Monday, January 28, 2013

Pushing The Envelope On Plus One


My close friend has been busy planning her youngest daughter's Bat Mitzvah. She has gone out of her way to accommodate her family by scheduling the event to take place during the week, so that her religious relatives wouldn't have to drive on Shabbat. She's also been busy running back and forth from the hospital taking her ailing father-in-law for treatments. Instead of being able to enjoy the anticipation of the upcoming event, she has been inundated with response cards that go above and beyond the intended guest list.

A divorced friend who was not invited with a guest, admitted that he was torn between bringing a date or his two teenage daughters. He was kind enough to agree to let them know when he knows. I told my friend that she and her husband were being too nice, but at the time she thought that it would be an isolated incident.

Though the lovely invitations were clearly addressed, one close relative didn't indicate whether her daughter would be attending. When my friend mentioned that the envelope said, "and family," she told her that she lost it, and wasn't sure who was invited. Strangely, this was her sister.

It seems that she wasn't the only one to misplace her envelope. Another relative requested that a man named "George" come as her guest. My friend didn't know this man, and asked if he was her new boyfriend. She responded, "George is not my boyfriend, he's my bodyguard. I want to bring him and my son with me."

Aghast, my friend asked why she needed a bodyguard, and she went on about how they were having trouble with another family member. Then she was instructed to notify her as soon as she finds out if this deranged cousin is attending, because if he comes then her son is out. This will bring her down to a plus one. In the event that he's not coming, then her son, and her bodyguard will both be attending changing it to a plus two. Fortunately, the bodyguard wouldn't miss it for the world.

As my friend was relaying this to me, I recalled how this woman took her elderly father to a small family luncheon hosted by my friend's parents. With him, were his caregiver and his personal bodyguard. I didn't understand why he didn't travel lighter by firing the bodyguard and hiring a tougher caregiver. My mother-in-law has a strong as an ox caregiver and bodyguard in one, and she's a seventy year old woman.

Now, I'm looking forward to the Bat Mitzvah more than ever. I've known her daughter, and her older siblings since they were babies, and have taken great pride in watching them grow into caring and considerate young adults. Though there's another part of me that can't wait to be thrown in the middle of a spy thriller. Did I mention that her relative carries two cell phones with her at all times?  I assure you that this is a wonderful family, and they are not related to the Sopranos. However, it might be a good idea to take our bullet proof vests out of the cleaners just in case.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cover Reveal: POLAR NIGHT by Julie Flanders

I'm delighted to announce that my friend Julie Flander's debut novel Polar Night is coming out on February 7. Once you read Julie's synopsis, you'll see why this is a captivating suspense thriller.

Book Blurb: When Detective Danny Fitzpatrick leaves his hometown of Chicago and moves to Fairbanks, Alaska he wants nothing more than to escape the violence and heartbreak that left his life in pieces. Numbed by alcohol and the frozen temperatures of an Alaskan winter, Danny is content with a dead-end job investigating Fairbanks' cold cases. That all changes when a pretty blond woman goes missing on the winter solstice, and Danny stumbles upon some surprising connections between her disappearance and that of another Fairbanks woman three years earlier. Forced out of his lethargy, Danny sets out to both find the missing woman and solve his own cold case.

The investigation points Danny towards Aleksei Nechayev, the handsome and charming proprietor of an old asylum turned haunted tourist attraction in the Arctic town of Coldfoot. As he tries to find a link between Nechayev and his case, Danny's instinct tells him that Nechayev is much more than what he seems.

Danny has no idea that Nechayev is hiding a secret that is much more horrifying than anything he could ever have imagined. As his obsession with finding the missing women grows, Danny finds his own life in danger. And when the truth is finally revealed, the world as he knows it will never be the same.

Bio: Julie Flanders is a librarian and a freelance writer who has written for both online and print publications. She is an avid animal lover and shares her home in Cincinnati, Ohio with her dog and cat. Polar Night, a suspense thriller with a supernatural twist, is her first novel. It will be published by Ink Smith Publishing on February 7, 2013. Find Julie online at her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

I met Julie shortly after we both started blogging during the 2011 A to Z Challenge, and she's been a supportive blogging friend ever since. She puts her all into everything she does, and I know that Polar Night will reflect this. To get the full experience, snuggle up with a blanket, and a cup of hot cocoa, as you disappear into Polar Night.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Plastical Approach To Miss America



Last weekend 20/20 featured a special behind the scenes look at the Miss America Pageant. It's been many years since I've seen a beauty pageant, and this sneak preview seemed more like a reality TV show.

One of the highlights was when Miss New Mexico cited a favorite  quote, " If it bags, sags or drags, it has to be nipped, tucked and sucked."  She said it with a huge smile proudly showing off her self proclaimed "fake teeth."

I could understand straightening, whitening, and even having tooth implants, but something tells me that's not all many of the contestants have had surgically implanted. Sam Haskell, Chairman of the Board of Miss America said, "Our young women can do anything that they want to enhance their appearance.... I believe it is their choice to make themselves look as good as they want to look however they do it." 
The contestants are required to sign a contract stating that they were never pregnant, had a criminal record, or been married. They want to stress the importance of having high morals; yet they are sending mixed messages.

One article cited that many states even offered to pay for their plastic surgery though it was never validated. This raises the question if beauty contestants are allowed to up their game by unnaturally enhancing their appearance, how is that different from pro athletes taking steroids?

The 20/20 special showed glimpses of contestants training for the pageant. One young woman was literally working her hiney off, trying to shape up her flat backside. She took her mission very seriously as she exercised with her trainer. This woman was sweating through beauty boot camp, though she wouldn't have been penalized if she had taken an easier route with plastic surgery. On the other hand, athletes have been suspended for taking steroids to enhance their performance on the playing field. Shouldn't the same rules apply to every competitor?

Not all of the contestants fit the traditional Miss America mold. In addition to having a contestant with Tourette's syndrome, this is the first year that a woman with autism participated. Miss Montana is also the youngest contestant at eighteen.

When the Miss America pageants first began in 1921 in Atlantic City, the contestants strutted down the boardwalk in swimsuits for all to see. The sixteen year old winner wore no make-up and her measurements were 30- 25-32. According to PBS, "From the very beginning, the pageant was confronted with a conflict between the effort to present an image of innocence and virtue while, at the same time, promoting a spectacle where women paraded in public in bathing suits."
Not much has changed in ninety-two years, other than the contestants are taller, their swimsuits are smaller, and it's anyone's guess how they're filling them out. Some may use gel padding, while all partake in spray on "butt glue" to keep their bikini bottoms from creeping up.
In the advent of so many young women having severe self -esteem issues watching their eighteen to twenty- four year old peers go under the knife to achieve perfection is sending the wrong message. Besides, if they start having plastic surgery in their twenties, they'll be so tightly wound when they're older that they won't have any extra flesh to fall on to prevent them from breaking a hip.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mixed Signals on Zero Dark Thirty


For movie fans there is nothing better than sitting in a theater watching images come to life on the big screen. We've seen many films this year, and the most memorable are the ones that moved us in some way. With all of the rave reviews for Zero Dark Thirty which is based on the CIA's hunt for Osama bin Laden, I couldn't help but feel that there was something missing.

The movie has already received four Golden Globe nominations, and is sure to receive Oscar nods for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress; yet, instead of leaving the sold out theater cheering, I felt like some key scenes had been left on the cutting room floor. The special effects and action sequences were first rate, but there could have been more character development. Just when the young undercover CIA officer who devoted her life to tracking down terrorists divulged that she had been recruited straight out of high school, they moved onto the next scene.

 I was hoping that there would be a back story explaining how she lost loved ones in 9/11, or was a gifted student of Arabic, but those were unanswered questions. Instead, the movie focused on her determination to capture bin Laden for ten years while sacrificing any kind of personal life in the process. This was no fault of Jessica Chastain who played the role brilliantly, but her portrayal would have had even more depth, had we learned about what led her on this career path.

Afterward, while my husband and our close friends raved about the movie, I shared my concerns. Then someone pointed out that it would be difficult to develop a multi-dimensional character in only two and a half hours, and I couldn't have disagreed more. I explained how some of the best sitcoms could make you laugh and cry in less than thirty minutes. I also mentioned how last year's Academy Award winning silent movie The Artist, made me run through the gambit of emotions without even uttering a word.

When I first heard about how the courageous Navy SEALs risked their lives to raid bin Laden's compound, I was overcome with joy, as were countless others who shared this great moment in history. Though the movie was visually stunning, and has received high accolades for director Kathryn Bigelow, who steps into war movies like a fearless general; I didn't get that jolt I was expecting.

As I write this, I realize that this may have been Bigelow's intention. The message that I may have been overlooking is that though this was a huge step in the right direction, things will never be the same for the victims of 9/11, and their families. While I was searching for answers, the true meaning of Zero Dark Thirty seems to have been written between the lines. Perhaps we were not supposed to feel satisfied, as we must continue to keep our guard up against all forms of terrorism.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

IWSG: The Write Fit

As we begin 2013,   Alex J. Cavanaugh's IWSG  will give more writers a safe haven to help them better achieve their goals. Be sure to visit these talented authors who are always willing to offer helpful suggestions. For everything else stay tuned.

Between working long hours, taking care of the home, and raising a family, many writers struggle to find the time to write. There are so many obstacles that can get in the way. As an empty nester, I should have less distractions than most people, though that's not always the case.

With our boys home for winter break, I was busy sorting out everyone's laundry. The other day when  I was carrying their clothes from the laundry room up to their closets, I also put my husband's freshly washed jeans away. I specifically put them off to the side, so he could methodically arrange them in his closet.

The following night he told me that he couldn't find them. We were on our way to dinner, so I said that I'd help him look for them when we got home. Later I began searching for his pants. I checked all of the boys closets, as well as the laundry room. Still frustrated, I  plowed through the bag that was put aside for the cleaners. A task that should've only taken a few minutes, was escalating into a major excavation. I couldn't stop now, and my husband was so torn up about it that he passed out on the couch.

The next step was to search the boys' hampers. Maybe someone threw them in there by mistake. Even though I had just done laundry a few days ago, they both were completely full. I sifted through socks that may have been remnants from the twentieth century, and I still had no luck.

I finally had no choice but to go back into my husband's closet. Of course I found them immediately. By this time it was almost 2am, and my husband woke up when our older son came home. Expecting gratitude, my husband had a different reaction after seeing his long lost jeans, "Oh those aren't the jeans I was talking about. They're only a size thirty four. They won't fit."

I saw him wearing the jeans just a few days earlier. I washed the jeans, and even put them away, but somehow someone else had snuck into his closet to trade his jeans for an identical smaller pair. I calmly told Cinderfella to try on his jeans, while I called in our son as a witness.

As the suspense was building, I explained how denim stretches to conform to your body. I also mentioned that you can't only go by waist size, because cut is an important factor. He had a huge smile on his face, as he buttoned his jeans. "I really do fit into a size thirty four." Then I pointed out how most of him fit into his jeans. My son laughed, and quickly closed the door in his room, so I wouldn't keep him up any longer. Though I knew that they were the right size, I was not thrilled that this wasted hours of valuable writing time. After this incident, they'll probably send me away to a quiet little place where I'll have nothing but time to write.