10 Things You’ll (Probably) Only Hear in the South

I grew up in the southeastern portion of the United States, as did my parents, grand-parents, great-grandparents, etc before me. There are some things we say and do in the South that I truly didn’t realize weren’t normal until I got old enough to notice that nobody else seemed to do or say them. And before you think it, I’m not talking about racism. I’ve seen that every place I’ve ever traveled. I’m not excusing it by any means, but based on my experience, it’s not particular to the South–or the U.S.

Now, while my family tree harbors Natives who called this land home long before Europeans ever set foot on the continent and slaves that were brought here against their will, I’m a white girl. So I can only give the perspective of a white girl. And yes, that could be very different of the perspective, actions, and opinions of a POC in the South. I’m openly admitting that.

Having provided you with my general disclaimers, the South is a special place to me. I love to travel, both domestically and internationally, but there is always something special about coming home, and the South is my home. I love it. But we are a special breed.

When I worked in New York, my coworkers would often give me blank stares or quizzical looks and I’d have to back track in my head to figure out what I had said. It was usually a southern colloquialism that I had to explain. The same was true when I lived abroad briefly. Some stuff just doesn’t translate.

I’ve written a post before about colorful southern sayings, so if you’d like you can consider this part two. It can be just for kicks and giggles, or if you’re a writer you can use it to help shape your characters. What are the colloquialisms that unite them with or separate them from other characters? If a “chosen one” girl from the province is suddenly dropped in the palace and has to fulfill her destiny of slaying the monarch who is secretly a member of the legion of the undead, there’s a solid chance she’s not going to blend in seamlessly. And I don’t mean just because she still has a beating heart. Bless her.

So here is a small smattering of sayings that you’ll most likely only hear in the South.

  1. “If the creek don’t rise.” This is actually the shorthand of a longer saying, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” It means that I intend to and will, unless something completely out of my control happens; e.g. a local flood that washes out the road. “I’ll be there by six o’clock, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.”
  2. “Aren’t you precious?” This falls in line with “Bless your heart.” It can sometimes be taken at face value, a sweet compliment. Other times is can absolutely be said sarcastically and be a huge insult. We’re versatile like that. So whether it means you’re adorable or screw you is all about the context clues.
  3. “Quit being ugly.” This refers to bad or rude behavior, not the way someone looks. If a person is “being ugly” it means they’re acting like a jerk.
  4. “That dog won’t hunt.” Never gonna happen.
  5. “Can’t never could.” It means if you start off with a defeatist attitude, the odds of success are nil. Generally used when someone is whining that they’re incapable of doing something.
  6. “Too big for his britches.” First off, britches are pants. I assume it somehow traces back to the term breeches, but that’s more of a theory than an actual etymology of the word. If someone is too big for their britches, it means they are so full of themselves that they can’t even fasten their pants.
  7. “Ain’t got the good sense God gave dirt.” Stupid. Epically stupid. Dumber than dirt.
  8. “Useless as a screen door on a submarine.” This one is pretty vivid, so I probably don’t need to explain it.
  9. “I’m fixin’ to.” I am preparing to do so. Example: “I’m fixin’ to go to the grocery store, do you need me to get anything for you?”
  10. “All gussied up.” Dressed up fancier than normal. Cinderella couldn’t go to the ball until her Godmother helped her get all gussied up.

I’m sure I’ll come back around and do another one of these someday. There are just too many things to choose from. This doesn’t even scratch the surface. We are a culture that loves similes and metaphors, that’s for sure.

I want to know what the sayings from your home are. Let me know in the comments!

10 Things About Unsolved Mystery (U.S. Television Series)

When I was a very young child, my family lived out on a farm. We got three television channels. This was in the late 1980s and very early 1990s, so it was not the norm for people who didn’t live out in the boondocks. But for us, it was all there was unless we went to our grandparents’ house “in town”.

My grandmother had a small television set up in her family room, so she could see it while she cleaned or worked in the kitchen. She and her maid loved to watch their stories, and heaven help the person who interrupted All My Children. But at night when the soap operas were done for the day and my grandmother didn’t much care for most of the contemporary sitcoms, I remember getting to watch Unsolved Mysteries.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a show about missing persons cases, unsolved homicides, even paranormal stuff. Any interesting cold case the show could get its hands on. And it was entertaining. And also the creepiest television show in the history of ever. And this is from a kid who was of the generation where Tales from the Crypt was considered a perfectly normal and acceptable kids’ show.

Now that it’s being revived on Netflix, I thought I’d share some info about the show in general. Partly because I thought it would be fun for those of us who watched it way back in the day, and partly because it’s time for me to write this month’s post and other than this I got nothin’.

So here are 10 Things About Unsolved Mysteries:

  1. It actually started as a series of seven specials that premiered on NBC beginning in January of 1987. The specials were split between three different hosts, including Robert Stack.
  2. By the fall of 1988, the show was green-lit at a full fledged series with Robert Stack at the full-time host. It is his voice most of us remember creeping us out as youngsters. It was iconic.
  3. The series was dropped by NBC, but picked up by CBS in 1997 where it ran for two seasons before being dropped. Lifetime picked up the show’s last season, ending when Robert Stack fell ill and could no longer host. When he eventually passed away, the network didn’t try to replace him, they simply cancelled the show.
  4. Six years later, a fourth network laid claim to the concept and Spike TV revived the show with a new host. Two years and 175 episodes later, Spike gave it up too. In addition to the four main host networks, several other networks paid for syndication of the show. Today you can even find original episodes through YouTube, FilmRise, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
  5. Its theme song was the soundtrack to my nightmares and was composed by Michael Boyd and Gary Remal Malkin. The song has had different arrangements throughout the show’s history, but has never been replaced. It is the same music that plays during the intro of the Netflix revival of the show.
  6. When the show began, the internet wasn’t yet prevalent, so they set up a caller hotline so people who saw the show could leave tips if they had information to share. Even in the first season, tips called in from around the country helped locate suspects and solve cases. As technology moved forward, so did the show. It has a website that is still live and used for tips today.
  7. Several actors got their start by playing characters in the show’s reenactments of the crimes/cases portrayed. Matthew McConaughey, Taran Killam, David Ramsey, Hill Harper, and Daniel Dae Kim are just a few of the names that have shown up in the credits of the show.
  8. Other celebrities, including Jon Bon Jovi and Reggie White, were interviewed on the show regarding cases that were close to them.
  9. The Netflix revival of the show has no host and depends solely on interviews to tell the story. This is actually reflective of the proposed pilot episode of the original show. It’s also being produced by Shawn Levy, one of the executive producers of Stranger Things.
  10. Since the premier of the Netflix revival of the show, people are already sending in tips and information on the newly featured cases. Multiple people who have worked on episodes of the show say they are confident that some of the cases will be solved based on information coming in.

There is no voice that compares to Robert Stack. That man could make anything sound terrifying. They tried to add co-hosts to the show as he got older, but he was undoubtedly the star. After his passing, other hosts could never quite garner the popularity that Stack had while hosting the show.

Here’s a clip from YouTube of just the intro and the closing of the show to give you a taste of Robert Stack’s voice, and the creepiest theme song in the history of ever.

I don’t know if this can or will help my fellow writers out there in any way, but it was fun to think back to my little preschool self shaking getting so excited and then having nightmares after hearing the intro to this show. I’m not gonna lie, I’m in my 30s now and some of those old episodes are still on my nope list.

10 People that History Whitewashed

Last month I handed off the mic and pointed to several articles, videos, podcasts, etc that better handled the topic of racism than I was prepared or qualified to. I would love to do that again, but honestly I can’t afford to pay guest posters and asking someone to donate their skills during a time when they are bombarded with requests for emotional labor to explain this or that seemed like a jerk move. So we’re back to me. And while I’m not qualified to talk about the ins and outs of daily racism experience, I am entirely capable of research and editorializing.

I have screamed for years that Jesus wasn’t White. No matter how movies, paintings, sculptures, statues, or any other art media portray him. He was whitewashed starting around the time of the Italian Renaissance (a weird thing, to me, since at the time Italians themselves weren’t actually considered “White” by most of Europe).

Anyway, when I start that conversation people are often taken aback and then transition into “Oh…I guess you’re right.”

I’m fun at parties. Also, this is where a sarcasm font would absolutely come in handy.

It’s doesn’t stop with Jesus, though. There are a plethora of historical figures who have been whitewashed in one way or another (or, as the case with one figure on my list, erased from the narrative completely).

In writing it is all too easy to fall into a “white normative” mindset. If you only describe someone’s features, ethnicity, etc when they are not White, you’re essentially saying that everyone else is by default. And just for the record, while “White/Caucasian” is the majority in the U.S., Canada, and several European nations, worldwide it’s not even top three. So a white normative dystopian future tale is saying something about who the author expects to survive. Be mindful of that as you write.

Because white normative narratives affect more than literature. In history, unless we are specifically told someone isn’t White, it’s basically assumed that they are. You know why Alexander Hamilton being mixed race shocked a lot of people? Because they don’t mention his race in history books and he’s light skinned in all his paintings, so the dude must have been White, right? *Annoying buzzer sound* Wrong. We’re (United States education, both public and private, I can’t speak for anyone else) just accustomed to a White Normative History Perspective. A Whitewashed history.

What else are we missing? A lot, actually. But I’m limiting myself to ten because that’s my series. “10 Things on the 10th” not “A lot of things on the 10th”. So here are 10 famous figures who have been whitewashed or erased by our culture (in no particular order, be it chronological or importance).

  1. J. Edgar Hoover. He was part Jewish, yes. He was also (credibly) rumored to be Gay (though, some believe he was more Ace than anything). But the man who went hard against leaders of the Civil Rights Movement was also part Black. He was light skinned and began passing very early in life, and his family went to great lengths to hide that part of their heritage. But DNA analysis, genealogical research, and familial accounts all back up the claim that he was, in fact, part Black himself. There are also several accounts of people who openly questioned this while he was still alive who were immediately threatened by the man himself. It was a secret he guarded more closely than the nature of his romantic life.
    undefined
  2. Alexandre Dumas. He wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers among many others. His father was a general in the French Army, well decorated, well respected and well recorded in paintings. Alexandre’s grandmother was a slave in what is now Haiti. His father was a dark-skinned biracial man, something made very clear in artistic depictions of him. Alexandre was lighter skinned than his father, but still pretty clearly mixed race. Now go back and read The Count of Monte Cristo, the story of a man who is wrongly accused of a crime and imprisoned for years, who eventually gains his freedom and fortune and returns (pretending to be an Italian Count) to seek revenge on those who purposely framed him. Do you picture it differently now?
    undefined
  3. St. Augustine of Hippo. Augustine was born Northern Africa to a pagan father (who converted to Christianity before his death) and a Christian mother. His household primarily spoke Latin as a way to evidence their education in Roman society. However, genetically, his family were Berbers–a people group historically and genetically tied to Northern Africa. Yep. One of the most important and celebrated figures in post Biblical Christian history was Black. Even early artistic depictions of him by the church show him as a dark skinned man.
    undefined
  4. Saint Nicholas. Yes, I’m bring Santa Claus into the fray. Saint Nicholas was of southern Greek decent, Turkish, and not especially light skinned given the early artistic renderings of him by the church. Santa Claus wasn’t a White guy. White beard is totally probable, though.
    undefined
  5. Ludwig Van Beethoven. This one has been debated, but science is on my side. While the first examinations were ruled inconclusive because his hair didn’t have the “most common” characteristics of genetically African hair (do not get me started on everything wrong with that statement), follow up DNA analysis and a facial mold created from his remains and modern technology say everyone’s favorite deaf musical genius was Black. And also didn’t look ANYTHING like the majority of his artistic renderings. This was not uncommon for his day and time, and it was even more so for Beethoven who was rumored to use copious amounts of white facial powder and even employ body doubles for portraits to hide his true visage.
    undefined
  6. Queen Charlotte. Wife of King George III (yes, the crazy dude from Hamilton). Charlotte came from a small German ducal family, but on her father’s side she was descended from Portuguese royalty. More specifically, she was descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, from the Black branch of the Portuguese Royal Family Tree. Remember when I said it was not uncommon for people to look nothing like their artistic renderings in Beethoven’s day? It was true for Charlotte too. In fact, when some court painters depicted her a little more realistically, they were fired and threatened with death. Her contemporaries’ written accounts of her discuss her dark skin (as compared to most White Europeans) and features, though, so her correct visage hasn’t been lost to history.
    undefined
  7. Pete Wentz. Most identifiable member of Fall Out Boy. His grandfather was a Black Jamaican man who is also a cousin of Colin Powell. Pete has never hidden his heritage, and has stated proudly that he is mixed race. However, with white skin and the last name Wentz, people have actually called him a liar regarding his ethnicity before, leading the musician to to essentially throw his hands in the air over it. If you’re wondering, I’m including him on this list to show that this is STILL HAPPENING.
    undefined
  8. Saint George. The patron saint of England whose flag was co-opted by Crusaders and a modern English political party. George was Turkish and Persian. He was Middle Eastern. By modern definitions, not a White guy. Something I’m almost certain is lost on the particular English political party using his personal emblem.
    undefined
  9. Alessandro de Medici. Financial gurus, power players, political powerhouse, Head of the Catholic church in their pocket, feared and revered in Florence, and an integral part of Italian history. That Medici family. Alessandro was raised as the son of Lorenzo II (son of Lorenzo the Magnficent) de Medici, but was, in actuality, the son of Lorenzo I’s nephew Giulio and a Black servant in the Medici household. Giulio was only seventeen when he fathered Alessandro, but would become Pope Clement VII by the time Alessandro reached his adolescence. His mother was married off to a lesser noble and Alessandro was accepted as a legitimate Medici because the last thing you want to do is lose your cousin the Papal throne and relinquish all the power (and blackmail ability) that goes with raising his son for him on the sly. Thanks to his birth father, Alessandro would eventually become the Florentine Head of State. Possibly (I say only possibly because I don’t know who else history has whitewashed) the first Black Head of State in Europe.
    undefined
  10. Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The Godmother of Rock and Roll. A Bisexual, guitar playing, boundary pushing, musical powerhouse who literally created rock and roll by fusing Delta Blues and New Orleans Jazz with her Gospel music. And yes, she was simultaneously bisexual and a worldwide Gospel sensation. When White artists began to copy her style and even get credit for it, she didn’t have much recourse. So she traveled to Europe and toured there for decades, creating a new following and performing to large crowds until just three years before her death in the 1970s. Still, even many music enthusiasts have never heard of her because her name gets buried under names like Elvis Presley who very much used her as inspiration.
    undefined

Do you have someone to add to the list? Tell me about them in the comments. I’m a history nerd who would actually be very interested.

10 Things About Racism

Black. Lives. Matter.

I want to start with that. And if you’re response to that is to say “All Lives Matter”, let’s talk. Yes, all lives DO matter. However, our culture, our government, our society has treated POC, ESPECIALLY the Black Community, like their lives don’t. So the mantra isn’t trying to say that White lives don’t matter, or that police lives don’t matter, or that any life doesn’t matter, but instead that all lives do, in fact, matter. So let’s stop leaving the Black lives out of that sentiment.

Black. Lives. Matter.

Now, I’m a White girl from the South. My family tree has a great many shades of brown running through it, but the melanin got real watered down by the time it got to me. I’m White. I didn’t realize the privilege associated with that until I was an adult. I knew racism existed, but there was a lot I didn’t understand.

And the difference between not being racist and being actively anti-racist? I’m still learning. But this topic is important. Too important to shy away from. I’m a Christian. I am called by my God to love my neighbor. And Jesus makes it VERY clear that my neighbors are not just the people who live next door, or who look like me, think like me, speak like me, etc. So I’m trying to learn.

Having said all that, I’m admitting I’m not qualified to lead the discussion on racism and being anti-racist. I’m doing a lot of reading and listening to people much better educated on the topic than myself.

So this month, I thought instead of rambling off ten facts that may or may not be relevant to your writing, I’d supply ten links to resources that are relevant to all our lives. I’m handing over the mic, so to speak, the best way I know how.

1.100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating for People of Color. Pretty self-explanatory.

2. Sources to Help You Learn About Institutional Racism, a List from PBS News Hour A list of 100 books, podcasts, movies, articles, etc to help educate people about racism.

3. Access Ain’t Inclusion a Ted Talk by Anthony Jack:

4. New Day Podcast, Episode: A Conversation About Racial Injustice This came recommended from a former co-worker of mine. As White people, we don’t have to talk about race every day. But that’s not true for many of our Black counterparts.

5. Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History This is a class from Coursera that you can audit for free. It starts today.

6. Performative Allyship is Deadly (Here’s What to do Instead).

7. Racial Reconciliation: A sermon by Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church in Tulsa, OK. It’s about two hours long and worth every single minute.

8. Racial Injustice has Benefited Me: A Confession Okay, yes, this one was written by a White guy. But maybe if you won’t listen to all of the powerful statements from the Black leaders on this list, you’ll listen to the guy who created Veggie Tales.

9. Here’s a list of Black-owned, independent bookstores where you can buy all the books on this list and also support the Black community at the same time.

10. How to Deconstruct Racism, One Headline at a Time. A Ted Talk by Baratunde Thurston.

I have never done anything intentionally racist. I have never said anything intentionally racist. But, in hindsight and with learning, I know now that I have said, done, and thought harmful things rooted in racism. I am sorry. As I come to know better, I will do better. And I will be intentional about learning.

10 Things About Nail Polish

Today is Mother’s Day, my vegetable garden has been planted, and I sprained my calf and cannot do my interval workouts for a few days, so I decided to turn to something else that brings me peace–painting my nails. I’ve always liked to paint my nails, but quite frankly I’m not great at it, so I don’t do it terribly often. But I recently discovered nail stamping, and now with just a swipe and a press I can showcase my love for books, pretty flowers, Sci-Fi and Fantasy franchises, or even create dinosaur designs that my kids love. There’s nothing quite like stamping a triceratops on your nails and then having your three-year-old look upon you with awe and declare, “Mama, you SO beautiful.”

But where did the tradition of painting our nails even come from? The answer is actually pretty hard to pin down other than to call it widespread cultural appropriation. I did give it the old college try, though, and learned several interesting things along the way. So here are 10 things you might not know about nail polish.

  1. While some sources claim the tradition of pigmenting one’s nails began circa 3,000 BC in China, others claim there is evidence of soldiers from Babylon using it circa 3,200 BC. Still others point to mummified pharaohs with pigmented nails and say it all began in Egypt. However, I find the most plausible place of origin from all the different arguments to be India. Henna had been used to create intricate designs on the hands for thousands of years. And from India, the use of such a pigment could easily have geographically expanded to China, Babylonia, and even Egypt where–spoiler alert–henna was used to pigment the nails of the upper classes.
  2. While Babylonian soldiers used kohl to color their nails and lips before going into battle (there is also archaeological evidence that they also spent time curling their hair before heading out, which leads me to call BS on many modern gender norms), Chinese women painted their nails to show their class. Women of the upper class, and especially of the royal family, wore specific colors that women of lesser classes were not allowed to wear. They also created intricate designs and even wore long, claw-like tips to protect long nails on two fingers of each hand. It was to show others they didn’t have to use their hands for manual labor.
  3. During the Rennaisance, the trend of coloring nails and then buffing them to a shine spread to Europe. However, the available colors were few and sometimes toxic. And in Victorian England, for example, simple, clean, nude nails were seen as a sign of moral purity and good upbringing (nevermind mind the abrasives and processes they used to make their nails look “naturally clean”).
  4. Towards the end of the 19th century, French women began re-popularizing the use of colored pigment on nails. And the turn of the century saw suffragettes in both England and North America don make-up and colored nail pigment to outwardly showcase their rebellion against the status quo. Some went so far as to wear bloomers (gasp) or even, dare I say it, pants. The horror.
  5. In 1916 Cutex developed a clear lacquer to paint over nails to make them shine so that women no longer had to spend hours breathing in chemicals from the abrasives they used to buff their nails to a shine. It revolutionized the nail industry. Mary E. Cobb studied how French salons manicured the nails of their clients, both men and women alike–a tradition dating back to King Louis Philippe. She also spent years watching her husband who was a podiatrist and a cosmetics manufacturer. She divorced her husband, struck out on her own, moved to New York City, and opened the first nail parlor in America. “Mrs. Pray’s Manicure” was the official name of the service and it was a runaway hit.
  6. In the 1920s, Michelle Menard watched the automotive industry develop shiny, brightly colored paints for cars. She made some changes to the formula, and voila, modern liquid nail polish was born. Of course, her employer owned the rights to her invention and patented it himself. And in 1932 Ms. Menard’s invention flooded the shelves. We can still find it there today, but alas Ms. Menard’s name isn’t on it. Instead, it bears the name of the company started by the man who patented her formula: Revlon.
  7. Since 1932 was still during the Great Depression, it might make you wonder how a company based on a luxury cosmetic item could survive. The answer is that it wasn’t that much of a luxury. A bottle of nail varnish in the early 1930s was about thirty-four cents in the United States. While that still put it out of reach for large swaths of the population, many women deemed it an item worth buying to lift their spirits during tough times. However, during WWII as many women entered the workplace and embodied Rosie the Riveter, painted nails became impractical. Women didn’t give up painting their nails altogether, it just became more popular to paint them with clear lacquer.
  8. In 1957 Frederick Slack changed the nail game again. Dr. Slack was a dentist who had the unfortunate experience of badly chipping a nail during his workday. A resourceful gentleman, he used tin foil and dental acrylic to create a fake nail to cover his chipped one. It looked so real and so natural that he decided to collaborate with his brother to turn his invention into a marketable venture. The result? Acrylic nails. It would still take until the 1970s for acrylics to become widely available.
  9. With strong colors once again en vogue by the 1970s, it sometimes made it difficult for make-up artists and designers to find a way to paint the nails so they wouldn’t clash with clothing during runway shows with multiple wardrobe changes. In 1976, Jeff Pink (who founded Orly) created a new type of nail design that wouldn’t clash with the outfits and was understated but adored the moment it debuted in a Paris fashion show. Today we call it the French manicure.
  10. Today the nail polish industry is a multi-billion dollar market and lacquers, varnishes, dips, powders, and polishes come in different price ranges, color schemes, and even ingredients. The most expensive bottle of nail polish available though is created by crushing black diamonds which gives the formula a one of a kind sparkle. Of course, at $250,000 there would need to be a genie in that bottle before I got too close to it.

From ancient traditions to battlefields to politics to wartime factories, the history of nail polish gives an interesting insight into changing values and ideals for women. With each new trend or available product line coinciding with women taking a step away from the societal norms of their day, it is an art that tells a story all its own. A sign of the struggle for equality. Beautiful war paint.

Maybe that will clear out the pandemic induced cobwebs and spark an idea for a new world to build. If not, don’t beat yourself up. The creative juices will flow again at some point. Until then, cut yourself some slack. You’re in the middle of a major historic event. It’s okay to be off your game (I’m really saying this to me because I haven’t written any salvageable material since school closed).

As for me, I’m going to enjoy my Mother’s Day and paint my nails.

Happy Mother’s Day to you. Whether you are a pet mom, a biological mom, an adoptive mom, a step-mom, a pregnant mom, a legal guardian, caretaker, or someone desperately wanting to become a mom, Happy Mother’s Day.

10 Things About Trampolines

Like most of the world, my family is staying home and distancing ourselves from non-essential spaces, activities, etc. I have two sons. If they can’t play with their friends at school or have playdates at the park, they need to get their energy out somehow. Plus, they are young and while we have talked about the virus and the reason we have to stay home right now, I don’t want them to live in fear.

Just as the virus was ramping up in the United States, my younger son had a birthday. I found a mini-trampoline that could be used indoors (a major plus considering the epic amount of rain this winter), but I could also toss it out in the yard and let them turn it into a dinosaur nest, part of an obstacle course, and flying superhero training pad, or whatever else their little imaginations could produce. It’s not the same as a big trampoline, but it fit in my budget at the time and it has provided them with a blessed amount of stimulation.

Despite its size and ease of use indoors, it has become an outside toy for two reasons. The first is that they like to have it there to be part of their imaginary games of dinosaur, superhero, American Ninja Warrior contestant, etc. The second is that somehow when indoors the idea of using it to propel oneself against a wall as hard and fast as possible seemed like a capital idea.

Still, they have loved every second of having it around and for that I’m grateful. They are already campaigning to get a bigger one. My husband is against it for a plethora of safety reasons. I can’t blame him, but I also have to remind him that most of the common injuries on a trampoline are caused by things our generation did on purpose when we were young. Elder millennials are the reason they now sell nets to go around the outside of backyard trampolines. We tried to bounce each other off on purpose. It was great fun.

Anyway, it got me to thinking, where did this ridiculous and fun contraption even come from? And ta-da, a 10 Things post is born.

Here are 10 things you might not know about trampolines:

  1. Long before the modern trampoline, the Inupiat (I hope that is the correct term, please forgive and correct me if it is not), a group of Alaskan Natives, would toss dancers into the air from taught walrus skin as part of the whaling festival in the spring.
  2. There is also evidence of this type of activity–involuntarily bouncing a person from a cloth tightly held by a group of people–being used as a type of punishment in Europe before it became a tool used by firemen to catch people who jumped from burning buildings.
  3. In the early 19th and 20th centuries, circus performers used springboards sometimes called trampolines and “bouncing beds” in acrobatic routines and comedic performances.
  4. What we know as the modern trampoline is an invention credited to George Nissen and his University of Iowa gymnastics coach Larry Griswald. Nissen is said to have first gotten the idea as a teenager watching acrobats use their safety net as a part of their routine at the circus to wow the audience. At some point, he even took apart his bedframe at home trying to create a smaller-scale replica of the bouncing safety net. When he was in college, his gymnastics coach helped him create a new prototype and in 1934 they filed for a patent. They named their invention a trampoline–a purposely anglicized version of el trampolín, a Spanish term for a diving board.
  5. Trampoline was originally trademarked. The product’s generic name was a “rebound tumbler”. However, when the term trampoline lost its trademark, the term became synonymous with the generic product.
  6. During World War II, the United States Navy began using trampolines as a training activity for pilots. The rebound tumbler was a way for the pilots to get a more accurate feel of orienting themselves in midair, a skill often needed during air fights and bombing raids. It was also one of the tools first used by the newly developing space program after the war ended.
  7. As far back as 1959 and into the 1970s, outdoor trampoline parks popped up across North America. George Nissen often spoke out against this type of use, little supervision or training and with practically no safety regulations, of his invention, but could do little to stop it. He believed in the power of his invention as a training tool, exercise equipment, and even a platform for sports, but thought that safety should always be a primary concern.
  8. In 1962 trampolining was officially recognized as a sport by the International Gymnastics Federation. It was introduced as an Olympic event in 2000 in Australia. George Nissen was there to witness the moment.
  9. He was also, at 94 years of age, able to “test” the trampolines at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He died two years later in 2010, but his daughter–who now runs a trampolining academy in California–says it was a true highlight and an unforgettable moment for him.
  10. Competition trampolines are made with slightly different materials than the recreational backyard version. A competition trampoline can help an athlete reach heights of approximately 33 feet (10 meters). Recreational trampolines can be expected to serve up about 1/3 of that height. Thank goodness.

It should also be noted that the added nets around the outside of a trampoline haven’t actually caused a big decrease in the number of trampoline-related emergency room visits. Kids will find a way to hurt themselves.

So if you have a backyard trampoline, or just a backyard to play in, get out in the fresh air and have some fun. If your stay-at-home orders are more stringent and don’t allow outside play, or perhaps you don’t have an outside play space, nobody is going to judge you for the amount of screen time you allow your child right now.

Remember, during this time you are not homeschooling your child. You are providing educational triage. You are not simply parenting. You are parenting through a global pandemic, something the What to Expect series never prepared any of us for. Cut yourself some slack, and cut your kids some slack too. Most of them don’t know how to appropriately express their fear or anxiety. Reach out if you need help or your kids need help. There are teletherapists that can consult with you over the phone, there are food banks to help those without a paycheck right now, there are organizations that exist to help you. Let those of us who want to reach out a hand do so. Please. Like the old song says, no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.

We’re all in this together no matter how far apart we are.

Happy Good Friday, everyone.

A 10 Things Repeat About Flu

I’ve never straight up repeated a post (that I’m aware of), however back in the fall I wrote a 10 Things post that seems super apropos right now. The world is concerned about a type of influenza. It doesn’t matter if you think the world is overreacting, if you feel the need to stockpile supplies, or if you are just taken aback by the seemingly overwhelming number of people in your town who apparently weren’t washing their hands before this. Seriously. If you are privileged enough to have ready access to clean, running water and AREN’T already washing your hands after EVERY bathroom visit I have serious questions. But I’ll ask them from over here because I don’t want to get too close.

Anyway, if you’d like to see the original post, I’ll post the text below or you can visit it at its permalink here.

The following was posted back in September:

I thought about doing a post about the traditions and origins of Homecoming Week, but I realized that I’ve done a lot of posts about sports-centric or sports-related topics. But while I was contemplating a post on Homecoming, I came across a piece of trivia that steered me in a new direction. Most of the homecoming celebrations for colleges and universities in the United States that try to lay claim to the longest celebrated tradition almost all have a gap in 1918 and/or 1919.

Why is not a great mystery to any world history nerd, or Twilight fan for that matter. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 killed millions of people worldwide. Hospitals were overcrowded with sick patients, so universities and colleges (and churches, high schools, community centers, etc) were often converted to makeshift clinics. And since the flu is, as it always has been and continues to be, highly contagious, you can imagine why people might have wanted to avoid crowded sporting events and the like.

When people think of an illness that killed millions and affected world history, most conjure up thoughts of the Bubonic Plague. However, the “Spanish Flu” affected more people. And a single virus that makes its way around the world could give a writer a lot of ideas about how something as simple as a cough can shape the worlds we build.

10 Things About the Influenza Pandemic of 1918:

  1. An epidemic is an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and across multiple communities, but a pandemic spreads throughout the world. Both words are Greek in origin and epidemic means “among the people”, while pandemic means “all the people”. The people part can also be translated as “district”, but since I have a less than rudimentary grasp on Greek, I’m just going to roll with it. The Influenza Pandemic affected most of the world, including remote islands and the Arctic. It killed somewhere between 3% and 5% of the Earth’s population at the time.
  2. Afraid of mass panic, many countries coming out of the war censored how widespread the flu was as much as they could for as long as they could. However, Spain had been neutral in the war and had no wartime censorship in effect. Other countries felt free to report on how the disease was ravaging the Spanish population, including the king. This misled the general public to believe that the flu originated in Spain, and that Spain was hit particularly hard by it. In truth, scholars and historians still aren’t certain where it began. So it’s called the Spanish Flu because of how newspapers reported it, not because it actually has any tie to Spain itself.
  3. It was not any more aggressive than previous influenza strains, or most since. However, a combination of crowded medical camps and hospitals, poor hygiene, and malnourishment helped it spread quickly. Many of the lives lost during the pandemic were actually from bacterial infections that patients got because their immune systems were so weak from fighting the virus.
  4. The reason for overcrowded medical camps and malnourishment had a lot to do with World War I. If the war had never happened, the pandemic might not have either. That’s not to say that the flu originated in Europe at the time. Different researchers have claimed the spread of this strain of the flu began in China, Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe. There is still great debate about where the spread of the disease began. But as travel modernized, the disease could be carried quicker and more efficiently than ever before.
  5. It has been dubbed “the greatest medical holocaust in human history”. It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS killed in twenty-four years. It also killed more people in a single year than the Black Death killed over the course of 100 years. Think about that the next time you pass on getting a flu shot.
  6. The pandemic was truly worldwide and not just “Euro-centric World”, “First World”, or “Developed World”. There was not a single region of the globe that was unaffected. 3-5% of the world’s population died, but that was only somewhere between 10% and 20% of the people who contracted the flu at the time.
  7. While typical flu epidemics tend to be more dangerous for the very young and the elderly, the 1918 pandemic was different because it actually killed mostly young adults. Half of the fatalities were between ages 20 and 40.
  8. Because of secondary infections, symptoms such as bleeding from the ears, coughing up blood, and bloody stools, the flu was misdiagnosed as a number of other conditions early on. These included dengue, cholera, and typhoid.
  9. It came in two waves, but disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. The first wave of flu during the pandemic wasn’t much worse than the usual flu season numbers. The second wave was the deadly pandemic. However, less than three weeks after the largest spike in death tolls, many cities were reporting that the illness seemed to be disappearing. There are many theories about why this is, but the prevailing one seems to be that the virus began to mutate (which is common) to a less deadly strain.
  10. Even after the flu died down at the end of the pandemic, the havoc wasn’t over. Studies showed that babies who were in utero during the outbreak were more likely to exhibit physical abnormalities or disabilities at birth and in the long-term were less likely to achieve the same socioeconomic status or educational milestones as the generation before or after.

The Pandemic of 1918 changed how we study the flu, how we classify the flu, and how we treat the flu. Generations were affected and populations decimated. All from a “simple” respiratory illness. There are a lot of plot and world-building possibilities in that concept.

Also, flu season is rapidly approaching. Get vaccinated.

One more time for the people in the back.

GET. YOUR. FLU. SHOT.

And if you are running a fever, stay home if at all possible.

10 Things About Virtual Races

Full disclosure: I’m mildly under the weather as I type this. No big deal, just a sore throat and some congestion. No flu or anything. Just a little going-away present from the guy manspreading next to me on the airplane for four and a half hours on Tuesday. I’m not mad. I mean, part of me really hopes he steps on a Lego, but I’m not mad.

Anyway, the congestion part tends to give me what I like to call “fuzzy brain”. If you want to know if I’m in my right mind at the moment the answer is a resounding “probably not”. As a direct result, I’m writing a short post about something I don’t have to do very much research about so I can drink more orange juice, take some medicine, diffuse some nice smelling oils (because I like them), and go to bed.

I’m currently working on two virtual challenges and have just finished a third. I started my first one in the second week of January. It gets addicting fast. Since in the writing world, everything we do is pretend, this seems to be right up my alley. Right now I have no idea how this would actually help anyone world build better or create more distinctive characters. Perhaps if I had a few more days to let my head clear out, I could come up with something brilliant, but I’m on a deadline so it is what it is.

10 things you might not know about virtual races:

  1. They can be just about any distance you want. There are everything from 5ks to challenges that are for hundreds of miles. It’s really all about what you want to try.
  2. You can run them completely on your own time, or find one that is set for a specific day. If you want to do a ninety-mile challenge over the course of a couple of months on the treadmill at your local gym (yes, I’m referring to myself), there’s a virtual race for that. But if you’d rather run your 5k on the same day and time as everyone else, just not beside everyone else, there are companies that host those kinds of challenges too. You run on the course of your choosing and then report back your time.
  3. You can still get a T-shirt and finisher’s medal like at your local races. Usually, when you register for a local race, your registration fee covers your event shirt and your medal (some races do charge more for these items, but not all). Virtual racers get the same option. You get your shirt sent to you when you register for the challenge and get your medal after you’ve completed the challenge.
  4. You can keep track of your progress through an app on your phone. When I finish on the treadmill at the gym, I enter my mileage for the day in my app and it keeps track of my progress. I even get positive encouragement/awards along the way to keep me motivated.
  5. There is still a community to get involved with. Most virtual race companies have message boards, Facebook pages, etc so their racers can build a community together. One of the groups I’m in I will say is just about the least judgemental, most supportive workout groups I’ve ever been in. Ever.
  6. You can choose a company or challenge that sends you virtual postcards. The company I’m currently using has some very long challenges (hundreds of miles). The challenges are themed along actual geographical routes (e.g. Route 66). For the really long races, as a way to keep you motivated, the company sends you a postcard from places along the route as you “pass them” in your mileage count.
  7. Just like your local race, you can choose to do a challenge for a charitable cause. One of the challenges I’m currently working on (I’m actually 91% complete!) is a fundraiser for wildlife rescue programs in Australia. Instead of getting a medal and a shirt for this one, 100% of my registration fee got donated to WIRES.
  8. You can choose a race/challenged themed by geographical location, distance, or even fandom. There are virtual races that cover trails/highways/paths from all over the world. There are races themed by fairy tales and literary characters. Some are only about distance. Even Disney hosts a virtual race that leads up to their RunDisney Marathon Weekend. If you can complete it in the given time frame, you can get a Star Wars medal. If you don’t think that’s even a little bit cool, why are you even on my website?
  9. There are challenges for more than just running/walking. There are challenges for swimming and cycling too. One person in the challenge community I participate in even completes her challenges on horseback because she is unable to run, but rides her horse every day. It’s really up to you how exactly you want to cover the distance.
  10. For most companies, it’s not any more expensive than the local race. Sometimes even less so. That means the cost can still be a barrier to some. I understand that. But it means that if the cost is not the barrier for your local 10k race, it won’t be a barrier for a virtual challenge either. Some companies even let you gift a registration fee for someone and then let them pick their own challenge.

So far, it’s been a great way to keep me motivated. If I’m not feeling better by my next scheduled gym day, I’ll actually be disappointed. Let me repeat: I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get to go to the gym and workout. I haven’t felt that way since my MMA instructor retired and I couldn’t find another that I liked (at least in my price range).

Anyway, there are my 10 things for this month. Hopefully, next month will involve more information and fewer boxes of Kleenex.

10 Things About Hadrian’s Wall

I’m not a runner. Generally, if there isn’t a scoreboard involved, you can’t make me run. I need a goal. Running marathons isn’t about winning (I know they have winners, but I’ve never met anyone who actually expected to be victorious in a marathon). They were named for a legend in which a man ran roughly 26.2 miles to Marathon, Greece to deliver a message and then dropped dead. Recreating that event for fun is madness to me. But I digress. My husband is a runner. He runs for St. Jude every December and usually has at least one or two (or more) other, shorter races throughout the year to help him train. He’s starting to collect quite a few shiny medals.

Shiny medals are something I can get on board with. My competitive streak has slowly awoken from her slumber and is now staring at those shiny medals. She’s rubbing her hands together like Gollum and saying, “Must get a medal, precious!” But I can’t just attack the nearest 5k from nothing and expect to not embarrass myself. It’s not that I have to be able to come in first. I need to be able to finish. Preferably not last.

Plain speak: I’m out of shape. Way out of shape. But I’m competitive. It’s a strange combination. I want to win a race medal, but I don’t want to run alongside skinny people who ARE in shape. That’s not my idea of fun. That’s masochism. While I was contemplating this for the 100th time, a new kind of race challenge appeared on my newsfeed in that creepy way they do these days. A virtual race.

Wait. Virtual? A race that I run on my own. By myself. On my own time. I’m competitive, but I’m also an introvert and that means that I was immediately intrigued by this concept of a virtual race. And the one I saw was for a course near Hadrian’s Wall. I’m a history nerd who can’t afford to travel. But this challenge would give me a shiny medal if I finished AND give me 360-degree views of my spot on the course along the way? Sold.

It’s a ninety-mile challenge, so it’s not meant to be finished all in one day. But Hadrian’s Wall is…not ninety miles. It is, however, a UNESCO World Heritage site so maybe it’s worth a look.

10 things you might not know about Hadrian’s Wall:

  1. Julius Ceasar first sent Romans to what is modern-day England in 55 B.C., but in an ironic turn of events, an island that would basically come to be synonymous with colonization was full of people who were determined not to allow Roman colonization. Eventually, the Romans decided the island wasn’t worth it and went home. They wouldn’t come back until 43 A.D. and spent the next thirty years solidifying control over what is now southern England and Wales.
  2. In 117 A.D. Emperor Hadrian came to power in Rome (under some shady circumstances that made even the Roman Senate raise their eyebrows, by the way). He decided that the Empire was big enough already and didn’t need to keep expanding. This was great news for the troops in Britain. They were having trouble with a particularly stubborn group of tribes (Picts) that refused to be conquered in what is now Scotland. Suddenly, all they had to do was hold on to what they had instead of forging into a land of angry, hostile, guerilla warfare.
  3. The wall’s construction began in 122 and took six years to finish. It was approximately 80 miles long, had forts built at intervals and was additionally protected by a large ditch on one side. The dimensions were not uniform, but it was generally 10 feet wide and 16-20 feet high.
  4. Scholars don’t agree on the exact reason the wall was built. Some say it was to protect against attacks from the Picts. Some think it was more of a way to control immigration, smuggling, and customs. Logically, the second explanation makes a lot more sense given the population density (or lack thereof) along the wall. Though the Picts did still raid Roman land after the wall was completed.
  5. After Hadrian died, his successor returned to the previous policy of constant expansion. Under his orders, troops once again marched northward. They made it 100 miles before deciding to just build another wall. This wall was never actually completed because after the Emperor died, the next Emperor decided Hadrian’s wall was just fine as a border because the Picts were too savage to control.
  6. Today, the parts of the wall we can see are only remnants, about 10% of the original. Much more would have been lost if not for the efforts of John Clayton in the 1800s. When he realized that much of the wall hadn’t just been lost to time, but dismantled in order to build roads, cottages, and farm fences, he began buying up as much land around the wall as he could. He established a large farming operation on the land in order to pay for restoration work. After he died, the successful farming operation, the land, and the wall section all passed to relatives who subsequently lost it all while gambling (or so I’ve read). Eventually, the National Trust stepped in and acquired the land.
  7. In 1987 it was designated a World Heritage Site. There is a path for tourists to walk along the wall, however, it is suggested to only use the path during summer.
  8. In 1990, excavations of a milefortlet (a small fort built as part of the wall according to Roman mileage measurements) shed light on what life was like for the garrisons assigned to the wall.
  9. There are bathhouses that have been excavated along the wall that have the best-preserved Roman toilets in all of the United Kingdom. There are also some stones along the wall with the name of the Centurion in charge of the construction of that portion of the wall carved in them. That’s a pretty old “Lucious was here.”
  10. George R. R. Martin has stated that a visit to Hadrian’s Wall served as inspiration for The Wall built by Brandon the Builder in Game of Thrones. Because of this admission, many believe that the Romans’ descriptions of the Pictish people are also what inspired the Wildlings.

Are there weird archeological sites in your fictional world? Do they serve a purpose? Does it have bearing on the story itself? Are you envisioning your own Wildlings/Picts?

And if you’re wondering how my challenge is going the answer is that I’m ahead of schedule, but my knees are super angry about it. But I WILL earn the precious  finisher’s medal.

10 Things About Santa Claus

It’s that time of year. Parents are rushing to and fro, whether from store to store or website to website, to find the perfect gifts for their children. And children are making lists for Santa. They will write letters and make pleas for all the things their little hearts desire and mail them to a “jolly old elf” clad in red and white furs who lives at the North Pole.

But wait. Santa Claus is also known as St. Nick. And Saint Nicholas didn’t call the North Pole home. He lived in modern-day Turkey. So when did Santa move to his new arctic digs? And just how old is he?

Let’s follow the evolution of the legend and see what it can teach us about world-building. Here are 10 things you might not know about Santa Claus.

  1. Nicholas, who would later be canonized as Saint Nicholas, was born sometime around 270 AD in a town that was at the time a part of Greece, but today is part of Turkey. He lost his parents at a young age, but was left with a large inheritance. Nicholas decided to dedicate his life to the Christian church and used his inheritance to help those in need whenever he could. The most famous account of this is when Nicholas secretly gave money to an indebted father of three daughters so he would have the money to pay their dowries. That meant the daughters could marry instead of becoming prostitutes to support themselves. The story goes that Nicholas, on three separate occasions (once for each daughter as she came of age) threw a small bag of gold through an open window into the family’s home during the night. The bags landed in shoes or socks that had been hung by the fire to dry. It didn’t take long for the story to spread and children began hanging up their socks to see if they, too, could wake up to life-altering gifts.
  2. Nicholas was made Archbishop of Myra and served the post at a time when Rome was persecuting Christians. He was no stranger to imprisonment, and possibly even torture, but refused to abandon or renounce his faith. When Constantine came to power, he invited Nicholas to Nicea where he was part of the council that gave us the famous Nicene Creed.
  3. Nicholas died on December 6th, 343 AD. Hence the reason December 6th is his Saint day. In fact, December 6th is still the day that many cultures exchange gifts–instead of Christmas Day. Fast forward to modern times and forensic scientists have been able to use his remains to create new models for what Nicholas actually looked like. Spoiler alert, it’s not the chubby, red-cheeked guy that pop culture depicts. It’s a man with dark olive-toned skin, deep brown eyes, and a gray beard. While the forensic picture the scientists came up with had to take some artistic license based on probability and common features of people in his area during his time, it still seems much more likely than the Scandinavian looking, blue-eyed version we know. What they can tell is that Nicholas had a crooked nose from a bad break that didn’t heal correctly (possibly from his tenure in prison courtesy of the Romans).
  4. After Nicholas passed, the stories of his generosity lived on. The tradition of secretly leaving gifts during the night around Saint Nicholas Day became increasingly popular throughout Europe. The prevalence of the celebration continued to spread until a man named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a wooden door. After the Protestant Reformation, celebrating saints largely fell out of favor in Europe. However, by then people didn’t want to give up the St. Nick traditions, so they secularized him.
  5. Depending on which part of Europe we’re talking about, the new secular St. Nick took many forms. In some countries, he had taken on the abilities of old pagan deities/legends such as flight and immortality. In others, he not only delivered gifts in the night but also possessed the power to guide the hand of parents in disciplining their children whenever they misbehaved. In some areas, though, they dropped St. Nick altogether in favor of the “Christ Kind” or Christ Child giving gifts on Christmas day. However, the holy child didn’t seem one to be mean and discipline children, so he was given an accomplice who threatened to kidnap and/or beat bad children who didn’t deserve presents. What’s up, Krampus? In any case, and an ironic twist, the Germanic term Christ kind was eventually anglicized into Kris Kringle–another name for Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus.
  6. As you can imagine, as Europeans traveled the globe (and colonized everything they touched) they took their traditions regarding St. Nick with them. The Dutch took Saint Nicholas or Sint Niklaas, often shortened to Sinterklaas to the “New World”. This too was eventually anglicized into, you guessed it, Santa Claus.
  7. When the Dutch brought Sinterklaas to American shores, Christmas celebrations were not the family-friendly affairs we think of today. Unless you’re picturing rowdy and raucous holiday parties with heavy amounts of alcohol and at least one big bonfire. Then you’re totally on the right track. However, in the early 1800s it became the fashion for poets and novelists to write about Santa Claus and promote a much more heart-warming holiday. In 1809 Washington Irving gave Santa Claus a pipe and had him flying over rooftops in a wagon. In 1822, Clement Clark Moore, an Episcopalian minister and father of three young girls, wrote a poem for his children, “An Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas”. The minister was very hesitant to have the poem published because of its whimsical nature, but his family adored it and pushed for him to do it anyway. It was instantly popular. We better know the poem today as “The Night Before Christmas”. It is in this poem that we first see Santa with a sleigh, reindeer, sliding down chimneys and being jolly.
  8. In 1881 Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, gave us a rendering of Santa Claus in his now-iconic red color (though this depicted long johns instead of fur robes) with a fluffy white beard, an armload of toys and a red hat. The image was published in Harper’s Weekly and quickly became the accepted image of Old St. Nick. During the 1930s a man named Haddon Sundblom took the concept Nast had drawn and ran with it. He replaced Santa’s long johns with red and white fur and replaced his pipe with a bottle of Coca-Cola. This image had been commissioned by the soft drink company as part of their holiday ad campaign and has been in use ever since.
  9. During World War II, American soldiers took their concept of Santa Claus with them across the ocean and the idea of a white-bearded, chubby, laughing, red-fur wearing Santa spread like wildfire. For a time, the Russian government even tried to bury Santa under the blue-fur wearing, New Year’s gift-giving, completely devoid of religious sentiment Grandfather Frost, but St. Nick persisted.
  10. As for Santa’s home at the North Pole, it has been a little harder to trace, but from I can tell it seems to stem from a set of letters that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his children from St. Nick (and sometimes his side-kick North Polar Bear). The letters were eventually published and there was great detail about how the North Polar Bear once wreaked havoc on Santa’s workshop through a series of accidents that almost ruined Christmas. The bear even wrote to the children in “arctic” and they had to decipher the language since it was too difficult for the bear to become truly fluent in English.

And that’s how a Turkish Archbishop gained immortality and moved to the North Pole. Is there a legend that the people in your fictional world believe? Perhaps it, too, evolved over time from something real to something fantastical. It might affect the way people celebrate or don’t celebrate something. Or it might add a touch of magic and evoke emotion. That’s why the Salvation Army began using Santas to ring bells to gather donations near Christmas. The tradition began in the early part of the 20th century when the organization needed to raise money to help pay for the meal they provided each year for families in need. They hired homeless and/or unemployed men to dress as Santa and ring bells on street corners to get attention. It was such a successful campaign that it continues today, though the bell ringers are now volunteers.

A man who became a tradition. A tradition that became a poem. A poem that became an image. An image that became a legend. A legend that became an icon. Never underestimate the power of a person with a good story to tell.

Happy Holidays.