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Hey Kids! There’s a New Blog in Town!

Well, in my spare minute a day I started a new blog. I think you can never have too many irons in the fire, right? Anyway, it’s just a silly look at the many books out there that never quite made it to “Great American Novel” status. It just went up today, and if anyone is bored…please stop by and check it out! I plan to update it very often. Hope you like it!!

The Opposite of Bestseller

http://theoppositeofbestseller.wordpress.com/

Music Television Saved My Life!

It was when I was in seventh grade that I first heard about a miraculous invention called “cable television.” In those early days everyone just watched television for free. We caught it right out of the air with an antenna that was attached to our television. It was like a magic that I didn’t understand, but accepted as part of normal, everyday life. The television we had in my house was tiny by today’s standards. Smaller, even, than my current computer monitor. We had a 13-inch black and white television that you actually had to put your hands on to change the channel or volume. Oh, it’s true! You had to stand on your feet and walk over to it. But this was not likely to happen, however. Since there were only a few TV channels in existence, you pretty much knew you weren’t missing anything on the other four stations. Evening television viewing consisted of watching channel seven for an hour and a half and then going to bed.

Now, back to seventh grade. I just started junior high school and was feeling all mixed up about my emotions. Wearing an alligator sweater and Jordache jeans with a Lady Diana haircut and a hair comb in my back pocket put a lot of stress on my psyche. It was not normal or natural for me to do any of these things. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be, so I just did what the other kids in my home room were doing. It wasn’t in any way enjoyable for me to comb my hair and feather it every five minutes, but I did what I had to do to get by. Thankfully, I never went so far as to use a curling iron and hair spray on my hair to maintain its feathered and curled look. That was for the seriously troubled youth:

One day, my best friend told me about something called “cable television.” I thought it must be something from Europe, because it sounded as foreign to me as the metric system. She went on to talk about a show called “Fraggle Rock.” I was immediately incensed, because this was obviously a knock off of my  beloved “The Muppet Show.” I would not tolerate cheap imitations, and remained unconvinced that cable television was in any way going to change my life. However, one day I went over to her house and her television was on. Like a drug dealer trying to hook me on crack, she immediately put a channel on called MTV* (*Music Television, as it was known at the time), so I could get a feeling for this “cable television” that she constantly raved about.  There before me, I saw a band called “The Police” singing a song called “Roxanne.” I stood there mesmerized and wondered what else was out there in the world that I didn’t know anything about.

After seeing that one video, my whole perspective about my place in the world changed. I realized people in other countries were singing songs in musical styles that I knew nothing about. I started focusing more  of my attention on listening to music than I did on fashion, or what the other kids in my home room were doing, wearing or combing. In a way, cable television did change my world. I started identifying more with the culture of music than the dull regular people I knew in my everyday life. I sought out others who were also “into” the music scene and my fashion followed suit. No more Jordache jeans, alligator sweaters, Lady Diana hairstyles or hair combing for me forever. Well, I do still try to at least comb my hair as needed on a fairly regular schedule.

From that point on I became interested in bands such as Blondie, Madness and the B52’s. I became sort of crazed to see these bands singing their songs in videos. I craved that feeling of visual  music. And seeing the musicians in action. They looked a lot cooler and more interesting than the kids in my home room, that’s for sure. I started spending more and more time at my friend’s television. I was hooked. When I couldn’t be there, at her MTV, I was at the record store in the poster section. Or flipping through racks of record albums. Realizing each band had videos was almost too exciting to think about.

In all this new music video frenzy, we still didn’t have cable television at my house. I accepted it as part of life. On a good night, if the wind was right, and there was enough foil on the antenna, and it was after 11 p.m., and it was a Friday, I could pull in a station that broadcasted a show called “Friday Night Videos.” That was seriously like a drug to me. Especially when they had good bands on. But at the time I wasn’t picky. Any music video would do.

Sadly, the MTV of today is completely unrecognizable. No more is it a gateway to the music of the world. Shows like “120 Minutes,” hosted by Matt Pinfield, which introduced me to some phenomenal bands, are a thing of the past. I guess advancing your world-view and with art and intelligence is something from another era. Now on MTV you’ll see “Jersey Shore” marathons, and teenagers becoming celebrities for having babies at sixteen. Ever since the first “The Real World” in the early nineties MTV has gone from cultural icon to an absolute sell-out to commercialism. The “M” in today’s MTV can only stand for “mind numbing.” They play anything but music. I think for a while there they even had an MTV 2, which is where you could find music videos if that was your thing. I don’t even know if that is still in existence anymore. Maybe they’ve moved the videos off to an MTV 3 by now.

In closing to my tirade, here is one of the great videos of the early era of Music Television. It is by a band called M singing the classic tune “Pop Muzik.”  The lyrics make no sense, but the originality and excitement is invigorating in this day of dull, talentless, copycat music stars:

The Enforcer, or I Can’t Believe it’s Come to This, or I’m Mad as Hell

Children amaze me. They are known as the world’s pickiest eaters. Yet, if there was sugar involved that they could potentially obtain, they could gnaw through a cardboard box in about 28.2 seconds.

My kids are no exception to this rule. They ate very well as babies. It brought tears to my eyes when they finished their tiny baby food jars of spinach, green beans, and squash. Things that even made me queasy to think about. They ate them up and wanted more. I really thought I was the luckiest parent in the world. I couldn’t wait to brag about their healthy food choices at family gatherings and play dates galore. Not that they really had a choice back then, but they didn’t exactly refuse it either.

When their little teeth started showing up, so did their change in attitude. No longer did they want the delicious dark green vegetable-like pudding I’d been serving them without complaint all the while before. I upgraded them to toddler style vegetables. “Cool,” I thought. “This is what all the hip kids at the sandbox are eating. Don’t you want to be like them? It even has wagon wheel pasta!” My kids were unimpressed. One bite and both of them spit it out. I knew it was going to be a long, bumpy road to the teenage years. And one with limited vegetable intake.

Being ultra open-minded and forgiving about differences in palates, I tried many different ways to serve vegetables: squashed, boiled, minced, raw, cooked, strained, frozen, fresh. Time and time again, the responses were the same: “Yuck,” “boo,” no,” “stinky poo poo,” “barf,” “no no,” “blech,” “ick!”

It made me cry inside when my sister would casually mention how her young daughters loved salad. “SALAD?!?I would scream in my head, in a therapeutic and cleansing way. “SALAD?!?” I would scream as I punched a pillow in my sleep. “Salad,” I would sigh as I stirred my coffee, watching my kids staring at their plates full of food. “Salad.” I would say, defeated, as I watched commercials on TV about kids loving to eat their vegetables. “Must be that they’re girls,” I would cheer myself up with. My boys don’t like vegetables. Must be a gender issue.

Now let me get something straight. It’s not like my kids won’t eat any vegetables. They only eat certain vegetables. I will list the vegetables my kids will eat, as follows:

1. Candy Corn

2. Jelly Beans

Sigh. My recent approach to vegetable intake on the junior level is that I will prepare vegetables to make myself feel better. I serve them on the side of their entrees, more of a colorful garnish rather than an expected nutritional component of their daily vitamin and mineral allowance. For that we supplement with good old fashioned Flintstones vitamins. Occasionally, one of my kids might eat a kernel of corn. Likely, because it was stuck onto something else they were actually trying to ingest. Still, it makes my heart go pitter pat. I beam as I calculate the vitamins they just enhanced their diet with. I block out all realizations it’s more likely just sugar. I rationalize that even if it’s fiber, it is still a healthy thing to eat.

This morning I had a new attitude. As my youngest son sat staring at his delicious plate of hard boiled egg and yummy toast, I realized I’d had enough. I strongly encouraged him to eat his healthy breakfast, but all he would do was have a few bites of toast…..the part of the toast that didn’t include the crust that is. It then dawned on me that this was a kid who could tear through Jolly Ranchers, Laffy Taffy and probably chew a door off our kitchen cupboards if he knew there were marshmallows hiding within. Something in me generated a frustration like TV news anchorman Howard Beale when he goes off the deep end in the famous movie “Network” and says, “I’m a human being, god damn it! My life has value! And I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

So I did something that surprised even me. I had a secret weapon I’d been drinking for years. Something that could be used in the war against picky eaters. I sat down a large bottle of V8 Juice next to my son’s plate. I told him, calmly, that if he didn’t eat his egg and toast he was going to have to drink a glass of vegetable juice to make sure he was getting a healthy breakfast. My son thought I was kidding at first. But I sat down next to him, and the bottle, and stared at him until he ate his food. I was amazed at how quickly this simple trick worked. Within minutes he’d eaten half his breakfast.

For the first time ever I can now see how vegetables will improve my kid’s nutrition – not by my children actually eating them, but by my threatening that my kids will have to eat them! I hated the fact that I had to make vegetables the bad guy, but you can’t argue with success. And who knows? Maybe someday my kids will actually want to eat vegetables. But until then, at least I can truthfully say vegetables are an important part of my children’s nutrition. And, yes, now I can finally boast at family functions and play dates galore that my children are always eager to eat a healthy breakfast.

Is it Too Late or is it Right on Time?

Too late. It’s too late, actually. That’s  how I feel more and more every day. Too late for what? Too late for chasing dreams? Too late for taking chances? I don’t know, maybe too late for everything.

But that kind of thinking has been with me my whole life. It must have started when I was due to be born in October, then showed up late in early November. The die had been cast. Even when I was a kid I remember thinking I was too old to start ice skating lessons in fourth grade, because all the kids in the Olympics started when they were two. I remember at nineteen years of age talking myself out of modeling school because all the decent models had been in the field since they were fourteen. I finished my first college degree late, at the age of twenty-three, because of being sidetracked by irresponsibility. I got married late at the age of thirty. Then I returned to school for my next degree even later, at the age of thirty-one and considered myself the old lady of the nursing school class. Even though I wasn’t. I just felt that way.

The song “Undun” by the Guess Who was ahead of its time. Actually it was right on time for me, as it was from the year of my birth….1969. Because it is “my song” as I’ll call it, I cling to each lyric as if it speaks to me personally. A prophecy. Is it too late for me? Will this endless lateness eventually make me “come undun?” Even though this spelling for the word “undone” is incorrect, I’ll forgive them because she must also have been too late to worry about grammar. Plus, I’m sure they were hippies.

If you live your whole life feeling like you’ve already missed the boat, what’s the point in ever hoping to get anywhere? That is the million dollar question I’ve asked myself more and more often lately. Especially when it is coming up time for my next birthday. I wonder, what have I done this past year? What did I end up missing out on because I was too late? What can I do this year while I still have time to do it?

This year I’m going to start seeing the glass as half full. Instead of thinking about all the things I’m too late for, I’m going to make myself focus on what I’m RIGHT ON TIME for. So, at my tender age of fortyteen…what am I right on time for? I’m right on time for a slower metabolism, I’m right on time for a midlife crisis, I’m right on time to worry about my retirement, I’m right on time to be the mother of pre-teen boys (and the whole can of worms that comes  along with that), I’m right on time to be part of the sandwich generation and by then I’ll be right on time for another midlife crisis (why stop at one? I’m not a quitter).

So, I can see there is so much left in life that I am at the perfect age to enjoy. I’ll never miss out again on the surprises of life, thinking every opportunity is in my past. “I’m right on time” is what I’ll say as a I pay each bill, as I plan for my future, as I face another car repair or broken furnace. I’m right on time for the minute I’m in. Best of all, I think I’m right on time for a nap.

Charlie Brown Therapy

What is it about Charlie Brown that is so therapeutic? The same episodes have been playing on TV since before I was even born, yet whenever one of the Peanuts TV shows starts playing  my heart skips a beat. Somehow I shrink back down to an eight year old and my mind empties of all my adult-world stress. Magically, I’m teleported back into my childhood where everything is pure, innocent and safe.

Watching the Peanuts TV specials as an adult, I’m immediately taken by the fact that a whole world could exist of children only. In the Peanuts cartoons, adults are reduced to invisible, unintelligible background noise. Perhaps it was because I grew up watching the Peanuts cartoons, but even to this day I still see most adults in this way – joyless robots who try to enforce their authority with sporadic droning and irritating whining.

Charlie, Lucy, Sally, Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang have managed to develop their own sophisticated world of social rules and etiquette. Somehow this society of children exists successfully enough to teach us all the errors and ethical issues of our own cruel social behavior. With tact and subtlety, heavy philosophical issues such as religion and social acceptance are brought to light with fun and innocence. We see that these issues are not only found in the adult world – they can weigh just as heavily on the young. We can find our way through them with conscientiousness and honesty.

Everything about the Peanuts kids world is amazing. Beyond their sense of right and wrong, they are always open to learning from each other. They eventually see the error in their ways and make changes for the better.Even though Charlie Brown will always be a Charlie Brown, he is an old soul.  He will always be the heart of the Peanuts gang.

The Peanuts kids have also incorporated the feelings and actions of animals into their own little world. As with any well-loved pet, a dog personified becomes a playmate with adventures all his own. We even able to see things from the point of view of animals – that within our society there are other smaller societies complete with their own social roles, etiquette and sense of right, wrong and fantasy.

The music of The Peanuts cartoons is something I’ve always found just as magical as the stories themselves. The great pianist Vince Guaraldi has created a soundtrack that is uniquely 1960’s – uniting children’s stories with the easygoing coolness of West Coast Jazz. I am such a fan of Vince Guaraldi that I used to play his CD’s for my children when they were babies to help get them to sleep at night. I still listen to his music independently of the shows and have actually gone on to research more about  the West Coast Jazz movement of the time.

Now in my adulthood, it is comforting to know I can always recharge my ethical batteries by watching the same shows that taught me these lessons in my childhood. All too often, these lessons I so easily accepted in my younger years tend to be forgotten in my adult years of sporadic droning and irritating whining. Even listening to the music of Vince Guaraldi is enough to put me in a more peaceful mindset, leaving my brain open to wonder and magic and idealism.

I’ve been watching The Peanuts with my kids today. I’m happy to say that my family enjoys these timeless stories over and over again as much as I do. Even on DVD, year after year, we still hang on to the edge of our seats to see what will happen when Linus runs for election as class president. And we always believe that somewhere out there The Great Pumpkin does exist – and hope that someday Linus will finally get the proof he needs to show The Great Pumpkin to the world.

Thank you for this treasure you left to the world,  Charles M. Schulz.

Wahoo!! Twenty-Eight Amazing People Are Now Following My Blog :)

I would like to say thank you to all the people from around the world who have taken the time to read my blog, “Fortyteen Candles.” My work just a collection of my personal vents that are created by my stifled existence living as an aging Gen X-er in a self-important small town.

Please know that as soon as I receive a “like” or “follower” notification I immediately check out that person’s blog. I am so blown away by the creativity and originality of my fellow bloggers here on WordPress. You are all a real inspiration to this fledgling newbie.

Thanks, again, for your support. You’ve been so inspiring and encouraging! My goal at this time is to have even a fraction of the dedication to blogging that you all have shown.

It’s a “Marcia Brady” Baby Boomer vs. “Jan Brady” Generation X-Hausted Throwdown

I’ll never forget the feeling when I first heard my 1980’s teenage generation was labeled “Generation X” by the more genteel “Baby Boomer” generation. It was kind of like I’d disappointed my grandmother. And her entire gardening club. And every pre-existing generation before mine. “No one could be as perfect as them,” I sighed, “they are America’s darlings.” The “Baby Boomer vs. Generation X” rivalry eventually grew to  proportions only comparable with the well-documented battles between Marcia Brady and Jan Brady. Although not commonly discussed, or known, I’m assuming the Baby Boomer vs. Generation-X’er sides remain stubbornly divided even to this day.

Rumor had it that we were called “Generation X” because we were a bunch of slackers who had no ambition other than:

  • ruining the social security system
  • taking society right town the tubes,  and
  • ultimately end up going to hell in a hand basket.

Well, THAT was a lot to live up to. But, then came the grunge movement, and we kind of proved them right for a few years there.

So, fast forward to the modern age. What happens when a generation of social security-ruining, society-down-the-tube-taking, hell-in-a-hand basket-going people turn middle age? Ugh. They get tired and out of shape. And then they get a new name, the “Sandwich Generation.”* And then they start looking skeptically at the current crop of teenagers and conclude they will end up having to work as a Walmart Greeter until they turn into fossils. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that is what you want to do by choice.)

Now, I don’t know if we’re still naming generations. Perhaps that was a 20th century fad. Like when Pepsi turned clear. I think the current crop of American teenagers can be called “Generation-i” – for reasons obvious to anyone that isn’t a Baby Boomer. Sorry…the rivalry still awkwardly pops up on occasion. Or, perhaps “Generation-z” because that would be a great way to “finish” the alphabet. There are almost too many great “Generation” names to think of. Maybe, just maybe, this means these modern teenagers are a group of individuals that shouldn’t be lumped together under one umbrella term?

Sigh….I guess the world-changing, rebellious teenage Generation-X’er still lives on inside this aging body. Looks like I have no choice but put on “People are People” by Depeche Mode and call my local Baby Boomer Representative (aka my mother) to start making much needed Gen-X vs. Baby Boomer amends.

*more posts on this topic later. many more.

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