Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Smartphones: Whose Hang-Up Is It Anyway?

Earlier this week, I went to a Zumba class, one of my first since I sprained my ankle in September doing something stupid. (My doctor's advice? "You're 53. You have osteopenia. Don't do things that are stupid.") The previous class was still cooling down and I needed to put on my dance sneakers, so I sat on a long bench outside the studio. There were five of us in a row. All women over 50. As I laced up, I realized that the other four were looking at their smartphones. As soon as my shoes were tied, I pulled out mine.

No "Good morning," no "Hi," no "Hello." Just what my husband long ago termed "FIP" or "face-in-phone." Of course, at the time, he was referring to our teenage daughter.

We all bemoan the time and attention our kids devote to their smartphones. But, maybe we should take a harder look at ourselves first. As a group, grownups aren't setting a very good example these days.

What is it that drives otherwise friendly, sociable people to that tiny screen? All day, every day.

Some of it is the social media phenomenon called "FOMO" or "fear of missing out." In that ten minutes before the fitness class, something might happen and ... OMG ... you might not find out about it until an hour later. 

For myself, there are practical reasons why I grab a minute or two online whenever, wherever, I can. You see, I run an ad agency. My staff and/or my clients might have a question or need something from me. They depend on me.

Even I can hear how lame that sounds.

In truth, it wouldn't be the end of the world — or anything remotely like it — if my team or my customers had to wait an hour. I think of my trips to the Y as lunch breaks (remember lunch breaks?). Pre-smartphones, people actually took an hour off each day and actually left their desks and anyone who needed them actually left a message and didn't actually expect to hear back for an hour. This is true. Actually.

In today's always wired (even when we're wireless) world, we're all conditioned to expect or even demand instant access, instant answers, instant gratification. With this, comes an assumption that we are always multitasking. That's really why I check my phone continually. Whether I have five minutes in my car waiting for my daughter or ten minutes on a bench at the gym, I feel pressure to be doing something productive. Just sitting, just relaxing, just thinking ... these things just don't cut it.

I definitely see the error of my ways. (In fact, my recent ankle injury was a direct result of my inability to pause or — God forbid! — do one thing at a time.) But, it's very hard to change my behavior. I do stick to a few rules, however. No phone at the table. No texting when driving. And the phone is charging in the kitchen overnight — so no checking anything if and when I can't sleep.

My daughter follows the same rules, more or less. Sometimes she has her smartphone with her when we're eating dinner because she's waiting to hear from a classmate about an assignment. Sometimes her phone ends up in her bedroom overnight because she was using it to make "Quizlets" in preparation for an exam. (Over the years, my daughter has come to realize that pretty much any rule is bendable if she uses the words "school," "homework," or "test.")

When I think about the vacations our family has enjoyed over the past 18 years, some of the best were deliciously smartphone-free. I refuse to pay exorbitant long distant charges when we go abroad, and (happily) we haven't had signals when we go sailing.

So, I do still understand (and, when I can, thoroughly enjoy) the benefits of hanging up, checking out, going offline. I just need to give myself permission to do so in my everyday life.

And, I will!

Right after I check the text that just came in.

It's probably my daughter.
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Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween and the Hoochie Horseback Rider

It's that time of year again, my friends. Candy corn, "Trick or Treat," ghosts and ghouls and girls dressed like ladies of the night. 

Time for my annual rant about the short, the sheer, the utterly inappropriate Halloween costumes available for girls.

In 2011, the year I launched Lovin' the Alien, I wrote about the Candy Cane Ho, a costume so ludicrously offensive, it simply couldn't be ignored. Two years later, I talked about skimpy witches and sexy penguins, and the other classy options available to our girls. (Happily, my daughter has never felt compelled to show that much skin on an October evening here in chilly New England. Brrr.)

This year, my now teenage daughter forwarded a picture of a new costume which has both of us shaking our heads. It's a "Sexy Equestrienne," and it's about as far from depicting an actual athlete as it can be.

Let's start with that word: "athlete." My daughter and her pony-loving peers are athletes. No question. A gym teacher once told her that riding was "a hobby, not a sport." Well, I'd like to challenge him to a little friendly competition. Can he post up and down in a saddle for 45 minutes? Tell a 1,200-pound animal to change gaits or direction by squeezing his thigh muscles? Lug tack trunks in and out of trailers? Or carry 50-pound water buckets uphill to the barn?

Hmmm. 'Didn't think so.

That's all in a day's work for my daughter. 

As far as sexiness is concerned, I assure you it is the last thing on any equestrienne's mind while she's training or competing. Don't get me wrong, most girls who take riding seriously have great figures (see typical workout described above) and I've seen many of them, my daughter included, clean up very nicely. But, when they're on their horse, in a ring or on a trail, they are working too hard to worry about how alluring they may or may not look.

The "Sexy Equestrienne" may be new, but it's not exactly news. Most costumes available for girls — even tweens and younger — can aptly use the adjective "sexy." There are sexy policewomen, sexy nurses, sexy vampires, sexy kittens, sexy crayons, sexy bumblebees and, of course, my all-time favorite sexy candy corn. Often, there are sexy girl versions of the same decidedly un-sexy boy costumes, as my friend's then 8-year old daughter pointed out in this video.

Do girls really want to look like ... um ... professionals? According to the much-loved movie Mean Girls, the answer is "Yes." As Lindsay Lohan's Cady Stanton learns "Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it."

But, I'm not buying it. 

A big part of how girls (and young women) define their attractiveness and value is driven by the media. From very young ages, they're bombarded by sexy images. I also think that a big factor behind the "every costume looks like a hoochie-mama" phenomenon is an economic one. Less fabric, more profit. It's that simple.

Actual equestrienne clothing (as opposed to the "Sexy Equestrienne" costume) requires significantly more fabric: reinforced seats and knees, layers that actually protect and perform.

If someone attempted to do dressage, stadium jumping or cross-country in the Halloween costume depicted above, my daughter and her teammates would choke with laughter.

And their horses probably would too.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hit Submit

Last night, my daughter finished her college applications. 

This is a very big deal. 

After multiple "Senior Parents" meetings at the school (and many weeks of procrastination), I received a draft of her essay while I was in New Orleans. It was rough, but powerful. And I was particularly moved when she mentioned me (the essay was about being a feminist and I was cited as one of her role models ... sniff, sniff). 

I gave her just a couple of suggestions and when she completed her second draft, she shared it with her guidance counselor and a favorite middle school English teacher. I, meanwhile, forwarded it to my college roommate, her Ivy League-educated daughter, my poet sister and my mother (also known as the Queen of Grammar and the Princess of Punctuation). 

The feedback was positive and helpful. A third draft was a mere 28 words over the legal limit. Not a problem! As an advertising copywriter, I have years (and years and years) of experience making big ideas work in small spaces. Within minutes, the essay was, as Goldilocks might say, "Just right." My daughter cut-and-pasted it into the infamous Common App, and we proofread it.

And proofread it.

And proofread it again.

For many years, I've proofed my daughter's papers. But, the stakes were understandably higher last night. God forbid she submit her application with a typo and some persnickety admissions officer notices it and rejects her and then she never ends up going to college or getting a job or starting a family or owning a home or becoming a productive citizen of this great nation of ours. (Omg.)

There's no question that I helped my daughter with her application essay. First of all, I nagged. I am an accomplished nagger, a virtuosic nagger, a connoisseurial nagger; I've had eighteen years experience (my husband might argue more than that, actually). I also made suggestions, some of which she took to heart, some ... not so much. I distributed said important document to select friends and family. And, I proofed.

I did not, however, write the thing.

"Of course not," you might protest. But, let me assure you ... I was sorely tempted. All that time when homework and concerts and horse shows (and One Tree Hill, wtf?) prevented her from hunkering down and writing, I had the four questions (they're called "essay prompts") in front of me. I write most of the day, most of my days, and a 650-word essay would be a piece of cake. But, I resisted. Here's why:

• It would be plagiarism and cheating, which would set a lovely example ... if I want my daughter to plagiarize and cheat.

• It would send a message to my daughter that I don't think she's capable of completing a compelling application. Nice way to promote self-confidence. Not.

• It certainly wouldn't encourage the independence that she wants — and will need come fall at whichever fine institution she chooses.

Yes, I have been known to help my child with her schoolwork ("help with" are the operative words there). And, I'd like to think that I've now helped with the application process (I've certainly pulled out my credit card a lot lately — sending scores, sending transcripts and sending the applications themselves all had fees attached). But, she didn't get any kind of "pass" on her essay. The words those (possibly persnickety) admissions officers will read are absolutely hers. I think they represent her authentic voice. Had I written the essay, it would be neither authentic nor hers.

Very proud of my daughter today.

And now, we wait.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at  


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pass the (Microwave) Popcorn: Gilmore Girls

Sometimes it feels like the universe is trying to tell you something. Like this morning, for example. In the 15 minutes it took to walk our wayward puppy and the hour I spent walking by myself afterwards, I saw no fewer than a half dozen dogs and owners in the process of training. "Stay," one canine was told. "Heel," another was instructed. "Sit," "Quiet," "Come now." Was this some higher power upbraiding me for dropping the proverbial ball where our own pet's instruction is concerned? Was this the price I paid for neglecting his studies (well, this and several things he's destroyed, such as my daughter's copy of Jekyll and Hyde and the family room carpet ... twice!)?

Other times, it's not so much the universe as friends and family. A few years ago, my best friend, her two daughters and my own mum suggested (more like, insisted) that I needed to watch a certain series with my then tween. 

It was Gilmore Girls, and they were right!

Gilmore Girls is a mother-daughter "dramedy" about two Lorelai's, the older (Lauren Graham) is an unwed mom who has built a life in Connecticut's colorful "Stars Hollow," without the aid of a husband or her millionaire parents (the late great Edward Herrman and the delicious dastardly diva — and Tony winner — Kelly Bishop). The younger Lorelai, better known as "Rory," (Alexis Bledel) is a prep school student with her heart set on going to Harvard. Together, they get into all sorts of emotional scrapes, pulling through with endless banter and quick-witted cultural allusions (there must be about twice the number of words in a Gilmore script as in other one-hour shows). With its repertory cast of quirky characters, the series was simultaneously funny and tender and irreverent and contemporary. And ...

We both loved it.

My mother thought that Rory and my daughter were doppelgangers (Bledel has darker hair, but they have similar features and profiles). However, my daughter had other ideas. 

"You're like Rory," she told me, confidently, "And, I'm like Lorelai." 

"How so?" I asked.

"Because you're serious and I like to have fun."

Okay, then.

Gilmore Girls ended in 2007, but in these days of DVDs and on demand, Netflix and Amazon Prime, nothing ever really goes away. More afternoons than not, we can find an episode in syndication. And, just in case, a certain Mr. Claus left a box-set of the complete series under a certain teenage daughter's Christmas tree. Back-to-back Gilmore Girls have filled many a snow day around here.

This week, Netflix announced that it will produce a limited sequel series. (OMG! Best. News. Ever.) Four 90-minute "epilogical" (my word, btw) episodes, written by the show's original creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Fans everywhere are as excited as we are. Even Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, and a Gilmore guest star once upon a time, tweeted "I hope the rumors are true — bring back #Gilmore Girls @ Netflix! #gilmoregirlsseason8."

Can we pause for a moment to reflect upon just how cool Albright is? She's 78 and tweets like a rock star.

Post-announcement elation, I do have some concerns. Will Gilmore be the same when both Girls are adults (my least favorite episodes were the ones in which a too-fast maturing Rory and Lorelai were estranged)? Will enough of the old cast agree to participate? Will the rapid-fire humor of ten years ago still make us smile today?

Even if it bombs (please, dear universe, don't let that happen), my daughter and I are happy. It will be something to enjoy together again. And, anyway ...

We'll always have Stars Hollow.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at  


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Big Easier Than I Expected

Dear readers, you may have noticed that Lovin' the Alien has been on a bit of a hiatus over the past week. As much as I enjoy writing these posts, I'm afraid I've had other equally important things to do. 

Hmmmm ... let's see. There was the stroll along the Mississippi, an elegant dinner with an old friend, touring an antebellum plantation, admiring the outrageous Halloween decorations in the French Quarter, antiquing on Magazine Street, swaying to live blues guitar, indulging in crawfish, alligator, étouffée and red beans and rice. 

Plus all those mint juleps.

(Have you ever had a mint julep? They are cold and refreshing, garnished with sprigs of mint and filled with bourbon. Lots of bourbon. Lots and lots of bourbon. In fact, mint juleps and the ladies' predilection for them account for all those elegant "fainting couches" in fine Southern homes.)

My husband and I planned this trip a few months ago. Our traveling partners (in crime) were another couple whom we met through work but who have become great friends. Our teenage daughter was not invited. Despite many wonderful family vacations there in years past, she has other things on her plate. Like school, homework, riding, concerts and her college application essay. (Cue theme from Jaws here.) My sister graciously agreed to come and stay.

Plus, it was supposed to be a grownup trip. And, as graduation and then college loom on the horizon, I have to get used to grownup trips again.

This particular mini-break proved good practice.

With the one-hour time change, not to mention the late-night revelry, I woke most mornings after the teen had already left for school. So no "Good morning" phone calls. By afternoon, we were usually out and about while my daughter was racing between her own activities back home. There were entire days when we didn't talk. A few years ago, this would have been unthinkable. 

Well, for me, at least. She's never seemed to have an issue with it.

Of course, this being 2015 — and one of us being a millenial — we did manage to text. There were some pressing issues (costumes for an upcoming horse event, for example, or reports on the puppy's bad behavior). But even these acronym-riddled updates were few and far between.

And, I was actually okay.

My daughter is fairly self-sufficient these days. Almost entirely so, if I'm honest with myself. And, there was a loving, responsible adult on premise if there had been any kind of emergency. Things at home went smoothly. (And things in NOLA? Well, you can just re-read the first paragraph.) On our last day, my daughter called and asked me to check my email.

It was the first draft of her essay.

I'm anticipating much sorrow when my daughter goes away next year (note to self: buy stock in Kleenex, STAT!). But, there will be newfound freedoms and happy excursions too.

When freshman year begins, I really don't want to be one of those mother-daughter teams that talks or texts every single day (no matter how appealing that sounds right now). I think it's better for college students if we give them some space and let them solve their own problems.

For the first time, I think I may be able to handle this.

I'll just be spending a lot of time in New Orleans, dahlin'.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

No Tea Means No Tea

A really cool thing about having published Lovin' the Alien for four-and-a-half years (!) is that readers often send me ideas for future posts. This past week, several people forwarded an animated video that's generating a lot of buzz online. I filed it away (client deadlines, college applications ...) until I heard from two people whose opinions I respect tremendously. One is a preeminent pediatrician. The other is my daughter.

I figured I'd write about it sooner rather than later.

Sexual assault is a big concern on college campuses today. Statistics vary — in part because many attacks go unreported and because some studies are too small to really represent all schools. The number often reported is as many as 1 in 5 college women will experience sexual assault or rape. It's nearly impossible to get definitive data because there is still so much grey area.

Numbers aside, as the mother of an almost-college-freshman, I find the topic terrifying.

And, it gets worse. Because apart from the assault itself, there is victim-blaming ("slut-shaming"), a history of "boys will be boys" excuses, and a system that protects its good name rather than protecting the rights of the person who has been attacked. Here are some of the "excuses" (sometimes called "rape-splanations") that permeate our culture:

"But, she was drunk ..."

"But, she shouldn't have been dressed like that ..."

"But, she led him on ..."

"But, she out so late ..."

"But, it was consensual and then she changed her mind afterwards ..."

"But, it was consensual and she changed her mind during ..."

"But, they were on a date ..."

"But, they were at a fraternity ..."

"But, it was just a misunderstanding ..."

"But, she didn't fight back ..."

"But, she was passed out ..."

There are lots of ways to try and "prevent" rape. These include safety vans, dress codes, whistles, curfews, self-defense workshops, pepper spray. There's only one way to definitely prevent rape.

Stop raping. Period. Just stop doing it.

And what is rape? Having sex without consent.

The idea that sexual assault is a choice and not a cause-and-effect is simple, right? Either you have consent or you don't.

'Turns out, it's a lot like making someone tea. Watch the video here. And, remember, "Unconscious people don't want tea."

Rape is certainly no laughing matter, but by presenting it in a humorous and common sensical light, maybe the message will get through. I hope so.

But, I'm still sending my daughter to college with a whistle.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Girls Who Get It

This weekend (like most weekends), my daughter competed in an equestrian event. It was a fairly big ("USEA recognized") competition and, as often happens, they were running a little late. This meant that she and her horse were ready and adequately warmed up for her stadium jump course about twenty minutes before she was actually able to do said stadium jump course. 

And this meant that my usually unflappable girl was starting to get nervous.

One of the two coaches who was with us tried to distract her. First, she suggested that my daughter offer cross-country tips to a younger rider who would be competing later in the afternoon. Then she asked about college applications.

Alas, when you're an eighteen-year-old high school senior, all roads lead to questions about college applications.

"What are you writing your essay on?" asked the coach.

"The ERA," replied my daughter, circling her horse to keep him from getting bored or lazy or distracted or all of the above.

"What's that?" asked the coach.

"That," I interjected, "Is the problem. You don't know what it is because we ain't got it yet."

It's not this young woman's fault, mind you. (She's actually extremely bright and capable, having recently graduated from college and currently working as a special ed teacher when she isn't coaching young equestrians.) It's neither cool nor commonplace for her generation to identify as feminist.

Growing up on Manhattan's upper westside in the liberal and activist 1970s, we all knew what the ERA was. In fact, at a very young age, I marched in protest and solidarity alongside friends and their feminist mothers. It worries me to no end that today's girls and young women are so disengaged with the issue of women's rights.

For those of you who may think Lovin' the Alien is becoming redundant (see last month's "The Good Witch and the F-Word") ... fear not! I have good news this time.

In the summer of 2014, SheKnows Media launched a program to introduce the concept of feminism to a group of tween girls. Many of them didn't know what the term meant (one young lady asserted that she'd never even heard it before). After a year of workshops and exercises, these girls now self-dentify as feminists and have very clear definitions. 

"Feminism is everyone being equal whether they're a boy or a girl."

"Just because of our gender doesn't mean we should be treated differently."

And, most exciting, the concept has made them feel more empowered, not less.

"I believe women can do anything."

"Feminism has given me more confidence than I thought possible."

And my favorite ... "Being feminist just gives you that aura of greatness."

You go, girls!  

Watch a quick video here. Then start using the f-word with your daughters.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Take a Texts Test

Quick (SAT-inspired) quiz for you.

Acronyms are to texts as ...
A. Peas are to pod
B. Beers are to 6-pack
C. Texts are to teens
D. All of the above

Whether you sneak peeks at your teen's texts (please don't), or you just want your teen to think you're hip, it helps to have a handle on the latest or at least greatest acronyms. Nothing screams "square parental unit" like typing out your message using individual words. 

And, if you really want to seem like a dud, take the time to spell them correctly.

Some text acronyms are already ubiquitous. ("You don't know what OMG means? OMG!") But others are a little trickier. In a few cases, you have to have some fluency in teen slang before you can possibly dissect the corresponding acronym.

What tangled texts teens weave!

To keep you on your texting toes (and to kill a few minutes if you're supposed to be working), here's a quick quiz:
1. OOTD 
A. Out of the door
B. Outfit of the day 
C. Off of the dock
D. Open our texts, dork-face
2. KOTD 
A. Kiss off, tough dude
B. Kicks of the day 
C. Kind of tired, daddy-o 
D. Kept out till dawn

3. HMU 
A. Hate my umbrella
B. Hot make-up
C. Hit me up 
D. Have my underwear?

4. TBH 
A. To be honest 
B. Too brutally honest
C. Tough boogers, honey
D. Truly beautiful hair

5. TBR  
A. Totally boring read
B. Thanks, brother
C. Think before rant
D. To be rude

6. OOMF  
A. One of my friends
B. Out of my Frappuccinos
C. One of my followers
D. Off of my feelings

7. BAE 
A. Baby 
B. Boys are exceptional
C. Big ass exam
D. Been away in England

8. WCW  
A. World Cup Wrestling
B. Woman Crush Wednesday
C. Worrying can wait 
D. What cats want

9. TMI
A. Take my ice cream
B. Totally max image 
C. Tough macho ignoramus
D. Too much information

10. RN  
A. Real nice
B. Registered nurse
C. Right now
D. Regular news

Hope this was helpful or at least made you LOL.

Answer key: 1B; 2B; 3C; 4A; 5D; 6C; 7A; 8B; 9D; 10C

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Uncommon App

Since my now teenage daughter was a tiny little tyke, people — older, wiser, well-meaning people — have warned me that time was not just going to fly, but that it would accelerate, gaining speed and moving faster and faster, blurring by, each year after year, every milestone after milestone.

This past weekend was particularly fast-paced, blurry and milestone-ish.

On Thursday, the two of us said good-bye to the husband/father (and the puppy) and headed to the airport. Friday morning, we toured a college — not just any college, mind you, but one that is currently tied for first place on my daughter's short list (a little "too short," according to her guidance counselor). We were there for about three hours, sitting through a PowerPoint presentation, walking the campus with a student guide, and finally meeting with the director of the school's impressive equestrian facility and my daughter's potential coach.

This was not my daughter's first college visit or even her second or third. But, it was different. 

For example, as the group of us (four prospective students with more respective parents) set off across campus, my daughter was up near our guide not falling behind with me and my sprained ankle. When we went through the equestrian center, she walked ahead with the coach, answering and even asking questions. Our friend, my BFF and the already "been there, done that" mother of three college graduates herself (my Sherpa on this unnerving climb and much appreciated), hung back with me. This wasn't our show. And we knew it.

Back at the house, with remarkably little prompting, my daughter went online and started the "Common App."

The concept for the Common Application began forty years ago. Representatives of fifteen colleges met to explore the benefits of creating a single application that would be considered by multiple schools. Today, supported by online technology, the Common App is "common" indeed. It's used by nearly a million students to submit millions of applications to more than 500 participating institutions.

For seniors (and mothers thereof) it's also a bit of a boogeyman. I was thrilled that my daughter was starting the process, but wondered what she (with me hovering) would encounter.

Each college she's applying to has its own set of questions at the beginning. Most of these are straightforward (Do you have a parent or grandparent who attended? What do you plan to major in?), but some are open-ended and will require more thought and careful proofreading (What first attracted you to this school?).

The Common App itself compresses a lot of information into objective little character-count-limited bits and bytes. This is efficiently designed for this digital world of ours, but it is woefully inadequate if you're trying to stand out as an individual beyond "most this" and "best that." There is so much I wanted admissions officers to know about my utterly uncommon daughter that simply doesn't have a place on the Common App.

For example, she can click "Add Activity" and type in "Coaching younger riders at horse shows," but she runs out of space long before she can explain all that it entails. And there's certainly no opportunity for me to add what I think matters most. Like how much she cares, how kind she is or how much they admire her. Or the time my daughter was in first place (headed for a honkin' silver trophy too) and she was disqualified on a technicality. She was not only composed and respectful to the judges, but she stood on the sidelines and cheered a girl she had mentored on to victory.

There was also the time that she kept her head when a younger rider suffered a bad fall in the woods. Wouldn't that demonstrate her character, her wits and her compassion better than a maximum 100-character (including spaces) activity description?

She was able to add her annual community service work for a local organization that delivers school supplies and backpacks to needy kids. But, I longed to call someone (or all the someones) in Admissions and tell them about the time she contacted the head of the non-profit organization to suggest that they add "student's favorite color" to the information they provided backpack donors. She saw no reason why a girl who loved blue should be stuck with a pink backpack, no matter who was buying it for her.

I don't have an answer. The Common App saves everyone — students and institutions alike — time and money. But with so few schools requiring (or even offering) one-to-one interviews anymore, I feel like we're missing the heart of the matter. 

The hearts of our senior girls and boys.

Oh well, we can't stop to mourn the loss or even to reflect. 

You see, we're moving on to the essay.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at