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Friday, October 28, 2011

Angel is...what?!

"My blood runs cold/ My memory has just been sold/ My Angel is the centerfold/ Angel is the centerfold." - "Centerfold" by J. Geils Band

In the past, I always changed the station when this song came on the radio while I was with the girls I work with because I didn't think their parents would want their very sheltered kids to sing a song about a Playboy model. But when I found out that the girls already knew the song because they heard it with their mom and dad, I figured it was fine and let John Geils sing away about his homeroom angel.

So we were driving along today, rocking out to the radio in the minivan (you're picturing this and laughing, aren't you?), and the seven-year-old asks, "Why would someone sing about concrete?" I had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked where she heard a song about concrete, thinking maybe it had to do with sidewalks or something. She looked at me like I was an idiot, pointed to the radio, and said, "It's on right now! Why does the band sing 'My Angel is on a concrete floor/ Angel's on a concrete floor'." How was I supposed to respond to that? Deciding it was easier just to go along with her strange yet innocent misheard lyrics, I just told her I had no clue why anyone would sing about concrete, then distracted her with talk of the changing leaves outside. Awkward explanation averted!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Here's the Story...

"Here's the story/ Of a lovely lady..." - theme to The Brady Bunch

I am a huge fan of classic TV, mainly the sitcoms of the '60s and '70s. When I was in second or third grade, I would sneak out of bed at night, angry at my unreasonable 8:30 bedtime, and sit in the hallway where I could see the TV but my mom couldn't see me, and watch these great old shows on Nick at Nite.

But were they really the great, wholesome family entertainment that they were made out to be? Thanks to my overactive imagination, I have come up with some alternate storylines about the seedy underbelly of classic sitcoms that you may not only find surprising, but shocking in nature! Buckle your seatbelts boys and girls. We are about to enter the Twilight Zone (do do do do/ do do do do/ do do do do...)

* Disclaimer: The following storylines were made up by me, purely for my own amusement. I honestly love all of these shows, and I think I may be losing my mind a little after reading some of the stuff I came up with, but who cares? Enjoy!*

Let's start with "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis". On the surface, this seems like a nice sitcom about Dobie and his friend, Maynard G. Krebs, who was TV's first beatnik. But what people didn't know, is that Dobie Gillis was aspiring to be television's very first polygamist! Long before the days of "Big Love" and "Sister Wives", Dobie was planning on marrying his many loves and building a compound in Utah. I hope those girls were careful though. Just look at this next picture:

Next on the list is "The Andy Griffith Show". How, you ask, can the Taylor family of Mayberry, NC be anything other than a good old-fashioned American family? Well, what Andy didn't tell you was that Opie wasn't his son's full first name. Nope. Opie, in fact, was short for Opium. Now ask yourselves why the sheriff had a son named Opium Taylor. I think the sleepy town of Mayberry may have been a front for an underground drug ring that supplied opiates to the Southern states. Oh yeah, Aunt Bee was in on it too. She always added a little something special to everything she made in the kitchen!

Remember the Cleavers, the average goody-goody family on "Leave it to Beaver"? Well, they may not have been like the family next door after all.

I seem to recall Ward smoking a pipe quite a bit, and I am beginning to think that it wasn't filled with tobacco. Instead, I think Ward was the ringleader of a marijuana cartel whose members also included Jim Anderson from "Father Knows Best" and maybe even Ozzie Nelson from "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet". Adventures indeed! The frequent drug use could explain why Ward named his oldest son Wallus and chose to call his baby boy Beaver, somehow short for Theodore. And Jim could never even remember his kids' names, instead calling them generic nicknames like Kitten, Princess, and Bud. And don't think it was only the TV fathers who were one toke over the line. Oh no, the mothers were potheads too! Why else would they be so happy to stay home all day, cooking and cleaning in their high heels and pearls. They had to have a Mother's Little Helper to get them through the day (think of the Rolling Stones song)!

Now why, in 1961 when "Mister Ed" first aired, did nobody realize the real reason Wilbur Post moved out to the country was to fulfill his lifelong dream of making and selling bathtub gin and homemade whiskey? Of course they couldn't show these doings on TV, but good old Wilbur new he was on to something when that horse began talking to him. Yep, that was some good stuff! Something else that wasn't shown, was that the booze business steadily picked up steam, and Wilbur had to hire some help. Enter Uncle Joe from "Petticoat Junction" and later on Oliver Douglas from "Green Acres". They were a terrible trio, for sure, and television audiences were completely in the dark...until now.

Anybody remember Sally Field flying through the air as Sister Bertrille on "The Flying Nun"? I have come to the conclusion that no one in their right mind would wear that get-up, and it's now painfully obvious that LSD is what made her fly. I know, it's terrible, isn't it? A couple years before LSD was first mentioned on TV in the classic Blue Boy episode of "Dragnet", the Flying Nun was flying high on acid. It was way too risky to mention the truth on a family show, even if LSD was not illegal yet, and the creators of this show just assumed that no one would find out. Well, think again!

Ah, yes, the first witch on TV. Admit it, you always thought something fishy was going on while you watched "Bewitched", didn't you? Well, you were right! All that nose twitching was not just to cast spells. No, it was really a rather unfortunate side effect of cronic cocaine use. Samantha, Samantha, Samantha. What would Endora say? Come to think of it, I bet Endora was her dealer! That makes perfect sense. She always was a little out there. The years of cocaine use also explains why Samantha's husband, Darrin, had a total face transplant in the middle of season four and she never even noticed! Take a look below at how oblivious she is to her husband's switcheroo. She's just smiling away, with a bit of a crazed look in her eyes. Shocking.

Follow me as we near the end of the 1960s and take a look at one of the most beloved TV families in history, the Bradys.

Don't they look groovy with their outta sight clothes and far out permed hair (I'm talking about you, Brady men!)? Naturally, but the unofficial Brady family member was not as happy as everyone thought. Alice Nelson was out to get the Bradys at every opportunity, especially dinner time!

Poor overworked Alice. She rarely got a day off, had to wear those terrible uniforms (who wouldn't be furious?!), and was forced to sleep in a room on the main floor off of the kitchen. What she really wanted was to have the attic all to herself, but no! Greg and Marcia had to fight over it instead. Spoiled rotten children! And Alice always dreamed of wearing short dresses like Marcia and wearing a cool black wig like Jan, but it was against the rules strictly inforced by Mike and Carol. She had to remain in her uniform at all times. After hearing all this, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Alice routinely laced the Brady Bunch's food with shrooms. No one realized this until the Brady movies came out in the 90s, but Alice sent that family on strange trips all the time. Meatloaf? Check. Pot roast? Check. Pork chops and applesauce? Double check. That kind of explains the wacky clothes and male perms, doesn't it? Those poor Brady's never saw it coming...

Hold on, don't get off the ride yet! We have one more family that you probably thought was a little off all along. Just one year after "The Brady Bunch" made it's TV debut, viewers were in for another treat with "The Partridge Family".

Their music may have been good family fun, but these guys had a real wild side! When they weren't filming their show, the Partridges were touring as The Grateful Dead's opening act, and their road crew was none other than Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters! Did you really think little Chris was going to set up his own drums and Tracy was going to carry around that heavy tambourine all day? I think not. And boy did those kids like their really swell Kool Aid! In fact, they painted that bus after drinking a whole pitcher. Oh, Shirley claimed at the time that she thought LSD was a vitamin and the acid those crazy pranksters were talking about was citric acid to give the Kool Aid a little zing, but who does she think she's fooling? Keith admitted all along that he knew what was happening, but no one blamed him at all. He needed a little something to escape the embarrassment of traveling around in the psychadelic bus and singing corny songs with his mom and younger siblings. Totally justified.

Okay, how are you feeling? Is your head spinning? Do you feel like your whole world has turned upside down? It's okay, I felt the same way when I discovered what had been going on in television sets across America for the last half of a century. I'll just leave you with this picture of a classic TV duo that no one could possibly think anything bad about whatsoever. Totally normal, straight-laced, not caught up in any kind of illegal doings at all, children's cartoon characters. ;)

There, don't you feel better now?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The X Factor

"May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung/ May you stay forever young." - Bob Dylan

I am watching The X Factor right now and was totally blown away by Josh Krajcik's rendition of "Forever Young", one of my all time favorite Bob Dylan songs. I even used the lyrics above as my senior quote in high school.

What is really getting on my nerves though is the host, Steve Jones. The dude won't stop interrupting Paula Abdul and won't let anyone complete a sentence! I realize that they may be pressed for time, but Ryan Seacrest And Cat Deeley are never that rude or obnoxious. Steve should take lessons from them. Ooh, commercial's over. Good night, and check back tomorrow for what I hope will turn out to be a hilarious post!

Tuesday's Top Ten - Halloween Part 2

"Six more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween/ Six more days to Halloween/ Silver shamrock!" - Jingle from "Halloween III: Season of the Witch"

Have any of you out there seen "Halloween III", the third movie in the "Halloween" series that has nothing to do with Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, or Dr. Loomis? If you haven't, don't bother. The only thing worth remembering about this movie is the annoyingly fun jingle that appeared on commericals throughout the movie.

With Halloween being only six days away now, I am doing a follow-up to my list from a couple of weeks ago and listing my favorite Halloween TV specials, made-for-TV movies, and TV episodes. So grab a popcorn ball, a handful of candy corn, and a cup of apple cider and relive some of these small screen classics with me.

1. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - No Halloween special will ever top this one. Good old Snoopy fights the Red Baron as a WWI Flying Ace, Sally joins her sweet baboo, Linus, in his quest to get toys from the Great Pumpkin, and Charlie Brown has trouble with scissors, cutting dozens of eye holes in his ghost costume (hey, some of us still have a little trouble with those darn scissors...). It's a little piece of everyone's childhood since 1966 that is as feel-good as they come. Especially at the end when Lucy, shedding her smarty-pants, know-it-all image for a minute, goes out at four in the morning to retrieve her sleeping, shivering little brother from the pumpkin patch, which evidently, was not quite sincere enough for the Great Pumpkin.

2. Freaks and Geeks: Tricks and Treats - Easily the funniest episode of this great series that didn't last nearly long enough. There's a reason it has risen to cult classic status. I just love geeky Bill's Bionic Woman costume (my family quotes him all the time from this episode) and when Lindsay, the girl caught between her geekdom past and her freaky new friends (more burnouts than freaks, but that's beside the point), kicks a jack-o-lantern and gets her foot caught in the pumpkin as she tries to make a run for it. If you haven't seen this show, do yourself a favor and check it out. You just may find a new favorite!

3. That '70s Show: Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die - This episode is totally brilliant! Paying homage to Alfred Hitchcock, the king of suspense, the gang from Point Place, WI fill the half hour with parodies of "Psycho", "The Birds", "Vertigo", "Rear Window", and "North by Northwest". I especially enjoyed "The Birds" homage, with Laurie getting pooped on by a bird and being terrorized off and on throughout the show. She was evil and deserved it. So there. Oh yeah, and the scariest part was Fez dressing up like Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Yikes!

4. Roseanne: Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down - If you are a fan of this show, you know how much Roseanne loved Halloween, and this is my favorite of her annual spooky episodes. I love how she becomes paranoid, thinking her "needle butt" (another episode...) neighbor, Kathy, is out to get her back after she pulled a prank on her. Plus, DJ is dressed as a killer Alfalfa. Fantastic!

5. Home Improvement: The Haunting of Taylor House - Brad dressed like Raggedy Andy, Jill dressed like a giant carrot, and Tim scaring everyone, including Shawn from Boy Meets World in a cameo appearance, with his "Catacombs of Terror". A very hilarious episode that is - brace yourself - 19 years old. Wow.

6. Friends: The One With the Halloween Party - I love Friends! And what's better than when all the friends get together for a party at Monica's? I realize that she might not be the most fun-loving character in the bunch, but she's my favorite. In this episode, we have a showdown between Catwoman (Monica) and Supergirl (Phoebe), Joey dressed as Chandler, Ross dressed as a satellite/potato (Spud-nik), and Chandler dressed as a giant bunny. Hey, maybe he should have gotten together with Jill from Home Improvement. Plus, Phoebe's twin Ursula shows up and she is engaged to Sean Penn! The best moment though, is when Gunther arrives at the party dressed as Charlie Brown. Perfection!

7. 8 Simple Rules: Trick or Treehouse - This episode from season one is just good family fun. The girls are too old to want to participate in Paul's Halloween traditions, and Rory is more interested in toilet papering the neighborhood than having a family camp out in the backyard treehouse. Of course everything ends up perfect at the end of the night since this is a sitcom, and it's a nice show to look back on since less than a year after this aired, the world lost John Ritter, the patriarch of the Hennessey household and a very talented comedian.

8. The Worst Witch - This is a children's made-for-TV movie from 1986, starring Tim Curry, Charlotte Rae, and 12-year-old Fairuza Balk that my sister and I watched over and over again as children. There is something entertaining and endearing about young Mildred, a witch-in-training who has nothing but trouble with every spell she tries to cast.

9. Everybody Loves Raymond: Halloween Candy - Frank is left at Ray's home to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters and runs out. He looks through the kitchen and thinks that he has discovered some chocolate coins. Wait Frank, not so fast! Uh oh, too late. When Ray and Debra come home, they find out that Frank had actually passed out condoms to all of the neighborhood children. As if Debra's life wasn't hard enough before Halloween! A very funny episode!

10. Modern Family: Halloween - I love everything about this show, and this episode is so good it's worth watching again every October. Gloria speaks in a weird English accent, Mitchell is stuck at work in a Spiderman costume, and Phil becomes paranoid that Claire is leaving him. Really, Phil, who else would be patient enough to put up with you? And then there's Cameron, traumatized by his childhood "accident" in front of the whole town, who is pretty much the highlight of every episode. Funny, in an episode centered around a children's holiday, I don't really remember the kids' roles in this episode at all...

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Help

"Help, I need somebody/ Help, not just anybody/ You know I need someone/ Help!" - "Help" by The Beatles

This is one of the best books I have ever read in my life. Seriously, maybe the very best. In case you aren't familiar with this debut novel by Kathryn Stockett, a literary genius in my book (pun intended!), let me fill you in. The Help is set in Jackson, MS in the early 1960s and revolves around the black maids who work for spoiled, often ignorant and racist white women, and Skeeter, a white aspiring journalist who ends up working with the help to write a book exposing their lives for everything they are: touching and maddening, heartwarming and heartbreaking, and most of the time, so full of prejudice it's hard to believe that this was everyday reality just fifty years ago. You have to read this book. Now. It's that important.

Kathryn Stockett's writing style is familiar yet polished, and she manages to capture the personalities of each character so perfectly, I could hear their voices in my head and see their expressions as I was reading, and that's not just because I saw the movie first, which also comes highly recommended by me. I couldn't put this book down and couldn't stop thinking about it when I was forced to close the cover and say, go to work.

Ah, work. In that part of my life, I kind of relate to the women in The Help. Now, I'm not saying that I am oppressed or discriminated against, far from it. Most of the time, I feel like I am part of the family that I work for. But then there are other moments, many of which I have experienced this week, when I realize that I am just "the help". I am paid to take care of the children, run the occasional errand, and keep the house running and in order. I also do way more than is expected of me, but that's not the point. I have no rights to these children, even when I know and understand them better than anyone, I don't make the rules or have the final say in anything, even when I think I should, and I oftentimes feel underappreciated and overworked. Bottom line, I am an employee. I have no benefits whatsoever, am expected to work even when I'm sick (no benefits, remember), haven't gotten a raise in four years (probably hasn't even occurred to my bosses that I deserve one), and am beyond flexible with working late, coming in early, and working extra days just to make their life easier, but I don't get paid when I take off one day a year (my birthday). So why do I stay? For the same reason Aibileen stayed in The Help - because I love the kids (and I need that paycheck, as small as it may be). The girls need me. I have been here five-and-a-half years, even longer than the youngest child I take care of has been here, and these kids are a huge part of my life. If I wasn't here, who would help the oldest child get her extreme emotions under control so she doesn't feel like she is unable to stop crying, which she does at the drop of a hat? If I wasn't here, who would tell the youngest girl that it's okay to be a little wild, crazy, and rock and roll when you are surrounded by type-A classical music lovers who live and think inside the box? That's what it boils down to. The kids make everything worth it, even when I get my depressingly small paycheck tonight since I took my birthday off last week.

I have to admit, I cried when Aibileen, my favorite maid in The Help, talked about how one day she would have to leave Mae Mobley, the little girl she took care of and loved so deeply. That will be me one day. The girls will outgrow their need for me, and since I am just "the help", I will be let go. I try not to think about it, but it will happen eventually. But while I'm here, I will take my cue from Aibie and instill in the girls what they need to hear, what I have been saying to them all along (but with better grammar). "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Enough said.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mixing up the Medicine

"Johnny's in the basement/ Mixing up the medicine/ I'm on the pavement/ Thinking about the government." - "Subterranean Homesick Blues" by Bob Dylan

Just call me Johnny this week, because I've been surrounded by medicine for four days now. The five-year-old I take care of has pneumonia for the second time this year, and it's been a rough week. With a fever of over 105, horrendous coughing, and enough gross bodily stuff to even make a brown collar worker like me scrunch up her nose in disgust, the poor kid has been miserable and I have been spending every spare second I have sanitizing the heck out of her house in an attempt to keep everyone else healthy, especially her sister. So far, so good, although I am exhausted!

Being home with a sick child all week has given me flashbacks to when I used to stay home sick from elementary school. The catch was that I was rarely sick. I was Ferris Bueller before I even knew who he was! I was the queen of faking illnesses. My favorite lie was saying that my stomach hurt and I might throw up. That was a surefire ticket home from school, often just minutes after the bell rang. At six or seven years old, I never thought how difficult it would be for my mom to take off work or anything like that. I just smiled to myself, thinking about getting out of school and spending my day watching cartoons and game shows. And if I went to my aunt's house, a soap opera or two.

My favorite place to go when I was "sick" was my Aunt Shary's house. I'm sure she knew I was faking all along, but she never said anything. My cousin would be off at school and I would get to hang out with my aunt all day, which was so much fun! She always treated me like an adult, an equal, even though I was only six months older than her daughter. I loved that! We would talk and watch TV, she would tell me stories about growing up with my dad and my other aunts and uncle, I would have soup or a balogna sandwich for lunch, and then I would miraculously recover from the brink of death I had feigned at school a few hours before, just in time to go pick my cousin up from school and play with her all afternoon.

Looking back now, I have no regrets from playing hooky so much - and I did it quite a bit! I am still waiting for my Academy Award to come in the mail. My family lost my Aunt Shary five years ago, but I will always have those memories of hanging out with her instead of sitting in a desk at school, bored out of my mind and probably getting into trouble for talking too much. Maybe I didn't have any awesome adventures like Ferris, but I have a whole heartful of memories that are more important than anything I could have learned in school. Sometimes it's just better to break the rules.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


"Sixteen candles make a lovely light." - "Sixteen Candles" by The Platters

This may be true, but 29 candles can burn the house down. Yes, today I turned 29, and I will never turn a year older. The next number is too horrifying to think about, so I will just stop aging at 29. Sweet sixteen will not turn 31 and there is no way seventeen will turn 35. It's not happening, no way, no how.

I have lived two years longer than Jimi, Janis, Brian, Jim, Pigpen, Kurt, Amy, and a whole host of others, but I don't feel the need to keep counting. And this is coming from someone who is obsessed with numbers and counting. So I will just stay 29 and eventually get too senile to remember my real age.

So, with a fresh year beginning, I am hoping for three things: health, happiness, and a little bit of luck (okay, maybe a great big heaping ton of luck). Am I asking for too much? I am just really hoping that this year will bring something different, especially in my writing. Maybe this year will be when I get a break. Maybe I'll finally find the missing piece to the puzzle and discover what these agents are looking for, and then the publishers he/she submits to will fight over my book, declaring that it's the best thing they have read in years and years (hey, it's my birthday, so let me have this very unrealistic fantasy for a few more hours). Hopefully I won't get sick this year and spend a ton of money I don't have at the doctor since I also don't have insurance (sigh). And then there's happiness. I just hope that I'm not the captain of my burden, dragging myself down with realism and pessimism. Maybe I should have wished for a magic genie instead.

Anyway, happy birthday to me and anyone else born on this great day! I know this post is kind of sarcastic and full of my stubborn attitude, but it really has been a great birthday.

P.S. - If you didn't catch the three song references other than my song of the day, here they are - "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" by Bob Seger (Sweet sixteen's turned 31), "Cherry Bomb" by John Mellencamp (Seventeen has turned 35/ I'm surprised that we're still living), and "I Could'a Been a Contender" by The Gaslight Anthem (And of the few things I am certain/ I'm the captain of my burden). Just had to throw those in!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When We Were Young

"But I am older now/ And we did it when we were young." - "We Did It When We Were Young" by The Gaslight Anthem

Just like it always is when I start writing a new book, my mind is filled with ideas and thoughts that I want to incorporate into my writing, but maybe more so this time than ever before. I just think that there is so much to explore in the topic of what kinds of people you thought you and your friends were growing up and who everyone actually became, that I'm constantly wanting to dig a little deeper into that idea.

I'm not sure what made me think of it, but about a year ago I remembered an English assignment I had at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school that got the wheels turning for Who We Thought We Were. My English 10 teacher, Mrs. Colley, gave us the assignment to write an essay about how we thought our lives would be as adults - college, family, career, etc. For most of the class, they had no concrete goals, but I sure did. Never without a plan and a whole headful of dreams, I stood up in front of the class at 14 years old and read my essay for all to hear, telling everyone what my future would hold. I don't remember all the details, but I thought I would go to college to become a teacher, marry right after I got my degree at 21, and then immediately start teaching first grade and having babies of my own, all the while working on my writing career as a children's book author that would most certainly start off with a bang. And I fully believed that all of this would happen. Yeah, right.

Now let's fast forward about 14 years (oh my gosh, I just realized I am now twice as old as I was back then. The horror!) and see which of those set in stone plans actually happened with a yes, no, or maybe so. Well, I did become a teacher, but preschool instead of elementary and now I am a nanny and homeschool teacher. I'll count that one as a yes. Let's see, a husband and children. Um, no. Looking back now, I can't imagine having gotten married so young, although when you're 14, 21 seems really old and mature. As for children, I have been spending a lot of time raising other people's kids since I wrote that essay, but that doesn't count for this topic. Then we have the writing career. I am going to give this one a maybe so, because I am writing and working toward becoming published. My focus shifted away from children's books to novels, but at least I haven't forgetten that dream that was actually born many years before high school, when I was in second grade. And as we all know, my writing career has not started off with a bang, but that was a hard lesson I had to learn along the way. I now believe that sometimes the best things in life have to be earned, and I am working really hard to be deserving of those blessings.

Sometimes as children and teenagers, we look at the world through rose colored glasses and live with blinders on, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There does come a time though, when we have to see ourselves and those around us in a real way - successes, failures, dreams, fears, positives, and negatives - and that's what I want to show in Who We Thought We Were. We think we know people, but is there something deeper inside of them that we don't see? We may think we know exactly how our lives will pan out, but what if that doesn't happen... and what if it does?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday's Top Ten - Halloween Movies

"Psycho killer/ Qu'est que c'est/ Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better/ Run run run run run run run away." - "Psycho Killer" by The Talking Heads

Halloween is less than three weeks away, so I thought I would devote the latest Top Ten list to my favorite scary movies. Are yours on the list? Did I make a glaring error and leave off the best horror film of all time? Let me know!

1. "The Shining" - For those of you who read my post about this movie last week, this should come as no surprise. The creepy faces Jack Nicholson makes can give even the most seasoned veteran of horror movies a serious case of the chills. Not to mention room 237, Danny's imaginary friend Tony, "All work and no play...", and REDRUM!

2. "Psycho" - Alfred Hitchcock at his finest. When this movie premiered in 1960, it was so terrifying that many people were afraid to take showers after seeing what happened to poor Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) at the Bates Motel. From today's perspective the gore and violence are very mild, but 51 years ago, it was groundbreaking. The best line in the movie is, "We all go a little mad sometimes." Well said, Norman.

3. "Halloween" - The original in the movie series about mute boogie man Michael Myers from 1978 not only kick started the career of Jamie Lee Curtis, it also opened the doors for future horror movie franchises like "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" (eww, Freddy Krueger!). It was the first, and in my opinion, the best of the series movies. What could be scarier than a homicidal, silent, escaped mental patient that stalks young girls? Oh yeah, and the mask he wore was made from a mold of William Shatner's face. Enough said.

4. "Friday the 13th" - The first installment of the series is my favorite. I have a thing for the first part in a long series, I guess. I just like to see how the story gets started. In this movie we get introduced to Camp Crystal Lake, a young Kevin Bacon, and Jason Voories before he got a hockey mask. A true classic.

5. "Scream" - Once again, the first movie in the franchise. I loved this movie when I was a teenager and it first came out, and I still do today. I especially liked how Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy, was such a horror film buff and seemed to know exactly what would happen before the event occured, except when it was happening all around him. "Look behind you, Jamie!"

6. "Misery" - This movie, based on the Stephen King book of the same name, is fantastic. Kathy Bates is terrifying as the obsessed, sadistic fan of writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) and said a couple of great lines in the movie that my family will quote from time to time. Is that weird? Probably, but it's definitely fun! Along with "The Shining", this movie has made it clear to me that as a writer, I should never hole up in a hotel in the mountains for an extended period of time to work on my novel. Bad, bad idea.

7. "Silence of the Lambs" - Definitely the most critically acclaimed and award-winning film on my list, "Silence of the Lambs" is also the scariest. It's equal parts psychological, crime, and horror, the trifecta for truly scary movies in my book. The reason it isn't higher up on my list is because it lacks the humor that some of the other movies do, which is a little more up my alley. Still, this film is amazing. And I will forever have the image of Hannibal Lecter (shudder at the mention of his name) in the cannibal face mask emblazened in my brain for the rest of my life.

8. "The Exorcist" - Why, you ask, is this not higher on my list since it is considered by some to be the top horror movie of all time? The answer is, because it freaked me out too much! There is just something about a child getting possessed by the devil that is a little too disturbing, even for me. And I don't get disturbed that easily. Still, this movie is a classic for a reason. People were seriously scared when this movie came out, I think because it combined the elements of very creepy special effects with the fear that people really can be possessed by Satan. If you have not seen this, go rent it, download it, or better yet just buy it, because this is a movie that horror film fans should watch every Halloween. It's that terrifying.

9. "Poltergeist" - I have only seen this movie once, maybe when I was 14 or 15, and I don't know why I don't own it and rewatch it every October. I think I might have to go shopping. Anyway, the terror in this classic from 1982 all begins with television static. Remember how late at night when all the shows were over, there would just be static or a test pattern on every channel? If you don't you must have been born after 1990 or so. Before the days of 24 hour programming and a thousand TV channels, after the late night movie, nothing would be on again until the morning news. That's when the evil spirits came out in the Freeling house, spawning the famous line, "They're heeeerrre!" For a TV junkie like myself, it's pretty freaky to think that ghosts can come out of your TV. I hope my neighborhood wasn't built on an old graveyard, although that could explain why my stuff keeps disappearing and why my dog barks at nothing all the time - or at least, I think it's nothing...

10. "The Amityville Horror" - One word - flies! Whenever I see a bunch of flies, I always flash back to the scene in this movie when the flies attack the poor priest who is there to bless the house. And if I wake up at 3:15 a.m., it takes me forever to fall back asleep. I even wrote that into one of my Willow books. Willow and her friends watch this movie on Halloween and one of the other characters changes her alarm clock to read 3:15, which she did not appreciate. Okay, back to the show. What makes this movie so good is that it is based on the alleged true story of the Lutz family who buy a great house at an even better price (gee, I wonder why?), only to find out that it is haunted by some very mean ghosts. Did it actually happen? Who knows, but after watching this movie, you might believe it did.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Story To Tell

"And I got nothing for you darling but a story to tell/ About the rain on the pavement and the sound as it fell." - "Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?" by The Gaslight Anthem

Yes, today I do have a story to tell. In fact, it's a new novel I have been planning for over a year and just really started to write today. It is going to be mainstream commercial fiction, a slight departure from the Willow series which is most definitely women's fiction, and I am really excited about it. The title is Who We Thought We Were and it is the story of eight friends who grew up together and reunite twelve years after graduation, only to discover that they are not really the people they thought they were back in high school. Nothing sinister or anything, just exploring the real life fact that for most of us, we do not end up being the people we thought we would be when we pictured our future as teenagers. And we do not live those dreamed about lives either, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, as my characters come to realize. The working promo pitch is:

Sometimes knowing yourself in the present means reliving your past.

So, what do you think? Remember, this is just my first attempt at a pitch for this book, so there will be changes and improvements along the way.

Thank goodness for Columbus Day, which my very generous employer gave me off as a surprise holiday, because I was able to sit in a quiet house with nothing to do but focus on my writing. That is a rare commodity that I don't take for granted. I was afraid that I would have a hard time starting this new novel since it's quite different from my Willow Ryan books, but I actually got into it pretty quickly. I wrote 2,000 words today and am now on a writing high, feeling totally exhilarated that I started a new project and am back into the writing groove. Now to get published... that's a goal I'm still working on.

Mark my words, one of these days you will walk into a bookstore and see my work on the shelves. I'm still looking for an agent and have queries for my first Willow book out there, and I will keep trying until I succeed, which I will some day. My writing just means too much to me to ever stop, and that's not just the writing high talking! I am actually feeling strangely optimistic today. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday's Top Ten - Pet Peeves

"Well I think I'm going out of my head/ Yes I think I'm going out of my head." - "Going Out of My Head" performed by The Zombies, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and many more.

As you may remember from recent posts, I have been known to walk the line of sanity and I have some OCD issues, but for the most part, I am okay. Really, I am. There are some things though, that really push my buttons and make me go just a little nuts. Here are my top ten biggest pet peeves that really drive me up a wall.

1. Prejudice - No one has the right to look down on anyone else, and I take personal offense to any comments made that put someone else down because they are different in any way. We are all created equal in the eyes of God and people need to remember that. It doesn't matter what race, nationality, gender, religion, etc. you are, you are no better than me and I am no better than you. I can't stand when people look down on others because of what they believe, what they look like, or how they live their lives. Living in the South, I have seen numerous examples of prejudice toward people that make me realize we haven't come as far as we should have since the days of the Civil Rights Movement and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

2. Ignorance - Now I'm not talking about stupdity here. I would never fault anyone for having a low IQ. What I have a problem with is offensive ignorance, or as I call it, "chosen stupidity". When people choose to be in the dark, not evolve with the times, or remain uneducated for whatever dumb reason they can come up with, it really makes me angry. We should all try to be the best people we can be in how we act, how we think, and how we live our lives. Ignorance should not be a part of our world.

3. Lazy Parents - Having worked with other people's children for the last 17 years (I am including the tons of babysitting I did as a teenager in this), I now have very little tolerance for moms and dads who are not active participants in their children's lives. Your children are not here to work as your servants, entertain you, or for you to dress up and parade around for your friends, only to be forgotten when they are no longer being shown off. Parents who do nothing for their children's education, future, or self esteem fall into this category as well. If you are lucky enough to be a parent, then be a parent! It breaks my heart when people don't value their children like they should. I am so glad that I don't work with parents like this anymore. Another reason I am thankful for my current job.

4. Slow Drivers in Fast Cars - If I ever develop road rage, it will be because of this pet peeve. It makes me so mad when I am stuck behind a sports car or a muscle car that is going below the speed limit. If you drive a Corvette, then drive it like it was meant to be driven! The other night I was behind a middle aged guy in a Dodge Challenger going about 35 mph in a 45 zone. Come on! I drive a Mustang (red because it looks fast, of course!), and I guarantee nobody will ever think I drive too slow. Am I reckless? Not normally. But I'm also not going to hold up traffic.

5. The Stars and Bars, a.k.a. The Confederate Flag - I know I could get a lot of flack about this from Southerners, but I despise the Southern Flag. Yes, I live in the South, but I am a California girl, 100%. I do not understand Southern Pride, and I, along with a lot of other people out there, find this flag to be offensive for what it represents. This flag stands for a time when part of our country wanted slavery to remain legal so much that they seceded from the Union, causing the Civil War to begin. What about that is not offensive? It goes right along with Pet Peeve #1. I might not be able to control myself the next time I see a rusty old pick-up truck with a Confederate Flag plastered to the back window, most likely also sporting some bumper sticker about how the the South's gonna do it again. Maybe this will bring on my road rage before the slow drivers push me over the edge...

6. Baby Talk - I hate baby talk. It doesn't help a baby's language skills develop, it's beyond annoying, and it makes a person look like an idiot when they use it. Babies are people, and they should be spoken to with respect. Use full sentences, real words, and age appropriate language please. We'll all be much better off for it, and steam won't escape through my ears and nose like some crazed cartoon character if I happen to overhear your conversation.

7. Mispronunciations - Maybe this is because I love words, maybe it's because I'm a teacher, maybe because I'm a writer (unpublished as of right now, but still...), but I cringe every time I hear someone mispronounce a simple, everyday word. Library for example. It is not li-berry! Frustrated is another one. It is spelled f-r-..., so it is not pronounced FUSTrated. I am flabbergasted by the number of people who say that. Same thing with forward. It is pronounced for-ward, not fo-ward. Then there's the word ask. It is not pronounced axe! Whenever I hear someone say axe instead of ask, it reminds me of an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" where Debra pointed out to Ray that he says axe. Ah, a classic. And if anyone wants to challenge me on these, go to and click on the sound bite. I win.

8. Girly Names for Boys - This one really bothers me, because whenever I hear of a baby boy with a feminine sounding name, my mind flashes forward to the poor kid's elementary school years and I see him getting teased on the playground because he has a girl's name. And I'm not just talking about the former male names now used almost solely for girls, like Ashley, Lindsay, and Leslie, but about the unisex names of today that are being used more and more for girls and have a decidedly feminine sound. For example, Avery, Bailey, Reagan, and Alexis. If someone says any of these names, I automatically think of a little girl. I know this is just my opinion on these names, but it's just not okay to give a boy a girl's name. On the other hand, I do think it can be pretty cool to give a girl a name that is traditionally male, like James, Dylan, or Charlie. To each his own I guess, but I still feel sorry for the little dudes named Ariel and Finley.

9. Inappropriate Commercials - This includes all feminine hygeine products, impotence drugs, and anything two consenting adults would use in the privacy of their own bedroom. Think about it. Do you really want to be watching a football game or a primetime sitcom with a child and have them ask you what Viagra, tampons, or condoms are? I think not.

10. Pimped-Out Classic Cars - If you have a classic car, especially a cool muscle car from the 60s or early 70s, treat it with dignity. I hate seeing an amazing old car with tacky, flashy rims, bouncing around on hydraulics, painted in day-glo colors that went out of style with spandex pants and acid wash jeans. That's just embarrassing.

So there you have it. I think I may be a slightly opinionated person (and a little sarcastic too). Oh well. Thanks for listening to me vent today, and if you have any of your own pet peeves that you'd like to share or would like to call me out on mine, please leave me a comment. Debating is not one of my pet peeves, but is a treasured pasttime. Have a great day everybody!

Monday, October 3, 2011

How Shannon Became GoGo

"Wake me up before you go-go/ Don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo." - "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!

As I promised last week, here is my story about how I became a nanny. Let's start a few years before that. Right after high school I enrolled at a local university with plans to get my Masters in education within five years and become an elementary school teacher. When classes started, I began working part-time at the university's child development center and absolutely loved my job working with toddlers. I loved it so much that I shifted my focus to preschool education and transfered to a community college the next fall, because it was so much cheaper and I could take only the classes that actually pertained to my degree and not a boatload of gen-ed courses that would bore me to death. I went to school off and on for the next few years and graduated in December of 2004 with my certificate in Early Childhood Instruction. So basically, I completed my education backwards.

During my final semester of college, I did an internship at a wonderful preschool in Virginia Beach and ended up getting hired at their newest location just a few miles from my house. I loved the children, loved teaching, and loved planning my lessons, but the nonstop work (over 50 hours a week at the school and 15-20 hours a week working on classroom things at home), the marketing of my classroom that took my focus away from my students, and the politics involved in all of it, caused me to leave the school after one year.

Right after I quit, my sister's boss (she was a nanny at the time too) was at the doctor and learned that her doctor was pulling her little girl out of preschool and looking for a nanny. The child's teacher who she had really taken to had just left the school and they were expecting another baby, so they really wanted someone to teach and care for the children at home. My sister's boss told her doctor that her nanny's sister might be interested, and it turned out that I had been her daughter's teacher at the school! I interviewed with them later that week, and the rest is history. It is now five-and-a-half years later and I am happy to say that even though I finished my education backwards and some would say went backwards in my career as well, I am pleased with how everything turned out. That just goes to show that no one's future turns out exactly how they think it will when they are high school dreamers.

Now, the GoGo part. When the oldest child I teach was around two years old, she still wasn't talking much, and would just point at me instead of saying my name. Sometimes she would point at the garage door as well, the door I entered and exited every day. She probably thought I lived in her garage! Anyway, around the time her baby sister was born, she started talking a little more, and for some reason, started calling me GoGo. It sounds nothing like Shannon, which she adamantly refused to say for years, but it quickly stuck and has now morphed into all kinds of nicknames including Goges, GeeGee, Geegs, and the always embarrassing Gogolicious, which is especially mortifying when said in public. When I asked one day a few years ago why she calls me GoGo, this little girl looked up at me and said that it's a fun name for a fun person. Very sweet, but I want to know why it started! In the future (when I'm a rich and famous author who will probably have to write a book about everything I have been through working with these crazy, lovable, wonderful children), people will ponder these great mysteries in life: How was Stonehenge built? What really causes crop circles? Are Elvis and Jim Morrison both living in Seattle drinking Frappaccinos and laughing at everyone who thinks they are dead (okay, I think I'm losing it a little!)? And why in the world was Shannon called GoGo by those two kooky kids? The explanations could be very interesting!

The Shining

"And we all shine on/ Like the moon and the stars and the sun." - "Instant Karma" by John Lennon

I watched my all-time favorite horror movie yesterday, "The Shining", and scared myself a little with a surprising realization. Jack Torrence, played by the super scary and super talented Jack Nicholson, was a teacher turned writer that just wanted some peace and quiet so he could work on his latest writing project. He also had an addictive personality and a bit of a temper... That sounded a little too familiar to me and for a brief second, I imagined myself turning into this:

I thought I would give myself nightmares. My family has stated that they will not ever be staying in a secluded hotel with me for an extended period of time. If they did, they might end up looking like poor Shelley Duvall when Jack yells out, "Heeerrre's Johnny!" as he chops through the door with an axe.

So, I have come to a few conclusions. I should not become an alcoholic. Nothing good could come from that, although I may be able to pass out and get a decent night's sleep. Next, all work and no play makes Shannon a dull girl, so I should try to relax every once in a while. And last but not least, I will never, under any circumstances, go snooping around room 237 of a hotel, even if I have severe writer's block and a little kid on a Big Wheel comes out of the room traumatized. There's just no coming back from that. If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch "The Shining". It's Stephen King's writing, Stanley Kubrick's directing, and Jack Nicholson's acting at it's best.