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Sunday, December 22, 2013


Every year, about this time, people ask where I am in the movie "A Christmas Story."  I'm about 5 minutes in on your DVD player, after the choir sings, the camera pans above the window.  You'll see the top of an Army garrison cap (that's my ex, bless his heart) and then the shot will be from the inside of window.  Look for the WAC uniform, that's a (much younger) me!

Answers to the most common questions:
I got to be an extra because we decided to dress up and go down to Cleveland on a whim.  I ran into one of the local sound guys (Chuck Fleming) that I knew from a show I did (Stompin' At The State) and he took us over to one the ADs and they said, "Sure!"  I think because we were in uniform because they weren't taking any more extras.
They sent us to hair and makeup and they shaved off my ex's moustache, which I found highly amusing! One of the Hair-and-Makeup guys was my mom hairdresser, Raun, from Kirtland, Ohio!
I had two pairs of tights on (thinking ahead, just in case) but it took about 24 hours for my feet to actually get warm and fully circulating after we filmed.
We came around 5pm at dusk and left as dawn was breaking.
We were in that window for 8 hours.
There were about 400 extras in those downtown scenes total. We were in several other scenes. Everywhere you looked, it all looked old. Clothing, cars. It was very surreal and extremely cool.  As if you'd gone back in a time machine.
The Window People, as we called ourselves, amounted to about 30 of us,
It was bitterly cold (18-22 degrees) but no snow (they made it and imported it from the local ski resorts).
They filmed these scenes on January 22-23, 1983.
They fed us a very good box lunch. I was actually stunned they fed us!
The 4 starring kids were all very nice, but they got Trailer Time in the warmth every hour.  The rest of us got a slight  break and coffee, extra kids included, but we had to pretty much stay there.
The other extras were funny as heck, God how we laughed and teased each other.  Standing in the cold, huddled together, is a VERY bonding experience.
We got paid minimum wage, I still have the pay stub and they took out taxes; we had to fill out a W-2.
The movie (which premiered in Nov. 1983) was almost a flop, it didn't do well AT all in theaters.  When we went to see it, (in early Dec.) there were 5 people total in the theater. Of course, we shouting, "Oh my GOD, there we are!"
Total time for all the shots we were in on Cleveland's Public Square: 12 hours.
It's not even close to being one of my favorite holiday films.  I almost never watch it!!
Best line of the night:
AD in megaphone to 400 extras: "Ooooooooh-kaaay folks, that was great.  Go back to your original starting spots and THIS time, DON'T. LOOK. AT. THE. CAMERA!!"
I'd do it again in a NY minute!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Epic Dog Owner Fail

I wondered what the dogs were crunching on. 

I thought it was an ice chip...then I dawned on me, they haven't been outside in 2 hours.

Now I know.

"All Positives" Can Be Intimidating

I really hate those Grumpy Gus/sies giving me the stink eye at an Obedience event. Really? Wow, I expect that in the breed ring but at Obedience, Rally, Agility???
I am frankly rather intimidated by “Force Free” training even though I’ve used it with my herding-breed dog since I got him…..and I’ve known about it for over 15 years…..and for a very odd reason….
Mind you,, I’m not advocating forced training here. I had a dog years ago I did really well in Novice with (using luring mostly, very few mild corrections — ever) but she would not retrieve because it had been forced on her. The Ancient Method. You don’t want to know.
Here is where All-Positive or Force Free gets intimidating and it’s not just me. I’ve talked to other “novices.”
So much of it is based on timing: Correct Timing. You always hear about Timing and Accuracy! Now, I have a vision limitation which creates about a .5 to almost 2 second delay in either (or both) the click (or tongue click or Yesss!) and/or the treat delivery.
In other words, I want the dog to, say, give paw. My dog has offered me a slight paw thing and I’ve missed the proverbial boat by a mile. “Oh, yes, I DID see that!” Click!! Ah, but it’s not for the paw thing. He’s gone beyond that.
Thus, oftentimes, my dogs look at like me like I’m gone crazy. I end up feeling frustrated and feeling seriously sorry for two bright, willing canines whose mom just says, “It ain’t happening, kids. Sorry: bad mom! I’ll settle for you all to be reasonably civilized. I know ignoring the cat is not in the cards. And that Novice/Rally thing? Oh, well…..”
I’ve talked to a few AP trainers about this so they know that’s my particular “fault”. Seriously, picture me at Chicken Camp?? “The chicken did WHAT? When??” It could be amusing…and I think amusing is sorely needed in training.
I think a lot of people are so truly afraid they’re either going to get it “wrong” and establish an unwanted behavior or that they’ll NEVER get that wanted behavior — that it will literally take years. And years. If you’re like me and you grew up in horses, you were probably taught that 90% of unwanted behavior or bad performance is squarely on the rider’s shoulders. So if the dog “screws up,” you mentally flail yourself.
We all see a lot of good obedience runs from folks who either use force or a combination of treats and corrections. So you think, well, that’s the way to go because a lot of them are high scorers/winners etc.
The other thing is, and I know this is weird too — but more men are needed who use Force Free. They need to be in the spotlight. Women seem to “get it” and do it, at least in the spotlight. Think of the really big AP dog trainers: you, Sophia Yin, Karen Pryor, Kikopup on YouTube etc. etc. Ladies all.
Believe me, I always recommend AP or FF as the way to go when people ask me. And my younger dog has only been trained that way. I can certainly see where using force was a big detriment to my older dog and I’ll regret that to my dying day.
I just think being intimidated by the whole thing, thinking it is going to take FOREVER to compete for a certain title or working with people who have certain limitations needs to be addressed..
Just saying —- 

The Christmas Stocking

Once upon a time, long, long ago....there was a little girl who loved Christmas.  She loved the lights, the music, the tree, the stockings "hung by the chimney with care."

 Her mother loved Christmas too.  She decorated every room. The little girl, her brother and sister had little tinsel trees in their rooms.  Her mother made each child a stocking.

When the little girl was about five or so, her mother decided she needed a bigger stocking to put Barbie clothes in (so she said!)  It had an elf on it, among other decorations and the little girl's name.

As time went on, every year, the mother would hang the stockings by the chimney with care. No matter where she lived, she always hung her three children's stockings.  Hanging stockings was a big tradition in the little girl's family as was leaving cookies and brandy by the fireplace.  Yes, I know, it's more traditional to leave milk and cookies.

But her dad had said, "Santa is going to need some brandy?  It's damn cold out there all night long, delivering presents!"

When the older daughter got married, her mother gave her stockings to hang.  When her son got married, she gave him stockings.

The years came and went and as life went on, traditions faded. People left, sometimes forever.  No more caroling or singing by the piano or games to play.  But, the stockings and their tradition valiantly hung in there.

When the little girl's mom went on to her next Big Adventure in heaven, the children found their stockings among their mother's things. The son's was red with his name in glitter, the older daughter's was green with her name in glitter and the youngest one's still had her name in felt and the elf on it.  She couldn't take it with her so one her siblings said they'd keep it safe.

Years passed but somehow in the mist of time, moving here and there, the little girl's stocking got lost.  No one knew where it was any more.   Maybe it faded away or deteriorated.  It just disappeared.

The little girl, now a woman grown in her 40s, did mourn the stocking and its tradition.  She mentioned it to her new boyfriend, her friend, Debbie and her family. In vain, her family searched again through their things for the missing stocking.  

The woman grown sighed, "I guess it's a part of growing up.  It's just a thing.  Things aren't that important. Stockings really ARE for kids. I just kind of miss my stocking. It's silly, I know.  I guess I need to get over it. "

Ah but for those who believe, the magical Christmas spirit of giving and tradition was in force! Her niece decided to buy her aunt a beautiful stocking for Christmas. The woman was so grateful that her niece bought her that stocking for Christmas. She treasures it still!

Her friend, Debbie, a clever, creative seamstress plied her needle and thread to make the woman-now-grown a hand-made stocking. She plotted with the woman's new boyfriend to get that stocking to his house in time for Christmas.

He drove, like Santa himself, for over forty miles, through a blinding snowstorm, slipping and sliding in his less-than-trusty Mustang to get the stocking.

You know, she ended up marrying that fellow. so true-blue. She has never forgotten seeing the home-made stocking hanging from his mantle that Christmas Eve and weeping tears of joy and gratitude.

She never has forgotten the kindness of a friend and how her knight-in-shining-armor in a beat-up old Mustang brought a uniquely hand-made stocking back into her life.

No one is too old to be touched by the charity, love and magic of the season.  The woman grown still believes.

©2013 Mia Hess

I Can't Make This Stuff Up #327: Christmas 2013:

I could NOT find our stockings.  I looked everywhere. I knew that, being precious, I had put them someplace "safe."  Yes, safe and un-find-able.  Oh, dear!!  So distressing, upsetting and sad!

Today, I made it my mission to find those damn stockings. I knew they weren't in the crawl space because I HATE the crawl space. I knew they hadn't flown out of the house. I went through every box in the attic.  Made a half-pot of coffee.  Onto to check the guest room closet (which I had checked at least four times in the last week alone.)

High on a shelf was a box.  It was labeled "stockings."  I opened it and, lo and behold, there they were!  Phew!!!  Sigh and thank you!!!

I took the box downstairs to prepare to hang the stockings.  Oh, one had some things inside of them.  A Santa ornament.  A cat ornament. And....

------------------ ???????????????

What the heck are those???
Look very carefully.  They still had a bit a fragrance left.

Yes, those are oranges.  Petrified oranges. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's Frustrating.....

How is it possible that I have walked 180 miles, cycled 647 miles (outside, road and trail), hill-hiked 25 miles, been to probably 50 yoga classes from March 1st to date and have not lost ONE stinking pound or one pant size? My blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, bone density, blood work etc. is fabulous. My doctor is stupefied at how good all that stuff is for my age or even for someone 20 years younger than I am. Yet, I'm still considered overweight and need to lose 20-25 pounds to continue in this way.
I don't care what any MALE has to say on this subject. Any guy that says, making that same effort I did and he can't lose one stinking pound in 9 months is a liar.
Over 50, female and post-menopausal SUCKS!
Hate to complain because (on the Gratitude Scale I'm pretty lucky) at least I am ABLE to walk, hike, bike and (attempt to) do yoga but frankly this sucks.
Hating myself right now.

OK, swear this is my last complaint because I seriously have so much to be grateful for.....
If I thought getting hypnotized would work for not being hungry late at night, I'd jump on that like white on rice. I eat late at night and I seriously don't know how to stop it. I start at dinner (always late because that's when we eat) and never stop. It's like a nervous twitch.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Really CAN Cook

Cows: Thanksgiving 2013
I was taught by my family that if one is going to a buffet or bring-a-long you bring something. Food, wine, dessert, flowers, perhaps a hostess gift.

Something. Anything.

Showing up empty-handed at a buffet (nay, even a dinner party or get-together) is rather gauche and slightly rude. It does make me cringe inwardly. In my book, old-fashioned as it may be, it's The Thing One Does.  You bring something or you call up and say to the Host/ess, "Can I bring anything?"  You are a guest. This isn't a restaurant!  Traditionally, if it's a buffet you bring (amazingly enough) food.

I keep offering to make stuff for the Spousal Unit's family Thanksgiving dinner. My mother in law will say cheerfully, "No, that's don't need to do that."  This makes my Guest Brain Module shudder with white-gloved or farm-folk horror.  For some reason my brain-and-train feels this a true faux-pas and casts aspersions on my entire family tree.  (And yes, my family tree has plenty of farmers in it too!)

Understand, this is no small event. This casual Thanksgiving dinner gathers at LEAST 21 people.  Sometimes as many as 50 people show up. They have been holding it in basically the same location for close to 90 years.  Which is amazing, in and of itself.  The sense of continuity and history is lovely.

Now I have to admit to having a fairly well-developed palate. Perhaps not at the Sweetbreads, Chocolate-Covered-Insects or Mussels level but I like trying new things.  At least once.  (And yes, I've had all those things. Once.)  I also have to admit to be a pretty good cook.

The first year I decided to add to the buffet, I made a side dish. I made stuffing the way my sister does with a bit of apple, raisins and a hint of sage. They all looked at like it was brain matter.  No one but the S.U. ate it. This is a wonderful recipe and once a year my sister makes it for me.  (She usually doesn't add the raisins; that's my personal peculiarity.)

The next year, figuring that was far too adventurous, I made home-made, from-scratch baked mac and cheese with 4 cheeses. No one ate it.  It's MACARONI AND CHEESE, people. I even put a label on it so everyone would know what the heck it was.  I overheard whispered questions as the serving spoon tentatively hovered over the warm dish, "Who brought that?"

The Spousal Unit quietly, proudly replied, "Mia did."

Spoon withdrawn. Uneaten except by us.

WTH? Really?  Yes, OK, I'm from Ohio.  My state doesn't border yours. YOU think we can't COOK in Ohio?  Does being from Ohio mean I might poison you with buckeye additives?


One year, in desperation for a good dessert, I made an apple pie, from scratch (Except the pie crust. I can't do that).  It's a damn apple pie for heaven's sake. They ate the pecan pie, they ate a gross, store-bought cream pie, they ate the shoo-fly pie, the sugar pie, the pumpkin pie, the fairly dry, unfrosted chocolate cake in a pan but only one person (besides the faithful Spousal Unit) ate a piece of apple pie.

This year there were no fruit pies.  I wanted to bring one, even a store-bought one.  I was vetoed.  "Oh, there'll be a fruit pies there."  Well, there wasn't.

So damn near every year I trot my carcass out to a place in the Midwest where a few of the relatives actually like me, most tolerate me and some look at me like I'm from Planet Ogzed, murmuring under their breath, "She's one of The Actress People."

Don't get me wrong; these are basically very nice people, smart, hard-working, many are well-traveled, most are well-educated.  I do posses (through time and training) the ability to converse with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of subjects.  I just feel like an exotic, tropical bird on the other side of the moon. Which, of course,  I am far from being.  This isn't my turf, and I get that.  This is for the S.U. and I'm more than OK with him seeing his mom a few times a year. I have a lot of respect for her.  It's important and time does march on.

The Elephant Rock 2013.
We think this is the smallest group in memory to go out there.
Only six of us
. Two didn't get on the rock as it's hard to get up there.

As an extra bonus I get to eat anywhere from decent to average to seriously crappy food.   Coming from a family where the Thanksgiving/Holiday food has always been decent to outstanding is a serious culinary let-down. 

Truth be told: this year, for the first time the turkey (brined and smoked) was very good.  Surprisingly, my m-i-l's ridiculously yummy deviled eggs were not all gobbled up.  Goody.  More for me later!

There is almost always good with "meh." I do like when they get out board games, card games or dominoes because, alas, my family never plays games any more. Which is quite sad and I'm sorry we've fallen away from that tradition.

I do enjoy and look forward to walking down the country road alone seeing things, enjoying the quiet solitude, photographing stuff. I like hiking out to The Elephant Rock with some of the relatives.  It is a time-honored tradition that dates back decades and decades!

But boy, it is rather fascinating that all those people who either ignore me or say three semi-awkward sentences to me all line up wanting copies or links of the pictures I took of kids.  Or cows!