Friday, May 31, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things- The Last Day of May

If you're here for the 4th anniversay Friday Flash, go here.  If you're here to celebrate, read on.
Click on the image to get the whole list of participants and see our host Viklit!

What a week it's been!  After working Sunday (the 19th) I got to take Friday off as a comp day so my weekend was extra long!  I soooo needed it.  We saw Into Darkness (reviewed here, if you're interested) and finished watching Battlestar Galactica (which I will be reviewing tomorrow).  We also took the puppy on some nice, long walks which is really good for all of us.  It was lovely.

And this week has been pretty great in terms of the writing/connecting front, as well.  On Monday I was a grateful participant in the Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest (today is the last day- check it out if you haven't!) and it was fantastic.  I'm submitting my story for consideration to be included in the anthology- wish me luck!  Wednesday was the Get Healthy Bloghop and I got great responses on my shared tips.  And then yesterday was the 4th Anniversay bloghop for Friday Flash online.  My story's getting good responses so far and I'm absolutely loving the other posts- such amazingly talented writers!  And I have many other pieces I'm looking forward to reading today.  Bliss.

But wait, that's not all!  Next week is the Heroes and Villans Bloghop hosted by Dani at Entertaining Interests and Jackie at Bouquet of Books.  Should be really fun!  Click on either of the hosts to sign up.

And remember, this is a bloghop so hop along!  And happy Friday, all!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Death Day

#FridayFlash celebrated its 4th birthday yesterday.  While I didn't discover this fantastic community until well into that time, I have been doing it with increasing frequency for a couple years and I can say that it was the first and biggest domino to fall in the fast building line of dominoes that connects me to other writers.  It was the very first online community I joined up with and its amazing participants have been my beacon whenever I get lost with my writing.  Such a wonderful community deserves a celebration on such an occasion.
Which is why our brilliant creators came up with this challenge to write 400 words about a 4th anniversary. Mine is below.  I hope you enjoy it.

The doorbell rang and he opened his front door, heaving it wide and smiling at the last guest as she entered. 

He grabbed her in a fierce hug and released, leaving a hand on her back as he gently led her into the living room where a large group of people were already waiting, excitedly talking and joking with each other, all awaiting the news of their host.

He waved both hands in front of them and they quieted.

“Well, we’ve all made it safe and sound, thank the lord” he said as he surveyed the room.

His friends looked around at each other, smiled and then someone counted down.

“One, two three-“ he shouted.

The room erupted into a shout of “Happy Death Day”, their voices raised and joyous.  The sound was nearly deafening in the small space but he only blushed as he was hit with the wave of noise.

“Thank you, thank you, I love you all,” he said, his face radiating his joy.

“Speech!” his brother shouted and several others repeated the demand, chanting and raising their glasses.

He waved his hands at them, pleading for quiet and fought the tears already stinging the back of his throat.

 “As you all know, it’s been 4 years and 6 months since I was given 6 months to live.  It’s been a long, strange journey to this point and all I know for certain is that I’m living more now with the clock run out than I ever did before life was a certainty.”

“I know you’re all wondering what the most recent results are.  And unfortunately, I have nothing new to report.  My T cells are still hovering in the 150’s and they don’t know what’s keeping me alive.  But we do.”

The faces of his audience shifted as they listened.  Some looked heavenwards, others simply nodded.  A few mouthed words of thanks and prayers of gratitude.  He smiled at them, knowing that they shared his understanding.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around, but I haven’t known for four long years and it hasn’t made me do anything other than live.  And today, four years after my scheduled death, I stand before you a man at peace.  I love you all.”  His throat closed as the long pressuring tears started to flow.  He let them, he didn’t hide anything anymore.  Life was too short.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Healthy Blog Hop!

A big, healthy thanks to our wonderful hosts Stephen, Alex, L.Diane and Michael.  It goes without saying that they should be among the first you hop to cause they're all awesome and they all desrve our thanks!

And now, I begin this post with a confession: I am lazy.  If left to my own devices I would come home at the end of each day, collapse on the couch in front of the tv and zone out whilst shoving junk food into my increasingly fat face.  I say this simply to distinguish myself from those who have some internal need to move- those that are so filled with nervous energy that they can't sit still.  I'm not one of those, I'm an object at rest that tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.

And yet, I do get some exercise, vigorous at times.  I swear I'm not bragging but this post won't make any sense if I don't let you know a fact that many of you probably don't know about me: I have a 2nd Dan (2nd degree in layman's terms) black belt in Tang Soo Do.  (Very similar to Tae Kwan Do but with more Chinese influences and emphasis on way of life over sport.  Click here to learn more if you're interested.)  Needless to say, this is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.  (Especially given that confession above.)

It also probably (hopefully) goes without saying that karate means a heck of a lot more to me than just exercise but I'm not going to get into all of that now since you're all here to get tips for staying healthy.  So what I'm going to do is extrapolate the top five universal points that will work for everyone, regardless of your particular program, and encourage those of you who are interested in my particular program to click here to learn more on that while the rest of you read on:

Number 1: The Buddy System
Humans are social creatures.  We need company to survive- it's in our DNA.  Plus, we get more accomplished when we work together.  I think this is particularly true when it comes to exercise.  You tell me to go for a mile jog cause it'll be good for me?  Ain't happening.  You invite me to go for a mile long jog with you and I can look forward to the chat with you to distract me from the hell of running?  It may very well happen, just cause you're my friend and I dig you.  And when it's more than one friend?  Needless to say the desire increases.  Heck, maybe we'll run two miles.  Or how about five- I dare ya!

My karate peeps, at this point in my training, are more than friends.  They're a second family.  I have a sense of belonging with them that I haven't encountered since college.  Every time I go, people not only know my name (you're all hearing the cheers theme song now, right?) but they are always, genuinely glad to see me.  And because of that, I am going to work harder, sweat more and push myself way beyond what I would if it were just me.  Bottom line: Strength in numbers.

Number 2: Accountability
My gym (or dojo, however you want to phrase it) takes attendance.  Black belts are required to make it to an average of 8 classes a month if we want to go for our next Dan.  That's a pretty big motivator, obviously.  But simply knowing that someone is looking to make sure I'm there (and will notice if I'm not) make me a heck of a lot more likely to go.  It's the same reason I show up to work every morning and why I get my work done while I'm there.  And it seriously works in keeping me off the couch.

Classes have set times, teachers and (I bet you saw this coming, right?) buddies.  You are significantly more likely to make it to a class with friends and a teacher you like than you are to squeeze in an hour long workout all by yourself, especially if the time varies.  And if you don't go to classes still find some way to hold yourself accountable- a reward system for you and your friend, a mutual promise, something.  It helps.

Number 3: Routine
I have karate every Tuesday and Friday.  Tuesdays I run home real quick after work, take my dog for a walk, and then head to class.  Fridays I leave work a little early so I can get to class in order to teach (white through green belts as I'm sort-of a floater).  Every week when I go over my plan for the week, those days are set.  I don't have to rearrange my schedule to squeeze in a workout, I don't have to figure out where I'm going to go- it's automatic pilot.  Automatic pilot saves a lot of time, effort and energy.

And sure, every now and again something comes up and I can't make it to class, but my normal schedule is set so that more often than not things fall into place.  It's the same reason you use a calendar to write down due dates, school semesters, soccer games and so forth. We rely on schedules.  It's what makes our world turn.

Number 4: Goals
As I said, 2nd Dan was a huge accomplishment for me.  You know what's going to be an even bigger accomplishment?  You guessed it: 3rd Dan!  And beyond that, 4th (which is masters-woo-hoo!) and so on.  But it's not just a matter of the next test, especially given how many years there are between each (one year of training for 1st Dan, 2 years for 2nd, 3 for 3rd and so on).  It's a matter of my skills.  I want to gain a better understanding of the science behind the moves we do.  I want to perform them at a higher level.  I want to reach my full potential.  We call it a martial art because the idea is that an artist has an evolved understanding beyond that of a practitioner.  They make the moves their own, create flow and rhythm and perfection with each step.  The more I learn about my art the more aware I become of how much there is that I have yet to learn so that I always feel as though my journey has just begun.

Runners I know (crazy people that they are) work the same way- if they can do a 5k, they start thinking about doing 10 miles.  If they can do 10 miles they start training for a half marathon.  If they can do that they want to conquer the marathon.  We need something to strive for, something to work towards.  It keeps us from getting stagnant.

And last but certainly not least, number 5: Have Fun!
As you probably got by now, I am not a fan of running.  In fact, I HATE running with a burning, fiery passion.  I have never managed to get myself to run on a consistent basis.  I've started routines and I think the longest I ever went consistently was two weeks until I fell off.  You will not be able to keep up with a routine- whatever it is- unless you want to go.  It's that simple.

I love karate, obviously enough.  Not just because there's so much to learn, and not just because I get to do it with really awesome people, and not even because there's a cool uniform and bad-ass belt involved.  No, it's because it's fun.  I go to class and I have fun, it's that simple.  And with the thousands of different physical movements you can do, there's no reason why everyone can't find their own particular flavor.  Find it, do it, and love it.  It makes life much better.

I hope you've found these tips useful, I know I've enjoyed sharing them.  Good luck in your quests to get healthy and now please hop along for more tips!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Review: Into Darkness

If you are here for the Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest go here.  Otherwise, keep reading.

Quick note to all readers: I don’t know how to write a review about this movie without giving away the main detail that other reviews I’ve read always avoid and since I was so grateful for other bloggers who warned of spoilers in their reviews I’m going to do the same and warn you that if you haven’t seen the movie yet you should skip this review. 

Ok, are they gone?  Only people who have see the movie left?  Good, read on.

I liked the movie, let me say that first before I start complaining.  It’s still a really solid cast, all of the traits we hold near and dear about the characters from the original series are still plain to see and the banter that takes place between them is, in my humble opinion, the best part of any of these movies.

There were some pretty emotionally poignant scenes appropriately timed to intersperse with heavy action and explosions galore.  And the action was fun, well done with great CGI effects and didn’t subtract from the plot.  It’s not easy to deal with heavy emotions in an action movie and I think this film does that balancing act very well.

Plus they evaluate a lot of pretty important topics for our time: militarism vs. terrorism  and the question of whether or not a preemptive strike crosses that line, the emotional process we go through when dealing with grief and how this affects our behaviors and can steal who we are and of course the greater philosophical question of how mankind can balance its intellectual abilities with its savage impulses.  And the final message that “There will always be those who mean to do us harm.  To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves.  Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us.  But that’s not who we are…” is a great one.  And well put given the things that America has dealt with in the last couple of decades.

There’s a lot to like in this movie and I still give it a good rating overall.  But I do have one rather major concern: I’ve already seen it.

Except that when I saw it, it was called The Wrath of Khan and it had a different cast, different themes, a different canon and a different ending.  You may argue that this is clearly not the same movie and technically, you’re right.  But with the way most remakes work today- in that they’re re-imaginings rather than strict retellings- it still falls into that category.

Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the changes they made.   Benedict Cumberbatch was a great Khan, more cool steel than the fiery passion of his predecessor.  And the twist of Kirk giving up his life to save the Enterprise rather than Spock was interesting and had me thinking pretty heavily about that first death scene so many years ago and how this one was like a mirror image.  And I did not miss those horrible sand worm monsters that Khan used to torture/take over Chekov- those things gave me nightmares like you wouldn’t believe.

But the thing that changed the most- the canon- is exactly what made it not work for me.  In the original, Kirk and crew are old.  They’re moving towards retirement.  They’ve finished their five year mission and then some and have been forever changed by it and because of that they’re smarter, more experienced and more aware of their own failings that could cause failure.  And this is why they get through it the way that they do.

In this version, Kirk and crew are still babies- the beginning of the movie is all about how much Kirk still has left to learn and how his decisions can lead to cataclysmic results if he doesn’t start slowing down and seriously considering the consequences of his actions.  I.E. the complete opposite end of the spectrum from where the heroes were the first time around.  And yet, they’re still able to outsmart Khan- who everyone keeps talking about as if he’s the smartest man in existence- and come out of it relatively unscathed. 

And the fact that Kirk died for a total of five minutes before they figured out how to save him was entirely too anticlimactic for me.  In the original, Spock was dead.  Like DEAD dead.  “All dead” as Miracle Max would say.  And we didn’t really know if he was going to come back.  In this version it’s like “Oh, he’s dead- but we can save him!”  And then in the next scene he’s quipping with Bones again.  Totally different.

What’s my point with all of this?  Simply that I feel like they could have made a better movie.  The first one was something totally new- a new villain, a new canon to play around with and new cast trying to add elements to the characters we know and love.  This one was a re-imagining of a story already told and while it was certainly a new spin, it wasn’t new.  I just hope that next time they decide to take the series to a place “no one has gone before” for real.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness Blogfest

I've met a lot of really amazing people during my travels in the blogosphere; writers who inspire admiration and hope in me by sharing their stories, ides and knowledge.  But every now and again I come across a story that goes beyond amazing.  E.C. Stilson has one of those stories.  She's lived through the kind of loss and tragedy that most of us can scarcely dream of and turned it into the kind-of life changing hope that moves worlds.  She's also formed a growing publishing company dedicated not only to changing lives through the written word but through sheer goodwill as well: they donate a large percentage of their profits to charity each year.

Elisa's experiences have taught her a lot about how the kindness of others can change lives and she's designed this blog hop to help bring those stories to light.  Everyone participating has signed on to share how a random act of kindness changed them and to share these stories with the world by having them published in an anthology.  And, because it's Wayman Publishing, all proceeds from the anthology's sales will go to charity.  I can't imagine a better way to celebrate today- a day when we give thanks to the men and women who show unimaginable kindness by giving their lives to protect our country and our way of life.  While it's a small acknowledgement of an incredibly large service it is, nonetheless, my way of saying thanks.  Here's my story:

An Angel on the Highway

The kindest thing that anyone has ever done for me came at a low point in my life.  I was 19 years old and had just been unceremoniously dumped by my first real boyfriend.  First time the words "I love you" were exchanged, first discussion of any kind of future together, first time either of us had made love.  The break-up came in the form of an AIM conversation and I was semi blind-sided.  Needless to say, I was devastated.

So I did what most 19 year-olds would do: I sought the consolation of my parents and went home for the weekend.  I loaded up my bag, threw it in my car and started the long drive down to my parents house in New York.  It took roughly three hours to get there from my college in Vermont and I was too distraught to think about waiting till morning.

It was dark and it was raining (because the scene wasn't cliché enough) and although I knew the road well I was looking at it through a steady stream of tears.  So I didn't see whatever it was that I must have run over and I never figured out what gave me that flat tire.

So there I was, ten o'clock at night, stuck on the side of the highway, in the rain and rather hysterical at the new development.  I had never changed a flat tie before, so I didn't really have a clue what I was doing.  And although I had a jack, tire iron and spare in the trunk I was scared and my efforts to get the jack set properly under the car were futile.

It was one of those moments where you think "Well this has gotta be it, right?"  I figured it was just a matter of time before someone failed to see my car and crashed into me, ending the terrible night for good.  Thinking that this was the bottom of the barrel, as 19 year-olds who haven't really lived yet are prone to do.  And it was just then that someone pulled over behind me and changed everything.

He was a nice-enough looking man, middle-aged and well kempt.  But I was scared out of my mind and thinking of horror stories I'd heard about girls stranded on the highway.  But he didn't offer to give me a ride, he simply asked if he could help.  I don't remember what I said to him, other than a breathless "please", but I remember what he said to me.

He told me that I'd placed the jack in the wrong place, which was why I couldn't get it up.  And he commented that it was a funny thing that he happened to be driving by because just last month his mother, elderly and no longer terribly able-bodied, had gotten a flat tire herself.  Someone, he explained as he pulled my flat tire off the car, had pulled over and changed her tire for her.  He was so grateful, but he didn't know how to get in contact with the man to thank him.  He was happy that he was there that night because he felt like he could somehow pay him back by doing the same service for me.

I stood there, looking rather dumb and awe-struck, as I listened to him explain how some other savior had saved his mother and I watched him save me.  I had no words to try and thank him properly when he was done.  But I smiled, in spite of my tears and addled mind, and he thanked me.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful and I ended up back at my parents' and safely in bed by midnight.  I tried to explain to them how this man had come by and changed my flat tire.  I think they were more frightened that I'd been in that situation in the first place.  (It wasn't long after that they bought me my first cell phone.)  But I was adamant that he was nothing short of an angel and I fell asleep that night wondering why I'd never even gotten his name.

But at least now I've shared his story with all of you.  I'd like to think in some small way that makes a difference.

Have you ever encountered an angel?  What did they do for you?  If you want to share your story you can sign up anytime between now and May 31st.  Just click here.  And as an added bonus, Wayman publishing is hosting a giveaway!  Buy any of Wayman Publishing's Books - some only 99 cents and several for free- and automatically be entered into their iPad mini sweepstakes!  Visit this link for more info:

And don't forget, this is a Blog Hop!  There's more kindness to see...

blogfest | Visit blog
The Desert Rocks | Visit blog
Wayman Publishing | Visit blog
Fishducky Finally | Visit blog
La Tejana | Visit blog
Poptart Manifesto | Visit blog
Its Rhyme Time | Visit blog
Jaimie Engle | Visit blog
A bestselling author describes how her intuition urged her to go to a book store - and wound up making her the "guardian angel" who saved a toddler. | Visit blog
Author Peter Thomas Senese | Visit blog
So many random acts of kindness happen quickly. Even so, I have witnessed them, and even performed some. Excellent bloghop. | Visit blog
Debra Kristi | Visit blog
Dee Ready | Visit blog
Honey, to Survive Boys, you need a LOT of RAOK. Juli @ Surviving Boys | Visit blog
Fidas Poetry | Visit blog
I would like to write about several ladies in my church who helped me so much while I was in school. | Visit blog
The Social Media Panel | Visit blog
The Voice of Parenthood | Visit blog
Nicki Elson | Visit blog
Helping a homeless man in the rain | Visit blog
Its Rhyme Time | Visit blog
R. K. Grow - reading. writing. blogging. | Visit blog
I will do a blog post on different kind things Ive seen done in the Hospice I work for. | Visit blog
After a bad injury, my friends showered me with one of my greatest pleasures. They filled my bedroom with tons of gorgeous house plants. | Visit blog
I will be blogging about a time when food insecurity was a real issue for me and my son and a friends obedience to God and her random act of kindness | Visit blog
Random Act of Kindness Post | Visit blog
Random Act of Kindness Post | Visit blog
Jennifer Probst | Visit blog
Random Acts of Kindness Post | Visit blog
Random Act Of Kindness link up - TBA | Visit blog
Been there, done that | Visit blog
What an amazing hop idea. I would be honored to have a place in it. Im so sorry for your loss and thank God you kept the faith with a test like that! | Visit blog
Random acts of kindness | Visit blog
Random Act of Kindness | Visit blog
An enlightening story of how an off shore customer helped the author understood her speech delayed son through his music. | Visit blog
Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad love random acts of kindness! | Visit blog
I would like to write about my life, love and help after the loss of my daughter | Visit blog
Hubbies is out of town, alone with 3 kids and guess what? We get 12 inches of snow and I have no clue how to work the snowblower. | Visit blog
I plan on writing about our amazing support through our trials in life. From surviving a deadly bacteria to having a son that is severely handicapped. | Visit blog
Ill be sharing an old story about something that happened one Christmas Day in a Chinese Restaurant. | Visit blog
The story of one of the kindest acts Ive ever received, also involving a car. | Visit blog
Ill share the time a stranger sent $1, 100 to help us (starving, poor students) move after graduate school. | Visit blog
Ill share the time a stranger sent $1, 100 to help us (starving, poor students) move after graduate school. | Visit blog
Ill have to think on it and come with a good one. | Visit blog
Today I received an orchid from a friend because my Dad is extremely ill. | Visit blog
Being Catholic | Visit blog
A newly revived blog that I am going to use for a variety of topics. | Visit blog
Inspirational-sometimes serious, sometimes funny stories to add a touch to your day. (Many of them are true or based on true stories like from the Bib | Visit blog
I met two wonderful people when I needed them. I will write about their random act of kindness. | Visit blog
Random Acts of Kindness Blog Fest - I will write about several acts of kindness and how this can be shared in many ways. | Visit blog
I have had some amazing things happen over the course of my life. . . It is very cool when things just come together! | Visit blog
Bames Live | Visit blog
My poem Connections. | Visit blog
Life happens, and Kindness should accompany it. S. Kane | Visit blog
Random Act of Kindness | Visit blog