Cancer scares and tattoos

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Last autumn, my cousin and bestie-since-birth Chris had a terrible health scare. And by terrible, I mean TERRIBLE. He dropped thirty pounds in about two months because food became his body’s enemy. There were a lot of tests, and plenty of talk about all the types of cancer it could be. It was terrifying for me. And probably him, too.

It turned out to be celiac disease. While we were still enjoying the warm, glowing relief of finding out that his condition was easily treated, my own health took a strange turn. I was soon on the receiving end of a biopsy.

I, too, turned out to be cancer-free. But anyone who has gone through a cancer scare knows that this process is not quick. You have weeks and sometimes months to wonder if your ending is just around the corner. Or maybe not your ending, but a severely reduced quality of life for the next year or so.  Either way, it’s really freaking scary to not know if your own body is turning against you. And when you’re not sure if you have cancer or not, you  realize how many TV commercials are for cancer treatment centers or cancer drugs.

 

Weeks of pondering Chris’s mortality and then my own changed my perspective on a lot of things. I wondered what I would wish I had done differently if I was about to find out that I was really sick. I realized that either way, mortality was real and applied to me just as much as everyone else.

I knew I would wish I had spent more time with people I enjoy, instead of making plans we eventually cancel.

I knew I would wish I had made a habit of meditating and spent more time practicing yoga, neither because I “should”, but because they enhance my daily life.

I would wish I had spent more time writing, and writing with love for my craft instead of resenting it like something I have to do.

 

I would wish I had watched more movies. Good movies, bad movies, doesn’t matter as long as they tell me a story.

Of course there are more wishes, but you get the idea. Chris and I hopped on one of the wishes right away and got the besties tattoos that we had been considering for ages. And they’re fabulous.

As Chuck Palanhniuk put it, “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

It is human nature to die, my friends. And I have decided to remove regret from my future. It’s liberating to face the realization that we are all dying. Let’s all go out with as few “I wish I hads” as possible.

 

Bingo for real-life grown-ups

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Being a grown-up is a total drag. Reward yourself for participating in the drudgery with this Bingo card. Every time you get a Bingo, do something frivolous like buy yourself a concert t-shirt or have a margarita for lunch.

Adulting is tough! Treat yourself for putting forth effort.

B

 

I N G O
Poop without your iPhone Go to bed 100% on the natch Vacuum the living room but don’t count that as exercise Sleep more than 6 but less than 10 hours Eat your takeout from a plate instead of the Styrofoam container
Drink herbal tea without feeling pious Don’t laugh when someone farts in yoga For the love of all that is holy, stop using LOL Throw out all of your underwear, socks, and t-shirts that have holes- yes, all of them, even your favorites Eat a vegetable that isn’t deep-fried
Wash your sheets Floss your teeth seven days in a row FREE Listen to NPR for 30 consecutive minutes Get your teeth cleaned
Second-guess that 2nd beer before 11 am Go 48 hours without cracking a ‘your mom’ joke Wash your hair instead of wearing a hat to hide the grease Charge your phone before it’s below 25% Go 24 hours without misplacing your keys
Wear a coat when appropriate instead of just complaining about the cold Fill your gas tank before the gas light comes on to taunt you Update your phone when it tells you to Admit that you’re too tired to either cook dinner or go out for dinner Stop fluids two hours before bedtime to minimize the times you’ll wake up to pee

 

Don’t let politics get you down!

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The political ads and propaganda are only going to get worse for the next ten months. Some people are opting out of social media to avoid the arguments and bullshit, but some of us need social media for our jobs. Avoiding social media is out of the question for us, the internet-dependent worker bees. And no one can avoid people all together.

But you don’t have to put up with the constant irritation of political propaganda. Here are a few hacks to help you survive election season:

Block, block, block. Today I had the misled realization that none of my Facebook friends were posting things that I disagree with politically. That realization was followed up with another, truer realization. I had hidden or blocked all of my friends who posted things that make my blood boil. It’s surprisingly easy and effective!

Hey guy who sat behind me in 9th grade social studies, I don't care about your political beliefs at all.

Hey d-bag who sat behind me in 9th grade social studies, I don’t care about your political beliefs at all.

MMMBop them. If someone insists on poking you with political rhetoric, look them square in the face and sing a song that is both annoying and easy to remember. I suggest the Hanson hit “MMMBop”.

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Annoying and catchy tunes are powerful weapons.

Change the players. If you accidentally read a headline, replace the names of the candidates with names from My Little Pony. For example: “Pinkie Pie thinks all Muslims should register with the government.” Kind of softens the blow, doesn’t it?

Stone-cold racist.

Stone-cold racist.

Don’t open any forwards from your parents. This one always applies because your parents don’t know how to delete the rows and rows of email addresses when they forward things.  But during election season, old-school parents tend to send things that are racist for reasons they don’t get.

We're not racist. We have a black friend.

We’re not racist. We have a black friend.

Start a swear jar, but for political rhetoric. If your office-mates can’t stop talking politics, make them put a dollar in a jar every time they bring up politics. In no time at all, you’ll have enough money for ear plugs and a white noise machine.

Don’t read news sites. My husband makes fun of me for avoiding the news. But it’s really depressing, especially during election season. I’d rather get my news from Jezebel and pretend that Diane Keaton’s hats have global influence.

Diane Keaton's hat has a plan for border control.

Diane Keaton’s hat has a plan for border control.

Become informed and back away. Please understand that I am not advocating political ignorance. It is important that you learn about the candidates. But do it on your terms. Learn the facts, ignore the negativity and ignorance, and get back to reading novels and coloring like the hard-working adult you are. If people keep bugging you, retreat to your fort.

A letter for the soda-yoga-lady

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Dear nonconformist,

I don’t really even know what you look like. You have long, dark hair. But I’ve never noticed anything else about your appearance. Here’s why: I can’t get past your Big Gulp.

Okay, it’s not an actual Big Gulp, because it’s from a different gas station. But big gas station cokes are all Big Gulps, right?

Anyway, It’s yoga class. We all have bottles of water, most of them are BPA-free. But not you. You shamelessly walk in to every yoga class with a giant coke.

The first time I saw you with it, I thought maybe you were just having a bad day. Hangovers require giant sodas, and good for you for still making it to class. Or maybe it was water and you just like the aesthetic of big gas station cups with ice.

But you weren’t just having a bad day, you bring one to every class. And it’s not water, because the darkness of the fluid shows through the lid.

I want it to be clear that I’m not judging you. I just feel like I need more information.

Are you one of those people who hates water? Does the taste of nothing offend you to the point that you can’t enjoy water strictly because it’s refreshing? Or are you a conspiracy theorist who believes the government is putting chemicals in our water to give us cancer so the pharmaceutical companies can continue to get rich?

If not water, why not sports drinks? Sport drinks are pretty much the same thing as sodas, but they’re socially acceptable at gyms because of the electrolytes and shit.

Do you drink cokes all day? If so, how do you avoid UTI’s? Or do you constantly have a UTI? How do you do some much yoga with a constant UTI?

To be honest, I hope I never know the answers to these questions. Speculation entertains me. So thank you for that. And thank you for not giving a flying butt-rat about what people think about you. You could conceal the soda in a stainless steel, BPA-free water bottle. But you don’t. Because you don’t give a shit.  Here’s to you, nonconformist-soda-yoga-lady!

Sincerely,

SGSC

The Canyons: lower your expectations, even if they are already low.

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Warning: This review is lousy with spoilers, but it’s fine. You’re not going to watch this movie anyway.

First of all, let me say that I sometimes like Bret Easton Ellis’ work. Not always, but I get that he’s satirical and “post-empire” and when he’s not being a self-righteous d-bag, he actually has interesting commentary on society. So I hoped that his screenwriting would be a plus for this film.

Second, Paul Schrader directed The Canyons. Though his directing career hasn’t been epic, he wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. So you’d think he had a handle on this film-making thing.

Third, If I don’t like something, I usually stay quiet out of respect for the artist’s vision and all that. And I know sometimes the story in your head doesn’t end up on paper so I try not to be overly critical. But I just can’t freaking help this one. The Canyons left me with a lot to get off my chest. Maybe because I went into it with the attitude that it couldn’t be that bad. Movies are rarely as awful as the critics claim. But it is that bad, you guys. It really is.

It's not porn because I only show my dong once.

It’s not porn because he only shows his dong once.

The first scene is painfully boring. It’s a conversation between two couples, Christian (James Deen) and Tara (Lindsay Lohan), and Ryan (Nolan Funk) and Gina (Amanda Brooks). Christian is a producer or something and has recently cast Ryan in a film as a favor to his assistant Gina since Ryan is Gina’s boyfriend. And because Tara insisted that Ryan was just perfect for the role. Whatever the hell that role is, or what the movie is, or any of that shit, no one knows because none of that seems to have anything to do with the plot. And this is the scene that sets up the entire film.

This opening snooze-fest conversation centers on Christian announcing to the table that he brings people over to watch him and Tara have sex and sometimes to have mini-orgies. Because that’s dinner conversation in the canyons, my friends. There’s lots of time on smartphones, then there’s a close up of a lime being squeezed into a cocktail.

Opening scenes work best when both main characters spend most of it on their phones.

Opening scenes work best when both main characters spend most of it on their phones.

Okay, so Tara is living with Christian who is a spoiled trust-fund baby wanna-be filmmaker who only dabbles in filmmaking to keep his dad off his back so he doesn’t lose his trust fund which allows him to live in ridiculous luxury and debauchery. I guess his dad is some sort of Pablo Escobar type figure. Because art.

We soon learn that Tara is doinking Ryan behind Christian’s back because they used to be in love but she couldn’t take being poor anymore. Bartending and going to auditions was just too taxing for her, so she moved in with a spoiled douchebag who sometimes makes her do it with other dudes and sometimes chicks, but hey, she doesn’t have to hold down a job.

Christian knows something is going on so he constantly interrogates Tara, then tells her he trusts her. And her hair extensions are TERRIBLE.

Then Christian tells a gay producer to tell Ryan his part will be recast unless he sleeps with him. Why? Not sure. I guess to see if Ryan swings both ways, or to see how desperate he is to keep his part. But that question is never really answered, because who really gives a shit by then?

Also, Tara (Lohan) sun bathes a lot but she is as pale as talcum powder. Do they make SPF 1000?

This is how she spends her days. Every single worthless one.

There are lots of shots of abandoned movie theaters. I’m sure it’s supposed to be some metaphor about how films have changed, and to justify Schrader’s Kickstarter campaign to get this festering turd made. But really the abandoned theaters can also be a metaphor for what happens when Lindsay Lohan and James Deen get top billing in movies.

At least they don't have to screen The Canyons.

At least this place doesn’t have to screen The Canyons.

This girl named Cynthia who Christian still has sex with sometimes confronts Tara to tell her that one time Christian roofied her and had her gang-raped on camera. So that’s why they still hang out, I guess.  Also, Cynthia knows that Ryan and Tara used to date, but Christian does not.

It turns out that Cynthia’s story was a lie, because that’s super helpful for rape victims, you dumb bitch. And she did it because she wants Christian back, who really is a waste of resources. I mean, seriously, there’s a water shortage in California. Nobody should be sharing water with Christian.

And then there’s a four-way where Tara turns the power tables on Christian which is supposed to be erotic and important to story development but really it’s just kind of gross. Then we learn that Christian’s dad also requires him to go to therapy in order to keep his trust fund.  His therapist is Gus Van Sant, because WHY NOT? So he tells Gus Van Sant that he didn’t enjoy losing his power during group sex. Boo hoo, pervert.

The disco lights let you know that it's about to get FREAKY!

The disco lights let you know that it’s about to get FREAKY!

Apparently, Christian’s a psychopath or some shit and really needs that therapy because he totally murders Cynthia for lying about him. He goes all stabby-style while she screams, “Christian, NO!” Then Ryan calls Cynthia right after it happens and Christian picks up and says, “I can’t believe what you did to her, dude.” So obviously Ryan drives straight to her house and leaves his mark on the crime scene, instead of doing something crazy like calling the police.

He always looks this confused.

Ryan always looks this confused.

Tara wants to leave Christian. He says she can as long as she provides him with an alibi for the time he spent murdering the yoga mistress. He also says that if she ever sees Ryan (“if you’re ever even in the same room with him again”) he’ll kill Ryan and get away with it. Because, you know, white rich privilege and all.

This dungpile ends with another boring dinner scene. This one with some rando actress telling Tara that she heard about her from Christian, but then she asks Tara how Christian is doing.  Because that makes sense.

By this time, Tara is with some other dude and they just got back from Dubai, where Tara “shopped and laid out” like the slutty sloth she is.

So the rando chick goes to the bathroom at the restaurant and calls someone who we assume is Christian to give the Tara update, but is actually Ryan because the next shot is him staring hauntingly at the camera. Maybe not so much hauntingly as blankly as in “wait, what was I supposed to do here?”

The point it that two men are obsessed with Tara, a woman with bad extensions who chain smokes and shops all day. And really doesn’t seem to do anything else except lots of sexing.

The movie would have been better if instead of Christian murdering just Cynthia, he murdered everyone in the movie and then committed suicide. It would have been fine, because every single character was so underdeveloped that vapid seems to rich a word to describe them.

Planning for Disney requires booze

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After years of procrastination, the Jones family is finally planning a trip to Disney.  And holy shit, I had no idea how much work just planning this crap would be.

This shit is legit giving me a migraine.

This shit is legit giving me a migraine.

The first thing I did was visit a friend who makes frequent Disney trips. She and her husband were very helpful and had so much information that I left feeling completely overwhelmed. They had an abundance of advice to offer but it couldn’t conquer my theme park ignorance. Fortunately, we had to delay the trip a year because right after the Disney interrogation meeting, we bought a new house.

So, the first thing I did this go-round was enlist the help of a Disney travel agent. She works for Disney, so it’s a commission situation that doesn’t add to the already bazillion dollar cost. She has taken care of everything with the minimal amount of input I can bring myself to give.

Just tell me where to show up, yo.

Just tell me where to show up, yo.

Now we’re to the part where we have to pick restaurants and parks. I have no idea why this is so overwhelming for me. Probably because I’m the mom and if we go to a park that’s not as fun as it should be, or we eat a restaurant that turns out to be grody, it will be me who is subjected to the loudest whining.

I really don’t give two shits if we eat with Chip and Dale instead of Donald Duck. Nobody likes Donald Duck anyway. He’s the Newman of Mickey Mouse. And I can promise that no matter where we eat, I’ll constantly be reminded that not eating grains or cheese makes me a restaurant pariah.  So I’ll eventually relent and eat whatever is offered, even if that means spending half of the vacation feeling like I accidentally swallowed a basketball that will never, ever pass through.

A delicious way to ruin my day!

A delicious way to ruin my day!

And no, there isn’t a marijuana dispensary at Disney.

Oh, yeah. This guy is totally holding.

Oh, yeah. This guy is totally holding.

My hope is that the planning is worse than the actual trip will be. I do tend to get worked up about things that usually turn out fine. There will be cool Star Wars stuff, and Phineas and Ferb. It can’t be awful, right? Or maybe it will be an absolute shit-show, complete with kid meltdowns and colitis.

I said APPLE JUICE!

I said APPLE JUICE!

Either way, we’re freaking going. Yay, Disney!

Peckerwood: raw, gritty perfection

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You probably won’t find a character to love in “Peckerwood”. But the thing about this book is, you don’t need to love the characters to love the book. And though the characters aren’t likable people, each character is developed enough to understand why he or she might be such a shithead.

The story centers on the symbiotic relationship between a redneck crime boss and the local sheriff, and the forces that cause their relationship to implode.  One of those forces being Terry Hickerson, peckerwood-extraordinaire of Spruce, Missouri.  Terry usually sticks to booze, drugs, women, and theft. But he’s not smart enough to stay within his depth. And a chance encounter with the sheriff’s daughter lands him in the middle of two most powerful and dangerous men in town.

From the very first page, Jedidiah Ayres grabs the reader by the nuts and demands attention.  Ayres builds each scene carefully, sparing no detail without wasting words. The lifestyle and locations are distinctly southern, but could be related to the American underbelly in any state. Poverty and inadequate education yield similar results anywhere in the country.

It doesn’t take long to realize that the characters in “Peckerwood” aren’t striving for redemption. But their paths are so intriguing, you have to strap in to see just how low they’ll go.

“Peckerwood” is Jedidiah Ayres’s debut novel. He also has a short story collection titled “A F*ckload of Shorts” that I can’t wait to read.

In “Peckerwood”, Ayres has found raw, gritty perfection that will stick with you for days. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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