Ugly Mall Job Uniforms and Other Stranger Things- Part 3

I just finished watching the final episode of Stranger Things Season 3 and Scoops Ahoy! I was not disappointed.

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Memories of my first job at the Brunswick Square Mall in central New Jersey came rushing back in full neon color.  It was 1983 and I was a Hostess at the York Steakhouse and if you can believe it, my work uniform was ten times as dorky and considerably more ugly than the sailor suits that Steve and Robin donned at the Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Parlor in the Starcourt Mall.  My lovely restaurant server wear was a heinous burnt orange, one-piece polyester dress with puke yellow trim.  It was cut above the knee and was a remnant from a bad 1975 style.  Oh how I sympathized with Steve and his silly sailor’s cap.

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J_ojI do have many positive memories of my childhood at the local mall and some of them actually include the color orange.   My favorite all time dessert drink is the Orange Julius and the show had me craving it and a big, warm chocolate cookie in the worst way.

In the first few episodes of Stranger Things Season 3, the scenes in the mall were fun, campy and true to most of my memories.  I don’t recall my mall being as crowded in the summer months because most of us in were playing outside or down the shore.

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Growing up, our mall’s anchor stores were Bamberger’s and JC Penney and I spent many hours in The Children’s Place, The Gap and at the Piercing Pagoda were I got my ears pierced at age nine.  I was encouraged to wear earrings because my haircut at the time was very short (a failed attempt at the “Dorothy Hamill look”) and my sister didn’t want people to mistake me for a boy.   I, like Max in Stranger Things, was a bit of a tomboy and I didn’t like to dress up in frilly clothes.  I spent many fun and unsupervised hours in the early 1980s riding either my skateboard, my Huffy ten speed bike or my Schwinn unicycle.  Riding bikes with my friends topped the list as my all time favorite thing to do.

While there were many threads and plots in the rich and complex Season 3, the overarching theme that resonated with me most was the strength and unshakable power of the friendship bonds among the characters.  Even though they were all were changing and growing in strange new ways, they never stopped caring about each other.  Even though they were often confused and upset with each other’s words and actions, they never gave up and never stopped fighting or sacrificing for one another.  That’s what I remember about my friends and family in the 80s- a strong sense of loyalty, honor and integrity.   

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The bold, stark and often comical contrasts of many of the scenes had my emotions shifting faster than the bumper cars at the fun fair carnival.

In all, it was an action-packed storyline with a strong and emotional ending.   No spoilers here!

The other fun and random things I enjoyed about ST Season 3 include:

  • Dustin going to Science camp was totally awesome as I was fellow nerd who as part of the Science League at High School and attended string music camp with my cello for a week each August.
  • The budding romance of El and Mike and the demand from Hopper to keep the bedroom door open 3 inches.
  • The community pool antics, the aviator and Ray-Ban sunglasses and the big hair and blue eye shadow of the fawning ladies in the chaise lounges.farrells_mustache_bp
  • Fond memories of hanging out at the mall with friends and going to Spencer Gifts just to look at the stupid toys, stuffed animals and posters. For me, the mall was also the special place to go to eat large quantities of ice cream at a place called Farrell’s.

 

  • The rise of Girl Power and strong, smart female characters. Nancy, Robin, Joyce, Max and Erica (Caleb’s sassy little sister) all showed the boys a thing or two.  I also admired the technical prowess of Dustin’s elusive girlfriend Susie who knew Planck’s number by heart.
  • The understanding and acknowledgement that cherry Slurpees are the best and only flavor worth having.
  • 10-4 good buddy! What’s your 20? I loved the CB lingo on Dustin’s ham radio and the boys’ walkie-talkies.
  • Being a Nerd is cool and often helpful in killing the large, hungry monsters.
  • The hilarious clothes shopping spree with El and Max was just like I remember doing with my girl friends. I did own a pair of yellow pants with attached suspenders and a shirt very similar to Nancy’s purple blouse with the square cutouts at the top.
  • The nods to countless cool movies of the time like The Terminator, Back to the Future, Red Dawn, The Shining and ET.
  • A common bad guy/enemy in the Russians. Memories of Rocky 4 and the way Sylvester Stallone kicked butt in the ring with the hulking, blonde Dolph Lundgren.
  • The realization that I didn’t like New Coke and don’t know what all the fuss was about.
  • Banana boat ice cream sundaes.
  • Billy’s haircut was spot on for some of the boys I remember from my high school’s class of 1984 and 85.
  • The music from the mid 80s:  Corey Hart- “Never Surrender”, REO Speedwagon- “I can’t fight this feeling”, John Cougar Mellencamp- “R.O.C.K in the USA”, Motley Crue- Home Sweet Home” ( played in the Season 3 trailer).
  • The cars, the cars, the cars! My family, friends and classmates all had some version or another of some of the vehicles featured in season 3 including the clunky and hulking Ford LTD, the sturdy Chevy Blazer, the sexy 1979 Camaro and the beautiful, butter-cream yellow 1984 Cadillac Eldorado.

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Scoops Ahoy!  I can’t wait for Season 4.

 

Strengthening our Social Fabric

‘Twas the night before Flag Day

And all through the pub.

Not a soldier was stirring,

Just the Chef and her grub!

 

The food was amazing,

The stories were grand.

Our fabric was strengthened,

We all loved the band!

I wrote the poem above after the contents of this blog were published in the Opinion section of my local newspaper, the Ahwatukee Foothill News and on the website Legiontown.org.

Here’s the original post.

Some would say that the fabric of American society is fraying due to decreased civic engagement and increased political polarization.  Last week I witnessed the complete opposite.

It was the night before Flag Day and I saw the strengthening of social bonds in a local restaurant where thirteen veterans and their spouses came together to share fun, stories and some delicious Irish stew.

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This positive and festive social gathering brought together US veterans from three generations to share in the spirit of camaraderie and strengthening community involvement.

 

Members from the Charles Schwab Military Veterans Network and Ahwatukee American Legion Post 64 met at the Irish Hare Pub and Restaurant in Phoenix for some fun, food and story telling.

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Here our common values rallied about an important piece of cloth that symbolizes the unity and strength of our country- the flag that we have all pledged allegiance to.  The red, white and blue fabric on our table reminded us that we are Americans first.

We came together and toasted to our freedom which none of us will ever take for granted.

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It warmed my heart and gave me hope that people from different generations, professions, political leanings and walks of life can come together in a spirit of positive bonds of affection and shared experiences.

 

The Irish Hare is a great venue for social events, dinner and music and we all appreciated the support from the Proprietor Heidi Hamor who thanked us for our service and contributed to the raffle prizes with a snazzy, green shirt.  Other fun raffle prizes from the American Legion Post 64 included a US Flag and fun, patriotic cowboy hats.

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It was a simple yet spirited event that renewed my faith in the strength of local community bonds that are the underlying support for the fabric of our society.  I was happily reminded that I live in the United States of America where our flag is appreciated and rallied around in times of peace and war and serves as a common symbol of our shared principles and values.

 

March to May Remembrance

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Photo by Steve Smull

To preserve the memories and honor the sacrifices of those who paid the ultimate price while serving their country, Ahwatukee American Legion Post 64 is dedicated to providing and supporting remembrance services and ceremonies.

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American Legion Post 64 members. Photo by Steve Smull

Beginning in March and running through Memorial Day, Post 64 will have had three events dedicated to honoring fallen and past Veterans.

On March 15, 2019, the members of the post celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.  This special meeting was dedicated to the 1,194 crew members of the USS Indianapolis CA-35 which was torpedoed on July 30, 1945.

At the March meeting, post member John Boyer gave an educational and moving presentation about the disaster, the victims, and the 316 survivors. John is a survivor family member as his cousin, Lloyd Peter Barto, was one of the crew who was rescued after four days in the shark-infested waters of the Philippine Sea.

For more information on the USS Indianapolis Click here.

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On May 15th, Post 64 honored and remembered 45 members who have passed in a special prayer service led by Post Chaplain Rebecca Schmidt.

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John Boyer and Rebecca Schmidt. Photo by Steve Smull

 

The theme of Never Forget will culminate on Memorial Day, May 27, when Post 64 will join over 20 Color and Honor Guards from across Arizona to pass in review at the Parade of Colors. The Ahwatukee post join many others to place over 100 wreaths in a solemn and inspirational Memorial Day Service at The National Cemetery of Arizona in Cave Creek, AZ on 23029 North Cave Creek Roadbeginning at 8:00 am.

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Post 64 Color Guard lined up for the Memorial Day ceremony

The Memorial Day Ceremonies are a very important and respected tradition for veterans and their families across the country and include the presentation of the flag, slow salutes and the playing of taps.  Other services may include prayers, the reading of names, ringing of bells and the lighting of candles.

Click here for more the Ahwatukee American Legion Post 64 website.

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The Courage to Communicate: From Bowling Alone to Better Angels

Being Aware

Bowling Alone

Bold Action

Better Angels

Add a “Q” and I give you Brenda’s Audacious Quest!

I now have the courage to communicate an important message and mission that I hope will resonate with you.

I feel that my 25 years as an active Toastmaster member has prepared me for this moment and I’m happy and excited to get started on a new and somewhat scary endeavor.

Written as a full sentence:

Over the course of time I became aware of the bold action needed to go from Bowling Alone to Better Angels.

At this point you may be asking-  what the hell am I talking about?

How much time?

What bold action?

What is Better Angels?

Simply put, my goal and quest is to help depolarize America.

What?

I want to improve our country’s health, one conversation at a time.

Why? 

Like many of you, I am saddened and tired of how divided we have become as a country.

Other reasons include my desire to:

  • Reduce our collective stress
  • Make our communities stronger
  • Increase civic engagement and bridging social capital

How?

I am an Organizer for Better Angels, a citizens’ organization that is uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. 

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So what does Bowling Alone have to do with this?

It all started in the early 1990s when I joined a bowling team called the Misfits.

I was living in northwest Arkansas in a town called Bentonville, the location of the world headquarters of my employer, Wal-Mart. 

To blow off some steam from my intense data center operations job, I joined a local bowling league and happily knocked down some pins every week with total strangers.  We named our team the Misfits and we proudly wore dorky, self- designed black T-shirts with a cheesy silk-screened logo. I had nothing in common with my teammates except the love of the game and the fact that we lived in the same state.  I didn’t remain in Arkansas for more than a few years but I have fond memories of the strong and happy social connections we shared.  Although we may have differed politically, religiously and socio-economically, we bonded and cared for each other.   To this day, I still love to bowl and miss my Misfit friends in Arkansas.

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The other major thing I did while living in Arkansas was join Toastmasters International.

My first experience was in a club called “Words R Us”. It was a diverse and jovial group ranging from southern Baptist preachers to Italian-American transplants from New York.  We all learned from each other and developed a wonderfully supportive culture of tolerance and inclusion.  The club was a true melting pot of ideas, styles and perspectives where everyone was welcomed and all views considered.  I remember enjoying the nights when we held actual debates in a point-counterpoint format.  Pastor Willie Brown was my favorite club member and I always enjoyed listening to his impassioned speeches even though I often disagreed with his point of view. His big smile and hearty laugh were many times the highlight of my week.

Another important and impactful memory I have is from a speech I gave in 2005 while I living in San Diego.   I was the Test Speaker at a Toastmaster Evaluation contest and the title of my speech was called “Bowling Alone”.  I remember using my bowling ball as a prop and discussing the importance and benefits of participating in bowling leagues and other community groups.  While stressing the importance of bridging social capital and community involvement, I lamented the fact that fewer and fewer people were joining and attending local clubs and events and this was having a negative effect on our country’s civic engagement.  My speech was inspired by the book by Robert D. Putnam titled “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” and focused how the reduction in all forms of in person social activities has caused a decline in social capital.   My message was powerful and I recall many people coming up to me after the speech to express their thoughts and concerns on the topic.

 

Five years after giving the “Bowling Alone” speech, I found myself living in Littleton, CO and a member of the Columbine Communicators Toastmasters club.   There I was again impacted and inspired by the events and people in the local community. The opening words of my presentation that cold day in 2010 were “another school shooting”.   My husband filmed this sober speech with its bold call to action and shared it on YouTube where it has been viewed 3,935 times.  The title of that speech was “Bowling Alone: How to Rebuild our Communities”.

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Fast forward nine years, two more moves and I’m living in Phoenix, Arizona.

It’s 2019 and our country’s civil discourse is at crisis levels. 

The intense amount of polarization is startling to this socially engaged joiner of Toastmasters clubs across the county.  I never imagined that the United States of America would become so divided that friends and family members are not speaking to each because they support different political parties or candidates.

So here I am with my bowling background and public speaking experience, ready to try to bring people together to learn how to communicate again.

My audacious quest is simple yet lofty.

I want to help build bridges and real live connections to overcome our culture of contempt.

I want to help people to see the human faces of their family, friends and neighbors.

I want to help provide a safe environment and forum so people can begin to listen to the shared values and stories of those with whom they disagree.

I want to provide the skills and training for people to have productive conversations.

I want to bring together reasonable people of goodwill to have a sincere dialogue and a healthy competition of ideas.

I want to face fear and contempt with jovial strength and warm heartedness.

I want to listen and find common ground.

I want to disagree without being disagreeable.

I want to live up to Abraham Lincoln’s words below and be a Better Angel. 

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

My name is Brenda Smull and I am organizing a free Communication Skills Workshop in Phoenix, AZ on June 15th, 2019.

Please spread the word and let me know your thoughts on my audacious goal.

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Words of Wisdom from Pink Floyd

 

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Link to Audio recording of this article

What are we waiting for?

Time is a funny thing. It passes so slowly when we are doing things that are hard, painful or unpleasant. But boy does time pass in the blink of an eye when we experience things that are fun, exciting or pleasurable.

This strange and relative perspective on time has been on my mind a lot lately as I reflect on the frequent news and Facebook posts about friends and family who leave this earth too soon.  What about all the things they wanted to do- all the things they had planned but will never have the chance to now?

So as I ponder the idea of our pending expiration date, I ask again-  What are we waiting for?

For words of wisdom, guidance and inspiration I went to my iTunes library and fired up one of my favorite bands, Pink Floyd and listened to the great song “Time” from the Dark Side of the Moon album.  The lyrics are universal and powerful and include lines such as:

“Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time.

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.”

Live performance of “Time” by Pink Floyd

Yes, time waits for no one and keeps marching on.

The question is – are you doing everything you want to do and are you everything you want to be right now or are you “ waiting for something or someone to show you the way”? 

I love Pink Floyd’s message and call to action in “Time” when they warned us “no one told you when to run;  you missed the starting gun”.

Well here I am with my starting bell [Ding], prompting you to get started right now with one small step to get you closer to where you want to be or what you want to do.

What are you waiting for?

Ding.

Capturing the Moment

Capturing the Moment

Lights, Camera and the Community in Action

As part of the Toastmasters in the Community series in my Ahwatukee club blog, I published this article last week.

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Sharing the emotion and meaning of a moment in unique and creative ways, Steve Smull has been behind the scenes with his camera and flash at countless Toastmasters, veteran and community events chronicling important occasions, messages and achievements.

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At a Veterans Day parade in Denver, CO

He considers himself an Image Documentarian who enjoys recording milestones and experiences with an eye to aesthetics where angle, context, composition and lighting are all continually considered and calculated.

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Speaking at a Career Fair for Veterans in  Phoenix, AZ

 

 

Steve learned the art of the craft from his father who was a professional photographer specializing in black and white prints.  Filming in Super 8 was also a skill he learned in his youth and drives his passion for videography today.

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Presenting a wreath at a Memorial Day service in Denver, CO

Steve gets the shot that helps share and promote the perspective and meaning of the scene.  By saving memories and images he helps memorialize and remember our past and the sacrifices many have made.  By reporting and educating, he honors our history and traditions one frozen moment at a time.

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The winners of a Poppy Queen contest

 

By documenting the impact, action and faces in the community, Steve aids his fellow volunteers in promoting and increasing awareness on their important causes.

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The Ahwatukee American Legion Color Guard in Arizona

 

Whether it’s a speech contest, a fundraiser gala, a  bike race or a solemn memorial service, Steve has a knack for artfully capturing the action, passion and beauty of the scene.

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At the Cyclocross Nationals Race in Boulder, CO

 

My Compelling Blog: Part 8 (WXYZ)

This is the final post of My Compelling Blog series and the letters are WXYZ.

Words

Xenophile

Yoga

Zest

Words have power.

As a speaker, mentor and now writer, I have a great appreciation for the strength, meaning and impact of words.

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How you ever noticed how many quotes, rules and words of wisdom there are that refer to watching what words you use and how you speak?

Be impeccable with your word.- The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz

Be precise in your speech.  12 Rules for Life, Jordon B. Petersen

Silence speaks when words fail.- Unknown

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Xenophile–  I like this word better than the more commonly used antonym, xenophobe.  A xenophile is a person who has a love of foreign people and cultures.  I like that.

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My friend Shardul, a xenophile and world traveler

Yoga– Some of my best friends have shared their zest for yoga with me.

Here’s a wonderful quote by Amit Ray that frames yoga and words.

“Exercises are like prose,

whereas yoga is the poetry of movements.

Once you understand the grammar of yoga;

You can write your poetry of movements.”

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Zest- I’ll end this compelling blog series like I started it- with great enthusiasm and energy.

My zest for writing and sharing thoughts, ideas and images is what keeps life interesting and I am glad that you have joined me on the journey!

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For those of you who love lists, here are the 26 words I have featured in my last 8 blogs:

Action

Bold

Creativity

Don’t

Encourage

Faceplants

Giving

Heroes

Inspire

Just

Keep

Laughing

Molding

Novel

Outlooks

Perspective

Quality

Reputation

Standards

Trust

Unites

Values

Words

Xenophile

Yoga

Zest