Monday, May 29, 2017

The Peeves I Keep As Pets

I'm not sure which I hate more: cooking or shopping for clothing.

I'm a disaster in the kitchen, always have been. Anything I attempt is overcooked, undercooked, or nuked. I can use a microwave or crock pot with passable results, but that's the extent of my culinary skills. This past week has been a new low for me. I didn't set the kitchen on fire, no, but it was still pretty bad. 

First, I attempted to make pasta. Collin loves it, so I make it for him in spite of my aversion to cooking. In the past, I've ruined or nearly ruined the pots I used. This time, I missed the pot entirely. Twelve ounces of a twenty-four ounce box of macaroni ended up in the kitchen floor. I'm still finding elbows here and there--I even found a few of them as far away as the living room.

One morning, I attempted something simple: a bowl of cereal. Most of it ended up on the counter. Who can't fill a bowl with cereal?

I put a cup of mac and cheese in the microwave. As I was removing it, it burned my hand. I dropped it, and the sauce somehow ended up inside my oven door--as in between two glass panels. Still haven't figured out how to get it out.

Shopping for clothing, by contrast, used to be easy. If you knew your sizes, you could buy whatever you needed anywhere, no problem. I've never been fond of taking several items into a dressing room, trying each one on, checking them out in the mirror. I like to cruise through the racks, find things I like in my sizes, buy them and take them home. I'm no clotheshorse. I live in jeans, T-shirts and shorts. 

But in recent years, that hasn't been so easy. It's no secret that high-end designers size their clothing in a way that caters to a clientele that wants to believe they're smaller than they really are. Now, however, the size you wear depends on the manufacturer, even for inexpensive clothing.

It's frustrating.

A few years ago, I bought a pair of shorts in a size I'd worn for years. They were baggy. That was just the start. I've purchased several items I couldn't wear. Since I also hate standing in exchange lines, I donate the stuff I can't wear.

My poor eyesight makes matters worse. A couple of months ago, I bought two pair of lightweight pants for warm weather. One pair was a good fit. The other pair was so baggy, I had to tighten the drawstring to keep them up.

They were a 4X.

I like T-shirts to be slightly loose and the sleeves comfortable, so I buy them in the men's department. It's worked out pretty well so far. Until we ordered shirts from the WWE Shop online. I now have two 4X shirts.

Oh, well. They're so baggy, they make comfy sleep shirts!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Neurologist Tells Me I'm Too Sharp to be Senile, But....

I'm really behind here. I haven't posted since the Friday before Mother's Day, and I'm behind on reading and commenting on friends' blogs. I'll catch up...eventually. I've been spending more and more time on Facebook, where there are far more interactions with others--especially in the anti-Trump groups. One, TWIT (The Week in Trump) has a Happy Days parody, Crappy Days, that's hilarious.

I confess, I'm still recovering from last Thursday. Collin and I went to the lab in Kirkwood to get blood drawn for tests ordered by our doctors (just routine stuff). As we were crossing the street at Kirkwood and Woodbine, some woman who either doesn't get pedestrian right of way or was going to a fire made the turn at high speed while we were in the crosswalk. Near miss. Then there were problems with both of our lab orders. Collin's was resolved, but mine wasn't. Fortunately, the tech drew my blood anyway and put it in the refrigerator. (The problem was resolved this morning.) Then, we went to Taco Bell for lunch. While there, I somehow ended up using the men's restroom by mistake. I didn't realize it until I was washing my hands and spotted the urinal. I made a quick exit and found Collin laughing.

I couldn't get out of the restaurant fast enough!

As a result of our blood tests, Collin and I have engaged in a casual competition. We got the results of our lab work the other day. For the most part, all is well. My A1C is 5.7 (normal is 5.6 or lower). His cholesterol is up a bit and his doctor referred him to a nutritionist (he must not have told her I can't cook).

Anyway, we started doing little things to improve healthwise. He eats the stuff he likes--but a lot less of it. Most of the time, he has no bread with meals. I gave up soda over a year ago and no longer have bouts of acid reflux. I don't use much salt--pepper is a good replacement for salt in most cases when the dish is bland. 

Yes, I know....

Here's a challenge, Collin. Whoever has the best report after our next doctor visits wins. The prize? Movie tickets, of course! (I was going to add lunch at TGI Fridays or Olive Garden to the prize, but that would defeat the purpose of the challenge, wouldn't it?)

Friday, May 12, 2017

I've Become My Mom. The Transition is Complete!

I miss my mom.

Since Sunday is Mother's Day, I'm going to write about my mother (Dad will get his turn on Father's Day). I've written anecdotal posts about both of them in the past, but today, I'm going to look at the good and bad in my relationship with her.

For the most part, we were close. I could tell her just about anything. She wouldn't judge me. Sometimes, I think she was too easy on me. I wasn't so easy on her. I didn't understand why she put up with so much crap from her sisters and a particular "friend" who was clearly a two-faced backstabber. As it turned out, I was right...but it took Mom a long time to see it.

I was furious when she loaned my favorite lamp to one of the tenants (my parents owned rental property)--who took it with them when they moved. Okay, they were evicted and it was a nasty, late-night scene that involved law enforcement and an angry neighbor who wanted to repo the car said tenant had bought from him but failed to pay for. I never let Mom forget that she had trusted a lowlife with my lamp. Pretty silly, huh?

Nobody was more proud than Mom when I sold my first novel. She wanted to go with me when I made my first trip to New York to meet with the publisher. I said no. I knew I'd be busy, that I couldn't take her with me to meetings--which was what she really wanted. It would have been viewed as unprofessional--but I'm embarrassed to admit that it wasn't the only reason I didn't want her to go along. From the day the book sold, Mom acted as if she were my co-author whenever we were in public, whenever I was asked about it. The publisher sent me roses. Mom wanted to know why she didn't get roses. She was joking, of course, but I overreacted. Why?

Because I'd always been dependent upon my parents in one way or another. That novel was the first thing I felt I'd done entirely on my own. It was mine, and I didn't want to share that accomplishment--with anyone.

But that wasn't true. I did all of the research and writing, yes. I found my agent on my own, yes. But I was a single mother with a toddler who had lived in Jefferson County, where public transportation at the time was almost nonexistent. I worked downtown, twenty miles away--and I couldn't drive. The only solution was to move into St. Louis, closer to the downtown area, so I could take a bus to work. But that would mean having to find a daycare for Collin or hire a babysitter to stay with him at home while I worked. I didn't like either option. I'd seen too many stories on the news about children harmed, killed or abducted by babysitters or daycare workers.

Mom and Dad sold their home and rented a place in south St. Louis for all of us. I could go to work knowing Collin was safe while I was at work. They gave up a home that was paid for and would have given them security in their retirement so I could work and Collin could have safety and security. In truth, I could not have written and sold Alexander's Empire without them. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I wish you and Dad were still here with us.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Only if the Review is Literate....

Monday, May 8, 2017

Family Isn't About Blood, It's About Bonding

Friday, Collin and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Following are our reviews:

Those of us who grew up with both of our parents knew them--the good and the bad things--and in most cases, we can accept all of it. But when you've grown up without a parent, you end up with a fantasy image of that parent--and the reality, if it ever comes, can be disappointing.

This is what Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) discovers in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

The movie opens in 1980, with a young couple on Earth. Missouri. In those jumbo letters that were a little jarring in Captain America: Civil War. The couple are Peter's mother, Meredith (Laura Haddock), and his unnamed father. They look like any young couple in love, except for the strange plant the man has implanted into the earth. What is it? You don't want to know. Okay, maybe you do--but you'll have to see the movie. I've learned my lesson when it comes to spoilers. Being from Missouri, I can tell you I’m pretty sure he planted the thing near the Callaway Nuclear Plant. Uh-oh. That can’t be good.

Flash forward thirty-four years, to another planet, where the Guardians, hired by an alien race of golden beings known as the Sovereign, do battle with a gigantic, tentacled creature to retrieve some precious batteries. In exchange for their services, they receive Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), who was caught trying to steal those batteries. What are they using those batteries for, anyway? Given how valuable they seem to be, I’m guessing you can’t get them at Radio Shack.

In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, they were forced together by circumstance, learning to function as a team to save the planet Xandar. This time around, they've become a real family--bickering, sometimes offending each other, like most families. Drax (Dave Bautista) gives Peter some advice on romance.  And they have enemies. A lot of them. Enemies who want them dead.

While trying to salvage their crashed ship while being pursued by some of those enemies, the Guardians encounter Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter's long-lost father. He wants to take all of them to his planet. He wants a relationship with his son. Given that he hired Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) to deliver Peter to him decades earlier, one has to wonder what took him so long. Couldn’t he just contact Yondu and ask, “What did you do with my kid?”

Leaving Rocket 9voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) behind to repair the Milano and guard Nebula, Peter, Drax and Gamora make the trip with Ego and his empath companion, Mantis (Pom Klementieff).

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) smells a rat. Having spent most of her life on the wrong side of the law, she knows a con when she sees one, and she's convinced there's more to Ego than meets the eye. (His name alone should have aroused some suspicion, but then, Ego could mean something completely different on his world than it means here on Earth, right?) Gamora also picks up on something in Mantis: fear.

There's also dissent among the Ravagers, the space pirates who raised Peter Quill after abducting him from Earth the night his mother died. Their leader, Yondu, has been ostracized by other Ravager factions, led by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone), having been accused of dealing in child slavery. They turn on him, imprisoning him and killing several members of his crew.

When Yondu escapes with his one loyal crewmember, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Rocket and Groot, the four of them head for Ego's planet in a series of weird space jumps that somehow never happened to the crew of the Enterprise, even at maximum warp.

The special effects are amazing, the action is nearly nonstop, the humor is even sharper than it was in the original, and the actors are perfect in their roles. Loved the Awesome Mix #2 songs! Though the ending left me crying like a baby and a scene involving the mistreatment of Baby Groot was upsetting, kudos to writer/director James Gunn for another winner!

Score: 10/10
--Norma Beishir

Marvel Studios’ latest installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise hit theatres today and more than lived up to the original,  thanks to the cast and crew, led by the amazing writer-director James Gunn and the wonderful performances by Christ Pratt (Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Bradley Cooper (Rocket Raccoon), Vin Diesel (Baby Groot), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), and Karen Gillan (Nebula), plus wonderful performances from new additions Pom Klementieff (Mantis) in such a cute and innocent role as the aide to Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s father Ego, played by Kurt Russell.

From the start of the film with the battle between the Guardians and the big giant monster to protect the batteries on the home planet of the Sovereign to the very end of the movie, there were a lot of laughs--like Rocket referring to the Sovereign High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and the Sovereign species as “conceited douchebags” (don’t show Donald Trump the high priestess because she is genetically perfect and skin of gold--he might dump the first lady for her!); the jailbreak scene with Rocket and Yondu trying to get Baby Groot to help them get Yondu’s experimental fin, but getting everything else—including one character’s eye (Easter egg from the first Guardians film), even pulling in a desk; the blunt joke from Drax on whether or not Ego had a penis (Ego tells him he does, and it is a good one), to Rocket, Groot and the Death Button. A Ravager mutiny by Taserface (Chris Sullivan) whose name was the butt of so many jokes from Rocket’s lines about “Waking up in the morning, seeing his face in the mirror, trying to look macho, and saying I am Taserface.” Even the High Priestess of the Sovereign was laughing at his name. When it comes to Ego, he is not what he seems and—in my opinion—Ego in the film is akin to the comic book perception of God and Creation. One of funniest scenes involves Yondu, Rocket, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and Baby Groot space jumping to get to Ego’s planet and warping their faces because of the number of jumps (more than 700 jumps!); Nebula and the not yet ripe fruit was funny throughout the film. Another great performance given was Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) the Ravager who trained Yondu from his youth, acting and looking badass (Yo!). One of the best scenes is with Mantis, Peter, Drax, and Gamora on Ego’s ship when Mantis reads Peter’s emotions regarding Gamora.

Some of the Easter eggs in the film range from the bounty for Nebula on Xandar; Ego talking about Peter using Power Stone on Xandar against Ronan without dying; the “anomaly” in Peter; Ego revealing himself to be a Celestial—probably one of the last living Celestials; not one but two Stan Lee cameos with the group called the Watchers; one of the places Yondu and the others jumped past could have been in the Nine Realms from Thor—maybe even Asgard; the face on Ego’s planet linking it to the comic book version of Ego the Living Planet. Peter using the power that was genetically inherited is in some ways like the Force from Star Wars. Ego mentioning “seeking out new life” was maybe a reference to Star Trek. Also when Ego gives peter more of his power, his eyes turn into stars and mentions Eternity, another Celestial.

The biggest Easter Egg, for me, comes in the post credit scene where the high priestess of the Sovereign mentions the new birthing chamber with a lower priest as creating a weapon that will be designed to destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ayesha says, “I will call him Adam.” Which means the new birthing chamber is the cocoon containing Adam Warlock. (Rumor has it Adam Warlock will appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3). Also, another Easter egg in the postcredits involves a small group of Ravagers gathered, one of them holding two thumbs up with a mystical lattice around it, which could indicate he’s a practitioner of the mystic arts from Doctor Strange. Could that Ravager have been trained by Agamotto? A recent revelation by Kevin Feige is that Stan Lee is one of the Watchers.

Overall the film exceeded expectations and is even better than the first movie. All the comedy and action meshed together to make a wonderful film, and obviously, the Stan Lee cameos. With a great and talented cast, this movie will have staying power in the theaters and will set the benchmark for the Summer, if not for the year. Looking forward to their appearance in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Untitled Avengers Film (2019). Did I mention Stan Lee?

Score: 10/10

--Collin Beishir

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Jackass, a Flood and a Welcome Gift

No Trump rant today, I promise...but there will be more in the future, so anytime I post something you find offensive, politically or otherwise, I'll understand if you opt to skip those posts. We're all entitled to our opinions, and the expression of them. But the only way to maintain friendships in the face of such strong differences is to not respond to those with whom we disagree. No debates, no statements, nothing. That's why I learned to not get confrontational with friends who did vote for the...well, you know. Most of my friends, fortunately, do the same--though I have had to cut a few Facebook friends loose.

Currently, we're dealing with flooding in our area--some of it pretty close to home. Several roads and interstates have been closed. Fortunately for Collin and me, we both work at home.

A few days ago, I received this wonderful gift box from my blog buddy Gayle at Two Little Square Black Dogs. As Collin and I started preparing a gift box for Gayle, we came up with an idea. Two of the items Gayle sent were a key chain and a postcard from her city, Tuscon. If enough of you are interested, I propose we send postcards and key chains representative of our cities/towns to everyone else who participates.

If you're game, send me your addresses at It could be fun....

PS New post at my author blog: