iChallenged

It scared the crap out of me when it lit up all of the sudden and vibrated while playing a snappy little tune. My brand new iPhone was informing me (just in case I wanted to know) that 60% of Americans believe the US will be better off at the end of Obama’s second term. Well, actually CNN told me because I’d signed up to receive breaking news alerts but the phone was the vehicle used to convey the message. And I have to tell you that I am completely and utterly confounded by this slick, little rectangular device. How can something so small and seemingly innocent hold so much power?

Yes, I just got an iPhone. I know, I’m a little late to the party as far as many of you out there are concerned. Some of you have had this thing for all five of its incarnations. The television has been doing a fine job in letting me know exactly how behind the times I’ve been with it’s “Everyone has an iPhone!” campaign agenda for well over a year now. Judge me if you must… but I only got mine a week ago. Before garnering this “smart” phone I had what I like to call a “semi-smart” phone. It offered me semi-reliable access to the internet with a semi-glimpse of Facebook, email and movie showtimes — but that’s about where its “smarts” parts ended.

It had no Words with Friends or Angry Birds or the ability to crop and color-correct photos. I couldn’t identify a random song I heard playing on the radio by artist AND album release date or find out where in the world 75% of the gold used to make jewelry is mined. I wasn’t able to map my exact location at the drop of a hat and determine whether gas was going to be more or less expensive by the time I was ten miles away from said location. I know what you’re thinking… I KNOW! How in the world did I survive for so long without the use of such valuable tools and information!?! The mind reels at the very contemplation of such ghastly things.

Yet somehow I managed. But then… enter the iPhone. I had no idea what I’d been missing. In fact, ever since the geek at Best Buy handed me the thing I have been virtually unable to put it down. Once—over the holiday—I had to keep it in the car so that I wouldn’t keep picking it up and looking for new apps to download. My best friend (already in possession of her own iPhone) stayed with me for the weekend and we “caught up” with one another by organizing the folders on our phones and finding new e-gadgets, doo-hickeys and thing-a-ma-bobs to install. It is insane, this thing and what it can do.

I realize when I hold this device in my hand, that I’ve literally got the world at my fingertips. And my aim—for the seven days that I have had it thus far—has been to organize that world… my world into neatly labeled and arranged folders. In addition to some of the features mentioned above, I am thrilled that I can also use my iPhone as a mirror, a flashlight, a timer, a dictionary, a compass, a bartender and a jukebox to name a few. Ironically, the only issue I’ve had with it has been using the “phone” part. Yes, you read right. I have been able to do ALL these wicked-cool things quite proficiently with my new phone except to use it as an actual PHONE.

Lee had to show me how to make and pick up a call. My nephew had to show me how to listen to my voicemail and my bff had to demonstrate for me how to readily access and retrieve aforementioned voicemail. Apparently, my friends, as much as it pains me to admit it, the upgrade from a semi-smart phone to a full-fledged smart phone does not guarantee that one’s semi-smart abilities will likewise be upgraded.

That Picture of Us

To say that a picture is worth a thousand words is true I suppose. But only if you’re counting all the ones that are left unsaid. The things it failed to capture and yet, were present all the same.

That picture of us that sits atop my second shelf only captured a moment. It is a mere sliver in time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

It does not tell of weathered hearts and dusty dreams… of successes or of failures… Nor promises kept and promises broken. It gives no hint toward the future or revelation of the past.

That time I made you laugh so hard you nearly choked to death is nowhere to be seen. The scar on my left wrist I got while running after you is just outside the frame.

Weekends on the water, midnight rides and long, late nights of talking are written behind our eyes but no one would ever know it — were they to pick it up and hold it. Should they ever really, really study it…

That time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

Do you remember? That image on my second shelf? It is the one collecting dust. That picture of us.

5 Things I Love About Thanksgiving… The “Other” Holiday

White twinkle lights, evergreen boughs, colorful bulbs and bright, shiny paper parcels wrapped in red satin ribbon are all appealing to me. They truly are. But as I grow older, the gilded pageantry of Christmas has taken a backseat to the November holiday that I love even more.

“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.” Ann Curry proclaimed from inside of my television years ago when she was still on The Today Show. And I remember thinking how odd that statement was. How could anyone enjoy any holiday MORE than Christmas? Isn’t that something akin to blasphemy? Though as she explained her reasoning, I began to understand. And since that moment, I have looked at Thanksgiving in a whole new light.

You see Thanksgiving, to me, is everything that’s wonderful about Christmas without all of the crappings trappings of the Big Day. It is food and family and time off from work without all the shopping, running, spending and decorating. It is like a Christmas dress rehearsal without the pressure of ticket sales, a live audience, props and costume changes.

I don’t know if everyone else can say the same. Perhaps you’re Turkey Day is a real pressure cooker. But for this gal, I find it particularly blissful for the following, five reasons:

  1. It is a day for sleeping in because I am NEVER trusted to cook the meal. I usually bring the rolls… and believe you, me, it is best for everyone that way.
  2. It is a day for laughing with and corrupting my seven nieces and nephews without having to compete with various new iThings, Star Wars Legos or the latest CD by One Direction.
  3. It is the annual celebration of Carb Fest USA… a.k.a. the typical American Thanksgiving meal. Seriously, when else can you get away with serving at LEAST four starches in one sitting? A culinary scenario that includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, buttered rolls, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, pumpkin, pecan and cherry pie ALL chillin’ atop the SAME table at the SAME time = a Carboholic’s fantasy!
  4. There are no gifts required. And I am not listing this one as some stingy, selfish, shopping-hater (even though at times I can be). I mean that no money—other than that which was spent to prepare or provide the meal—was spent on more “stuff” that we probably don’t even need. No expectations were set other than that of gathering together, giving thanks and (hopefully) enjoying the company of those we hold dear.
  5. It is usually the day that ends with my family breaking out a copy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and we all smoosh together in one room to watch and recite the entire thing — from Counsin Eddie’s dog named Snot and his infamous Crime of Fashion in the form of a black dickie… to fried felines, squirrels on the loose and Jelly of the Month clubs.

Whatever your Day of Thanks brings to you and yours this year, hopefully it includes some thankfulness (of course), some laughter, some love and at least ONE thing with whipped cream on top.

I am not operating under any delusions that I will ever BE this woman… but I like the idea of her.

Acting My Age?

Why is that young girl trying to fire roast tomatoes in her mother’s kitchen? And why is she alone? Shouldn’t an adult be nearby supervising her activities? Why can’t she just play with an Easy Bake Oven like a normal girl? Why is that boy so concerned with upcoming Black Friday flat screen TV sales? Isn’t he too young to get credit anyway? Shouldn’t he be playing video games or pushing around a Tonka truck or something?

These are just a few of the questions I find myself asking on a regular basis during the daily barrage of television commercials. For some reason, I see children everywhere… acting as adults. They’re buying furniture, cars and carpeting. They’re calling for an exterminator or trying to figure out what to do about their leaky roof or their 401k. And I can’t help but want to scream: “YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO WORRY ABOUT THIS $#*@!”

Or am I just too old?

Within the last five years or so I have discovered that the characters on TV, whether on the news, starring in the commercials or playing that of a leading role have all gotten dramatically younger. REALLY. They are younger. Start paying attention if you don’t believe me. They used to be older than me. The people playing moms and dads LOOKED like moms and dads — they most certainly didn’t look like ME. The people playing doctors and cops and attorneys LOOKED like mature doctors, cops and attorneys.

And I always looked up to them. Literally and figuratively. They were taller, wiser, grayer, more experienced and well versed in the ways of the world. They had to make the big decisions like where to invest their money, when to sell the house, from whom to purchase car insurance. All I had to do was be young and not worry about such things.

Which is why I find it so shocking that these roles are being played by people who not only resemble me… but who are YOUNGER than me! Near as I can tell, this problem is only going to get worse. TV people stay the same age forever. But I will keep on pulling away and pulling away. One day I suppose the women in the osteoporosis / arthritis / adult diaper commercials will look younger than me. Perhaps by then I won’t be quite as shocked. That or I’ll be too tired to care.

I guess it’s true what they say about staying 18 forever… in our own minds. And that’s probably a really good thing. Because no matter the number of candles on the cake or lines in the mirror we should always be too young to see ourselves and our contemporaries actually acting our age.

Ted and The Willful Suspension of Disbelief

Willful Suspension of Disbelief: The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.

Let’s face it. Books and movies would be complete and utter snoozefests were it not for this handy little creative device. We’ve grown so accustomed to it in fact, that much of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. It begins when we’re children and books ripe with fire-breathing Dragons, wicked queens, sleeping princesses and frogs that turn into princes fill our bookshelves and imaginations. We come to accept early on that it is completely possible and even probable that a hungry monster actually lives beneath the bed or inhabits the closet.

As we grow and develop the ability to reason, we learn that these characters were simply the tenants of fairytales, recounted to us for the sole purposes of entertainment and moral direction. For the most part, we accept that our parents and teachers lied to us for years about talking animals and humans with supernatural powers. However, armed with this new and heartbreaking wisdom, we also realize that life just isn’t quite as fun without the world of imagination.

Therefore, we begin to exercise a willful acceptance of many things that are unlikely, unrealistic or downright impossible. Vampires creeping through our windows at night, space aliens attempting to invade earth or the notion that Tom Cruise really CAN act all become quite plausible if we want badly enough for them to be so. But as stated at the beginning of this post, oftentimes we exercise the willful suspension of disbelief with such regularity, we have a tendency to forget when we’re actually doing it.

Take the movie Ted for example. For those unfamiliar, Ted is a 2012 American comedy about a young boy, John Bennett, who wanted nothing more than for his beloved teddy bear, Ted, to come to life. Incredibly, his wish is granted. But once John is all grown up, his boyhood dream becomes a nightmarish nuisance.

OK… so cute premise, right? I thought so. And I bugged Lee about going to see it forever. He eventually agreed and off we went to the theater to settle in for a couple of hours of (hopefully) laughter at the ridiculously implausible story of an all-grown-up talking teddy bear. Except that about 30 minutes in I realized that something was really bothering me about this movie and thus interfering with my enjoyment of it.

It is revealed that John—who lives in Boston—is employed at a rental car facility and barely scraping by on his meager $38,000 a year salary and yet, has an amazing apartment right downtown. I found myself agonizing over the “realism” of Ted’s owner affording such a beautiful brownstone (did I mention that it was in Boston?) decorated with the latest trends from Ethan Allen and Pier One.

It bugged me so much, in fact, that I decided when the movie was over, to complain to Lee about how unrealistic I felt that particular part of the story was. To which he slowly and calmly replied: “Yes, Joanna, I agree. That is an unsettling and unrealistic aspect of the movie… <LONG PAUSE FOR EFFECT> … because the idea of a real, live talking teddy bear is totally realistic.”

Limping To The Finish Line

Some of the pundits tell us we might be in for a longer haul. It may not be over tonight as was originally advertised. But whether we have a clear winner come Wednesday morning or the presidential election remains too close to call — we will have survived the political storm largely intact. Well, most of us anyway.

Yes, there will be some licking of wounds and necessary rebuilding of morale depending on which camp you’ve staked your tent these final weeks and months. Some of us will have fewer “friends” on social media and perhaps fewer friends in real life too. However, after the red and blue smoke eventually clears and the elephant dust and donkey dander settle, what we’ve suffered as a society should not be minimized.

Let us not forget all that we have collectively endured: We have weathered the primaries, the campaign speeches, the conventions, the debates, the yard signs, the “friendly” disagreements with our peers, family members and neighbors, the seemingly infinite supply of television ads, the attacking, the dodging, the whining, the scaring, the robo calls, the constant-and-ever-shifting “latest” polling numbers, the charts, the graphs, the talking heads, the morality arguments, the ignorant, misinformed, uninformed and enraging Facebook posts, status updates and tweets, the rhetoric, the apocalyptic theories, the partisan politicking and the endless “what-if” scenarios.

I’m tired now. Aren’t you? No matter the outcome, after today, our part is done. We will have (hopefully) drug our bruised and battered bodies to the polls and freely exercised our right to choose a leader — a right that I am no less grateful for no matter how much I complain or how worn out I may actually claim to be. But now I think it’s time we return to our regularly scheduled programming… complete with those good, old-fashioned commercials for antidepressants, erectile dysfunction, indigestion and Black Friday Doorbuster Deals.