What Makes a Good Scary Movie for a First Grader?

Everyone remembers their first scary movie.

Mine was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I hadn’t heard of a vampire, and I don’t think I understood what one was after viewing the movie. Although I didn’t quite understand or remember the movie’s entire contents, I didn’t sleep that night, fearing that ghostly children would be scratching at my bedroom window, begging to be let in.

I was a first grader when I watched Salem’s Lot. And this is all I remember:

Moving boxes with unknown contents. Creepy graveyards. Darkness. Monsters. Dead-eyed, floating children. Dead kids. With fangs. Scratching on windows. Other kids. Dead ones.

That’s what makes a good scary movie for a first grader – creep factor.

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The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker – Every Woman Needs to Read This!

A friend suggested I read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. It was probably the best self-help book suggestions I’ve been given.

The Gift of Fear tells us that what most of us consider as fear is actually anxiety, because real fear is a survival signal that causes us to react in a way to fight for our lives. The author also gives several examples of when and why we should fear something – that there are several warning signs to look for before we should react. De Becker also notes that our intuition is the number one thing that alerts us to fear – but most people are in denial. He includes examples in the workplace, in families, dating, and dealing with strangers.

A couple of days ago I was in a store when I was approached by a strange man. I had an odd feeling about him when he asked me if I was Jim Tate’s wife, as he looked me up and down and got a little too close for my comfort. He also had a difficult time asking me, had to say it twice for me to understand. I also got the impression that he’d made up the Jim Tate name. When I informed him that I was not JT’s wife, he asked me whom I was married to. Luckily, I had already finished reading The Gift of Fear and I knew that this man was fishing for information that was clearly none of his business. I looked him in the eye and answered, “I’m married to my husband,” and walked away. As I walked up to the checkout counter, something told me that this guy was still in the store, and I did not want him behind me. I got out of line and walked over to a clearance rack and noticed that the man walked out of the store without buying anything. Would he have done something to me had I not listened to my gut feelings? Would he have followed me home? Used the information I provided him to find out where I lived? I don’t know, but I wasn’t about to find out.

Not coincidentally (because I think there was a damn good reason this was timed in the universe), while I was reading the book’s chapter on dating, I noticed that one of my friends was dating someone that has a very high potential to be hazardous. I knew this prior to reading the book, but The Gift of Fear confirmed my own gut feelings about this person.

When we hear something on the news every single day about someone getting robbed, shot, carjacked, murdered – we have a tendency to think that we are not safe, that something is going to happen to us, even though there is a slim chance. De Becker suggests that we don’t need to live our lives in fear of everything, to enjoy life – because when the time comes to be afraid, our intuition will kick in and alert us. Other than that, we are wasting our time fearing things that will most likely never happen, and that our “tuning” will be finer if we turn off that anxiety.

I would highly suggest for anyone to read this, but I think this book is especially significant for women – because women tend to live in fear more often than men. I definitely rate this book 5 stars, because it provides the necessary tools we all need in order to protect ourselves.

Wishful Thinking – Coffee and Chocolate for Breakfast

I was having a hormonal moment this morning. Remembering that I had chocolate cake in the freezer, I thought about how great it would taste with a cup of coffee. It’s been forever since I’ve eaten an unhealthy breakfast, but today I needed that comfort food.

Smiling from ear to ear, I open the freezer, and pull out Amy’s Organic Chocolate Cake (just found it in the store the other day, I’ve never tried it). I’m all excited about eating cake, which is something I never eat because of the contents. Anyway… I look at the cooking directions… and it says: “Thaw cake in refrigerator for 2 and a half hours”.

My dreams were shattered. How badly I wanted this chocolate cake with my cup of coffee this morning. I guess I will have to wait until lunch.

Turbinate Coblation Option for Allergy Sufferers

A few years ago I was sent to an ENT (ear, nose, throat doctor) for allergies and was considering getting my tonsils out. However, I also had a lifetime of trouble breathing out of my nose. My first appointment was with a doctor I refused to see again because he was such an ass. He called me a wimp because I passed out when he inserted a tube up my nose. (While it’s true I am a wimp, he left the room when I passed out and had the nurse attend to me.) He also suggested an invasive procedure in which part of my bone would be shaved. As he described the procedure and I was still at half-mast, I told him he didn’t need to explain the gory details or he’d be cleaning up my lunch off of his shoes. His bedside manner probably wasn’t too far off from House.

My intuition nudged me to get a second opinion, so I did. The next ENT I visited said that the first doctor’s recommendation wasn’t necessary – that it wasn’t my nasal bone that was the problem – it was due to hypertrophied (enlarged) turbinates, located inside the nose and often cause problems with allergy sufferers. I was scheduled for a turbinate coblation the following week, prescribed a valium, and told it’s very simple and would not hurt.

(One thing I suggest is that if you are planning to have a turbinate coblation and you have a weak stomach, do not view videos beforehand! My first mistake was looking up this procedure online and finding a video on Youtube that almost made me puke.)

Not wanting the valium to wear off too quickly, I took half of the valium before I left the house, then the other half on my way to the doctor’s office (yes, I had a designated driver). But my nerves seemed to overtake the valium’s effects. I probably should have left coffee of the breakfast menu, too (oops!).

The first part of the procedure included shoving a tissue filled with a numbing spray up my nose and leaving it there for a good 10-15 minutes. Next thing I know, this big wand thing is being shoved up my nose. It didn’t hurt. Much. Yes it did. It stung like a bee. I squirmed. My eyes bugged out. I thought to myself, You S.O.B., you said it wouldn’t hurt! I saw blood. I passed out. Thankfully, it was all over within 10 minutes, even though it seemed three times that.

To help with the healing, I started doing a saline sinus rinse after a few days. (I prefer the NeilMed brand, and it’s different from a neti pot.) Once the scabs healed, I could breathe again!

I hadn’t realized how badly I needed this procedure and wished I had it sooner. I started sleeping better because I could breathe better. When allergy season picks up, I continue to use the NeilMed sinus rinse as needed and it seems to help do the job. It’s been a few years, and I’m wondering if I may have to do it again. One of the ways that I determine if my turbinates are enlarged is by lightly pulling/pressing my cheeks near my nostrils as if to separate them. If I can breathe better while doing that, then I know something in there is swollen.

NPR’s 3-Minute Fiction Writing Contest — Cooking up Fiction by Susanna Hartigan

This was my rejected entry for my very first NPR writing contest. The story had to be under 600 words and contain the 4 words: “plant,” “button,” “trick,” “fly.” It’s been two years since I read this, and looking back, I know it could use some work.


Cooking Up Fiction 
by Susanna Hartigan ©2010

Caterina Romano seemed to be quite the opposite of her Italian upbringing when it came to cooking food. Her most memorable cooking experience ended in a disaster involving the local fire department and an eviction from her landlord when she tried to brown garlic in olive oil. The most frequently used appliances in her kitchen consisted of a microwave and a toaster oven, with a month-old dead basil plant sitting in between the two.

Like the basil plant, Caterina’s love life was dried up as well. Although easy to please, of pleasant company and easy on the eyes, Ma Romano’s voice echoed in her head that she would never find a man until she learned how to cook like a proper Italian woman should. Caterina had pretty much given up on dating and settled for watching her neighbors across the street out of her living room window on Saturdays. She knew that they barbequed each weekend, and one guest in particular that she admired drove a pickup truck donning a frontal vanity plate that exclaimed “FLY BOY”. That was the type of man the pretty brunette was had been dreaming of for the last three years, but in her mind, Caterina was convinced that no man would ever marry a culinary-challenged woman.

“What is wrong with you?” Nonna Romano screeched at every holiday gathering. “Why you no have no husband yet??” she’d ask, hands flying everywhere, nearly knocking over wine glasses at the dinner table.

“Caterina, love waits for you,” Ma repeated over and over again, dreamy eyed.

“Ma, her cooking is like trick-or-treat without the treat,” teased Caterina’s brother Tomeo. It was the same old joke, the same old story each and every holiday for the last two and a half years.

“I met someone,” announced Caterina. “He’s a pilot.”

Everyone perked up. Caterina stood there, unbelievably catching herself in her own blatant lies, clutching her hands and looking to the air above her head for the words to come to her just to please her family. She watched each of them, their eyes lighting up like Paschal candles.

“Tell us!” Ma was excited.

“He comes from a good Italian family,” lied Caterina, nervous and almost fumbling her thoughts to find the right words. Then all of a sudden it came to her naturally, as if it were the truth.

“What he look like?” asked Nonna, thrilled by the prospect that she may witness her only living granddaughter in a wedding dress one day. “He handsome?”

Caterina looked straight into Nonna’s eyes. Her acting classes from college were finally becoming of use to her. “Just like John Travolta!”

“Oh Caterina!” Ma sighed, making the sign of the cross on her chest so hard her button came flying off of her shirt and scurried onto the floor. “When will we meet him?” Tears began welling in Ma’s eyes.

“After our tour to Venice where he is flying me this summer…”

Book Review: Aleph by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is one of my favorite authors. The Alchemist was the first book I read by the author, and I enjoyed a few others as well.

I had ordered his newest book, Aleph, in August, so I was thrilled when it finally arrived at my doorstep. Like Coelho’s other books, Aleph is a spiritual journey. It was much like The Alchemist, but as an older man (and not a sequel). The added magic and fantasy to the story made it a little different, but Coelho claims that this is a nonfiction book. However, Aleph is listed as fiction, which makes the reader wonder which parts are true.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. If you are a Coelho fan like me, you probably have higher expectations and might be slightly disappointed that Aleph is so similar to The Alchemist.

Why I Love NPR More Than My Local News

Each morning with my cup of coffee, I generally read the local news. But not for long. I scan it for anything that may pique my interest, which usually isn’t much. For example, today’s local news involves: a man that punched a woman in the face at a bar, an ATM scanning scam, a hit-and-run case, and an abundance of other crime stories. It seems that most local news, no matter where you go, is the same shit, different city. And that is why I like NPR.

I don’t remember how I began listening to National Public Radio exactly, but I believe it happened when I was driving and wanted to hear something soothing. I don’t recall if NPR was either playing classical music or a show that interested me further. All I know is that I love NPR and the variety that it brings. Best of all, they don’t just put all of the “bad stuff” on their main page; they have the arts and other insightful newsworthy articles easily accessible and more prominent than I tend to find in local newspapers. Plus, many of the articles are aired and archived to listen if a show is missed.

Today I read a really cute and funny story written by a woman who played truth or dare when she was a kid and the trouble it got her into. Now this is a story that I’m sure everyone can relate to. Then I listened to stories about John Audubon’s first commercial illustration and Japanese micro houses. And I wouldn’t dare fail to mention round 9 of NPR’s 3-Minute-Fiction contest. Woo-hoo!

Besides mornings, my favorite time to listen to NPR is on weekends. Comedy shows like Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, food shows like Kitchen Window, and history shows like Florida Frontiers make for a great Sunday afternoon lying in the hammock, watching the birds in the back yard, and listening to NPR. (Ten years ago, no one would ever hear me say nor write this!)

I can read and listen to NPR all day and not have to see or hear one more thing about the oil spill, the economic crisis, politics, or Sarah Palin’s crappy fake vocabulary. As does everyone, I choose to see and hear what I want. These are the stories I like: lighthearted, cup-of-coffee, intelligent, informative, interesting, and well… out of the ordinary. Perhaps if more people thought this way and refused to continue allowing all of that negative earth shattering crap pushed out of their televisions, radios and online sources everyday, the world might just be a little happier.