Friday, October 29, 2010

The Official Halloween Aptitude Test

Kindly take a seat.

As we head into the holiday season, it's important to remember that the holidays
present unique emotional challenges for many people. The experts here at Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder have designed this targeted aptitude test to help citizens better address their emotional state as we head into the first of the season's special celebrations: Halloween.

At the conclusion of this questionnaire, you will be advised as to which holiday coping mechanism will likely work best for you based on your responses. [Please use a No. 2 pencil and fill in the bubbles completely. We really shouldn't have to tell you that, but whatev.]

Halloween Aptitude Test

1. When I first see Halloween items appearing in the stores, I feel:

a. giddy
b. enraged
c. twitchy
d. disoriented

2. At the sight of the massive quantities of candy for sale, I:

feel sorry for poor little children who receive store-bought goodies on Halloween night and resolve to perfect my recipe for dairy-free organic pralines in time for trick-or-treating.
poke my finger into each and every Reese's cup.
c. lecture store clerk on the nation's skyrocketing child-obesity rates.
climb into shopping cart and do loud impersonation of Sammy Davis, Jr. singing "The Candy Man" toward security camera.

3. My favorite Halloween memory:

is the time dear Papa hitched Bess, our kindly Clydesdale, to the old red wagon for a jaunty hayride in the crisp, autumn air down to the apple orchard and Mama brought a basket of fresh, warm pumpkin muffins and an earthenware jug of hot, spiced cider, the warmth of which toasted our plump, little fingers through our hand-knit mittens that Grand Mere made for us in spite of being legally blind (but never grumpy). It was grand, simply grand.
is the year I perfected my flaming poo catapult.
is when I discovered that I could fake a fever so I could hide under my blankie rather than have to go trick-or-treating in the dark with all those creepy strangers in costumes.
is gone for good since that last electro-shock treatment.

4. At Halloween I like to take a pumpkin and:

a. well, I usually get a dozen pumpkins for all my projects, but if I only had one then I guess I would toast the seeds as a snack for my bridge group and use some of the meat to make my signature cinnamon pumpkin butter and then decoupage the shell with travel illustrations clipped from my vintage magazine collection and slip a nightlight in there for a cheery glow.
b. carve Charles Manson's face into it. Then back over it with my pickup.
c. oh, I would never get a pumpkin. They mold and attract gnats, which are known disease carriers.
d. you know, just hang out with it.

5. I think the foundation of a great Halloween costume is:

b. lots of blood. Fake, if that's all you have on hand.
c. something without wool. I'm allergic to wool.
MC Hammer pants.

6. What is your Halloween costume this year?

a. Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE - yards and yards of silks and velvets and - oh! - such a delicious little hat!
b. Leatherface from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." That's my costume every year.
Howard Hughes. That way, I can stay in character and still not have to touch anything.
Something that goes with my MC Hammer pants.

7. When someone rings my doorbell on Halloween, I:

a. present a hostess tray with seasonal offerings, including my handmade clove and nutmeg sachets tied in dainty organza bags.
b. leap out of the bushes in my mask and fire up the ol' chainsaw.
distribute antibacterial hand wipes
d. start drooling. Happens with any kind of bell. I don't know why.

8. Do you decorate for Halloween?

Oh, yes! Each year I bedeck my cottage to look like a haunted Victorian carriage house, complete with ghostly figures gliding past the windows in gossamer bedclothes, searching in vain for their earthly dominion. I accompany the scene with an original composition that I play on my antique harpsichord.
b. Yeah, if you call covering the front of the house in camouflage "decorating."
Of course not - that would only encourage people.
d. Well, sure, I mean I've got the dry ice and strobe lights going year-round, so it's pretty easy to crank it up a notch for Halloween.

9. If you could change one thing about Halloween, what would it be?

Have a second Halloween in the spring that's all about being cute rather than scary.
b. Allow the use of live ammo.
If I couldn't get rid of it altogether, I'd at least do the trick-or-treating at lunchtime when it's nice and sunny.
d. More caroling. I like a good Halloween carol.

10. The best thing about Halloween is:

a. the sheer joy of sharing my vision of All Hallow's Eve with my cherished neighbors and their adorable offspring.
b. scaring the crap out of people. Duh.
c. when it's over.
d. the egg hunt!

Assessment and Recommendations

If you answered mostly "A":

You need to back it off the pumpkin. Even Martha Stewart finds you annoying.

If you answered mostly "B":

Please stand by while we confer with your parole officer.

If you answered mostly "C":

Have you considered moving to Switzerland?

If you answered mostly "D":

You are uniquely equipped to understand and appreciate all that is Halloween. Enjoy!

[You may put your pencils down.]

Have a Safe and Fun Halloween, Everyone!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Measure of a Man

A Real-Life Limerick

A mommy who tidies a lot,

Found a ruler perched next to the pot.

Did she seek out which treasure

They'd seen fit to measure?

Hell, no, my good sir - she did NOT!

Holiday Greetings That Help

Gearing up to order your holiday cards? If you order them from Paper Culture, they will donate 20% of the sales to Somaly Mam Foundation, an organization dedicated to combating the global sex slave trade. Simply enter the code CA10 at checkout and the donation will be on its way.

And, not only does Paper Culture plant a tree for every order they receive, they even have a free mailing service that will address and send your cards for you - you pay only the postage! Man, I love it when I get to help, celebrate and be lazy - all at the same time!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Uptight Spiritualist - Volume 1

An Occasional Column

For several years now, I, Anna Lefler—conventional briefcase-toter, reflexive shirt-tucker and habitual thank-you-note-writer—have been on a metaphysical quest: to find a spiritual practice that solves life's big mysteries, provides comfort in trying times and illuminates the path toward becoming an all-around better person.

Is that too much to ask?

In this new, occasional column, I share with you what I've learned so far.

The Uptight Spiritualist - Volume 1

How to Meditate

First, find a quiet location where you can sit comfortably for 20 minutes without interruption. Before settling in, remove your shoes and turn off your cell phone and any other device that might distract your untrained, novice mind.

Now, sit with your hands loose in your lap. Taking a deep b
reath, close your eyes. Allow your shoulders to relax and fall away from your earlobes. Visualize your mind as an elevator gliding down your spine, dropping lower and lower into yourself.

During this descent, realize that you have forgotten your mantra. Yes, the personal, customized mantra that was bestowed on you and you alone by the nice lady from the Transcendental Meditation Center with the Harpo Marx hairdo.

You've already called her once because you forgot it, and if you call again, she'll know you haven't meditated since last week, when you're supposed to be doing it morning and night. Nope, you can't call her again.

Keeping your eyes closed, scrunch up your face and concentrate. Think back to the moment the TM lady gave you your special word. It reminded you of something, didn't it? Yes, that's right. When you first heard it, you thought of a name. But whose name? Wait, it was someone famous – a sports figure. You've almost got it. NBA? Yes!


Wait, is that it? "Kareem?" Grimace harder and dig deep. Nope, Kareem is all you've got. You're going with it.

Back in the elevator, continue your descent. Your destination is the base of the spine, also known as your dirt chakra. No, make that root – your root chakra. Chastise yourself for this mistake and continue your deep breathing.

By now you have arrived at a spiritual destination deep within yourself, as indicated by two factors: you feel spiritual and/or deep and, no matter how many times you push the button, your elevator will go no lower.


Now, then. Empty your mind.

That's right – drain it like a sink of dirty dishwater. Right now.

As you perform this super-easy task, enjoy the spastic thought-flurries that leap from your mind like flying fish ahead of a tourist cruise to Catalina.


Is that my car alarm?


That salesgirl was totally lying; these yoga pants do give me Kardashian butt.


How come the NBA guys stopped wearing those tiny shorts, anyway?


I bet I could lift a motorcycle if I tried.


Fight the urge to peek at the clock to see how many of the 20 minutes are remaining. Remind yourself that the five minutes you spent trying to remember your mantra don't count. Nor do the two minutes you spent trying to crack your neck.

All right, empty your mind again and this time put your back into it.

Deep breath.


Your mind is an aquarium. Thoughts swim by like tiny fishes but do not disturb you. They merely move past you on their way to investigate the plastic treasure chest in the bottom of the tank. See how the lid opens and closes. Is there a battery in there or what? Because I don't see a cord.


Consider the possibility that meditation would be easy if you 1) were vegan 2) listened to more Cat Stevens 3) hadn't mocked the TM lady's velvet fanny pack to your work friends.


Spend the next five minutes trying to think of something you're actually good at. [Optional: fall asleep.]


It is now time to begin your ascent and return to your everyday level of consciousness as indicated by the elevator button marked "PH" or "penthouse." When you discover that your elevator does not list a penthouse, become anxious and attempt to exit at the plaza level.

Open your eyes, staying attuned to any shifts in feeling or perception as a result of your recent meditative state. Recognize that you feel relaxed. Also, you could go for a snack.

Four minutes later, as you're standing in your pantry eating a handful of tortilla chips, recall your correct mantra.

Huge Thanks To...

...trail-blazing Creative Alliance '10 organizers Lee Vandeman, Jessica Bern and Andrea Fellman for a truly unforgettable, inspirational weekend.

...Ann Imig, whose Listen to Your Mother Salon took our collective breath away (while benefiting OPCC's Sojourn Program for battered women).

...creative Jedi Lisa Page Rosenberg, who made presenting our session a delightful experience.

...all of the warm, generous women who attended (what a privilege to be in your company!).

...the fantastic event sponsors: Moji, Paper Culture, Ciao Bella Gellato and CalNaturale.

It was an honor to be a part of this inaugural happening. I'm ready for next year!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Scratch 'n Sniff Guide to Wine


I finally went wine-tasting.

(As a rule, I don't like tasting things that aren't pres
ented on a grease-slicked hot plate between aisles 4 and 5 by a woman wearing a button that reads, "You'll never go back to 'real' sausage!" But what can I say? I caved to social pressure.)

Anyway, it was not my usual hang-out. That is to say I felt a little out of my element. Like John Wayne at a lingerie shower.

For those of you who haven't gone tasting yet, here are a few "heads-up" items to keep in mind when planning your visit.

First of all, there is little to no RV parking, so get there early and bring your pylons to mark your turf!

Also, I sensed a definite lack of athletic spirit of any kind, so I'd recommend leaving your team jersey at home. Instead, ladies will want to pack an extra-large handbag festooned with as much gold-tone bric-a-brac as one can hoist, and gents will feel at home dressed somewhere between Captain Von Trapp and Thurston Howell III.

Also frowned upon: fist-pumping, pounding the bar to underscore one's appreciation of a particular selection, and exclaiming, "Gah, that's total crap!" to express the notion that you won't be buying a case of that one.

Oh, and classical music. It's everywhere. Nothing says why-yes-I-do-need-a-$125-set-of-pewter-cheese-knives-with-handles-shaped-like-the-Eiffel-Tower like the overture from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.

Basically, going wine tasting is like being in a Gre
y Poupon commercial for eight straight hours. Not bad...just different.

Say What?

Most perplexing, however, was the language.

When one of the tasters remarked with great solemnity to another that the wine was, "Cloying...while still ponderous," I got excited, figuring I was witnessing a coded exchange between two foreign operatives.

Then I noticed that everyone was talking that way.

Here they were - the same folks I had observed out in the parking lot recapping the latest episode of "Jersey Shore" at the top of their lungs while adjusting the seats of their underpants - now swanning around, pinkies up like terriers' tails and describing their wines as "brawny", "austere" and "tight."


How was anyone supposed to participate in this game? Clearly, some kind of fax was sent around beforehand.

Fear not, however, because I've compiled a little cheat sheet of my own personal wine-tasting terms that you can whip out when you find yourself surrounded by people dressed like the cast of "Dynasty" and complaining that the bottle they just opened is "volatile" and "angular."

The LJKGW Wine-Tasting Glossary

- tastes like three-day-old popcorn with a delightful Junior Mint afternote.

Gummy - as in bear; as in makes little multicolored sugar-sweaters on your teeth.

Marsupial - leaves your mouth feeling like the inside of a kangaroo's pouch.

Woolly - demands immediate dry-cleaning.

Punitive - refers to the taster's residual uneasiness and belief that the wine is out to get him or her.

Loose - a wine that you suspect already has been tasted by everyone in the joint.

Pastoral - tastes like sheep.

Low-Maintenance - can be removed from your carpet with a damp sponge.

Repentant - makes you regret tasting it the minute it hits your tongue.

Aquatic - brings to mind the big fish tank at your dentist's office.

Shifty - of suspect origins; won't look you in the eye.

Alpine - tastes like those tree-shaped car fresheners smell.

Potato-ish - could use some ketchup or makes you feel like you have eyes all over your head.

In Other News...

I'm thrilled to announce that Ann Imig has invited me to produce the Los Angeles presentation of Listen To Your Mother - a spoken-word show she created this year in her town of Madison, Wisconsin and is now taking national for 2011. Directing the LA show will be my friend and most excellent writer/blogger Lisa Page Rosenberg. I'm so excited to work with these ladies!

And speaking of Listen To Your Mother, the LTYM Salon will happen this weekend at CA'10 in Ojai, California - just one of the cool, casual items on the CA'10 weekend agenda. This bite-sized preview of the full-scale show will feature nine writers reading essays about different aspects of motherhood. I look forward to reading a new piece called "The Babymaker."

Monday, October 4, 2010


Not So Silly After All

Of course you know what Sillybandz are.

All right, in case you don't know them by name, they are those multi-colored, shaped silicone bands piled on the wrists of our nation's youth that you've probably noticed while bolting out the door of the 7-Eleven clutching a fresh copy of News of the World and four packs of Twizzlers. (That's right - I live in your neighborhood.)

Sillybandz (that's the "official" brand but there are other makers, too) are everywhere. They are sold in theme packs, such as:

Princess Pack!

Dora the Explorer Pack!

Hello Kitty Pack!

And even...Justin Bieber Pack!

Cute, right? But, wait...

I Reminisce

The Sillybandz craze reminds me of the "hot" thing to trade at school when I was but a pup growing up in the steamy 'burbs of Houston: Wacky Stickers. Do you remember those? They were tasteless stickers that parodied the popular products of the day, such as:

Cool, huh? I know.

But, anyway...

I Get Back On Track

Here's the thing: where are the S
illybandz that match my particular interests? Sure, Hello Kitty is cute and all, but I need stretchy silicone accessories that underscore and amplify the hip urban funky chic iconoclastic old vibe that is my signature style. I mean, people have certain expectations when I roll into the pharmacy carpool dog groomer ob/gyn oh, never mind!

Where are the SillyBandz for grown-ups?!?

Some Ideas

I've been thinking about this. (It was either think about this or do the dishes, and I'm pretty sure we all know which way that decision was going to cut.)

I think there's a huge marketing opportunity to be exploited here. Now, I don't have time to pursue this particular commercial niche what with
my burgeoning Cat-Bump-Its business, but if any aspiring entrepreneurs out there would like to splash around in the puddles left over from my recent brainstorming session, well, go for it!

Middle-Aged Pack!
Includes reading glasses, insoles, calcium supplement, knee brace, elastic-waist pants, Metamucil and those giant sunglasses that fit over your regular glasses.

Menopause Pack!
(They change color along with your skin's temperature!)
Includes lightning bolt, tube of progesterone cream, prescription pad, sweat towel, moisturizer, bioidentical hormone pill and dagger.

Haggard Parent Pack!
Includes car seat, frying pan, lawn mower, briefcase, cell phone, sleeping bag, bicycle, microscope, ballet shoes, scout uniform, loose tooth and piggy bank.

Mid-Life Crisis Pack!
(In hot, day-glo colors!)

Includes convertible, barbell, tanning bed, Botox needle, buxom twenty-something, shirtless pool boy, sailboat, margarita and cloud of free-floating anxiety about one's mortality.

Career Pack!
Includes unreasonable boss, miniature paycheck, office lech, four coffee cups, know-it-all intern, empty doughnut box, irate customer and midnight oil.

Order Yours Today!

And...Coming Soon: SERIOUSbandzz Combo Packs!

Marriage/Divorce Pack!
Regret/Ennui Pack!
Independent/Assisted Living Pack!

Collect 'Em All!