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I have incorporated these blog posts into the blog on my Web site. Please visit my new blog at: www.shariheld.com for these and my most current blog posts. Thank you for visiting!

Just Chillaxin

Each year words that are  overused ad nauseum are nominated to The List of Words or the Banished List. One of the words banished this year is “chillaxin,” defined by the Urban Dictionary as “the art of relaxing in a state of coolness, with no worries or stress.” I hadn’t heard the word used before. I guess that’s because most of the people I know are worried about making mortgage payments and wondering if they will have enough dollars to retire on. Nobody I know could ever be accused of “chillaxin.”

That doesn’t mean chillaxin is not something to strive for–just that you shouldn’t use the expression any more. In fact, according to an article first published in the Los Angeles Times and subsequently reported in the Indianapolis Star, our friends in sunny LA might have the answer on how to get us to the state of Nirvana, the ultimate in chilldom. All that’s needed to save the world is Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda. And yes, for all you children of the ’70s, it’s called Mary Jane for a reason. One of a number of “slow-down drinks” on the market or in the process of entering the market, Mary Jane is a kava concoction, with none of the chemical relaxants present in marijuana. Despite that reality, Mary Jane is often referred to as “weed in a bottle.” According to the article, LA, which has more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonald’s restaurants combined, is a best-selling market for the drink. (Big duh!)

I’m just wondering two things: One, when will Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda hit the Indy stores so I start chillaxin? And, two, when will Tiger Woods start buying it by the truckloads?

This is my first entry since my surgery. For those of you who didn’t know, I had total hip replacement surgery October 23. I had thoroughly thought I would be writing away since then, both on my blog and my current novel, while working full-time at my freelance business. Some habits never die. A time-management class would probably be a good thing. Maybe I’ll put it on my Christmas list for next year! (Don’t think so.) Anyway, I took one week off and then it was work as usual.

So my life since November has pretty much been doing a round of physical therapy exercises, working from my laptop downstairs and doing another round of PT before dinner and TV time. Right before Christmas I received the green light to drive. That was a great thing, but the week before Christmas was not ideal for making my shopping debut! It didn’t stop me though!

Part of the reason for my blog neglect is that I have been chronicalling my recovery from surgery. What I found after talking to people who had undergone the surgery is that they tend to forget much of what they went through. Not very helpful for someone trying to determine if their recovery is “normal.” Not very good for the morale, either. So now I have 30 single-spaced pages detailing my journey. I’m hoping I can find an outlet for an article or two.

Every year I always make New Year’s Resolutions–and break them or ignore them almost immediately. This year I’ve already started trying to implement the things that I would normally push forward to January 1, 2010. My hope is that I’ll have a head start on making them become habits if I do them now. So far it’s working nominally. I’m already ahead of the game, and that’s a good thing.

This will be my last entry before the new year. It’s been a tough one in a lot of ways, but a very satisfying one in others. See you next year!

How many of you have Netflix? I’m betting a lot of you do. It’s a great service that, for me anyway, allows you to throw caution to the wind when it comes to selecting entertainment DVDs. With Netflix I’ve explored many movies or TV shows I would have flown by without giving a nod at my local Blockbusters store. It’s amazing how many wonderful shows don’t even register a blip on the radar screen in this day of mega-marketing and social networks.

I’d like to tell you about one. The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard is a British import with two DVDs that have three episodes each. These are the only six episodes, so you’ll get the entire series in two little DVDs and six hours of watching. The accents may bother you at first–but the main characters are all understandable, and that’s what counts. Jane Horrocks plays the amazing Mrs. Pritchard, an ordinary woman who becomes Prime Minister under some extraordinary circumstances. Her goal is to get people more interested in politics and to make the people part of the process. She is idealistic, but also practical. As a former store manager–efficient, innovative and beloved by her employees–she thinks she can just go in and clean things up. (You can all see where this is going, can’t you?) Needless to say, she manages to do a lot of good until she has to face her own personal crisis head-on and handle the intrigues within her own cabinet.

Along the way there are a lot of laughs, but it takes a more serious tone throughout the last episodes. All in all, a gem of a series. Good served with popcorn and a gin and tonic. If I were a critic, I’d give it five stars. In fact that’s what I did at Netflix!

And a void in my gourmet-wannabee heart. Evidently I wasn’t the only one taken by surprise–Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl was “stunned.” After being an institution in the culinary world for 70 years, you would think the revered magazine would be immune to such drastic measures but Owner Conde Nast has a second acclaimed culinary magazine, Bon Appetit, in its fold and Bon Appetit has outshone its sister magazine in recent years. Talk about sibling rivalry.

I received what will now be my last issue in the mail a few weeks ago. I haven’t yet had time to go through it. I like to savor the time I have with it–to take note of the ads, go through the writers bylines (a habit peculiar to journalists), look at the beautiful photography and read why they chose to go with one picture over another. The magazine was a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. It brought calmness and clarity to my soul. It will be missed.

Kindleized!

The Kindle isn’t new technology. It’s been around long enough to be second generation–three if you count the larger version that can read textbooks and newspapers easier. But, it’s technology I’ve whole-heartedly embraced.

My Kindle was a birthday present complete with a red leather case.  My dilemma–what book to download first. It had to be significant. Not just any book would do. In the end, I copped out–I downloaded a Kindle manual that promised to reveal secrets not contained in the manual that comes with the Kindle. In retrospect, I could have done better.

I had my doubts about the Kindle originally–despite the Kindle’s endorsement by Oprah. After all, Oprah uses it when she goes on plane trips. Other people load their Kindles up with multiple books when they go on vacation. I, on the other hand, would be using my Kindle in my daily life. Would it be worth it?

The answer–YES. YES. And, YES! Four months and 26 books later I’d rather give up a kidney–well, maybe not really. I mean, what are the odds? I never thought I would give up “real” books. I love books. I love to have them in my library and be able to look through them and leaf through them occasionally. They are both old friends and passageways to new adventures. The downside–too many books and nowhere to put them.

The Kindle was my greatest birthday present ever! Here are some of the best reasons I know to buy a Kindle now:

1. You can store up to 1500 books on your Kindle which eliminates a whole room of bookcases.

2. You won’t go to the bookstore and buy a book you already have. If you try to buy a duplicate book on Kindle, Amazon alerts you that you already have it.

3. At the doctor’s office and you just finished the last three pages of your current novel? You can select and download books easily right from your Kindle.

4. No more waiting in line or trips to the bookstore. I preordered Dan Brown’s latest, The Lost Symbol. I went to bed on September 14th and awoke September 15th and it was already there. Fantastic!

5. It’s a great conversation piece. People who don’t have a Kindle want to see the pages and hear about how you download books. My bright red leather jacket for my Kindle always draws oohs and ahhs.

6. People know you are reading something, but they don’t know what. The Kindle is the perfect little brown bag when it comes to books. You can switch from Bridget Jone’s Diary to Dostoevesky’s War and Peace to show them the device. They’ll think you’re pretty high brow.

7. It’s lighter weight than many books. And turning the page is accomplished by the touch of a button–one on either side for added convenience. I can prop it up on my leg keeping it stationary, and just click a button. Ah, but I wish I had had my Kindle when I read Philippa Gregory’s Cleopatra–a 10-pound bulky read that I loved.

8. You can never lose your page. It opens up to the last page you read. You can also never lose a book if you purchased it through Amazon.com. It archives them for you.

9. It just went down in price–after I had mine, of course!

10. For people who don’t have an iPod, a Blackberry or other technology, it’s a great way to feel hooked in to the technology age.

11. There are tons of free books online that you can download–some from Amazon.com and some from sites I found in that manual I bought!

Time Out for Tennis

I haven’t been blogging lately in case you haven’t noticed. You’ve all seen blogs where the author blithely explains away his or her lack of blogging by “life got in the way.” In my case, tennis got in the way. And I’d be the first to admit that I’m ecstatic about it.

There are four major events in tennis each year and this is the U.S. Open. It’s summer’s last hurrah and the end of tennis until the Australian Open. These days, thanks to cable, it’s on TV from about 7 AM to after midnight. During these two weeks my TV is constantly on, although it is often muted.

I love tennis, but I must admit I can’t really get into doubles play, whether it’s men’s, women’s or mixed doubles. It’s more like slam, bam, thank-you-ma’m to me. Too fast and furious to really savor. Singles, on the other hand, I could watch for hours. I love  the stories about each player. I love the clothes. And most of all, I love the play–the different styles, the finesse–or lack thereof. I admire the drive and spirit that carries these young people from all over the world on to their own personal bests. And I love seeing my heroes from the past, such as Chris Evert–now newly married to golf legend Greg Norman.

Tennis is still a gentlemen’s (or gentlewomen’s) game where players often applaud an opponent’s spectacular shot, even though it means they lost the point. That is par for the course at Wimbledon, and you’ll see it even at the U.S. Open, which is better known for its unruly, untraditional crowds and easy acceptance of marginal behavior–John McEnroe comes to mind; not the commentator John McEnroe, attired in a suit and tie and acting politically correct, but John McEnroe in his prime with his foul mouth and abusive way with racquets and umpires.

For the most part though tennis brings out the best in everyone and there are lessons to be learned in sportsmanship, strategy, dedication and public relations. I’ll miss it when it’s over. But I just may get more blogging done!