The October Rules: Midwest and Northeast US Edition

I’ve made it simple for you to enjoy October PROPERLY.

It’s been a while since I’ve issued some Rules. It was quite a habit when I first started this blog – The Middle Aged Woman Rules, The Thanksgiving Rules and even the Rules of Attraction. I have a very strong attachment to October, and I’ve noticed (ok, and even committed) some violations of rules I should have made known by now. So:

  1. Pumpkins, gourds, hay bales and cornstalks must be purchased at a FARM, with fields and tractors and at least one barn. Exceptions permitting grocery store purchases are only for those who have aged out of driving three hours each way to reach the constantly receding farmland that keeps getting swallowed up by sprawl, which is now getting drowned in climate change torrential rains that won’t quit, but they’ll quit long enough for Fall Excursion (upcoming this week) so back to the rule: Pumpkins, FARM.
  2. Lights are for Christmas. Halloween is about welcoming the DARK. Get rid of those cutesy strings of lit-up dancing skeletons or jack-o-lanterns, or those orange Christmas lights some marketer figured out how to sell you, which brings me to rule
  3. Concerning marketing, do not patronize any store that already has Christmas stuff packnig the aisles . If a store can’t muster a few turkeys and cornucopias before going all in on St. Nick, nuts to ’em. Christmas stuff goes up the DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.
  4. Jack-o-lanterns are made out of REAL PUMPKINS that were purchased at a FARM (see rule 1). You cut out a cap for the top and scoop and scopo and carve. Bonus points for separating the seeds from the glop and roasting them.
  5. If you are an adult, and you have occasion to wear a costume (e.g., you actually got invited to a Halloween party hosted by other adults) your costume will be either scary or funny. NOT SEXY. Why does everything for adults turn into porn? Which leads me to ask, why are there no “sexy” Halloween costumes marketed to men, hmmmmmm?? Find me one. Can’t do it, canya? If you go to a costume store online and click “sexy,” does anything for men come up – oh wait I didn’t mean it that way — dammit, porn!
  6. You are permitted to eat leftover candy only after the last doorbell has tolled, but only if you were decent enough to buy the good stuff, meaning your Halloween bowl is filled with Reese’s cups, Snickers (I’m on the “fun sized acceptable” team, because that way you can eat more of them on the excuse that they’re small), Baby Ruth’s for those with eclectic tastes, and Hershey minis in all varieties. Don’t try to compete with the pro athlete or CEO down the block who passes out full-sized. They’re just showing off. But, whatever hasn’t been consumed in a guilt-ridden binge before midnight October 31 must be discarded. Vade retro.
  7. Leaves should be peeped at, then raked, not blown (I throw the flag on myself – lawn guy – but after he’s done for the season, these rules apply) or run over with a mower with mulching blades and left to nourish your yard for next year. Demonstrate virtue by using an electric mower, or better, an old-fashioned human-powered mower, which won’t mulch but will win the neighborhood nobility competition (environmental responsibility!)
  8. At least one peck of apples must be picked at an orchard. One or more HOMEMADE PIES (crust too, from scratch, no cheating) must result. If you have to buy a taffy apple, or one of those dolled-up apples coated in two inches of chocolate, at least do it at the ORCHARD’S store, not some cutesy in-town candy store. Eat the pie for dessert after the butternut squash soup you made from squash purchased at a FARM.
  9. Smore’s are to be made outdoors. Relive your scouting days.
  10. October air is “crisp,” not cold, even if you are freezing your fingers off. Suck it up. There may be a vortex or a Siberian jet stream coming your way in a few months.

There. Enjoy the harvest season, which lasts until THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.

Packing for fall excursion, I remain,

Your pedantic, old-fashioned, fussbudgeting, October-loving

Ridiculouswoman

Sleeves. Please.

I admit I will never have Linda Hamilton arms.

In celebration of opening my new store, I am reminded to post my latest addendum to the Middle Aged Woman rules, to wit:

  • Always wear sleeves!

I don’t care how “toned” your arms are – I don’t care if you look like Linda Hamilton in Terminator, if you are a woman of a certain age, sleeves are required.

Even Linda wears them, short though they are, on the set of the new Terminator movie. 

I will never forget the first time I saw her doing pull-ups, sleevelessly, in the first movie of that franchise. (I could link you a YouTube of it, but the clip gets violent and who needs that on a beautiful spring day. You remember the arms, I know you do).

It was a searing moment of self-realization.

I realized that I will never have Linda Hamilton arms.

On the Presidential Fitness Award test, an exercise in public humiliation all fat kids of my era were forced to endure in elementary school gym class, my time on the “flexed arm hang” (basically holding your chin above a bar as if you had just completed a pull up – the girls’ version of chin-ups on the test) was never more than .001 second.

That glorious time of space-era inspired panic-patriotism (also known as oh-shit-the-Russians-are-way-ahead-of-us-on-satellites-and-sending-living-beings-into-space-so-we-better-get-our-asses-in-gear-and-get-fit-and-build-a-Saturn-5-and-send-some-guys-to-the-moon-like-Kennedy-said-we-would-not-because-it-is-easy-but-because-it-is-hard) included the joy of public weigh-ins (again, in gym class, in front of everyone, with the number announced aloud) and some moronic exercise called the “standing broad jump” where you were supposed to jump forward as far as you could with no run-up. Just stand there, and jump forward. As a dancer, I was actually pretty good at that one.

The year I actually completed the half-mile run without stopping, the program managed to turn that accomplishment into yet another form of crushing public humiliation when I was awarded the mortifying “most improved” certificate, given as a half-assed consolation prize to the fat kids who couldn’t keep up with the sporty kids on any of it.

As God is my witness, I didn’t let it lick me (but read “humiliated” where Scarlett says she never be”hungry” again and take out the lying, cheating and killing part – you get the idea.) Made the cheerleading squad in junior high, and directed the talent show in high school, which caused all the pretty, popular, sporty jockettes to suddenly become my best friends around tryout time. I’d include them in whatever Big Musical Number I was planning, choreographing and featuring myself in, surrounded by a bevy of said jockettes dancing the simple moves I had taught them, invariably earning epic applause.

But, sigh, there is no amount of applause or encouragement or coaching or weightlifting that will ever get me those Linda Hamilton arms.

At least I admit it. Hurrah for self-awareness. I live in a town where one of many guilty pleasures is to ridicule publicly (while devouring privately, dish, dish, dish) the local glossy rag that is filled with pictures of rich ladies in deep denial about their arms wearing sleeveless gowns at society fundraisers.

Sleeves, ladies. For the love of God, SLEEVES!

The first item I am featuring in my new store is a baseball-style shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and a message related to the (aspirational) theme of this blog. Some of my designs (if you can call them that – I come up with words and choose the fonts – but I did create the image for and design the logo, and I made the banners and drew the heart by teaching myself enough Illustrator to do at least those things, with a great deal of expletive-flavored trial and error) are blatant “branded items” designed to promote this blog, while others are just for fun, just because.

Some of them even allow you to customize a bit of text on the back (to de-brand it and put your name, or your church’s name, or something on the back instead of the website of this blog) or the type of item (style of shirt.) I hope I haven’t allowed any options for full-on sleeveless display. (We used to call that kind of shirt, pardon the slur, that’s what it was called, a “dago-T” or, eeww, aaaaak, a “wife-beater.” Yes, people used to casually use that phrase to describe a style of t-shirt. AAAK!)

So, anyway, even if the option is available to go sleeveless, don’t.

Just don’t. Please?

Even if they are short, you must choose sleeves.

Waiting for the next awards show to dish on who is sleeveless who really, really should not be, I remain,

Your three-quarter-length-sleeve wearing, vainly-hoping, barbell-using

Ridiculouswoman

“Omit Needless Words”

“Words, words, words…”

If you don’t recognize that quote, you are dead to me you have some reading to do.

The Elements of Style. Strunk and White.

Legend has it my Grandfather would give a copy to every new associate at “the firm,” and make them prove they’d read it. If their writing didn’t reflect that they had, I’m sure they heard about it. Grandpa was a severe guy.

If you are of the millenial, 240 character ilk, then the most you’ll take in is that quote up there should be enough.  If you need a little more specificity, allow me to share the best blogging advice I have yet received: “800 words, max.”

I’ve written about wanting to give you, the blog reader, a reason to read. Even if I’m blathering about myself and my life and my, little erm,… issues, I mostly want it to be a good read for you.

I think of this blog as a type of what used to be called a “column.” In olden days, there were these things called “newspapers,” that had words printed in ink on paper (as opposed to pixels on a glowing screen) that got delivered to your front stoop (oh, please, you must know what a front stoop is? Chicago? New York? Anyone?) that you would pick up, take inside, and sit down in your comfy chair with your cup of homemade coffee (from an appliance known as a “percolator”) to read. Or to wait until your Dad had finished reading it, and then read it. At least the funnies. (OK, comics. They were in their own section of the paper, in color on Sundays, and were known as “comic strips,” because they were usually no more than 8 frames (pictures) of situation and punchline – some just one frame – as opposed to your coveted, collectable “comic books” or newer (AAAK!) “graphic novels.”)

In these things called newspapers were pieces written by writers like Erma Bombeck (I loved her) or Mike Royko, or even Bob Greene (whose tenure as a columnist didn’t end well) that would provide a little humor, or insight, or a reason for outrage, or an offbeat story not otherwise covered, usually in 800 words, max.

So I think of this blog as my own little independent “column.” (Newspapers had physical “columns” which also could be used to measure the length and width of a story appearing in them – “half a column” was a short report – two columns a longer piece with more detail. I’m not a journalist and never was trained as one. I’m sure it shows. I’m just an ex-newspaper reader who takes her news in pixels instead of pages. Waaah.)

But that “800 words” advice came to me from a real journalist.

Yesterday’s post, “Humble, or Humble Pie?” started out at more than 1200 words. I worked on that sucker for three hours to get it down to 800 words and still convey what I wanted it to say.

The late actor Jack Lemmon famously told a story (and told it and told it and told it) about how director George Cukor coached his performance on film by doing take after take, each time saying, “Less, Jack, less, a little less.”

“Less is more,” right?

File this one under “unsolicited advice,” but no matter how interested I am in you or your blog post, I just can’t read it if it goes a long way over 800 words. I wouldn’t expect you to read mine if I carried on much past that. I’ve gone back and revised old posts to shorten them up for that reason.

Longer stuff is for longer reads, like books. Actual physical books, which, mercifully, have not been done in by pixels. Yay. Long live the heft and feel of a hardback, and the delicious, musty, book-y smell of a library filled with them. Rah.

“What do you read, my lord?”

“Words, words, words.”

Can’t get enough of them, and even enough of them are often not enough, I know, Hamlet, baby.

But for blogs (or “columns”), I’ll take them 800 at a time.

Or less, less.

Here endeth the lesson.

Coming in at 693 words, I remain,

Your long-winded but working on it,

Ridiculouswoman