Name Your Poison!

Happy last days of October, friends! Halloween is upon us. Scary how fast a year goes–yes?

Nic 1st Halloween (Elvis) 1997 Older Son as Elvis (first Halloween 1996)

Nic n Kevin Halloween 2000 “Da boys” (Halloween 2000)

Addictions.

Some are not the kind one makes public knowledge.

Some are illegal and, in the long haul, can impact quality of life or worse, life itself.

That’s serious stuff. (If you believe yourself to have that kind, please, seek help.)

BTW, we all have them. (Does blogging count? This is my 361st post! :D)

Disclaimer: By choosing this topic, I am by no means making light of the types of addictions that need true attention, twelve-step program(s) or other type of intervention(s).

Truth is, we’re all hooked on something. Try wrestling my cup of coffee—half-caffed as it may be—from my eager li’l hands every morning. My brew-baby is set to go on timer; happiness is hearing the triple-beep that tells me java is ready before I make my way down the stairs daily. Then there is tennis. Makes me crazy. I always lose—and frequently wind up MAD and FRUSTRATED on the court, yet I keep going back. I can’t not watch, and I can’t not play.

(Check out my favorite tennis image of the week.  Diehard fans know what preceded this, too. 😉 Please try to remember to come back, lol.)

Back to addictions. Years ago I attended a New Year’s Eve party and stayed overnight. Until that night, I had heard the term, but never internalized ‘chain smoking.’ I watched a guy pull a cigarette out of the pack just in time to light it with the end of the one hanging from his mouth. He spent the next five hours doing that over and over, to the tune of five packs or more. (At some point, I went to sleep. Chances are, he lit the next cigarette.)

That’s how I feel when I’m watching my go-to channel, USA. (Come on, ‘Characters Welcome’ is the ultimate writer’s by-line! 😉 ) At least twice a week, Law & Order SVU and NCIS run marathon-style, often until the late hours. (That’s when Modern Family kicks in, 2-4-episode line-ups.)

TV powers-that-be did away with commercials between the end of one show and the beginning of the next for a reason, people. That’s one way they get your eyeballs on the show that’s new to the scene. And for an SVU/NCIS junkie like me, that’s all it takes to get roped into that next episode—even if I have watched it twelve times. As soon as those credits roll, you’ll hear me begging hubby for the remote. “Quick! Go to black before I’m sucked into the next one!”

So what’s your poison?

Here’s to a happy and safe Halloween to all who celebrate. Residents of the USA, don’t forget to turn back your clocks.

Have a great weekend,

Joanna

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FIFA World Cup and Polish Boyfriends

Hi all. I’m definitely a bit behind this week. Just started the summer program in my school district and spent about four hours total trying to schedule three mornings worth of students. I suppose lots of folks hope to win the lottery, but I’d be satisfied with $500/week for life. Then I’d take the summer off—for once since my early teenage years, when I wasn’t old enough to work. (I’d still have to keep the day job, but figure $350 after taxes ain’t a bad thing…)

Anyway, y’all know tennis is my game and I’m currently following Wimbledon. Yes, I know, Rafa is out. He managed to hold his own during a trouncing by qualifier Nick Kyrgios, but I’m happy Rafa beat Rosol in the second round. The rest—it is what it is. Who knows? Federer might take Grand Slam #18. That would work too. 🙂

tennis Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

I’m not a big fan of soccer—that’s my little Italian mamma’s thing. She keeps me updated on FIFA World Cup standings, but I know it’s a big deal to lots of folks (including many of my favorite tennis players).

We’ve talked about the anxiety that seems to run on my mom’s side of the family. I promise you, some of these wonderful folks can take the simplest of situations and work themselves into a ridiculous frenzy over what they conjure into horror shows in their minds. Earlier today I remembered some loony stuff that ties into the 1990 World Cup.

I was working at my first full-time job, at a hospital in one of the boroughs of NYC. My friend had gotten married right around that time. She and her new hubby lived in a neighboring borough, had a couple of cats and needed someone to apartment-sit.

I offered. My anxious Italian mamma was not happy with my decision. In fact, she was so annoyed with me, she told me I shouldn’t have bothered calling her on the Monday immediately following the wedding, my first day as cat-sitter.

So the next day, I hung out late at work. Stayed to watch the final match, West Germany vs. Argentina, the team that took out the host team, Italy. (My friend might not have had cable. This many years down the line, the details are a tad fuzzy.)

soccer player

Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

Aside: I’m not sure how valid this statement is, but don’t most Italians believe Italy should always win when it comes to soccer? If I remember correctly though, there was some questionable stuff associated with Argentina’s win, so any fans of Italy rooted for West Germany just to see Argentina get its due.

BTW, I didn’t call Mamma. (She told me not to bother the day before, right? I was being a good listener 😀 .)

Went to see a private patient after the game. Rolled into my friend’s apartment around seven or so.

I might have been in five minutes when the phone started ringing. (This was in the pre-cell phone era.)

At the other end was a work friend. “Call your mother. She’s looking for you and she sounded upset.”

A second friend called a very short while later. This one lived in my state, about twenty minutes from my house. “Call your mother. She has no idea where you are. She’s really worried.”

My newly-wedded friend’s mother called. “Call your mother! My husband’s going crazy over here.”

Turns out, my mamma went through my phone book and started making calls to any name she recognized. My newlywed pal’s stepfather—let’s call him Teddy—was born in Poland. His English is broken (but very entertaining) to this day.

I learned Teddy had the misfortune of picking up the phone. His conversation with my mother had him defending himself that he had no reason to take up with a 26-year-old girl. (My friend and I still laugh about it, and Teddy has retained the honor of being “first Polish boyfriend.” The second one never worked out. Thank. God.)

Anyway, I’m sure I wound up in an argument with my mamma that evening.

But for the sake of the people in my phone book, I called her the rest of the time I apartment sat.

Any FIFA World Cup memories of your own to share? Or stuff your parents did to make you nuts stories to tell about? You’re among friends here!

On a separate note: Quickie shout-out on behalf of long-time friend and very prolific screenplay writer Ric Rodriguez. He’s recently discovered blogging and sharing about his journey and other thoughts.  Check out his website/blog and show him some love! Many thanks to those of you who take the time to do so. 🙂

American flag

Happy Independence Day to all my American buds! (Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Here’s to a wonderful day,

Joanna

Post Memorial Day Check In

Keeping it simple, today, and hoping y’all had a fun unofficial opening of Summer 2014. This past weekend was pretty packed: a party, a BBQ, some gardening and tennis. I only speak for myself, but a good day on the court makes me happier than any on the beach. (Good= getting serves in, running down balls and hitting well. I always lose.)

Made the switch too, from cell to smartphone. Took over Older Son’s lowly old iPhone 4 (he’s too cool for such outdated technology and gave it up at least two phones ago). I don’t consider myself a techy, but I’m not exactly tech-illiterate either. Been using Older Son’s device for at least a year as a camera and an iPod—go figure, I’m still having trouble with basic talk and text, lol. Couldn’t figure out why people kept asking who the text sender was: I had no clue I was showing up as his screen-name/email at the other end. I’m getting there–I think.

Quick preview: looking to launch a 2-3-part series inspired by the awesome Kristen Lamb’s recent posts on school and zombies starting next week. (If you want a head start, feel free to peruse those here and here. 🙂 )

Be well and have a wonderful rest of the week!

Thank you very much our for your time,

Joanna

Keeping It Quick While Circling the Seasons

Hi all. School is back in session, making this a shorter, much busier week. All our snow days threw off the report card schedule, so things have to be done a li’l bit faster. (Annoying when you have to use the district’s network to get some work done. I’m not a fan of bringing the day job home, but I could have paced some stuff out. Just sayin’.)

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of spring and have been wanting to rerun my second-ever blog post for a while now.  Back in that day  I was ridiculously green and afraid to hit PUBLISH. Now you lovely, loyal faithful, who are kind enough to show up post after post, are subject to anything that comes through the fingers. Bless you. Bless you.

Rather than subject you to the whole post from May 2009, I decided to include here only the part that connects to writing, as well as to many things in life in general. I think of this often:

Several years ago my husband and I purchased a cottage about three hours away from my home. Built on an old Christian campground situated in the woods, we have access to it year round, but really use it only six months because the pipes supplying water are too superficial to not freeze during the winter months. This translates into having running water from mid-April through mid-October, which means during our travels we get to watch nature as it moves through three seasons.

Summer is always gorgeous but pretty consistent in its green. Fall is positively glorious in its array of golds, oranges, browns, reds, maroons, yellows and even some shades of purple. Spring is traditionally known for its pinks, lilacs and paler greens. What caught my attention, however, on one of our spring trips out there, were the very, very early spring colors. I was surprised at how many paler versions of fall colors I saw.

That took my thoughts in a totally different direction, to a workshop given by Jane Porter. She opened her talk by stating that the beginning of a book should always point to the ending. Some books are absolutely blatant in that. Peruse the opening of Phillippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl as an excellent example of such. And everywhere in nature I happen to look, I see other ready illustrations, ranging from as relatively simple as the life cycle of a leaf to as complex as the stages of a human life.

Okay. ‘Nuf said on that. Thank you for indulging me.

Just for fun, here are links to two great photos I came across this week:

Love this one!  (Cat and/or animal lovers will too. Too cute!)

For the tennis fans. (It’s not Rafa. But it’s a great photo just the same, lol.)

A final aside: I’m excited to be presenting on point-of-view to a teacher-friend’s fifth graders this Friday. Wish me luck!

Have a great one, folks.

Joanna

Sometimes, It’s About the Littlest Things

Hi all,

I’m running a little late with posting, this week. That’s what happens when school is closed for spring break. I start cleaning and lose sight of almost everything else. (This coming from the girl who always gave her mother grief for using vacation time to clean. Help! Does this mean I’m becoming my mother???)

Here’s the latest I tried from Jessica Smith TV. What I’m liking about her routines—and the ballet barre workout I referred to in my last post—is feeling supercharged when I’m done, with a willingness to keep going. The energy seems to have translated to the tennis court, too! I ran down so many shots and didn’t feel tired at all after 90 minutes out there—double what I could do last fall.  (Oh, the hours I spent on the courts in my mid-late 20s. Still feeling that kind of joy when I’m swinging a racquet.)

A couple of days ago, online friend and fellow blogger Carrie Rubin brought up an interesting question about twinges of regret about life choices we might have made. Read her post here. (Psst! Carrie’s posts are always worth the read.)

Anyway, she got me thinking. Of course, my thoughts meandered in other directions—and I didn’t want to be a copy-cat. I landed on seemingly little things that wind up being life-changing.

Now, I’m not talking insanely dramatic life situations. For me, a YouTube video and a piece of tape wound up impacting the day-to-day.

This connects to the fitness videos I mentioned these past two posts. Around this time last year, I decided to give zumba a whirl. I’d taken a class; wasn’t thrilled with the instructor. Being someone who has a hard time following steps, I figured I could start and pause a video as needed and work at my own pace.

Long story short, I felt something not move correctly in my left hip. No pain. At least not until a month or so later, when I couldn’t tell which came first, the pain in the hip or that in the knee. I was also an avid user of rocker-bottom sneakers (i.e., Shape-Ups)—they never, ever bothered me prior. (I’ve given them up but still miss them. It’s okay.)

By June last year, I had enough of a problem to interfere with my lifestyle. That included walking. (I was afraid to attempt tennis.) Sitting certain ways and getting up off the floor after working with my school kids had become a major issue. I broke down and went to see an orthopedist. He offered a knee brace, ibuprofen and physical therapy.

Immediately called a former co-worker. She’s not only the most amazing physical therapist I know, she’s become my “sister-from-another-mother.” She told me the brace  would align my patella (a.k.a kneecap) exactly the way athletic taping would, minus the bulk. Went to her house that same night. Came home taped and taught how to do it myself. She also showed me a few key exercises, but I’d be lying if I told you those were the magic.

A piece of athletic tape applied once or twice a week since then has altered my day-to-day for the best. Within a week, most of the pain subsided. (I’d say I was 95% improved, and with minimal medicine too.) I even took my chances on the tennis court right around then, and came back happier than I’d been in months. The barre workout appears to have handled the rest of the discomfort. My hip is feeling 99% improved since TWO days after starting that. Go figure.

So, reader-friends, I turn over the blog-mike to you. What seemingly little choice or change did you make that significantly impacted your day-to-day, or your life on the bigger scale, if that’s appropriate?

Best wishes for a Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all those who celebrate!

And special thanks to Carrie for inspiring me this week.  🙂

Cheers,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Things Hot in the Cold (With Nutella and Potato Soup!)

What????

Happy Tuesday to all. Hanging in there and hope each of you is doing the same or better!

Okay, I happened by a Nutella recipe that I’m sure I will try at some point, assuming I remember I have it saved in a Word doc, lol. BTW, it’s for a bread-spread. I’m thinking Nutella-potato soup might be a bit strange even for me 🙂

We’ve been dealing with some serious cold snaps here on the east coast, and everybody knows frigid temps bring out the soup-maker in everyone, right? (Huh? Nobody else got that gene?)

So  I’d been wanting to try my hand at creamy potato soup for the longest time. Finally got myself in gear a few weeks ago and looked up recipes online. Came across Ree Drummond,The Pioneer Woman This blogger has a really fun way of delivering the how-to. Actually, pretty sure I stumbled on it a few weeks prior while searching for a quick sweet-n-sour chicken recipe—uh that one is pretty awesome too (but not Ree’s). Uh, now that my brain went back into a cohesive mode, I found a great chicken tenders recipe at PW’s website. Yep, I get a little confused. Too many websites, so little time…

Yes, Joanna is working very hard to stay focused.

I linked you to PW’s potato soup recipe, but you might want to make note of a few easy changes: I skipped the bacon, used 1% lowfat milk and about ¼-cup light cream. I also went very easy on the cheese (sharp cheddar), tossing in a handful or so. Chicken broth I made myself. Liked the milder flavor the soup had using mine. Second time I made this I didn’t have homemade broth, only bouillon cubes. Still tasty, but a tad salty. (BTW, the second time, I tossed all the foods in the processor vs. julienne, chop and all that tedious prep-by-hand that so annoys me during cooking. Worked jes’ fine, folks.)

potato soup

Let me tell you, this was GOOD–nah, it was excellent.  As with any soup, it was that much yummier the next day, after all the flavors got a chance to come together. And yes, it’s starchy, but far creamier tasting than the nominal amount of fat in it.  (The actual fat content has to be pretty low.)

Oh, and here’s the link to the Nutella recipe.

So who’s trying what? I’d love to know how you make out!

For tennis fans, here’s a link to Aussie Open Women’s 2014 Champion Li Na’s speech after being presented the trophy. Take a few minutes, and laugh at this lady’s hysterical way of putting it out there. When she retires her racquet, she might want to consider stand-up.

And congrats to “Iron Stan” Wawrinka, who took the title on the men’s side–all the best to the ATP World Tour’s new #3! 

Joanna

Could We Have Possibly Done Something Right? (Part 6 and Done :)

The Australian Open Tennis Championships are underway! The first Grand Slam of 2014 is here! Tennis in the morning. Tennis after work. Tennis in the evening. Tennis at night.

And everyone wonders why I don’t get any real writing done. (“Yeh,” say the Aussies).

Yes, I’m moving on. Maybe a calming chamomile tea is in order. (Nah. Hate tea. Coffee’s my brew.) Hope everyone is well, this second full week of the New Year.

Can I possibly wrap up this series? I suppose I should have be done, but one incident with Older Son (OS) stands out too much to not share. And it’s so interesting how several seemingly unrelated events came together to help Hubby and me with our responses to the situation.

OS turned 17 this past November. In my state, that means a driver’s license, which he got December 11, 2013.

That means OS has had a driver’s permit since April. Sometime before June he came across a used car for sale, pretty much what he wanted, and a great deal for him. Hubby and I had our misgivings, but we allowed him to use a portion of his savings to buy it.

It got parked at a friend’s house, pronto, not to be registered or insured until he got the DL.

On a mid-June weekend this past summer, Hubby and I were supposed to go to our PA cottage. A dear friend had passed away and we’d hoped to attend the funeral, which was in the vicinity. OS was scheduled to work and Younger Son (YS) is in the ‘bored’ stage in PA (no internet connection for the X-box in the woods).

Because putting together arrangements for a responsible adult to be available to a 14- and 16- year-old was turning out to be more tedious than we figured it should have been, Hubby and I made a last-minute decision to stay home. Neither of us felt all that comfortable leaving the kids home while we were three hours away. And we’d visited my friend twice during her bout with cancer, so I felt better knowing I’d connected with her before she exited this life.

So, there we were Saturday afternoon, June 15th. Kids are both out and Hubby decides to step out—maybe run to the deli or something along those lines.

He came home livid.

He’s spotted OS driving his should-have-been-parked-car, with his girlfriend (GF) in the passenger seat.

OS came in a few minutes later, pleading his case for the necessity of the run.

Hubby grounded him on the spot, including not allowing him to attend a rather formal birthday party he and GF were due at in less than two hours.

Not sure I agreed with Hubby’s choice of handling the situation—he was pretty mad—and the party, as far as I could see, had nothing to do with the transgression. I spoke to Hubby privately (so that OS wasn’t aware of the conflict of opinions Hubby and I had), but supported his decision since it had already been made, and he felt very strongly about not changing it. He believed strong action that showed OS the severity of his transgression was necessary. I did agree with the rationale, but might have chosen a more related form of discipline (i.e., revoked even permit-driving privileges for x-amount of time, or something along those lines).

Aside: GF was kind enough not to attend the party w/o OS.

So, that’s how Saturday, June 15th went. OS probably said something to me here and there, but I reminded him (nicely) that he’d made a choice, got caught and now had to deal with the consequences of his action.

The next morning we realized there was some emergency vehicle activity going on a few blocks from our house. Being the mind-our-own-business folks we usually are, Hubby walked down to scope out the action then texted OS and GF to come down. They took off on their skateboards.

A FIFTEEN-year-old boy had taken his mother’s SUV—she had gone to church—piled in at least three friends and lost control making a turn. He ploughed headlights first into an electrical pole. (Don’t ask how the force at the bottom toppled the top third of the pole, knocking it onto a power line and taking out the electricity to one or more houses on that street.)

OS hung out, and chatted for a while with the tow truck guy, who talked about the law-end of what this kid and his family would be dealing with in the not-so-far-future. And that kid won’t be seeing a driver’s license anytime near his 17th birthday. (He kind of seriously messed up that privilege.)

So what’s my point? Hubby and I could have ranted and raved at OS for making the impulsive choice he did. We didn’t. In agreement or not, we stood united in doling out consequences. (We are lucky. OS takes his lumps like a man (?). YS shows a much more dramatic side, but eventually does his time—often the next day, once he’s calmed down.)

I’m getting at this: LIFE stepped in and demonstrated a real-life example of what could happen when a kid takes a vehicle, especially if said kid is not terribly skilled/experienced at handling it. Sans getting preachy, we used that illustration to point out how flippin’ lucky OS was that his actions the day before cost him a party and little else.

And how crazy was it that Hubby and I stayed home and Hubby just happened to be on the same road at the same time OS had taken out his car? Coincidence? I’m not so sure…

Anyone out there with similar experiences to share? Please do! How did you handle it? Would you have grounded OS from the party? If not, what consequences might you have imposed? Did life show up with a lesson better than anyone you could have given?

Have a great day, folks,

Joanna