Top 7 Things From 2016 I Won’t Be Missing in 2017

If you have kids at home, then you are more keenly aware of the irritating trends riding the wave through 2016, thanks in no small part to YouTubers (and the Viners, before they were disemboweled). I’ve been thinking about all of the ear-itating stuff Jack has said and done ad nauseum in 2016, and I came up with this list, and in the 11th hour, added a new one of my own.

#1. Dabbing. That weird gesture where they put their head down in the crook of their bent arm. Or, as I call it incorrectly-on-purpose, just to agitate Jack, “Dabbling.”

#2. “Getting triggered.” According to Jack, all of the authority figures in his life “get triggered” at him. This is Generation Z’s nicer way of saying “pissed off.”

#3. Bottle flipping. Enough already with the fucking bottle flipping! Oy! That sound!

Bottle flipping, country style, with the cousins.

Bottle flipping, country style, with the cousins. I almost felt sorry for the birds for a nano-second. Almost. #SorryNotSorry

#4. “Deez nuts.” A viral YouTube video kicked off this phrase, which ended up on one of Jack’s favorite t-shirts, as in “Deez Nuts for President.”

The Quirky Video Where It All Began...

The Quirky Video Where It All Began…

#5. “In my butt.” Jack binge-watched “The Office” and got hooked on the character Stanley’s droll go-to comment for the location of pretty much anything.

Me: “Where’s my pen?”

Jack: “In my butt.”

Me: “Where’s my car keys?”

Jack: “In my butt.”

Me: “Where did I leave my coffee?”

Jack: “In my butt.”

Yeah, I hear this one several times a day.

#6. “I forgot.” I can’t blame this one on YouTube or The Office. This is Jack’s most consistent response to these queries:

  • “Did you brush your teeth?”
  • “Did you do your homework?”
  • “Did you practice your guitar?”
  • Did you bring home your Friday folder?

Oddly enough, I never have to ask “Did you play video games today?” “Did you watch YouTube?” “Did you eat?” “Where’s your phone?” (To which he’d reply, “In my butt.”)

#7. Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP Holiday Gift GuideMy bff since kindergarten sent me this treasure beyond measure — surely Gwynnie is just doubled over somewhere laughing that anyone takes her seriously. Then again, if those rumors about steam-cleaning her vagina have an ounce of freaky truth to them…Time for me to put some perfumed vegetable oil in a sexy bottle with an eye dropper, start selling it on Etsy and call it a day. There’s a sucker born every minute…apparently with a split ends condition that I’d rather not know about.

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Things You Might Overhear at My Family’s Thanksgiving Celebration

Few moments in my life are funnier than the comments bubbling up during meals spent with my crazy family and equally crazy friends (who are like chosen family.). Since my cousin Jeff and I can basically mind meld, all it takes is a quick exchange of glances to kick off some of these running dialogues during Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s my Top Five List of Oddball Things Said During Meals Together (family and friends edition), with a (T) behind those you might overhear at my family’s Thanksgiving.

screenshot-2016-11-23-11-27-05

  1. “I have a torn labia.” One of my guy friends said this when I asked him what kind of shoulder surgery he was recovering from. He meant to say “labrum,” but somehow, labia is what came out. I was in hysterics for a good half an hour afterwards. I felt guilty laughing because he looked so pained and embarrassed, but that only made me laugh harder. I choked on my coffee this morning, just remembering this one all over again.
  2. “No man can refuse this p***y!” A certain uber-tall cousin of mine grabbed his right ankle and lifted his long leg over his head, uttering these words in the middle of a Sizzler Restaurant during lunch one day, mimicking Grace Jones in the Eddie Murphy movie, Boomerang.  Unbeknownst to him, as he was sitting in front of a column, there was an entire table of people behind him, whom I was facing, who did not appreciate his Grace Jones imitation, making this even funnier. I waved my hands wildly about in the “stop” motion, but he misinterpreted my gesturing as “Stop making me laugh!” I couldn’t stop hyperventilating in giggles long enough to warn him to stop.
  3. “Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben!” (T)This line from Blazing Saddles is uttered every time someone tries to push food on us at Thanksgiving, when we’re already way too stuffed.
  4. “It’s only wafer thin…” (T) –– This alludes to the epically disgusting, never-ending puke scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. John Cleese offers up a wafer-thin mint to an obese man who has eaten so much, he explodes. In the end, all that remains is a beating heart, dangling, encased inside of a rib cage.
  5. “Go make yourself a danged quesadilla!” (T) — To say this correctly, you have to make quesadilla rhyme with Sarah Palin’s hometown, Wasilla. This line, from Napoleon Dynamite, is typically said later in the day, when dinner has settled and someone interrupts our Euchre game long enough to announce they have a taste for a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich. I also say this to Jack, pretty much every day we’re home together and he asks me to make his lunch.

This year, Jack and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family over the weekend, so tomorrow will be a quiet day at home, watching “Holes” and Napoleon Dynamite, wishing the pilgrims had kicked off this holiday with Beef Wellington rather than turkey. And what are your plans? Need ideas for side dishes, cocktails, main course recipes, cooking time, gravy techniques, family games or table decor tips? Check out my freshly curated Pinterest Holiday Entertainment board. Consider this your new go-to resource filled with infographic goodness and everything you’d need to know for holiday entertaining. Also, I learned a great trick on Saturday with my baked brie — using apple butter instead of apricot preserves gives it this apple pie flavor that is simply amazing. Give it a whirl!

screenshot-2016-11-23-11-26-26

I’m Divorcing The Walking Dead

I’ve given myself a week to recover and seriously consider this, but on this Halloween day, my decision remains the same. I’m divorcing the The Walking Dead. Done. Game over, man.

The first episode of this season crossed a line for me, coming waytooclose to torture porn for my comfort level. It’s still making me sick to my stomach, a week later. I wish I could unsee that which can’t be unseen — Glenn’s all-too-graphic death. It’s still playing in my head. I was disturbed by one of the past season’s episodes, the one where Laurie gave herself her own c-section, and The Governor was combing his zombie daughter’s degrading scalp as it fell apart in his hands, but this first Negin episode was my horror cup runneth over. I’m content to simply read the recaps online and not watch it anymore.

And while I’m talking Walking Dead, I have to be honest. Fear the Walking Dead, the west coast version of Walking Dead, has never measured up for me to the original series. I wanted it to. There are few places in the world I love more than the west coast. I thought it would make an interesting, fresh retelling of the story. I just could never get as emotionally invested in those characters — the protagonist mother and daughter mostly just irritated me. Perhaps it’s because the mother reminded me too much of Katie Couric, who also irritates the shit out of me. In the final analysis, I’d rather be watching Westworld or Preacher.

Pretty much sums up Episode 1.

Pretty much sums up Episode 1.

With all of the anxiety over my beloved CUBS winning the first World Series in 108 years, and the current political landscape, my entertainment shouldn’t be amping up my stress. Maybe I need to immerse myself in some Bob’s Burgers binge watching. In the interest of adding some levity to this weird confluence of stress ball events, here are some memes that have made me laugh over the last day:

Oh please, oh please, oh please...!

Oh pleaseOh pleaseOh please…! GO CUBS!

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The Value of Impatience: This Chicagoan Votes Early, Just Not “Often”

I hate waiting in lines. I mean, really HATE. IT. I’m convinced the Disney Fast Pass came about when they read my none-too-subtle solution in their suggestion box. One of the greatest perks to working in TV production with Jan Gabriel on his nationally syndicated motorsports series The Super Chargers was getting that elitist, front-of-the-line access at Universal Studios in California, back when Molly Miles was in charge. God, I miss those days. For the 8 hours I was an entitled princess, I kept thinking to myself, “Self, you could really get used to this. And that could be dangerous.”

As a Chicagoan, I’ve exerted enough energy being patient in my life. After all, it’s taken my beloved Chicago CUBS 108 years to get into this World Series. I’ve literally waited my entire life for this moment!

Fortunately, the line to vote today was just 5 people long. All told, I was done in 30 minutes. I highly recommend you vote early. Just get it done. And if you’re voting in Chicago, I hope I don’t need to tell you, but please, do not vote more than once. Here’s a handy, party-agnostic link to find your early polling location: bit.ly/2dPJH3W

Hey, I'm Chicago. I vote early, just not OFTEN (in the same election).

Hey, I’m from Chicago. I vote early, just not OFTEN (in the same election).

Hot off the Presses: I Made It “Above the Fold” Today

Hot off the Presses: Here’s the piece I wrote for the ASJA (America Society of Journalists & Authors) today on the viability of earning a better living as a ghostwriter:

http://www2.asja.org/theword/2016/10/19/stop-the-presses-ghostwriting-may-be-a-journalists-best-alternative-career-path/

Scroll down and you’ll see it…I’m juuuuuuuust above the fold!

Announcing My New Blog Series: COOL PEOPLE I KNOW

I found this meme on Facebook the other day, and I screen-grabbed it immediately. In one sentence, it sums up how I live. You see, as an ENFP, I believe everyone has an interesting story, from every walk of life — from CEOs to ex-cons. I’m at my most hyper-focused when getting to know a total stranger. This is why my grade school friends have christened me “The White Oprah.” I don’t mean to interview people, but it’s like breathing for me. They fuel my curiosity.

The Meme That Best Describes Me

The Meme That Best Describes Me

Cool People I Know: My friend Rohita Shah, born in Zambia, now owner of an award-winning Mathnasium in Wisconsin, with 1 new Brookfield location opening soon.

Cool People I Know: My friend Rohita Shah, born in Zambia, now owner of an award-winning Mathnasium in Wisconsin, with 1 new Brookfield location opening soon.

I have to wonder if my genuine interest in people is somehow invisibly telegraphed when I’m out in the world. My friends have all witnessed it. Total strangers love to ask me for directions, how to fix their iPhone, or whether they should buy the outfit they’re trying on in a department store. No, I’m not arrogant enough to think my opinion matters one iota, but it’s weirdly consistent that they do. This bizarre people-magnet vibration I exude might explain why, when I merely entered an empty gas station to pay for my petrol — literally saying nothing but my pump number to the cashier — she unburdened herself, sharing the story of her recent abortion. Or why, when I went to the DMV with Darlene, my BFF since kindergarten, I knew all about the DMV eye examiner man’s divorce during the 5 minutes of getting my test. Or why I leave restaurants more often than not with the phone number or email address of the waitress or waiter to follow up on some conversation. I consider it an honor and privilege that someone trusts me to listen to them. I don’t judge. I just listen. I think people appreciate that someone is actually present and in the moment with them in this distracted, ADD world where they are accustomed to getting ignored.

When I first met Dave, he was extremely nervous about exposing me to the massive enclave of fandom at his San Diego Comic-Con booth. He needn’t have worried. I thrived on it. Unlike introverts who find it a psychic drain to deal with the public, I get energized by being around people. They recharge my batteries. Today, 16 years later, those San Diego fans visit our home, chat with me at least three times a week on Facebook private messages, and have become some of my best friends. I feel blessed to have met these many interesting people from literally around the world, whose paths I would never have crossed in my ordinary, Northern Illinois life.

An apt description of ENFP's.

An apt description of ENFP’s.

As women, we all have stories of telling our spouses about their friends’ medical issues and life dramas, as our spouses look on dumbfounded, replying, “He never told me anything about that!” But I take it about three steps further. I walk away knowing about their UFO encounters, their politics, and their funniest pranks. My conversations with people are always organic. I never know where they’ll meander, but they’re always interesting. As I was interviewing a VP on Friday for a B2B article on his company, I learned all about his Chicago cop relatives, and their take on the current gang situation in Chicago. It was a counterintuitive perspective I could never have guessed, and it became fodder for my hands-and-feet card game last night on the Mag Mile (And btw, GO CUBS!!!! FTW!!!).

So…aside from the ghostwriting I do in my career, I’m starting a new series on my blog, maybe once a week, called “Cool People I Know.” These interviews will be with people from all walks of life, and you will learn things you would never have guessed, about topics you probably have never considered before. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I have doing the interviews! Let me know, okay?

So I guess my Myers-Briggs score explains my career choice...

My Myers-Briggs score explains my career choice…

My List of the 19 Best Comic Book Adaptations

The Wasted Lands Omnibus, available through Magnetic Press: http://www.magnetic-press.com/wasted-lands-omnibus/

The Wasted Lands Omnibus, available through Magnetic Press: http://www.magnetic-press.com/wasted-lands-omnibus/

While I do enjoy blogging about cuddling with weatherman Tom Skilling during a violent storm and the late night adventures of Jonesie, my hairless cat, today I’m talking comics.

Jonesie the #hairlesscat - #catsofinstagram #felinefemmefatale

Jonesie the #hairlesscat – #catsofinstagram #felinefemmefatale

Specifically, moving picture adaptations of comics–TV and film. The pop culture world has been flooded with comic book movies and TV shows, and it looks like studios won’t be keeping their powder dry any time soon. There are days when I wish film studios would just take a deep breath. Let it breathe, Warner Brothers…let it breathe. Maybe try vacationing in Barbados.

Ahhhh...Barbados...

Ahhhh…Barbados…

I’m not saying every comic book movie is terrible–far from it! There are just way too many. The quality suffers for it. But I’m no Debbie Downer. I choose to walk in the light of Odin, crop-dusting glitter-filled unicorn farts and rainbows. I’ll save the Batman v. Superman and Green Lantern funerals for another day.

Pretty much my favorite Bitmoji.

Pretty much my favorite Bitmoji.

Bloggers are always big on lists. My first inclination was listing my favorite book hangovers–and yes, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is on there — but today’s quickie post is just the best and worst comic book adaptations of all time. I haven’t done a Top 15 yet of the most mediocre. If I did, normalman would ascend that list. And then there are those I wish would be made into adaptations–Dave Dorman‘s The Wasted Lands, Mike Baron’s The Badger, and Myatt Murphy’s Fade from Blue and Two Over Ten.

I’m not here to to tell you which media you should be binge-watching. I’ll never sit in judgement if you’re revisiting Howard The Duck. Hell, I’ll cop to getting hooked into Martin Short’s Clifford or Chris Elliott’s Cabin Boy when I’m channel flipping. We all have our guilty pleasures.  (Avid readers of this blog know some of mine already. I may not have mentioned my sugar-free Bubble Yum addiction yet.) You can take or leave these lists as my seal of (dis)approval.

19 of the Best Comic Book Adaptations

  • Suicide Squad
  • Walking Dead
  • Preacher
  • Hellboy
  • American Splendor
  • Superman: The Movie
  • The Dark Knight
  • A History of Violence
  • The Crow
  • Road to Perdition
  • Sin City
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  • Watchmen
  • Iron Man
  • The Avengers
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Deadpool
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

14 of the Worst Comic Book Adaptations (Sorry if you liked them!)

Me, apologetic.

Me: The apologetic version.

> Batman and Robin
> Jonah Hex
> Catwoman
> Howard the Duck
> Superman IV: The Quest of Peace
> Green Lantern (2011)
> Judge Dredd (1995)
> The Spirit
> Fantastic Four (2015)
> Daredevil
> Elektra
> Ghost Rider
> Hulk
> Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Disagree?

...here's my #, so call me maybe...

…here’s my #, so call me maybe…

Tell me some of the comic to film or TV adaptations you have liked, hated, or secretly enjoyed.

Stranger Things: I Want My ’80s Back!

My fitness trainer Kim shared with me her iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts during our Monday night workout. According to Kim, this was no ordinary iced coffee. This one had been cold-brewed for 12 hours. Whatever that meant … it was a new offering on the menu. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. As much of a coffee addict as I am, iced coffee rarely calls my name.

Dunkin' Donuts Cold-Brewed Coffee: Heaven in a plastic cup.

Dunkin’ Donuts Cold-Brewed Coffee: Heaven in a plastic cup.

I took one tiny sip, just being polite. I was instantly transported.

Were this a Twilight  Zone episode, you’d see that bad special effect of me, sans color, dizzily spinning backwards in time, calendar pages flipping past me in fast succession. In my case, I time machined back to age six. I was standing on our kitchen stool so I could reach the sink, washing the family’s dinner dishes. The first part of this evening chore meant washing my dad’s lunchbox tupperware, and his khaki-green metal coffee thermos. Dad had engraved his name into the side of the metal. I’d trace his signature with my fingertips as I was washing the outside of it. When no one was looking, I’d sneak a sip of its contents — his day-old java — pretending I was a grown up. (I know, I know … I’m still pretending.) This Dunkin’ Donuts cold-brewed fare mimicked Dad’s day-old coffee, perhaps because Dad’s had steeped for a good 12 hours in his thermos. While it can’t bring my father back, the nostalgia of those lost days washes over me with every swallow. I’m hooked!

On the website CockedEyed.com, you can create your own "STRANGER THINGS" Lightbulb Message Encoder. How cool is that?!?

On the website CockedEyed.com, you can create your own “STRANGER THINGS” Lightbulb Message Encoder. How cool is that?!?

The much-talked-about Netflix horror series Stranger Things became my other childhood time portal recently. I binge-watched the entire series in two nights. It was beyond amazing. Winona Ryder portrays the emotional fragility of a frantic parent as believably as Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice. Maybe moreso. The camaraderie feeling we get from Stephen King’s Stand By Me (and the origin story to that film, The Body) combines with the government conspiracy style narratives of Dean R. Koontz. The music, the fashion, the cars, the bad basement decor. The vulnerable, gawky, tender awkwardness of being a teen. It all felt so familiar — like an old friend returning. A friend I didn’t realize I had been yearning for as hard as I had.

For us Gen-Xers, those were magical times. Whenever I discuss Stranger Things with my peers, I always ask them, “If you could go back to the ’80s, would you?”

Without hesitation, faces telegraphing that “Are you daft, girl?” expression, every single friend has declared, “In. A. Heartbeat.”

Speaking in Shorthand

My cousin Jeff and I share the language of shorthand, born of years together appreciating the same pop culture, inside family jokes, and death-defying adventures, the latter involving my ’73 Cadillac. When we’re together in person, a shared glance speaks volumes. We’re fluent in reading each other’s micro-expressions. There were times we’ve shared the same the brain in ways that were downright eerie, like the time Jeff’s dad, my Uncle Mick, died in an ultralight plane crash. Within a few month’s time of his passing, I had a vivid dream that Uncle Mick was in between Jeff and me, and we were all holding hands, walking over the border from Illinois into Wisconsin. I have this weird affinity for remembering my dreams every morning, but when someone passes over and I have these super-vivid dreams, they are different from my regular dreams. I know I’m supposed to pay attention. I called Jeff’s house to tell him about my dream and his roommate Kelly answered the phone. I told her about it and she freaked out. Jeff had just regaled her with the story of the very same dream from the night before. And then there was the time we were playing Scattergories (we’re a competitive, game-playing family–Jeff was part of that marathon Euchre match I mentioned recently) and we both were tasked with naming a villain with the first letter “I.” We both wrote down “Injun’ Joe,” surprising everyone with our weird groupthink.

When anything funny bubbles up in everyday life, and it often does, as we both see the comedy in everything, Jeff and I shoot each other a fast text. Aside from Blazing Saddles and Throw Momma from the Train, Chris Farley-isms are our oft-quoted go-to phrases. If you’ve never seen SNL’s “Best of Chris Farley” DVD, it’s a must for any comedy collection. (And the recent Chris Farley biography, “The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts” co-written by his brother Tom, is a must-read. For me, it was a gripping, emotional roller coaster of laughter and tears.)

Such an unforgettable life of comedy and pathos.

Such an unforgettable life of comedy and pathos. I’m always thankful to my BFF Darlene for loaning me this book.

The first text today from Jeff (the 2nd text was not for mixed company, so I won’t poke the bear) gives a snapshot of our never-ending conversation, replete with the reference to Farley and Sandler’s Zagat’s Restaurant Guide skit on Saturday Night Live:

 

This scene doubles me over. Every. Time.

This scene doubles me over. Every. Time.

The shorthand of our shared language in a never-ending conversation.

The shorthand of our shared language; it’s a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, never-ending conversation about nothing, but it means everything to me.

 

It takes just a moment out of your day–maybe five seconds–to send a text and show someone you care. If there’s a takeaway from today’s blog, it’s just a reminder for everyone to take the time. Send that text. Jeff and I both learned that hard lesson the day of that devastating ultralight crash. Life’s too short.

#SDCC2016 Attendees – PLEASE Stay Vigilant This Year

The greatest show on earth.

#SDCC – The greatest show on earth.

I debated whether I should even write this blog. I don’t wish to plant ideas in the minds of our common enemy. However, especially in light of recent events, I just beseech and implore every one of you attending San Diego Comic-Con this year to pay hyper-focused attention to your surroundings. Be aware of everything and everyone around you. We’re living in sad times; the anxiety riddled like myself are mapping the fastest route to the nearest trauma center for any major event we attend.

My son and I won’t be attending Comic-Con this year. Frankly, I’m a little relieved. That almost throw-away comment made in the press that the San Bernardino terrorists were actually plotting to attack a much bigger event made my hackles rise. It has festered in my brain ever since. Their distance to San Diego was too close for comfort. I just hope that all of you who are attending this year remain safe. There’s no greater soft target than a convention center full of entertainment industry icons.

Watch.

Look.

Listen.

Be safe.

I hope you all have a fun con. I will be keeping you, and the families of all of the fallen in my prayers.