Writerish Pack-ratting

My laughably fat self-made textbooks.

My laughably fat textbooks. Yes, that’s Wile E. Coyote’s calling card: “Have Brain, Will Travel.” Just what students need to hear.

I’m blogging today at Laura Hile about my ginormous self-made textbooks. As the school year progresses, these become almost like weapons! The photo shows how huge a simple composition book can become.

But don’t picture me as the noble teacher, scouring the Internet for information to share with students.

In truth, I’m a pack rat, and these textbooks are more for me than for my students. I’ve simply found an honorable use for all the quotations and articles and cartoons I hoard. And I keep collecting more-more-more.

My most pressing struggle during the 400 Bags for Lent challenge has to do with papers. (Well, and the garage.) But I’m wondering. Does my handicap in discarding papers have a connection with being a writer?

What about you? What do you struggle to get rid of?

40 Bags for Lent

Clutter multiplies. Here, my sons' shoe pile.

Clutter multiplies. Here, my sons’ shoe pile.

This year I’m taking up a challenge for Lent.

Well, kind of.

I’ve never really celebrated Lent, being from a non-denominational church. But I think Lent involves sacrificing something I like.

And I must like clutter because I keep stepping over and around it.

So I’ve joined up with Anne Marie’s group at White House Black Shutters to de-clutter. She has chosen the 40 days of Lent. I am all right with that. It’s not exactly spiritual, but then again, perhaps it is. For I will be casting out personal demons of sloth and negligence.

You won’t find me hauling out a giant garbage bag each day, although I surely need to. This is about small, consistent, daily victories.

I write 500 words every day. I organize one small area at work or home every day.

Easier said than done, I know. But I am determined. Today, for example, I cleaned out one desk drawer. Victory!

And now I can put a nice X on the calendar.

Want to come along? There’s even a Facebook group for support.

Peppers or Horses?

chocolate-covered-jalapenos-3023Valentine’s Day is drawing near, so I went looking around the web for gift possibilities. I had my eye out for something that is not the same old thing.

First I discovered this unusual treat: chocolate-covered jalapenos. They’re touted as perfect for one’s Valentine, being both hot and sweet.

Um, okay. Definitely different. (Have you tasted these? I think I’ll stick with strawberries.)

And then I stumbled upon Trotify, a device that makes your bike sound like a horse.

Trotify-2-537x358Yes, you read that right, like a horse. (Who thinks of these things?)

And how great is this? Because it’s a gift for someone who has everything!

Even a nerd, for some assembly is required.

Perfect for the hipster, recalling the charm of urban horsemanship without the fuss or bother.

Just right for the history buff too … if she rides a bicycle. And doesn’t mind a making little noise.

Golly, what would Jane think of this whimsical device? (What would my school principal think, if I rode my Trotified bike through the halls?)

So which would you prefer to receive for Valentine’s, the pepper or the horse?

Before you answer, watch the little video.

An engagement ring for Christmas? Hmm . . .

christmas-engagementAccording to WOKV, a state court in Georgia recently ruled that Christopher Ned Kelley owes his former fiancee Melissa Cooper, with whom he lived for more than a decade, $50,000 for cheating on her. He had fathered her child and given her a $10,000 ring, promising to marry her. Cooper had resigned from her job to raise their child, depending on Kelley to provide for his family, but when she found out Kelley had cheated on her for a second time, she sued him for fraud and for “breach of promise to marry.” She also broke off the engagement and kicked him out of their home.

His defense was that he never intended to marry her. Here’s his statement: “I never initiated the concept of marriage with her, outside of giving her that ring,” he said. “I never said the words ‘will you marry me’ to her.” I guess the ring and the baby were a ploy. He said that she was actually his prostitute. He paid for things, and she provided sexual services for him.

Georgia abolished common law marriages in 1997, so she had no grounds there, and I don’t understand why she didn’t break it off the first time he cheated on her. Besides, he is clearly not husband material. He doesn’t even know the difference between a statement and a question.

I think the case is interesting. Gentlemen, be warned. If you give her an engagement ring and a baby, you have promised to marry her, even if you have cleverly avoided asking the question.

In Regency times, engagements were legally binding. Before a formal engagement, young ladies were expected to be chaste, but once the engagement was announced, the rules were substantially relaxed. Therefore, a broken engagement ruined both the reputation of the lady and the pocketbook of the gentleman. Because the woman was unlikely to find another suitor with such a blot on her character, her male relative could sue the jilter, most often resulting in his payment of a fine (250 pounds). Occasionally, the man would choose instead to marry the lady, though I would not have been amenable to that arrangement for a daughter of mine. That’s too similar to the redneck “shot gun weddings” of them thar hills.

Think before you post that pic.

I know famous people, and I'm one of them!

I know famous people, and I’m one of them!

“Increased frequency of sharing photographs of the self, regardless of the type of target sharing the photographs, is related to a decrease in intimacy,” says a study conducted jointly by the University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University.

Don't mess with my baby girl. She knows Samuel L. Jackson.

Don’t mess with my baby girl. She knows
Samuel L. Jackson.

These folks could have saved themselves a bundle of money by simply asking regular Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram users what they think of a flood of “selfies.” I don’t have Instagram, but I can look a the pictures on it, so I have formed an (ahem!) opinion. Many people who constantly share pictures of themselves tend to have fewer deep friendships and more shallow relationships. They are living their lives through the social media without much personal contact with other people.

However, if you already have a relationship with the people viewing the “selfies,” you probably won’t irritate them into blocking you or “unfriending” you. Some of your friends will even like keeping up with you in that way.

I have observed that there are several types of “selfies.” Some are funny and quirky, and I like those.

Patrick Stewart and I are best buds. He's the best "Star Trek" captain, hands down.

Patrick Stewart and I are best buds. He’s the premier “Star Trek” captain, hands down.

Some are taken to prove the person met a famous person. I get it.

Just don't tell Nancy about this.

Just don’t tell Nancy about this.

If I met Colin Firth, and he agreed to a picture with me, I would jump at the chance.

Others border on the pornographic; somebody’s mom and dad need to monitor their children before a pedophile finds them.

Then, there are those shots in the bathroom mirror right after a girl gets ready for a night out. She’s looking good, and she wants everyone to know it.

Here’s a free clue: Don’t take pictures of yourself in the bathroom – ever.

My least favorites of the “selfies,” which are by far the most numerous, are the “I have my shirt off to show you my ripped abs, my ‘assets,’ or my new tattoo” varieties. Just hashtag it #yesiamnarcissistic.

Tell me that's not Bruce Willis in a Hawaiian shirt. At least he has his shirt on.

Tell me that’s not Bruce Willis in a Hawaiian shirt. At least he has his shirt on.

Another thing to think about before you post that pic – nothing ever really disappears from the internet, and it could come back to bite you. People have lost their jobs over posts. Stalking is at an all-time high, and it’s easy. Google your own name and see what comes up. Scary stuff.

And, yes, I did meet Patrick Stewart and Ronald Reagan.

Is your summer romance over? Need to breakup? There’s an app for that.

In my area, school will start back two weeks from today, and teachers return to work in one week. In honor of the end of the carefree days of summer, I thought a helpful post advising those entangled in those annoying summer romances (which are fun for a while but begin to lose their appeal after three months) on how to gracefully exit said affaires de cœur might be in order.

In 1975, Paul Simon had a huge, unexpected hit song in “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” His helpful girlfriend actually gave him some ideas.

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover

She said it’s really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

Other ways include the agonizing face-to-face painfest; long, handwritten letters; or even Post-It notes left on the dumpee’s car windshield. Paul Simon’s way was bad, but there is a way now that’s even worse.

The tech savvy way to dump your summer fling

The tech savvy way to dump your summer fling

Easy, fast, and cheap - 99 cents!

Easy, fast, and cheap – 99 cents!

BreakupText is an iPhone app designed by Jake Levine and Lauren Leto that will compose a long-winded text in a few seconds. Click on the app and answer a few basic questions such as your gender and whether the relationship was serious or casual. The app then gets to the heart of the matter: the reason for ending the relationship. Did you found someone else, lose interest, or were you eaten by a bear? These guys, being very young, think that long, emotional, dramatic breakup texts are hilarious.

Here’s an actual example:

My dear Johnny, I know you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. I don’t know how to tell you this, but you know how Sara always acts like an idiot when wasted? Well, on our camping trip we saw a bear and she antagonized it. I know you hate when Sara acts like that. Well, I do as well. Because that bear unhinged his jaw and shoved me into his stomach. So yeah, I’m stuck in a bear. Somewhere upstate, it doesn’t feel like this guy moves a lot, I’d ask you to come find me and cut me out but maybe this is for the best, you know? We were fighting all the time, I hated my job, my parents are still upset I didn’t become a lawyer … as I sit in this dark acid hole, I can’t think of enough reasons to punch my way out. So remember me fondly, make it sound like I died a hero. Love you.

I know these texts will never go down in the history of romantic letters. Think of Wentworth’s heartfelt missive to Anne in Persuasion or Darcy’s defensive correspondence in Pride and Prejudice, but at least the person who receives it can have the satisfaction of showing it to all your mutual friends, proving what a jerk you are.

I would never break up in writing of any sort. The written word can come back to bite you, and besides, it’s just cruel. Any time I broke off a relationship, it was face-to-face. What is (was) your preferred method? There are teenagers out there who need the benefit of your years of wisdom. What was the worst breakup you ever went through? Can you laugh about it now?

Super? I think so!

Two phenomena - supermoon and Superman!

Two phenomena – supermoon and Superman!

This past Sunday morning at 7 AM EST, the moon reached the closest point in its elliptical orbit around our planet, and it hit the peak of its full phase a little more than a half-hour later producing a “supermoon.” The phenomenon causes the moon to appear fourteen percent larger and thirty percent brighter than an ordinary full moon. According to mythology, a supermoon is associated with strange natural occurrences, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and werewolves, but really it’s just a good excuse for gazing into the heavens. The last one was in 1993.

I read that there is an ancient yoga technique involving steady gazing which has been practiced for thousands of years by the adepts of India. It is called “trataka” and is believed to provide incredible benefits to those who practice it regularly. Healing of the eyes, clarity of the mind, and increased psychic abilities are among the supposed perks. Rather than practicing trataka on a candle flame, a black dot on a white wall, or a flower, I suggest staring at the moon. The supermoon this past weekend provided a unique opportunity for gazing that possibly could have induced superman-like qualities. My husband and daughter do yoga a few times a week, but he was at a meeting last night from 6:30 until 8:00 – too late for me to shove him outdoors and tell him to stare at the supermoon. The next one won’t be until August 2014, but I’ll be ready.

Wait! What is that flying across the supermoon? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s . . . Henry Cavill! Gayle and I went to see this last Saturday. Don’t believe the critics; hie thee to a theater near you. It’s definitely worth the ticket price.

Henry Cavill as Superman

Henry Cavill as Superman

Somebody should make another miniseries pronto, starring Henry as Darcy before he ages out of the role. Everyone in favor, raise your hand. Both of mine are waving.