love Billy…um, it didn’t go so well).

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the biggest Ellen fan in the world, but I will tell you in a heartbeat that she hit that “just right” mark dead on. Academy, you’ve got a winner. For chrissakes, SHE CRASHED TWITTER with a selfie from the audience!

If that doesn’t spell W-I-N-N-E-R to you, we need to talk.

That’s right everyone, I’m one of the two million plus who’s retweet-madness helped crash Twitter with Ellen’s Epic Selfie, probably one of the most unforgettable Oscar moments of all time.  I know this because why? Because my tweets wouldn’t send, my phone crashed and it was just a mess, but at least I can say it was a good mess. 

Speaking of Twitter: to catch up on all of my Tweets during the broadcast, check out my Twitter feed at…

Wait.
Wait…

Oh my sweet Lord, Twitter’s still jammed up!  I tried to log on to get you the right address for my tweets and the sucker took forever to launch…gee, thanks Ellen. I know a couple of network engineers that are really thanking you in their prayers tonight!

After taking forever to load, here’s where you want to go to check out my Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/etrnl_sophomore

But let’s get back to that epic selfie. Do you know, thus far, that photo has been retweeted over 2 million times?

Yup.

And if you’ve not seen the selfie, here it is:

ellen_epic_selfie2

 Click on the pic to go to Ellen’s feed, the photo has reached almost 2.4 million re-tweets as of this writing.

Ironically, I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point. I think this could be the moment where Twitter really tips and goes from 22 percent of any target audience to well over 50-60 percent. (Just my trendspotter gene rearing its’ ugly head of course, but I’m guessing you will want to check those numbers in a few months… but it’s just a hunch. If you want to check the accuracy of my hunches, ask my friends Amanda and Dan…they’ll tell you. *wink wink*)

But, notice how much I’ve focused on Ellen? That’s because she made the whole thing work. Instead of uncomfortable silences, we actually sat waiting for what she was going to do next.  I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a very good thing.

I loved how she ordered pizza and REALLY passed it around, prompting me to look at the Brie Plate I had created and subsequently tweeted:

I’m not sure, and maybe it’s just me, but among the pizza and other high jinx,  I even think she addressed the horrific reboot/remake trend sweeping Hollywood. It might just be me, but when she showed up on stage dressed as Glenda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz, she looked ridiculous, but it also made me remember when Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Oscars and came out dressed as Queen Elizabeth. Remember?

 

Compare the two…

 

 

See? Even if she did it unwittingly, she still poked fun at the movie industry with a sharp barb. The message is the same: Enough already. Don’t reboot something that really doesn’t need it.

Please Hollywood, I wrote about this how many years ago??? Stop trying to resuscitate a dead horse. The damn thing is friggin’ dead! Stop touching it! Let it alone!

Speaking of reboot and remake mad equine corpse-humpers…HEY!  Hey YOU! Yeah you, J.J. Abrams, I see you over there skulking in the shadows trying to sneak past without getting caught…get your G.D. hands off of Star Wars.  You already touched Star Trek,  so drop the camera, walk away and leave well enough alone. It’s bad enough George Lucas came through with a weed whacker and cut Darth Vader’s balls off in the three poorly acted prequels to the classic (read: “should have been left alone”) trilogy, but then YOU come along and give us a Mr. Spock that runs like a girl! Shame on you. I mean, did someone order the castration of our most iconic characters and not tell everyone?  (Don’t get me wrong, I adore Zachary Quinto, but that run needs some serious work; and when the bangs parted down the middle in the last Trek  outing…I went on a Melissa Leo-esque F-bomb tirade that lasted for an hour. Man up Zach, for no other reason than to preserve Leonard’s legacy. Spock is a man’s man, even on Vulcan. That is all.)

J.J., you have shaken and lens flared us enough…and casting Benedict Cumberbatch (oh I would have loved to be in the room when they came up with that poor bugger’s stage name…Zenglebert Slaptyback…) as the new Khan???  Sweet Lord, Ricardo
Montalbán is going to come back from the grave and pimp slap you both.

(And now there goes my best pal Barry shooting his soda all over the screen…sorry man, but I knew the weed whacker thing would get you…I know you are laughing right now, my brother…better yet, you gotta admit I’m RIGHT.)

SECURITY! Grab that J.J. fella by the scruff of his neck and escort him from the lot!!!  J.J. Abrams is persona non grata in my house because he’s double-dipping into (and arguably damaging) two great, time-honored franchises. I mean, it’s bad enough the actors are doing it…(Harrison Ford as Han Solo AND Indiana Jones…Chris Evans as The Human Torch (in The Fantastic Four) AND Captain America…Not to mention Ben Affleck getting into the act by being Daredevil along with gaining the distinction of being the next poor bastard who tries to be Batman…) Did anyone see Michael Keaton change franchises?  NO! .. Sweet Lord, what is wrong with you people? Ever heard of giving someone new a chance? Hell, what about the words of Edna Mode?  Will those get through?

NO CAPES!

 

How do we cure this madness!?!?

Ellen’s ‘Glenda’ costume said it all…”STOP WITH THE *BLEEP*ING REBOOTS AND REMAKES!” Not everyone deserves to double-dip in the franchise and character well and get away with it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world…

I know that tonight’s Oscar theme was “Heroes”, but did anyone else beside me get that the theme of the night really wasn’t “Heroes” but “Social Justice”? Notice what won in the really high-profile categories:

Jared Leto wins Best Supporting Actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club.

Lupita Nyong’o wins Best Supporting Actress for her work in Twelve Years a Slave.

Cate Blanchett wins Best Actress for her work in Blue Jasmine.

Matthew McConaughey wins Best Actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. (#AllRightAllRightAllRight)

Notice first, not one single remake or reboot in the lot. Second, look at the topics of the films…AIDS, slavery, mental illness, gender issues…these are all very, very much social justice topics…AND THEY ARE GETTING AWARDS for bringing awareness of these extremely real people into our collective consciousness!

Okay, if you want to have all the depth of a shot glass, you can say that they were just really good performances. Those of us with a little more depth are going to realize that the ultimate privilege that those four actors have is little thing called awareness. Awareness of social justice issues that Jared Leto talked about so brilliantly in his acceptance speech. “The Unshackled Minds” that Kim Novak eluded to when she helped present the awards for Animation…

 

You get it, I know you do.

When Matthew McConaughey won for best actor, the whole living room went up in cheers. Well, he is from Uvalde (for you non-Texans, it’s pronounced “You-val-dee” – emphasis on the You), how do I know that?  Let’s check the map…

Need I say more?

Oh there is one more little photo I just loved…especially since I live to be Chasing Tron:

 

That’s a quote I can definitely agree with.

All Right.
All Right.
All Right.

And for song of the day, one that hails the Sophomore back to the days of old when one of my old pals found me crying and asked me if I was going to be okay…

I looked them dead in the face and said, “I’m not okay right now, but I’m going to be.”

I’ve once again rescued myself, and I can promise you, no man, and no one, will ever be reaching down to push me further down while they claim to be trying to rescue me. I can do it myself, thank you very much. Tonight’s post proves it.

I’m back. Permanently.