May 5, 2018

Jackie’s Reviews: Iron Fist? More Like Iron ****

I consider myself a pretty normal person, but now I think I’ve joined the ranks of “nerds,” no offense to all you nerds out there, sons. It’s not that I think I’m better than you, but if you are one of those people who liked the Netflix series called Iron Fist, then maybe I am better than you. Let me explain.

A long time ago, I was forced to see the Marvel movie Iron Man with my children. It was so boring and badly written that I wanted to walk out of the theater and sever all ties with my sons there and then. (But I didn't, and I hope they remember that on Mother's Day.) I don’t know the actual length of the movie, but it felt like it lasted weeks.

So when my friend "Derek" invited me over to watch a couple episodes of another Marvel series, Daredevil, I was open minded, but simultaneously prepared mentally for hours of agony. I wondered if this was my penance for all the bad things I’ve done in my life. I hesitantly started watching, and though you may think I would be disappointed again, au contraire, dear reader, it turned out to be . . . excellent!

If you enjoy action films but haven’t seen the Daredevil Netflix series, it’s most definitely worth watching. “Daredevil” is a lawyer by day, vigilante by night who wears a mask and beats up bad guys. After getting used to the whole vigilante thing, he invests in a full superhero costume, which is another story. But don’t let the costume distract you.

The most amazing part is that he’s blind and does all of this martial arts fighting and stuff without vision – and never even trips or stumbles on stuff scattered on the ground. It’s impressive. I’ve got vision in both eyes, double vision if you will, and I trip constantly. There doesn’t even have to be an obstacle on the floor.

And even with strong vision, I’ve never been able to beat up anyone. In school, I was voted “Most Likely to Not Beat Up Anyone.”

Daredevil has a really cool premise. It’s the age-old story of good versus evil, sprinkled with humor, depth, unexpected twists and turns, and likeable characters. It was so good that I moved on to seeing the subsequent shows in the franchise, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, vastly different, yet equally engaging.

But all good things must come to an end – and by that, I am referring to the next saga in the series, Iron Fist. Described in one word, the series is “blech.”

“Iron Fist” is really some kid named Danny who was raised by monks after surviving a plane crash, and he is trained to be a master kung fu fighter. His superpower is that if he gets really, really focused and Jupiter lines up with the moon just right, and it’s the first Tuesday of the month, THEN he can summon some super power where his fist turns yellow for about five seconds an episode. Which gives him the power to punch someone and blast them out of the scene. That’s it. No more.

The rest of the time, Danny spends stressing, second-guessing and whining and feeling bad about whomever he punched. He’s like the kid at school who you knew was good hearted, but you couldn’t bring yourself to sit next to him in the lunch room because he was so exhausting.

The character becomes progressively more annoying with each episode to the point that you begin to sympathize with the bad guys and root for them to finally kill him off. As I’ve told you, I’m normally a nice person, but the way this show turned me upside down, where I started rooting for evil people, seemed like bad juju.

As a result, after consulting with my priest and the cashier at the Wendy’s drive-thru window, I decided not to watch the series anymore and skipped right to The Defenders. I’ll let you know how that goes. (I probably won’t.)

Anyway, phew! I know there is a lot going on in the world, but this topic warranted putting pen to paper, as I needed to get this off my chest. If you want to escape this hellish anguish I’ve described, do not watch Iron Fist. But do try out Daredevil. It’s pretty captivating!

Nov 4, 2017

Social media? Mark my words, it'll never last

Social media is stressing me out. So many options, so much to share.

Here's the problem. I don't do anything worthy of tweeting or snapping or facebooking or whatever. And when I finally do engage in something interesting, I forget to take a picture or don't post it in a timely fashion. For example, I just got around to posting my Halloween pictures TODAY. Always one step behind. And I only did it to annoy my son by taking credit for carving pumpkins that he actually carved. Ha Ha. That one makes me laugh.

Another issue I have with social media is the stigma associated with having few friends. When people learned that I have only 15 Facebook friends, they laughed at me and told me I was a loser! And those were people from my emotional support group!

My middle son reminded me that I can send friend requests to other people I know. But how can I do that when I don't have any more friends? Great advice, Einstein.

My youngest son suggested that I could try to make more friends. Seriously? Big talk coming from you, Roberto. Did anyone even sign your yearbook?

With my sons proving to be useless, I thought I could confide in my co-workers at the quickie mart about this embarrassing problem. They were not helpful. Dodie bragged that she has over 300 friends. Of course she does. She's ancient. She's probably met hundreds of thousands of people, but I'm young! Kibby told me she's 20 years younger than me and still has way more friends. How can that be? Her last Facebook post was a picture of her holding a baby. No caption. Ridiculous! What does that mean? And how did she get so many "likes" for it?

Cori and Erin, two acquaintances I barely tolerate, made me an Instagram account and told me I could delude myself into believing I was more popular if just connected with different Instagram groups. (Are they called groups, Cory?) I connected with Cats of Instagram, but their incessant pics of cats throughout the day made me close my account.

If you think about it, if social media annoys me, how many others are out there just like me? I predict that soon people will tire of this little trend, just as they did with covered wagons, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and "computers."

In the end, as I've done with all other goals in the past, I decided to just give up. It's a time-tested formula. I know now that I will never be popular on social media. We all have our strengths. Some people are surrounded by friends or family who love them, some are talented at a particular skill or several skills, some are rich. All I have is my amazing good looks, and I guess I'll have to live with that. Happy November!

And if you like this post, friend me on social media. #pleasebemyfriend

Apr 8, 2017

Empty nesting? Embrace the change!

This post is dedicated to two of my sons.

Do you have children? Are they young or older? Whether or not you have kids and no matter what the stage, you need to read this post. Because it’s not about children, per se, but about how to be happier in life. I don’t have a doctorate in psychology, but if I did, this is the advice I would give.

Let’s take a step back. For the last few years, I dreaded being an empty nester, but now that I’m “there,” I have to tell you -- it’s fun. Sure, I miss the kids, . . . Raphael, Hans and . . . er. . . the taller one, but it’s a new stage that is just as wonderful as every other stage.

When my last son left, I was sad. I cried for a couple weeks. I missed the noise and activity. I went so far as to pretend the throw pillows on my couch were my friends. I even cooked for them and took them to movies. Does that make me crazy? No YOU’RE crazy!

Then two more weeks passed, and Joe and I ditched the pillows and started doing things with real friends. Suddenly, just as new buds emerge on plants despite the fact that they almost died last summer because you didn’t water them, new life emerges. Your goal is to embrace that new life.

Do I prefer when the kids were home? Yes, they’re my kids, and I love them. But who has time to be sad when you have nine cats and can barely walk through your house because of all the memorabilia you’ve stacked five-feet high in every possible crevice? There is no need to cry when I’ve got mementos, real friends and multiple personalities I’m trying to repress as I deal with the hoarding issue.

If you want to transition to empty nesting as smoothly as I did, here are six tips to make your life easier:

1. Reconnect with old friends and start spending time with them. If you broke ties with practically everyone because you can’t stand being surrounded by idiots, get a second chance by explaining you were a heavy drinker before and now you attend AA. The larger the lie, the more of a chance people will actually see you again.

2. Get rid of cable. Why are you spending your time watching HGTV, ESPN, or dumb “reality” shows about chefs, singers or survival competitions when you can watch countless hours of YouTube videos? Let the internet replace your obsession with TV. But NEVER on a Thursday night. There’s no way any sane person should miss “Big Bang.” Don’t like that idea? Well I don’t like your kid, but I wouldn’t say it out loud.

3. Take up a new hobby that gets you out of the house. I personally like to go to bars and drink alone. My husband does the same at a separate bar. But if liquor isn’t your thing, choose another hobby. You can volunteer, do yoga, go to a shooting range, take up taxidermy or join a religious cult. There are so many options.

4. All that too complicated? Get into cuisine. My friend was a compulsive health nut before her children left the nest. In her sadness, she turned to me. With my coaching, she now she goes to restaurants three nights a week. She said she’s happier than she’s ever been, despite gaining 50 pounds in five months and having trouble walking without panting. Her son told me she’s so obsessed with food that she doesn’t remember she has children. Problem solved!

5. Use technology to stay in touch. So you can’t see your children in person. Big deal, it’s 2017, people. Get on Instagram, Snapchat, call your kids at least four times a day. Do what you have to in order to be an integral part of your kids’ lives from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep. No matter how far away they are, you’ll feel connected again, and surely they’ll love the round-the-clock attention. Everyone wins.

6. Travel. Now that you have more money and time because the kids are gone, why not travel? There are a lot of beautiful, amazing places you haven’t been, but don’t waste your money on those destinations. Instead travel to where your kids live, and show up on their doorstep. They will surely be surprised and admire your efforts. Tip: Don’t tell them in advance that you are coming.

Follow my tips and you will live as rich a life as I do, and your children will appreciate the new, independent you.

Jun 23, 2016

A smile worth a million dollars

To extract or not to extract. That was the question on my mind as my son Raphael sat down in the oral surgeon's chair.

We already shelled out $1,000 to extract Hans' wisdom teeth, another $1,000 for little Roberto's, and now the middle son wanted to have his removed too.

Was it because one brother had his teeth taken out that the others suddenly needed to have theirs extracted? Ridiculous! I thought I raised my kids better than that. "What's next, Raphael? You planning to join a cult?" I snapped.

I pondered my misguided parenting and the cost of all these extractions as the oral surgeon examined the boy’s mouth. I looked at the surgeon with disdain, but he looked back with fondness. The oral surgeon loves me. Whenever he looks at me, I feel like he is really visualizing a giant sack of money. Dr. Mallard looked deflated after the second son's extractions were over, but when I told him I had a third son, you could see his faith in God was restored.

Why is it that when your children are younger, they bleed you dry of time and energy, and when they get older, they bleed you dry of money? You parents with babies need to seriously consider giving them up for adoption before they turn around 16. I think that's when the wisdom teeth come in.

“Yep, all the wisdom teeth definitely need to come out,” said Dr. Mallard in a almost gleeful voice while pulling off his exam gloves. He tried to hide that visions of new golf clubs were dancing in his head, but by mistake said out loud, "I have visions of new golf clubs dancing in my head!" He tried to cover it up by coughing, but everyone heard what he said.

"Let's cut the crap, Mallard," I said sharply. "You've already have taken eight teeth from my other sons. You're only getting one this time around."

My son looked at me ostensibly blankly from the dental chair, but I knew his eyes were really saying, "You're so cheap."

"Oh no," Dr. Mallard said with the smile and guile of a seasoned salesman, "It would be unsafe not to extract all four. You don't want to put your good-looking son's smile in jeopardy, do you?" He was a smart negotiator . . . playing the "love" card right in front of my child.

But this wasn’t my first rodeo, and Raphael is mediocre-looking at best (see picture, far right), so I knew Mallard was just dancing the dance. "TWO is all you'll get, and we're putting off the procedure for six months," I snarled.

"THREE teeth," he countered. "And you can use my latte machine during the extraction." Darn Mallard was more cunning than I expected. He had observed my weakness for sweet caffeinated beverages.

"Well played, but I'm taking a latte TODAY too," I said. We shook hands while my son shook his expensive little head.

I know what you're thinking -- Dr. Mallard is a much better negotiator than I am. But what you don't know is that I slipped an entire box of creamers into my purse as I waited for the latte to brew in his reception area. Take that, Mallard! I didn't even need the lousy creamers!

Kids might be expensive and incredibly demanding, but when I look into the eyes of any of my sons, I am so filled with joy that I would do ANYTHING for them. Even extract three out of four teeth when it's medically necessary. And that, my friends, is the definition of unconditional love.

Mothers give birth and fall in love with their babies, and no matter how old children get, just one look at their faces melts our hearts the way it did when they were born. That's why kids are the greatest gift of all.

This post is dedicated to my childhood cat, who we never named. I now regret not naming it.