Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Trekkie within me

Huntsville Al
The Rocket City
Space. We are there. NASA is exploring where no man has gone before.

Time travel? Could it be the Final frontier?
Darth & I
  It’s true, I am not only a Star Wars geek, but I have Star Trek tendencies as well. Live long and prosper!

My husband thinks one ‘star’ movie is just like the other ‘star’ movie and this we agree to disagree without penalty of divorce.

Essentially, I am a fan of all things STAR, from Star Wars, past, present, and now the future! Add the new J.J. Abrams movie series  Star Trek to the old William Shatner campy Sci-fi TV series and The Next Generation with Picard and I am a Trekkie, past, present, and future.
Luke (named after Skywalker) Conner & Cade
at our local Star Wars exhibit at NASA's Space & Rocket Center
Displayed Yoda

Can you imagine how charged up I am that both my worlds are about to collide, but in a good way. Mr. Abrams who has enthusiastically revived my Trekkie-ness by recreating the new Star Trek into a new, sleek theatrical explosion of balanced plot, fun, and all things Trek, has recently agreed to take on the Jedi kingdom as well.

May the force be with him!

As I watched this weekend, like millions of would be fresh Trekkies and old dusty ones, with my bucket of popcorn and two twelve year old Treks-in-training, I was thrilled with the outcome of the second Star Trek – Abrams adventure.

A good Star Trek movie will always lead you into thoughtful contemplation.

Where does that lend my thought pattern? 

In many directions as usual, but one I settled  on is the insertion of time travel where an old self can give wise advice to a new, young self.

Explanation? In Abram’s Star Trek, old Spock speaks to young Spock, since there was an alternate timeline created by Romulans who were angry with Spock and something to do with black holes, exploding planets and revenge. You know, typical sci-fi stuff!

Wouldn't it be nice if your future self could visit and advise you of some key points of your life?

What would I now, go back and tell my 15 year old self? 

Would it be morally wrong to change the course I have already been on?

I mean, I have at least made it to half a century on the road I traveled previously with only a minor scar and scrape.

But let’s say I did visit Young Tracy? 


Young ME!
The first thing I would say is, “Stop drinking sodas! Cut down on the cheeseburgers and pizza! And, for goodness sake, use sunscreen! I don’t want cancer nor wrinkles!”

I would refrain from one more honest admission, “Sadly, this is the best your body gets and it’s all downhill from here!” Some future events are best kept quiet.

Financially, I would encourage saving, no credit card charging, and begin a retirement plan NOW. After I tell myself to get a great education and learn to be an Actuary, J(best job of 2013) and not put off writing that bestseller.

I would tell ‘1975 me’ to invest in Microsoft, Google, and look up a kid from Harvard, Zuckerberg in a few years.
After I took care of that, I would then turn to the important things of life, such as love. I would encourage myself to make sure I follow my heart.

Now, advice about kids, I might rethink bringing them into the world. It’s a tough road.

However, if I could at least tweak my parenting skills maybe I could prevent future troubles.

I would like Moses have some printed instructions ready for preventive parental commandments.  Such as, “Give your child more hugs and cuddles because they grow out of wanting them very soon.”

Chew them out less. Spend more time on the small things they do, in other words pay more attention to them and less on TV. Expose them to more discipline with reward and less exposure to the influence of bad friends. Always teach responsibility. 


Tell them that waiting for things is not bad, instant gratification is a temporary high that fades fast.

I would tell my young self that family needs to be a higher priority. Spend even more time with the ones you love and that parents don’t last a lifetime. Ask more questions about their lives, their ancestral tree and experiences in their life.

So, what would young self want to know?

It is a two-way street. Thinking back to that young, naive self and knowing what was important to that person at that particular time of her life, she would ask me about living happily ever after. I read all those Harlequin Romances and always wanted to be that girl who got that guy!

Now, that is a tricky answer, knowing the future.

I would have to choose between truth and vague encouragement. At 34, my timeline would see a young woman, left widowed, with two young kids and that is something best not left to disclosure.

I would have to encourage myself that life is truly a gift, live it fully, and love with all my heart, counting every blessing and know that trials will come and that I will go through them, with faith, endurance and yes, even joy.

I will be able to tell young me that at 50, I am truly blessed and contented with my life even with all the blemishes and scars.

The truth is, no one needs to know the future, especially if we have the power to change it. One alteration of steps could lead to a life lived much differently. Trials grow character and quality is refined through fire.

If I had such knowledge of how my life would turn out, what gain would I have?

Plus, who wants to see themselves older, thicker, saggy-er? That would send young me into deep depression and eventually into a plastic surgeon’s office for an extreme make-it-not-age-over!

On second thought I will not be breaking any universal time travel rules. Good thing I won’t be coming back to tweak a few things of my life because I might mess it up for old me now!

But, if I had to whisper anything to myself in my younger years, it would be two things: one, to enjoy every day as if it were my last, loving more and spending more time with those I cherish! The other thing? The winning Powerball numbers from Saturday’s epic 590 million lottery ticket of course!

Live long, yes….and PROSPER!

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached at myhometowncolumn@gmail.com or visit her blog: tracyshometownusa.blogspot.com orwww.facebook.com/tracyshometownusa




Thursday, May 16, 2013

At the check out line


Check it out!

There you are minding your own business....and BAM! They gotcha! You fall victim to their evil plan. You are manipulated, tempted and baited with items at the check out counter. Why? Because they can!


CHECK OUT LINES
are everywhere!
You are in the convenient check out line!!
I try not to give in to the corporate plot that wants me to buy an impulse item! Out of stubborn refusal, I stand defiant, but their techniques are strong and in certain weak moments, I cave. 

Secret plots! Paranoia! I wonder if the store's strategic policy is to purposely refuse putting more cashiers out, so the lines move slowly, so that I end up staring at the convenient items displayed around me longer, beckoning me to spend my money.
Add kids and it’s not only temptation alley but a power struggle with whiny rug-rats who are affected by the ‘greedy gimme’s’ thanks to the properly placed convenient toys. 
Who gets to the cashier and thinks, “Oh! I forgot a toy! I need a hot wheels fast! Or an overly priced sucker with a spinning light in the shape of Sponge Bob!”
 It is a money trap of epic proportions. Does the parent win in this case? Does corporate greed? 
The check out line is filled with many mines.
Hope you are not easily offended. 
THIS could be YOUR mother, its mine!
courtesy of FOTOTRIX.com

If so, don’t hang out at the magazine rack in the check out line. The air brushed beauties may be too fleshy for you, and just forget reading the racy titles.

I shop at one grocery store that politely censures the covers for their delicate natured customers by providing a white screen placed strategically in front of the magazine. I always peek. 
Not saying its right, just saying my curiosity will get me killed one day!
 What really aggravates me is that all these magazines are geared to women. At least the articles are, the beautiful cover girls only entice the men to stand at the check out line with a smile on their face; rarely do you find one actually buying a magazine. 

The opportunity lost is that these magazines could be educating our men with useful knowledge, like how to romance a woman? Complete a ‘Honey do’ list. Wash dishes! And the ten best reasons for leaving the toilet seat down!! 

Standing in line I become well informed of the progress of the end of the world, UFO’s and the brainless activity of Hollywood
My Mom and Bieber are an item!
For example I learned how to lose weight from Jay Lo who lost 40 pounds! Except, to emulate her success, I have to have twins again! Who is breaking up, hooking up and plastic surgeoning up! 
How am I suppose to lose weight when everything at the check out line screams calories! Candy, chips, soft drinks and chocolate! Oh my!
Do you ever see fruit at the check out line? Or celery sticks? 

Why not burn a couple of calories by walking a few feet to the chip aisle and buy a big bag for the cost of the convenient bag!

In the endeavor to help us out of our cash, the stores have filled the check out line shelves with helpful items such as pain killers, lip balm, tissues, pens, phone cards, batteries, an expensive box of band aids that is called a first-aid kit, flashlights, and warming lubricant oil for those things the magazines tells us about. 
Why am I complaining? Convenience always cost money.

The trip to an arena or stadium can take an ordinary hot dog and exhort the value to five dollars for bread and wiener. 
Does the word convenience mean, “You’re stuck and we got you?”

I think paying $5 for a coke and $7.50 for popcorn in a movie theater is more about extortion rather than
This old version movie theater in Winchester, TN
has reasonable prices on snacks!
convenience. Popcorn is cheap! It is part of the movie experience and should be included in the price of the ticket. 
You know, like a cruise ship where your stuck and HAVE to eat the food....all inclusive?
 We are at the mercy of the convenience monsters of the world. I pay the big bucks for the opportunity to gain what our country loves so well, immediate gratification. 
Could it be the downfall of our generation? 
Until then, you will find me at the check out line, reading, drinking, beating the youngin’s and grabbing for that convenient pack of corporate propaganda in the form of chocolate and instant gratification!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is American Idol becoming Idle?


Yo, Dawg, say it isn’t so!

The ratings have been dropping, the judges have been fighting, the tweaking has been disastrous, and the talent this year, amazing! 

This... is, or was, American Idol.

When success begins to slip away, the magic starts to fade, and your competition is winning, some say time to wrap it up American Idol, but let’s not forget what a well-oiled machine this show has been since 2002.

Auditioning for American Idol
As a fan of the show and of music, I am bonafide when it comes to giving my solutions to the problem. Will they work? Has anything lately?

The reality television show has produced superstars where they were none before.

However, now tens of thousands of delusional singers think they have what it takes to fulfill a dream of musical super-stardom.

Idol did more than give a stage to rising musical wannabes; it allowed us, the viewer, a peek at the journey, from conception to fulfillment. We were there when the young singer auditioned, filled with hope, cheered for the contestant as they snagged a golden ticket which took him or her to Hollywood where all dreams come true! Oops, correction, that’s Disney World!

We got to see the transformation of Average Joe singer as he begins to dress cooler, the hair more done up, and the confidence build. Live performances before millions and millions of people gave exposure like no record company could.

Yes, stars were born. KellyClarkson and Carrie Underwood became ultimate superstars, while winning the show proved helpful, an extremely successful career did not depend on victory such as Jennifer Hudson and Daughtry.

American Idol birthed the stars, while talent kept them on their journey.

The bumps began when Simon Cowell left, his British accent, tight tees and rude comments gave the audience someone they loved to boo! Yet, many confess they agreed with him more than not. He had the ability to say things that most of us would not ever say, even though we may have thought it! 

Like all Soap operas and Wrestling, you must have a good villain.

However, being unlikable simply does not make a good villain. The AI producers seem to miss this point.

The focus of the show became less about the talent, the story, the journey and more about the judges.

When the formula is changed and the public don’t like it, you can keep mixing new ingredients or you can go back to the original. 

I have two words for you... Classic Coke

Beware when some smart guy thinks he needs to fix what ain’t broken!

True fans have stuck with the show, such as myself, even when Season 12 began and many die-hards were giving up. 

The comments on blogs and social media were filled with negative outrage, whining, and complaining, mainly directed at Nicki Minaj. At first I will confess, she rubbed me the wrong way too, but then she grew on me. 

Keith Urban, country superstar and dreamy eye-candy, has been the best judge this season using his expertise, compassion, and ability to communicate.

So can Idol go back to what made the show work?

Three judges.

THREE judges, not oober-famous Celebs, or those looking for a jumpstart in their own careers; but like in the beginning: one cool judge, one critical judge, and one with a heart but all must have enough experience for street cred.

Focus on the stories of kids trying to make it. Tug our heartstrings! Make us cry! Laugh! And bond.

But, I feel the powers that be will try to re-invent the wheel. Or, they will try to borrow the recipe of the competitors from the other singing shows.

Folks have been saying, “We can lose American Idol. There are plenty of singing contests out there to fill the gap.”

I have tried to watch the others. They are not bad shows, but they are not AI either. The X-Factor, I barely made it through half a season; the Voice, so far I haven’t made it past the battle rounds, until this year. I do like the chemistry of their superstar judges, but I couldn't tell you one contestant’s name or much about them. I can’t name a winner of past shows, but I can name you all the past and present judges.

America’s Got Talent was a hit in our family for a few seasons, even though it mostly came down to a singer.

Will American Idol try something new? Something...not done in reality contest shows? 

Why not take my suggestion and add a reality twist, such as add a judge who is ‘real’, a fan who represents the main audience of the show, (females that are not too young and not too old.) 
Oh, that would be…ME! Yes, I can save the show and it wouldn't even cost them double digits in the million dollar department.

I like the concept of nobodies becoming somebodies! That is the secret for success!

Add the extra entertainment value of seeing delusional people thinking they can sing, called out on their lack of talent and I am so watching! Why? Because I can’t do that.

How many times at church have you lied through your teeth telling some person that you enjoyed their solo?

My eldest son Zach, has a good voice, no delusions!
Bad singers have always been around but it is Karaoke we must blame for empowering them. American Idol just gave them a platform to do it nationally, and to give a reality check to some bad parenting. 


Never support your child’s bad talents!



If I were young enough, I too would stand in long lines with

thousands of contestants, to audition, hope and dream for a lottery ticket to stardom.

My shining American Idol moment.
Thanks to Disney’s American Idol experience, I got to fulfill the dream even if it was on a small scale. I auditioned for American Idol. I made it to the live show and was able to perform “Last Dance” by Donna Summers. I was judged. I was able to stick my fingers in the air to vote for number 2. 

I also got voted off.

Yet, for a moment, I was an American Idol contestant. I was able to sing on stage. My young twin boys got the chance to see their mom shine! According to them, I was great!

 I think I won after all.
My voting public.....three out of four sons!
Should American Idol producers change the show more to try to fix all the problems to bring back the ratings? Maybe they should listen to their audience’s suggestions?  Or, will the show become American Idle and slowly fade into rerun history.

No matter, stars can be born the old-fashion way, through sweat, talent, and luck.




Wednesday, May 8, 2013

At the buffet


You just get what you want.

We are NOT at a buffet!


....at the buffet

Maybe you can call me a buffet snob, maybe I avoid restaurants with the word buffet in its title because I lack self control, maybe I like sitting and having someone serve me for a change, or maybe I enjoy life's surprises even when it involves ordering something from a regular restaurant that sounded good on the menu but once it entered my mouth my taste buds said no way!

Possibly you are one of the millions that hit the buffet lines, especially after a church service, and you love the benefits of multi-choice entrees and veggies all laid out before you at reasonable prices. There is nothing wrong with a buffet lover unless you are going there for quantity of food and your seat belt is not fastening as it is. Then you are a like the drunk stopping at the local bar and you both have a problem. Just say no to the buffet!

Senior adults love buffets. 
Granny at Harbor View, Long Beach MS


Sometimes that is all they will go out to eat and they will completely avoid menu driven restaurants. Granny, my mother-in-law who still gets her silver hair teased every Saturday morning by her young seventy-plus hair dresser, always grumbles when we try to stretch her horizons and take her out to one of our restaurants.

Her favorite quote is "Why go there when at the buffet you can get what you want?" If she doesn't like what she gets, she can go back for another plate.

When family members plan gatherings at Outback, Chili's, or Applebee's she goes into a full blown anxiety attack.
"What will I order? What do they have? Why can't we go to a buffet where I can get what I want?"

Very rarely do we get her into a regular restaurant, and when we do manage it -- if anyone's food isn't right or it's served too cold, its Granny's. This reinforces her phobia of the menu restaurant and makes it even more difficult for future trips. Should we give up? 


What's my problem with buffets? 
First, too many of them lack quality while concentrating on quantity. They opt for a cheaper version with no taste. But not all buffet restaurants are created equal, thankfully I have found a few that know how to put flavor in their home cookin' recipes.

Another reason I am anti-buffet? As a mother of twins I end up working harder at a buffet feeding my family than I do at home. 
At least the stove is a few steps away at home, at the buffet I have to maneuver and swerve, wait for the person who doesn't know which way the line is supposed to go, traffic control my son as he follows me to the pans of food as he ponders the decisions of fried chicken or fried fish, and then as I finally settle down to eat my plate of food, it's time for the other twin to peruse the food line. 

My husband thinks he is helpful, but kids love to ask momma and I am trained to jump up. Daddy's can't hear children's cries.

Think about it, how many trips does it take to eat a buffet?

Conner loves salad!
If both kids, myself eat salad, then entrees, with multiple trips, topped off with a dessert, at a minimum, I have sat down and got up nine trips! I need to leave myself a tip!

Lately Cade has begun observing the unfairness of the situation of being a mom, so he made it his project to train his father to get up during the family meal by scolding him. He demands it saying that mom has to do all the work at dinner. It's so rewarding having my son defend me and that he actually noticed that I am hopping up continuously like most mothers across America. 
My hands are full!

Maybe things they are a changin' at the Tracy's buffet and home cookin' restaurant! 

Can we blame the popularity of buffets contributing to America's obesity problem? Or, is the popularity of buffets a result of our obesity problem? Either way, the road to fat is paved with multiple plate excursions at the local buffet.

Buffets encourage our high caloric intake by allowing us to not only fill up one plate of food, but two or three. We think we need a little of this, and a little of that and before we know it, we have ingested three meat servings, several vegetables and most definitely something fried. Plus, readily available desserts follow every meal. When most of us deny ourselves the sweet ending at a menu restaurant, we find ourselves grabbing the little saucier and filling it up with a little of this and a little of that at the buffet.

Unfortunately, there will be too much of this and too much of that in all of our pants if we keep that pace up for too long.

Buffets are great for family gatherings where no one has to cook and
1981 Family gathering for pot luck
clean and we can all meet up and get what we like because deciding on a menu restaurant limits selections on the types of food available.

Church congregations continue their fellowship after their worship session by gathering at their local buffet.


So, maybe the buffet mentality takes us back to pot luck suppers at our churches and family reunions where we gather to fill our plates multiple times and visit with cherished loved ones while enjoying life's abundant blessings.

Maybe buffet eating is comfort eating and that isn't so bad. At least there is a sneeze guard at the buffet, because at home, church and reunions it's germ roulette!