Category Archives: Blog Posts

Keep Yourself (and Dad) Cool This Father’s Day

For many parts of the county June signifies the arrival of consistently warm weather and that annual weekend event honoring fathers.  Summer is just weeks away, but already in the Midwest we are seeing temperatures rise into the nineties, so it’s just as important to prepare for warmer weather as it is when we are expecting ice and snow.  How can we make the best of the of the day (and the season) without risking heatstroke or sunburn?

Involve everyone.

Plan Father’s Day activities to include the kids; let them have quality time with dad.  Let kids help prepare a special breakfast in bed, or simple handmade cards to celebrate.  Give Dad a break from weekend chores and let him indulge in a shared favorite activity with the kids, while you prepare a meal (Bonus: you may get a little peace and quiet for yourself!)

Father's Day 2010...

Photo credit: Јerry via Foter.com / CC BY

Food.

Food is a vital part of any celebration.  Remember it’s Dad’s day, so plan to include his favorites, whether that means firing up the grill or preparing his favorite breakfast or dessert.  My husband has his eye on upgrading our grill this year.  Does anyone know where to get a good deal on a professional quality model?

 

365/319 Father's Day

Photo credit: California Cow via Foter.com / CC BY

Take time out to chill in the shade.

If possible avoid spending time outside during the hottest part of the day. If you’re planning to be outside for the entire day or if you’ll be working in the heat, make sure you take a break in the shade to cool off, and drink plenty of fluids.

Keep hydrated.

If your idea of the perfect Father’s Day is a beer by the pool, make sure you limit the amount of alcohol you (or Dad) actually consumes.  Alcohol actually causes dehydration, which can increase the risk for heat exhaustion or heatstroke.  Make sure to keep plenty of cool, nonalcoholic beverages available for yourself and your guests.

 

Father's Day Bliss

Photo credit: Olaf via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Don’t let sunburn spoil the fun.  Whatever type of sunscreen you choose, be it waterproof, spray-on, wipe-on, sports activity or sensitive; make sure you follow the directions.  Also, remember that scalps burn too.  My husband found that out the hard way last year after a long motorcycle ride, so either work sunscreen into hair, especially if it’s thin or fine, or wear a hat.

Seek relief with indoor activities.

If you have small children and/or elderly parents to entertain, they may not be equipped to deal with high temperatures, especially in areas where humidity is common.  It may be best to plan some activities that involve air conditioning.  Movies can be fun for all ages, but this year has been rather hit and miss for quality, so take time to look at reviews and pick something everyone can enjoy.

Above all else, have fun and a Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there.

Amy

 

Who Would You Shield?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “shield?”  A shield can be a company logo, a symbol of authority, a weapon used by medieval warriors and the occasional costumed superhero, or the acronym for their organization.  However, a shield can also be a verb; to shield means to protect, to shelter, to defend against words or weapons, sometimes at personal sacrifice.

4368 Shield

Photo credit: steeljam via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

In today’s world we are often surrounded by dangers and troubles.  Accidents, disease, and crime are not something we can always guard against.  We try to shield our children from the harsh realities of violence; we would shield those we love from any who seek to harm them; we use a shield, often metaphorically, as a defense against painful words or concepts.

When my children were small, I wanted to shield them from the world, keep them safe and innocent of all the evils that existed.  I never wanted them to be subjected to bullies, or peer pressure, or rejection from potential love interests.  Of course, to keep them from all emotional turmoil would have been not only impossible but a real disservice to them in the long run.  Better that I teach and guide them as they began to step out from behind my shield, than to keep them ignorant and unprepared.

shielded

Photo credit: Djuliet via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

As a mother with two now-grown children I had to learn to allow my children to experience life.  Yes, I guarded them from all harm, but I allowed my shield to be transparent while doing so.  In other words, I explained to them why I protected them and from what or who, so they could see and hopefully understand the dangers they could face when they stepped into the world on their own.  Eventually, I knew, the time would come when I could no longer protect them, but must trust that they were well prepared to protect themselves.

That doesn’t mean my shield isn’t still there, ready to grab at a moment’s notice.  I’ve learned the instinct to protect doesn’t go away when the children move out and start their own lives.  However, that’s not necessary as often now, as they have shields of their own, ready to protect themselves and their loved ones whenever necessary.

Here’s to acknowledging those we will always want to protect,

Amy

Dare We Pin Our Hopes on Girl Power?

image courtesy of dccomics.com

My love affair with superheroes began when I was about eight, seeking out the comic book section of the grocery store while my parents stood in line.  I eagerly perused the new issues each week, searching for a good story to accompany the colorful illustrations, and quickly found a number of favorites.  I was disappointed; however, that almost all of the “heroes” were men.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading about Batman and Superman, but it seemed most of the women who wore costumes were sidekicks, cousins, or nieces of the male heroes, who were considered the main attraction.

Where was the role model for young girls?  Only one female “superheroine” stood out to me as being a character in her own right, with her own storylines not dependent on a relationship with a male character.  Who was this independent woman-Wonder Woman of course!  She could fight the bad guys as well as any costumed superhero, with strength, speed, and grace that defied the laws of physics, as well as the limits of ordinary men.  She was beautiful, brilliant, and had her own gadgets, not to mention an invisible plane.  What made her really stand out though, was her kindness, and her resolve to end conflicts without violence whenever possible.

 

Wonder Woman Poster
image courtesy of imbd.com

“Wonder Woman” began her career as a comic book character in 1941.  She has graced numerous issues since then, both as a solo character and as a member of the Justice League.  She appeared in numerous cartoons and a live-action television series in the 1970s.  Over the years, her image has graced every sort of merchandise imaginable, including lunch boxes, Barbie dolls, and costumes to fit fans of every age. She has been held up as an icon for feminism, for female independence, for patriotism thanks to her early years fighting Nazis and her colorful costume, and as a role model for impressionable young girls.

Last year, she made her big screen debut in the somewhat disappointing Marvel D.C. epic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Despite the problems with the last few Marvel D.C. features, including the most recent, Suicide Squad, I’m still holding out hope that the movie version of Wonder Woman, coming to theatres on June 2nd, is worthy of the legacy of the character.  I’m crossing my fingers that Warner Bros. have learned from the issues with their other features: namely, that big budget special effects don’t make up for poorly developed plots and badly underdeveloped characters.

image courtesy of rottentomatoes.com

I’m hoping that the newest incarnation of my favorite childhood superheroine actually lives up to the hype her character deserves.  In an age where superheroes are no longer considered just for kids, don’t we deserve an epic blockbuster about the number one costumed female hero of all time?

Here’s to seeing you in the ticket line.

Amy

Whoops!  Sorry, everyone.   Of course, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman are products of D.C., not Marvel.  I obviously did not drink my tea before I wrote that.  My apologies for the confusion.

 

 

“Spring” as a Metaphor

As we begin the first week of April the Midwest is finally seeing the promise made by the groundhog’s shadow and the advent of the vernal equinox fulfilled.   The trees are budding and flowers begin to bloom in sunny beds, but this “spring” can mean more to our lives than a call for lighter clothing. The warmer weather beckons us to get outside, and live-walk, play, plant a garden, or simply to enjoy the fresh scents and sights of the season as the cold retreats and the snow and ice disappear.

People walking under trees in pink blossom

Photo credit: Foter.com

The season we call “spring” heralds mild weather and new plant and animal life, but the concept of spring is also symbolic of renewal, rebirth, and a fresh take on our lives and surroundings.   We can be filled with a sense of restored energy, the motivation and inspiration to make changes, to learn a new skill or try a new direction.

Spring can be just the excuse we need to finish, or start, the project we’ve been putting off.  What better time, than when everything around us is green and new, to create, to complete, to reinvent our own selves?

Children in tulip field

Photo credit: Foter.com

So let’s take up the challenge most of us abandoned along with our new year’s resolutions.  Let’s finish those home improvement projects, let’s dig into the fertile soil and write a new chapter in our lives.   Let’s strive, once again, to be the individuals whom we’ve always dreamed we’d be, if only we had another chance.  Today, and this season, is the time to reassess our goals, and look forward optimistically for a better future.  After all, the earth itself renews with the new season, so why can’t we?

Happy Spring,

Amy

 

Everyday Superheroines

Not every heroine wears a cape or tights.  Not every woman who deserves our respect or our accolades dresses in a colorful costume.  The women in our every day, real lives have more of an impact on our world than any who has ever graced the screen or decorated a book cover.  In honor of International Women’s Day, which is Wednesday, March 8th, I wanted to point out some of the attributes of these ordinary female heroes.

Past present and future

Photo credit: Sarah Ross photography via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

You probably know at least one of these superstars.  You may have one in your own home, or school, or workplace.   You most certainly see them at the grocery store, in the carpool lane, or at your favorite restaurant.  These women may not stand out as the heroines they are.   They may be hiding behind a façade as impervious as a secret identity, unlikely to be detected except by the few who truly understand and acknowledge their value.

A woman that gives her all for the betterment of others is a hero to those who depend on her.  Whatever her title or position, it is in her nature to help, to nurture, to guide those in her care to the best of her ability.  She is all the more remarkable for the fact that she may be unappreciated, taken for granted, or underestimated for exactly how much she accomplishes on a daily basis.

In a society that places unrealistic expectations on what a young girl should look like, dress like, and achieve, it’s more important than ever that we teach our future superheroines to be strong, to be competent, and to be compassionate.  Media images and bias make it difficult for these future leaders to develop healthy self-esteem and self-confidence, so crucial to them taking their place in the world.

So take a moment tomorrow and check out the women standing in line around you, sitting at the next desk, or waiting at the pump.  She may be cooking your breakfast, or prepping your flu shot.  She may have information you need, or questions to ask.  She may be a superheroine in disguise.  Whoever she is, take time to smile, and acknowledge her importance to your world today.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Amy

 

Why We Appreciate Doomed Relationships

Some of you will remember my last post was on the importance of expressing your feelings for those who give meaning to our lives.  Today, I decided to write about the other side of the coin-those relationships that do not work out the way we hope.  Most of us are not lucky enough to find “the one” on the first try, or have lived happily ever after without effort on our parts.

For every great successful love story, there is “the one that got away” or the “star-crossed lovers” that we all hope to avoid in our own lives, but are more than ready to cry over when it happens to our favorite fictional characters.

Broken Heart Grunge

Photo credit: Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca via Foter.com / CC BY

The concept of the “star-crossed” lovers is hardly a new notion.  Early myths detail stories of relationships that never had a chance thanks to outside forces like jealous gods (such as the Greek story of Artemis and Orion) or terrible monsters (the Norse Beowulf).  Classic literature details heroes and heroines who could not make love last (think Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and their feuding families; or Hamlet and Ophelia, separated by revenge and madness).

Romeo-Juliet5

Photo credit: Vancouver Island University via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Our ancestors hardly have a monopoly on stories where the hero did not get the girl, either.  Modern media portrays a constant stream of relationships that face impossible odds of success.  From the agonizing love triangle of Casablanca, to Jack and Rose whose relationship failed thanks to the Titanic colliding with an iceberg, to Buffy and Angel who could not be together because Angel would lose his soul, to Thor who was separated from Jane by his godhood and a broken trans-world portal.

 

Tragic Lovers

Photo credit: NMCIL via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

So why are we attracted to tragedy?  All of these characters have qualities we hope to see in ourselves.  We share in their optimism, their passion, and their aspirations.  They seemingly have a chance at love, but face insurmountable obstacles that ultimately result in tragedy.  We root for them when they are happy, we cry with them when they are sad, and feel their losses when they are torn apart.  We feel a connection to them in a way we could not if they did not experience grief and strife, because that is what makes them more human.

It is these very human qualities that we can identify with; because the characters of a tragedy do not end with happily ever after, they are all the more realistic and important to us.

So pull out a box of tissues and watch your favorite sob story.  Reminisce with someone about the hardships you’ve faced in your own life, which hopefully have made you stronger and better prepared for the next challenge.  Take heart in the impossible odds others have faced, and know you are not alone.

Until next time,

Amy

 

“Love is…” a Celebration

I sat down to write a post about the most obvious topic of all for today-love.  That is something we all consider on Valentine’s Day, whether we choose to acknowledge it as a legitimate holiday or not.  It’s all too easy to take a cynical approach and call it a “holiday made up by the greeting card companies” because of its hype based around heart-shaped and chocolate wares, but the holiday has been around far longer the commercialism of the twentieth century.

Tree of Love

Photo credit: maf04 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

In the past what we now call Valentine’s Day held other meanings, from pagan beginnings that involved blood sacrifices and fertility rituals, to martyred saints. Interestingly paper cards to celebrate the day have actually been around since the Middle Ages.[i]

The main purpose of the holiday as we know it, however, is love; to be celebrated, contemplated, longed for.  It is a day to cherish those who share our lives, whether they are spouses, lovers, family, or friends.  How exactly we choose to express our feelings about them holds as many options as there are relations out there.

Happy Valentines Day!

Photo credit: micadew via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

So how do you pick from the multitude of merchandise, from the plethora of songs, from the abundance of flowers, to the profusion of restaurants offering packages just for this one day?  How do you choose to show the one(s) you care about the most how you feel?  Do you even need to spend money to convey your feelings, or can you find a better way to express your love?

The most important thing to consider is the object of your affections.  What will they appreciate the most?  Are they certified chocoholics, or have some other weakness you can use to your advantage?  Do they prefer to go out, or spend a quiet evening at home?  The best gift is one tailored especially to your love, whatever that may be.

And while you are choosing something special your valentine will appreciate, don’t forget to insert a little of your own unique personality as well.  Those who return our affections will be most impressed with a gift that celebrates what the two of you have in common, or that that show an investment of thought and time from the giver.

Don’t despair if you’ve put off marking this day to the very last minute-there’s still time to text or to go old school and make a handwritten card with a special message, or plan a special meal, even if that is just a heart-shaped pizza and a favorite dessert.  Put on the radio, light some candles, and dance with your special people.  Face time if you can’t be together.  Watch a movie you love.  Above all, put into words just exactly what these individuals mean to you, how much you appreciate them today, and always.

However you choose to celebrate it, Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

Amy


[i] For more information on the history of Valentine’s Day see this link: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

 

Don’t Discount History’s Part in Our Future

There’s no question we live in an amazing time.  Technology is exploding around us; we have experiences and opportunities that our ancestors cannot begin to imagine.  As we enter a new year we can witness the birth of Virtual Reality and expect a manned mission to Mars in our lifetimes, but we should realize that none of these things came out of thin air.  The amazing accomplishments we benefit from today were built on a foundation of successes in the past, things that in their own time were just as amazing.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/i/isaac_newton.html

It would be too easy to assume in our pride and arrogance that we are better, smarter,  than those who came before us, but what we have to remember is that our successes would not be possible without those which came before us.  Each generation makes their own advances, successes and failures; and history has proven that no step forward is gained without a price.

I remember walking with my father and listening as he told amazing tales of his past.  Oh, there were no computers or any other technical advancement in his tales, but that did not make them any less remarkable.  He lived in a time where such things either did not exist or were far simpler, but he had incredible experiences without the burden of such hardware.

My father travelled from Tennessee to Washington D.C. to work on the construction of the Watergate Apartment complex.  He raised free-range turkeys on a plot of land that had been in the family for generations.  He sold his farm to move to the city so he could make a better living to support his family.

I cannot totally comprehend the times he lived in; just as I am sure he probably wouldn’t understand many aspects of the life I live now.  That does not mean we could not appreciate each other, or that we had nothing in common.  We could relate to each other on the most basic human levels, and those have never changed.

While times and technology may change, people remain the same.  They live, they love, and they face challenges and solve problems.  People continue to be human, no matter how advanced they become, and what the future holds.  And while we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished in the here and now, there will always be a successive generation to think we are old-fashioned, boring, and out of touch.

Be kind to your elders, and your kids.  You have been and one day will be walking in their shoes.

Amy

 

Who Dun It?

Do you ever play the guessing game when watching your favorite TV show?  Do you try to predict who the killer is or who is having an affair before the stars come back from the next commercial break?  While a good show will keep its viewers guessing right up to the very end, there are actually a finite number of variables the writers have to work with.  While there are a very large number of possible outcomes to any scenario, there are only so many choices to be made without becoming predictable, or being compared to a show on another channel.

Everything old becomes new again.

After all, who wants to be accused of copying someone else’s ideas?  It’s said that there are no original story ideas left, and that every plot, every story, is a repetition of something that’s been done before, many times.  It’s true there are trends in media and in literature; there are certain subjects that enjoy such popularity that they are omnipresent, if only for a short while.

Zombies...

Photo credit: Kat Northern Lights Man via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

For example, Zombies are really popular right now.  You can watch them on multiple TV channels and at the box office.  You can read about them in all types of books or shoot them in a number of video games.  You can even buy tee-shirts depicting the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse (my son has one).  Zombies are not really a new idea.  The “undead hordes” have been popular for multiple generations, and are close cousins with the old-fashioned victims of voodoo curses of past plotlines.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The fact is, certain story ideas are timeless, and I don’t just mean those that involve time travel, another popular trend that sees a resurgence every few years.   From Orson Wells’ machine to alien time lords, we have long been enamored by the concept of changing the past or previewing the future early.  Whether an adventurer faces prehistoric monsters or futuristic mutants, or simply has the opportunity to right a terrible wrong, we will tune in each week or turn the pages to see history as it is remade to a writer’s whim.

There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.

 Sherlock Holmes quotes 

The Detective

Photo credit: paurian via Foter.com / CC BY

Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic character Sherlock Holmes, written in the late 19th century, features a famous detective and his veteran-doctor companion.  Almost every school child is familiar with Doyle’s works, and not just because it’s required reading in literature.  Sherlock is still as vital today as he was in 1890, thanks to imitation ranging from a Disney mouse detective to a plethora of movie adaptations.  (Of course, in my opinion the best of these is from the BBC/Masterpiece show titled simply “Sherlock” which is finally back for its fourth season, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.)

An idea may not be completely original, but that doesn’t always mean it’s familiar to us.  An enterprising writer can take an old idea and reshape it in such a way that its feels brand new.   In the end, what matters most to us regarding our TV/movie/literature characters and plots is that we are entertained.

So the next time you indulge in watching or reading, consider-does the plot seem familiar?  Does the writer keep you guessing, or are there enough clues provided that you can determine the ending?  Does your enjoyment come from suspense, or the familiarity of a favorite theme?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

I leave you with one more of mine-even if an idea is not original, each new generation can provide an audience to hear and see it for the first time, and an interpreter to retell a story in an entirely new manner.

Thanks for reading,

Amy

 

Moving Forward: A Science Fiction House

When we can order supplies from an Internet supplier with a verbal command, pre-program washing machines and dishwashers to start cycles at a certain time, and have small robots clean floors for us, today’s houses are starting to sound like a science fiction story.

This past Christmas my husband gifted me with an Alexa Dot, a device that, with a verbal command, will give the speaker updates on weather or notes on personal calendars, play music from an Amazon account or other Wi-Fi sources, connect to blue tooth devices, and a whole list of functions that can be downloaded.

This little gadget is only one more example of the amazing inventions that have come to pass, and the level of technology that is now commonplace at home.  We now have programmable thermostats and security systems that can be controlled from a smartphone.  We are being spoilt by devices that can record our favorite TV shows, pay for our gas with a wave of a piece of plastic the size of a thumb, and give us satellite data about current traffic conditions.

Ray Bradbury’s prophetic short story, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,” published originally in 1950, tells of a house that was so automated that it continued performing duties for a family no longer around to appreciate it.  Today, we are very close to achieving the level of automation in our homes that Bradbury envisioned, though hopefully our future will not be as bleak as in the story!

“In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o’clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o’clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty.”

A house that could potentially run itself is probably not that far off in the future, certainly something I could see in our lifetimes.  The question is, how will we manage?  What will we do to fill our spare time when we no longer have “housework” to do, because the house takes care of it for us?

Will we become so reliant on our technology that we can no longer function without it, or will we use our free time to become more productive, more creative, and more capable in other endeavors?

I welcome your thoughts on this subject; it is hard to dispute though that we are living in interesting times.

Happy 2017!

Amy

p.s. there is a YouTube video of Leonard Nimoy reading this classic story, just follow the link here: https://youtu.be/LzhlU8rXgHc